Persistence is essential in sales, but there’s a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. Here’s how you send a follow up email when you get no response, without putting the deal at risk.

10 Tips to Follow Up:

  1. Time it right
  2. Have a solid reason
  3. Be to the point
  4. Keep it short
  5. Include a simple call to action
  6. Be patient
  7. Stay positive
  8. Use one channel at a time
  9. Respect ongoing conversations
  10. Remember your email manners

In sales it happens all to often that you get no response to your message. To succeed, you will need to send follow up emails. But there is a right and wrong way to follow up over email. Customers prefer to buy from people they know, like and trust. If you get your follow ups wrong, you risk becoming annoying and you might lose the deal altogether.

Many customers will appreciate that you are only doing your job when you follow up and often the fact that you got no response had nothing to do with you. No sales rep has ever lost a deal by being persistent. However, the best salespeople always stay on the right side of the line between ‘tenacious’ and ‘irritating’. They try to make buying from them as easy and pleasant as possible for the customer.

When your customer may receive hundreds of sales emails a day, yours has to stand out in the right way. Here are 10 tips on how to send follow up emails that grab attention and get you a response, while still showing respect and creating goodwill.

1 – Time it right

When your customer receives an email notification and sees your follow up, if you get a response or not depends very much on the time of the week. There are times of the week when they’ll be happy to receive your follow up email and interested to find out more. And there will be other times when you will certainly get no response.

There’s no silver bullet as to which times are good. They vary depending on who you’re sending the email to. You can make an educated guess, however. Monday mornings are not a good time, when people are at internal meetings, preparing for the week ahead. On Friday afternoons people are either dealing with disasters or mentally winding down for the weekend. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are better times to follow up, when people tend to be more task-focused. Mornings are often better too, when the mind is still fresh.

By testing the times when you send out your follow up emails and comparing response rates, you can figure out the times when customers will be more likely to respond. Also, if you don’t receive a response the first time, send your next follow up email at a different time to see if that works.

2 – Have a solid reason

Sending a follow up email to ‘catch up’ or ‘touch base’ will often result in no response from your customer. It takes up valuable inbox real estate without giving them anything they can use. When you send a follow up, make sure you have a reason for sending it and be clear to your customer about what that reason is. There are many different reasons to follow up, for example:

  • You’ve recently had a meeting or spoken on a phone call.
  • You have some relevant industry news you would like to share with them.
  • Another company from your contact’s industry has started working with you, providing social proof.

This shows your customer that you are thinking about them, that you’re not just trying to bounce them into a sale.

3 – Be to the point

Remember that your customer probably receives hundreds of emails per day, with the bulk of them coming from salespeople like you. Your follow up email needs to be easy for your customer to read and understand. If it’s unclear or confusing, it will probably be ignored. If they can’t easily tell what you want from them, they will not give you anything either.

However tempting it may be to use your follow up email to tell your customer everything you can about yourself and your product, ignore that temptation. Use a subject line that shows your customer your reason for writing as we discussed in Tip 1. Then, stick to that reason in the main body of your email. One message per follow up email. No extraneous information. Straight to the point. Pure and simple.

4 – Keep it short

Your potential customer is busy. If you send a follow up email containing acres of text (even if it is only about one thing), it is unlikely to be read. Show that you know what you are talking about by keeping your email short and they will be much more likely to respond.

How short is short? A good rule of thumb is to make your follow up email a maximum of half the length of your last email. If your original email had 4 paragraphs, have 2 in your follow up. If you send another follow up after that, make it 1 paragraph long. Keep doing this until it’s just a line.

If you make every word count, you will not struggle to get your point across in a minimum of words. Ideally, you should be able to follow up in 2 or 3 sentences.

5 – Include a simple call to action

In your follow up email, make sure you tell your what you would like them to do next. This action must be a quick and easy process, not something that will involve a lot of time and thought.

Part of making your follow up email clear includes making it easy for your customer to respond. If your customer has to read and reread your email to understand what you want them to do next, it’s more likely they will actually do nothing.

Crafting a call to action causes you to think of what your goal is for following up. For example, if your ideal outcome is to get your customer on the phone, just ask them ‘When is a good time to talk?’.

6 – Be patient

The easiest way to annoy your customer is to bombard them with too many follow ups in too short a space of time. Just assume that if you don’t get a response initially, they are either too busy, not in the office, or don’t want to talk now. In all cases you should wait. If you spam your customer with follow up emails, it clutters their inbox and shows you do not respect their time. What’s more, it makes you look amateurish and desperate.

The reason your customer doesn’t respond to you immediately is unlikely to be anything personal. They’re just busy, with many other things to do and many other emails to answer. They will get to yours in good time, especially if your follow up is well-crafted.

Leave at least 48 hours between follow up emails and increase the time in between if you have to follow up multiple times without answer.

7 – Stay positive

Yes, it’s annoying when potential customers do not reply to your emails. However, putting any focus whatsoever on the fact that they didn’t respond is counterproductive and it will not go down well with your customer. You will not close deals with a selfish, antagonistic attitude. You’re following up, and your potential customer (typically) has no obligations towards you.

Instead, be kind and positive in your approach. Acknowledge that you appreciate your customer is busy and keep the conversation going. For example, if you’re contacting them after the summer holiday period, ask them if they have been away. Give them an ‘out’, an excuse for not coming back to you earlier, so they don’t feel a need to explain.

8 – Use one channel at a time

If you have chosen email as your method of following up, stick to it at first. Don’t reach out on all channels at once. Just because you have not received an immediate response via email, it is not a license to phone them half an hour later, or hit them with direct messages on LinkedIn.

Also, stick to one email address per customer. You may know that your contact uses different email addresses, but only use one at a time. If your customer sees your email in all their inboxes, they’re likely to get confused and lose track of the conversation.

If you want to try another way of following up with your customer, leave it the requisite 48 hours from the last contact, as discussed in Tip 6. Email is not always the best channel though. Some people prefer to be contacted via, phone call, text, LinkedIn message or something else. Find out which method your customer prefers by asking them when you first talk.

9 – Respect ongoing conversations

The sales process is a conversation. When you’re in a conversation with a customer, stick to following up with them and don’t reach out to other people at that company in parallel. If you have qualified them properly at the start of the process, you know you are dealing with the right individual. Resist the temptation to try and bypass them.

Going behind your customer’s back and trying to initiate a conversation with their manager or another colleague is aggressive. It could jeopardise your chances of a deal.

You wouldn’t like it either when someone copies your manager into an email to push their own agenda. Don’t be like that when you follow up.

10 – Remember your email manners

Our final tip regards good email practice. Think about what annoys you when you receive emails and make sure you don’t repeat them in your follow ups.

  • Don’t send large attachments unless your customer has asked you to.
  • Don’t mark your email as high priority. Your customer will not agree that it is.
  • Don’t let your follow up look like a copy and paste job, even if it is. Make sure it is personalised with your customer’s name at the very least.

The power of the follow up

In sales, follow up emails are incredibly effective tools to close a deal. If you can improve your follow up skills, you will close more deals. Make it part of your process and reap the rewards. Instead of being annoyed, customers will actually thank you for following up.