Wondering why a prospect hasn’t gotten back to you yet? When it comes to writing a follow-up email, it’s important not to take it too personally.
Naturally, many of us wonder: “Have they not responded because they’re busy, because they’re not interested, or because of something I said?”
The truth? People don’t respond for a number of reasons, and typically, they just need a little nudge.
The good news is that consistent follow-ups deliver results.
And guess what? Many of your competitors aren’t using this to their advantage, which means that the companies that do follow up (you!) are getting the lion’s share of the deals and business.
If you’re wondering why somebody hasn’t yet responded, the reality is that all too often, people are in the middle of something when you email them. The result is that they often (unintentionally) forget to respond right that very minute.
Then, as time passes, your message becomes buried at the bottom of the inbox.
So, how do you send a polite follow-up message to prospects that will actually get a response… without being annoying?
First of all, pat yourself on the back for planning on following up at all. Most people don’t follow up.
This means that those who DO follow up reap the rewards.
The data backs up the importance of following up, too: after analyzing 1.7 million emails from users, we found that 55% of email responses came from a follow up email.
But the clock is ticking. Each day, you won’t get any closer to closing a new sales deal unless you ACT.
Check out these eighteen best practices to make sure your emails get positive responses… not radio silence. After all, you’ve got to stand out in the right ways!
1. Add ongoing value in clever ways
So, you’ve probably heard that it’s important to add ongoing value to your messages… but what are some ways you can do that?
Even if you’re sending an email to a brand new lead, you can start the relationship off right and start earning their trust by providing lots of value to them.
After all, your prospect’s inbox is likely filled with emails from your competitors just looking to take.
Show them that you’re different by writing something awesome to your prospect… and let that be your follow up!
Before you write that clever, witty, all-around-amazing email (like I know you will), you should consider asking yourself this one simple question: “What new value am I providing?”
If you can’t think of an answer, resist the temptation to hit “send” until you do.
Your chances of a response will be so much higher if you take a few extra minutes to think about what might be valuable or useful to them.
By the way: adding new value doesn’t mean plugging your product or service.
OK, OK. You know that adding value is important, but how can you do that, exactly?
If you’re anything like me, you prefer seeing real examples — since providing value can pretty subjective sometimes.
Here are some specific ways that you can add value to every message:
- Share a relevant piece of industry news. Run a quick search of news in your prospect’s industry. Has a new study or whitepaper been released that could be relevant to them?
- Send them a podcast episode in their niche. Let’s say you’re selling to marketers. It’d be a pro move to send them a podcast episode, YouTube video, or talk about the rise of chatbots for marketing.
- Give them advice, feedback, or analysis for free (giving them new ideas and inspiration, rather than tearing down their current approach). If you’re a UX Designer, you could send a detailed analysis of what a company is doing well with their website, along with a list of ways they could improve their conversion rate with new UX ideas.
- Make them laugh with a joke or GIF. Depending on who you’re talking to, adding humor can make a certain type of prospect more likely to respond. Just remember to research your lead to figure out whether or not they might appreciate this type of thing.
- Share an eBook from your company — free. Have a quick chat with your marketing team to find out if they have any eBooks that might be relevant to the person you’re looking to get in touch with. Remember to add a link to the eBook. Avoid adding it as an attachment (as you’ll be more likely to end up in the spam filter if you add attachments to prospecting emails).
- Webinar recording. Check and see if your company has recordings of any webinars around a particular pain point that your sales lead may be experiencing (your marketing team will often have an archive of webinars). Show that you want to help them succeed through your actions, and aim to be helpful.
Check out this pro follow-up by marketing optimizer Kevin Donlan, who provides value in a quick-and-efficient way:
It’s straight and to-the-point, and by attaching a book summary, he provided value on a topic that was relevant to the prospect at the time.
While this wasn’t a cold prospect, it’s still an amazing example of how you should be thinking about your strategy.
2. Avoid the “bumping this to the top of your inbox” approach
Alright, quick sales email intervention: the “just bumping this back to the top of your inbox” approach has been played out.
It has officially retired in the mind of prospects.
It may sound strange at first, but it’s actually best to avoid using the phrases “follow up” or “reminder,” even if that’s exactly what you’re doing.
Using those words will only make people feel like you believe they are obligated to respond.
The thing is, it’s all about earning the trust and prospect’s time.
It’s more important to build a respectful, lasting relationship.
But, above all else, the #1 mistake of the “just-bumping-this-to-the-top-of-your-inbox” approach?
It doesn’t provide value or make the other person feel good. Which leads me to the next important tip…
3. Whatever you do, don’t go negative or guilt-trip your prospect
Go ahead and enter full-on Spock mode if you’re feeling even the slightest bit negative about your prospect not responding.
You’ve got to keep it positive and stay resilient, no matter how someone does (or doesn’t) respond to your message.
If you have any feelings of annoyance or frustration, do not — I repeat, do not — let your feelings known in the email you’re crafting.
Always assume that the other person has the best intentions.
Also remember that, at least in a sales context, your prospect owes you nothing.
Sounds kind of bleak, right?
Actually, it can be pretty empowering to think of things in this way.
You can use this knowledge to inspire and motivate you into crafting the most valuable follow-up email ever to ever exist!
Even if the person you’re contacting may have meant to get back to you sooner, you don’t want to amplify the fact that they haven’t responded yet.
4. Don’t apologize or act like you’re an inconvenience
Selling is actually less about the product, and more about having the right approach.
You could be selling the most ground-breaking product in the world, but if deep down you feel you’re inconveniencing people by telling them, it won’t sell.
They’ll pick up on it.
Saying “sorry” when you haven’t done anything wrong will only hurt you if your intention is to position yourself as an expert in the field.
Though it may be tempting, do everything you can to avoid apologizing for following up.
After all, you’re reaching out because you genuinely want to help them.
The single best thing you can do is position yourself as an expert. If you show them that you’re someone they can learn from, they’ll want to continue the conversation.
Starting off the relationship believing (or implying) you’re a burden is never a good way to earn a prospect’s long-term respect.
If you believe you’re bothering a prospect, they’ll start to believe it, too.
Have confidence in what you’re offering and how you can help, and your prospects will naturally feel that same excitement as well.
5. Make them laugh
Example campaign in QuickMail
If you’re the kind of person that welcomes a good (or heck, even a super cheesy) joke, you’re not alone.
Jokes can make some of the most challenging situations instantly better.
People can tense up and go on the defense if they feel they are being sold to.
Humor can break tension and lighten the mood.
Show that you’re definitely not a cyborg by adding something funny to your message.
Use humor to make the email better for all parties involved, and don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through, and to experiment with different jokes to see what resonates.
The more down-to-earth and human your message feels, the better.
The most important part, though, is to be yourself. If cracking a joke doesn’t feel natural to you, then don’t feel obligated to follow this technique.
Find what works best for your personality and go all-in with that technique.
6. Write something new. Summarize your previous message without directly copying it.
Have you ever received a 2nd or 3rd email from someone looking to book a meeting with you, and when you begin to read it, you realize that it’s the exact same email they had sent before, likely copied over?
Or, even worse: it says “see my previous message below”?
How did it come across?
For most people, it looks like the sender spent 1-2 seconds writing the email and they’re now demanding more time (often times, an hour-long meeting) from their prospect.
Without putting any time in themselves to earn that prospect’s time.
When all is said and done, you’ll get a much better response if you focus on crafting an entirely new, unique email.
And here’s the thing: it’s perfectly fine to paraphrase your last message! It can even be a shortened summary of the last email.
Just make sure it’s new content (that hasn’t been repeated) and thoughtful.
Then your recipient will be more likely to know that you put some thought into it.
7. Know whether the lead is cold, warm, or hot — and let that set your strategy
Before crafting your message, make sure that you define your strategy based on the type of lead you’ll be contacting.
Did they request a demo of your product? That’s a hot lead who has actively expressed an interest in buying from you, which means you can be more bold than you would be with a cold lead.
Or maybe they recently downloaded an eBook from your company, and you consider them a warm lead. Go in with confidence, but realize that they might not be quite ready to jump into a meeting right away. It might be a better idea to warm them up a little more first by asking relevant questions about their current business challenges, especially if it relates to the eBook they downloaded.
If it’s a cold lead and you’re sending a cold email, it’s important to realize that you’ve got to make sure it’s the right fit first. Your goal should be to learn more about them, rather than go into a sales conversation right off the bat.
8. Track email opens to respond at just the right time
If you track when (and how many times) someone has opened your message, you can follow up at just the right time.
It’s like magic.
For example, maybe a prospect has requested pricing information and went back to read your reply multiple times in the past 24 hours.
Talk about a sign.
I’d recommend adding email tracking to your 1st follow-up email, not the first message, for best deliverability.
If you enable open tracking in the second message (or follow-up), you’ll see the best results.
9. Be politely persistent
Did you know that most responses to follow-up emails don’t come from the first initial follow-up?
It’s true: responses often come rolling in much later in the process.
So, don’t be afraid to be politely persistent.
Sure, some people will say “no” along the way, but think of all the people who will say “yes,” all because you followed up and another business did not.
That amount of additional business you will win is significant, and I can tell you one thing: most of your competitors will be too lazy to do this.
Following up will help you get ahead, but you’ve got to be consistent about it and create a repeatable, scalable process.
Yep, consistency is key!
As long as you focus on providing continuous value, you can typically send multiple (well spaced-out) messages within the span of a few weeks and generate results.
And by being persistent and consistent, you’ll reap the benefits.
10. Be down-to-earth rather than formal
Before sending your message, stop and read your message out loud (OK, maybe unless you’re in a public area).
If anything sounds unnatural when you read it out loud, chances are, it could use just a bit more of a human touch.
You may be thinking, “But shouldn’t it sound professional?”
The answer is no (well, within reason). While you don’t want to be sending them a message sprinkled with “LOL,” it also shouldn’t read like a textbook.
Aim for something in between.
Even VPs at very large companies don’t want to read overly formal messages.
They want to have fun, too.
And why wouldn’t they?
Rise above the noise in their inbox by sending something fun and human.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: approach the email the same way you would speaking to a new, like-minded friend or acquaintance.
11. Be clear with your proposition
One common reason that people don’t respond to emails (unless it’s from someone they know closely) is because the ask isn’t clear enough.
Within a few sentences, your email should answer these questions:
-How and why is the message relevant to the recipient?
-Is the reason you are contacting them clear?
People are often skimming their emails quickly, looking for answers to these exact questions.
The easier you make it for them to know what you’re hoping to achieve, the better. Make your intentions crystal clear.
Transparency is a beautiful thing, after all.
People will appreciate that you’re clear in your communications, and that they don’t have to read between the lines or try to translate.
12. Add relevance and context
The person on the other end of any message from a stranger is likely thinking, “How is this relevant to me, again?”
“Is this worth responding to?”
Yes, people are harsh when it comes to prioritizing their inbox.
They’re often looking for signals to either prove or disprove their theory or natural inclination to hit “delete.”
Your prospect will be wondering, “What’s in it for me?”
But you’ve got something important and relevant to share with them! Right?
Help them see this by quickly mentioning why you reached out to them, and why what you’re sharing is so ridiculously relevant to them and their success.
This shows them that you have their best interests in mind and know that you have to earn their time.
Funny enough, many people think they are entitled to a prospect’s time.
Stand out by demonstrating that you think it’s important to earn their trust by providing relevant value, context, and respect.
13. Add a value-packed question/call-to-action
You’re awesome, so your questions should be awesome, too (so that you can stand out).
But let’s remember that all questions are not equal!
When you provide a clear ask while at the same time providing value, you’ll be far more likely to get a reply.
Let me give you an example:
“Please let me know if you have time to meet this week” doesn’t contain a clear question.
When someone is skimming an email, they may not feel compelled to answer unless posed with a question. If there is no clear call-to-action, often times, they’ll just move on.
And we don’t want that.
Here’s how you might engineer that last line in a more effective way:
“Do you have time this Wednesday or Thursday at 1pm for a quick 20-minute chat about how we’ve helped other companies in the [insert prospect’s insert industry here] industry recover abandoned cart purchases by 50%?”
Now you’ve done two great things: you’ve piqued their curiosity, and you’ve also asked them a specific question — further motivating them to respond.
Many representatives out there may go for the ask, but they’ll fail to pack value into their questions.
If you make your call-to-action value-packed, you’ll instantly have an edge over the competition.
It shows that you care about providing results to the person on the other end of your message.
You can never go wrong when providing value.
14. Keep your message short but intriguing (get them to ask questions)
Sure, what you’re selling is likely more complicated than one short message can communicate.
But no matter how great your product or service may be, the longer the email, the less excited your prospect will be to hear about it.
So often, your prospect will be at work with a million things to do. A long email is the last thing they want to look at (no matter how amazing it may be).
So, just how long should your message be?
Is there a special formula?
Here’s a good general rule of thumb: if you find that your email is longer than 4-5 sentences, try to shorten it as best you can.
Yes, that will often lead to more questions from the prospect.
And that’s a super good thing, because you WANT your prospects to be asking questions.
It shows that they’re curious, and gets them actively engaging with you.
If you provide them with so much information that they have no questions left to ask you in the next email, you’ve likely lost the sale. In such cases, they may decide there is no reason to respond at all.
Questions are a beautiful thing in the early stages of a sale. You want more of them.
It’s much better to get questions from prospects rather than radio silence. If you give them too much information, you risk cutting off your line of communication.
15. Consider the day of the week and time
How often do you respond to cold emails as you’re drifting off to sleep?
For most of us, that doesn’t happen all too often.
When emailing your prospect, you want to leave a good first, second, third, and even fourth impression with your prospect.
Because you’re following up multiple times, right?
To do this well, it’s best to send your messages at an optimal time.
Consider the day of the week and how that might impact their work: on Mondays, people are often catching up with work and busy frantically putting out fires.
Essentially, they’re still playing catch up until mid-week.
Of course, it can depend on your industry, too. Assuming your prospect is working an office job, then you can safely assume that Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday are all good days to send messages.
Also consider their timezone: it’s better to pop up in their inbox after they’ve had some time to settle in at the office (think of how you might feel before your morning coffee!).
Or after lunch.
Of course, there’s only so much you can do, and it’s best not to overthink this part too much.
But stopping to think about their timezone and being mindful of that before sending your message can only help, and it will help you see things from the recipient’s perspective.
When you’re able to see things from the recipient’s point of view, you’ll begin sending more messages that deliver results!
16. Make it easy for them to say “yes.”
It’s much easier to say “yes” to a request for a 5 or 20-minute chat compared to, say, an hour-long meeting.
Go ahead and aim for a quick chat and see where it goes.
Ask for as little of their time as possible. It’s easier to say “yes” to, and it shows respect for their time.
Also, when it comes to the call-to-action itself, think about the words you’re using and their associations.
For example, “meeting” sounds more daunting than “quick chat.”
For best results (and I know you want the best results), it’s best to use words that have positive associations.
When people think of scheduling another “meeting,” they may think back to the last meeting they had that dragged on far too long without accomplishing anything.
A quick chat, on the other hand, sounds like much less of a commitment and is therefore easier to say “yes” to.
While these may seem like very small changes at first, they can make a big difference in the long-run.
17. Think about messages that you’ve said “yes” to lately
When was the last time you responded to a follow-up email yourself, as the recipient?
Take a moment to go through your inbox and dig up the last email that prompted you to jump on a call successfully.
Why did the message work?
What made it different?
What made you want to respond positively?
Did you end up meeting?
Maybe the rep made you laugh, or maybe they sent you something of value that you found helpful and/or surprising.
You can learn from those emails you’ve received over the years by using similar techniques in your own emails (and adding your own unique spin).
As long as the technique in question isn’t over-used, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel!
You can even create a folder for amazing emails and save any interesting emails for future inspiration, so that you can go back and look at them the next time you’re looking for motivation!
18. Be confident, but avoid being too presumptuous
Confidence is good, but too much confidence can cause prospects to go silent.
Sure, it’s always good to know that what you’re sending a prospect is valuable.
But here’s the thing: even if you know that it will be useful to them, don’t be too presumptuous about whether or not they’ll respond.
If you can help it, avoid saying things like “I look forward to your positive reply.” (this makes me cringe — I’ve received this sign-off before. It went straight to the trash folder).
This implies that you fully expect them to respond.
Instead, try saying something like: “Would love to chat about how I can help you [insert business goal here],” or, if you want to keep it simple, “thanks” is a classic sign-off that never gets old.
If you do include a sign-off in your email, a good place for it to go is after your call-to-action question.
Even if you think there’s a pretty good chance you might get a response from a business contact, don’t imply that you expect one.
Too often, it can hinder the first impression.
Humble wins the game.
Following up is super useful when done right, but it’s something that many people don’t do right.
Because doing it right is far easier said than done! There are many factors to consider.
All you need, though, is the right approach. Once you have your approach down, the responses will come rolling in.
If you want to win more business in the long-term, it’s important to send thoughtful follow-ups that provide ongoing value to prospects.
When crafting your message, remember that you’re building a lasting business relationship. Approach it with the other person’s goals and perspective in mind.
The other important factor to keep in mind is consistency. If you implement these strategies regularly and stay at it, you’ll close more deals (compared to one-off follow-ups).
With these steps, you can double down on what’s really working and build a repeatable process for you and your team.
Over to you: what do you think?
Have you received a great follow-up email recently, or do have another tip to share that has been working well for you?
If so, share it with us in the comments below to help others in the community!