If your follow up emails aren’t bringing in the responses you need, you might be making one of these 10 common mistakes. Here’s how to write a follow up email and avoid repeating them in the future.

  1. Be clear in your follow up email
  2. Provide value in your follow up email
  3. Send your email to the correct person
  4. Personalise your follow up email
  5. Writing your email well
  6. Make sure your email isn’t too long
  7. Leave enough time between your follow up emails
  8. Know your email etiquette
  9. Keep following up
  10. Track your follow up emails

In sales, the deals are in the follow ups. However, you’ve got to get them right. There’s more to sending follow up emails than ‘hit and hope’. You’ve got to be strategic, consistent and thorough. If your follow up emails are not getting opened, clicked or replied to, here are some simple rules you can follow to boost those response rates.

1. Be clear in your follow up email

Your customer may receive a hundred sales email every day. You can’t expect them to spend time trying to work out who you are and what you want. In your follow up emails, be as clear as possible. Tell your customer why you are following up with them. Wherever possible, include the rest of your email thread with this customer, so they can easily remind themselves who you are and what they have told you in the past.

Be clear with your call to action. Crafting a strong call to action helps you clarify what you are looking to achieve from your follow up email. ‘Just checking in to see how you are’ is not a reason to follow up. If your goal is to set up a call or meeting, or you want them to actually buy from you, then make it easy for your customer to do so. Make sure your customer knows how following your call to action will benefit them.

This example illustrates how to remind the customer who you are and why you’re following up with them, then goes straight to the call to action.

Hey Mark. I wanted to follow up on our conversation about setting you up with a free trial of [[ YOUR SOFTWARE ]]. Are you free for a half hour call on Friday morning?

2. Provide value in your follow up email

Your follow up email is a chance to help your customer. Even in a few sentences, you can show them your value. Yet, many follow up emails are one-sided, telling the customer about you rather than them, talking at them rather than having a conversation.

A quick and effective way to demonstrate value in a follow up email is using social proof. You could talk about:

  • Customer testimonials – even better if they are your recipient’s competitors
  • Number of users
  • Awards you have won

Social proof appeals to your customers’ rational and emotional sides. It makes them curious to find out more about you.

Hey Stephanie. Just wanted to share with you a testimonial from Acme Inc about their experience with [[ YOUR SOFTWARE ]]. Are you free on Wednesday morning for a 15-minute call?

‘[[ YOUR SOFTWARE ]] is an indispensable tool for lead gen. We’ve doubled the number of leads coming into Acme Inc year-on-year. I just love how it works!’

3. Send your email to the correct person

You’re probably juggling a hundred different prospects at any one time. However, your customer likes to feel you’ve thought of them specifically. When you’re following up, make sure you send the right follow up email. For example, sending the email you normally send to introduce yourself to someone who you have already met for a demo, could seriously damage your chances of closing the deal. Make sure every contact with your customers is logged in your CRM. Check your CRM before you compose your email to make sure you’re on the right track.

It’s also a good idea to clean your marketing data regularly, to make sure it is up-to-date. There is no point in wasting time sending email after email to a buyer who left the company 6 months ago.

4. Personalise your follow up email

The more your follow up email is personalised to your customer, the more likely it is that your customer will respond. Even if you are using templates for your follow up emails, try to add as much of a personal touch as you can. You’re trying to reignite a conversation with your customer, so make that connection.

Start by using their first name at the start. It’s easy if you’re using email software and makes all the difference, grabbing their attention early. Use their company name wherever you can.

Do your research. LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for this. The more you find out about your customer when preparing your follow up email, the more effective it will be. The deeper you go, the more likely you are to find a piece of information you can leverage. Imagine if you find out you and your customer used to work at the same company or went to the same college. When you mention it in your email, they are much more likely to sit up and take notice.

5. Write your follow up email well

Remember the aim of your follow up email. You’re trying to re-engage your customer in conversation, stir up some excitement and get them to follow your call to action. If you write in a dull, robotic way, full of jargon and waffle, it is not going to work.

The golden rule when writing a follow up email is to write like you talk. For example, instead of using a phrase like ‘at your convenience’, say ‘when you can’. You may use phrases like ‘thinking outside the box’ every day in your office, but on a sales follow up email it’s a cliché.

While everything you write doesn’t have to be 100% grammatically correct, it has to make sense. Correct spelling is even more important. Running your email through a spell checker only takes a minute, so if your email is riddled with typos, it doesn’t give a good impression. Check your email before you send it. Reading it aloud to yourself is an effective way to expose those little mistakes.

6. Make sure your follow up email isn’t too long

Your customer is busy and you’re competing for their attention. When your customer opens your follow up email, you want them to get exactly what they need without any delays. That means you have to make your email as short as possible. Get in, get to the point, get out. As tempting as it may be to list every one of your product’s benefits, resist. If your email is too long, it will not be read.

The most effective length for an email is between 50 and 125 words, but you should be aiming for it to be as short as you possibly can. If you have said everything you need to say in 40 words, there is no need to pad it out. Make every word count.

7. Leave enough time between your follow up emails

It is also essential that you get your timing right when following up. If you send your follow up emails too often, your customer may feel pressurised. No one likes to be bombarded with sales emails.

If you’re replying to a request they have sent to you, do it as quickly as possible. You need to show your customer a high level of service. Never leave it more than a day.

If you are following up on an email you have previously sent, but the customer has not replied to, you should leave it 2-4 days between emails.

On the other hand, do not leave it too long. If you leave it weeks between follow up emails, you lose context and momentum and leave opportunity for competitors. Your customer may have forgotten who you are and why they had a conversation with you in the first place.

8. Know your email etiquette

Always show your best side in your follow up emails. Your customer is more likely to respond if you are polite and personable.

While it’s frustrating when customers do not reply to your emails straight away, you should never let this frustration show. Your customers are busy people and you have to accept your sales emails are not necessarily a priority. Never open an email with anything like:

I’ve been emailing you every day since last Tuesday. Why haven’t you replied?

Instead, be positive. Give them an out, an excuse for not replying so you can both move on and restart the conversation.

I’m guessing my last email got lost in all the Black Friday mayhem, so I wanted to pick up the conversation now things are a bit calmer.

In B2B sales, there are an average of 5 stakeholders involved in a buying decision. Make sure if you are writing to more than one person in your follow up email, you address them all. Don’t make one more important than the other, even if they are! Be polite and inclusive to everyone involved in the sales process.

Finally, if you’re using them, check the custom fields are working on your follow up email before you send it.

‘Hi [FIRST NAME]. Great to talk to you last week…’ is not a good look!

9. Keep following up

Of course, it’s dispiriting when you craft a perfectly-written follow up email to a customer and receive no response. It’s easy to think that when they don’t reply, that the customer does not want to hear from you again. You might think you’re wasting your time following up with them again, that your efforts are better spent on someone else.

Don’t give up. Your customers are busy. Your email may have got lost in the correspondence of a particularly hectic day. Next time you follow up with them might be the time they respond. Most deals are closed on the 5th contact with a customer. Experiment with timing and messaging to find the most effective ways to catch customers.

10. Track your follow up emails

If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. If you don’t collect data from your follow up emails, how do you know what’s working?

Use software to identify when a customer opens your emails or clicks on links. Record how long they spend reading your email.

If a particular follow up email is getting deleted straight away without being opened, change the subject line. If a customer clicks on a link to your site from your email, they’re clearly interested in your product. Why not give them a call?

Data is there to help you. Make sure you use it.

Tips for success

How many of these tips are in your current follow up email strategy? Follow up emails are not an exact science. However, when you follow best practices, step by step, your results will improve. Take time on your follow ups emails to find what works.