Emails are far from the perfect communication tool. Sometimes they land in a spam folder, others, the message is misinterpreted. And, sometimes, you just don’t hear back.
According to Marketing Donut, 80% of sales happen after five follow-ups. Yet, nearly half of all salespeople give up after hearing just one “no.”
It makes sense, making contact after getting a “no” or a “no response” is intimidating. When is the right time to try again? What should you say? What if the recipient gets annoyed?
Below, we’ll look at some tips for following up and getting results. Let’s have a look:
Two Golden Email Follow-Up Rules
Rule 1: Decide Your Goals First
The first step is to come up with a goal for what you hope to achieve with your follow-up email. Why are you following up, anyway?
Is it to close a deal or upsell an existing client? Are you trying to book an appointment? Request a review? Do you need more information from the recipient?
Whatever it is, you need to figure this out before you start typing out a response. This will help you ensure that every word is in alignment with your goal.
Rule 2: Tie the Email to the Situation
Not every follow-up email should follow the same approach. You’ll want to make sure that you tailor the message and tone to the situation.
Consider the context of your “relationship” before getting started. For example, if someone requested a call or booked a demo, but didn’t respond to a confirmation message, you can get away with a more aggressive approach. If you’re following up on a cold email, it’s a more delicate situation.
How to Avoid "Just Checking In"
Those three little words, “just checking in” do more harm than good. We all know that the dreaded phrase is just code for “why haven’t you emailed me back?”
A “just checking in” is a passive request for a response, a closed deal, or an appointment. The problem with approaching a follow-up email this way is, nothing about that phrase suggests value.
Sometimes, a status update is warranted. You might have a time-sensitive offer on the table or need to gain an understanding of where a project stands.
If time is of the essence, try these tips instead:
Ask For an Update, Directly
Ask for an update in a straightforward manner, with the response as a call-to-action.
For example, if you’re itching to get the ball rolling, say something like this:
I’d love to hear how things are going with your onboarding process. Can you give me an update on x, y, and z by the end of the week?
Ask a Question
Switch it up, rather than say you’re “just checking in” ask a question that aims to uncover more about the prospect’s need. Follow-up messages tend to reveal more about the salesperson’s need to close, not what the prospect wants.
What would help you present a better offer? Ask your prospect about any new developments in their world. What are they working on? What challenges are they dealing with?
Give the Recipient Some Context
This tip probably makes the most sense if you’re a content creator, designer, freelancer type. In this case, you might be following up a second time after a conversation.
“Last Friday, we went over some ideas for your website. I know you mentioned you’d like to put together some ideas for the direction you’d like to take—and I’m excited to see what you come up with and get started on the project. Have you had a moment to put together your thoughts?”
Check In With a Video
Try creating a personal video as an alternative to the follow-up email. If the goal is to get someone to move along in their decision-making process, taking a few minutes to record a video message may inspire them to take action—or at least give you a formal “no” so you can move on.
Here’s a good example of a check-in from our client, Podcast Websites. Mark’s video is short, to-the-point, and addresses a missed call. What’s more, Mark says that adding video to their strategy has “massively increased new member sign-ups.”
Always Send a “Fresh” Message
Yes, this tip does sound pretty obvious. But, many people from sales reps to solo-preneurs cut and paste email messages to save time.
Now, templating some of your messages is an excellent time-saving technique. But, if you do this with wild abandon, you risk sending your contact the same information they’ve already received.
If you deliver something of value—specific to each interaction, then you’re giving your recipient a preview of what it’s like to work with you—you’re thoughtful, responsive, and put customer needs first.
How Long Should Your Email Be?
Boomerang found the email length “sweet spot” is between 50 and 125 words. See, it’s long enough to give the recipient some context and a call-to-action, but not so long that it demands a multi-paragraph response.
That same survey found that emails that included one to three questions were 50% more likely to get a response than emails without any questions.
Emails that contained several questions were less likely to get a response, as the recipient is likely to feel overwhelmed by the line of questioning. Instead of giving the recipient a few choices and a clear “next step,” too many questions is essentially a homework assignment for your recipient.
Short and sweet isn’t doesn’t just apply to text, either. Check out this example from another client, Ontraport. They’ve used video as an alternative to a traditional appointment reminder and found that the approach helped them improve digital meeting attendance by 15%.
Should You Use a Little Bit of Click-Bait?
Subject lines should indeed hook someone in, but you don’t want to pull the old bait and switch.
It’s better to be clear than it is to be clever, we’ve learned this by reviewing our top performing subject lines. See, most of our top performers are straightforward but personal.
That said, personal doesn’t mean faking a past interaction. We’ve all gotten emails that say something like “RE: our last meeting” when, well, there was no last meeting. Some marketers swear by this technique, but it’s manipulative and undermines your ability to build trust with your contact.
Additionally, subject lines benefit from verbs that inspire action, like eat, shop, watch, listen. These examples help paint a picture of what it’s like to use your product or service. On the flip side, steer clear of the following words, as they may land you in the spam folder.
While we’re on the subject of subject lines, it’s worth bringing up reply-to addresses as well. Using a real name i.e. email@example.com versus firstname.lastname@example.org makes people more likely to respond to an email. The reason for this is obvious, impersonal email addresses seem inhuman--why would you respond to a bot?
How Long Should You Wait to Send a Follow-Up Email?
It’s hard to know exactly when it’s time to follow up if you haven’t heard back from the client or prospect.
Unfortunately, there’s no real cut and dry rule when it comes to following up.
On the one hand, you want to keep on top of your to-do list, but you also don’t want to seem desperate or annoying.
Selling should be about the prospect, not you. So, if the purpose of following up is closing a deal, you may need to wait until there’s a trigger event that prompts the follow-up.
Keep an eye out for industry announcements, changes in the marketplace, or a massive hiring spree.
If there’s already a deal in progress, you might follow up when their demo is about to expire or to make sure they complete their onboarding process.
Or, if the goal is more focused on customer retention, the trigger event might be something like an upsell—you have a new feature that’s perfect for their business. Maybe they have a contract that’s about to lapse.
The ONE Email Follow-Up Rule to Live By
Make it personal!
Emails can feel impersonal, especially if they seem cut from the same old template. Personalizing email subject lines can increase open rates by 50%, increasing the odds that your message gets seen in an inbox full of clutter.
Beyond the subject line, both the offer and the content should feel personal. If you’re sending a text-based message, it’s smart to include links specific to this person’s interests or pain points. Include something new, that you think they might enjoy—be it an article they might find interesting or an educational resource.
And, of course—if you really want to get personal, a video brings in humanity by putting a face to the email. Sign up for a free Bonjoro account today to start getting more opens, clicks, and yes, responses.