Timing is a significant factor when you send a follow up email. It can decide if your message receives a positive response or ends up in the trash. The secret is knowing your audience…

When you send a follow up email:

  • Consider your customer’s day
  • Be responsive
  • Wait 48 hours but not too long
  • Send on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday
  • For C-Level: Give Sunday evenings a try
  • Send between 10 and 11am or just after lunch
  • Analyze when your emails are opened
  • Ask your customer

Unless you’re some kind of super-salesperson who always closes your customers the first time you talk to them, you’re going to need to make follow ups. Follow ups are essential to move your customer through your sales process, whether you’re clarifying next steps after a meeting or demo, or just reminding them you exist after a period of silence.

With follow ups, when you send a follow up email is just as vital as what you send. Your customers are likely to be busy people, but there are times of the day (and week) when they could be receptive your email and respond straight away. On the other hand, there are times when they are busy and will not open your email, leaving it in your inbox until a quieter moment (that never comes). Even worse, if you reach them at a hectic time they might banish it to the trash.

A different approach

How can you choose the best time to send follow up emails? If you search online, you’ll find many resources on this subject. However, they offer different answers. The fact is, there is no silver bullet. The answer will be different depending on whether you’re selling B2B or B2C, as well as the industry you’re selling in. There is also the question of what your goal is from your follow up email. If you only want your customer to reply to your email rather than open it, the optimum time could be different.

Because every customer is different, an effective approach is to think deeply about the particular customer you want to follow up with. How do they organise their time? What are the pressures they are under at certain times of the day or week? How do you think that particular customer would respond to an email at that time? When you show some empathy and common sense, you can often get your timing just right. Here are some questions to consider.

When did you last email this customer?

It’s understandable. You’re impatient to talk to this customer. You know you have a solution tailor-made for their problem. You don’t want to waste time waiting for them to get back to you. However, there are pitfalls to following up with your customer too quickly or too often. You can overwhelm them. You can annoy them. How long can you leave it between follow ups without overdoing it?

Ask yourself a further question.

Who initiated the last contact?

If the customer initiated contact with you, you must follow up with them as quickly as possible. This is the level of service customers demand in 2018. You do not need to play hard to get!

If you made the last contact, but the customer has not replied to you immediately. You should wait three or four days until you follow up again.

What day of the week will I get a response from this customer?

Choosing the right day of the week to follow up is critical. Statistics show that if a recipient doesn’t reply to your follow up email on the day you send it, it’s unlikely they will reply at all. 90% of emails are replied to on the first day, after that, the reply rate drops off dramatically.

While everybody’s work schedules are different, here are some general observations regarding how people work through the week.
Mondays – Monday mornings are often reserved for internal meetings, planning out your week and dealing with anything urgent that happened over the weekend. It’s not the best day to send a follow up email and expect a reply.

Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays – People are often more task-focused on these days. These are the best days to follow up. Tuesday is the best of the three, because ‘events’ are less likely to have monopolised your customer’s schedule.

Fridays – On Fridays, people are often dealing with disasters, or mentally winding down for the weekend. It is not an effective day to send follow up emails.

Saturdays & Sundays – Most workers will not check their emails on Saturdays, but may think about it on Sunday evenings, to head off any problems before Monday’s onslaught. A Sunday evening follow up email could be worth trying. Even if your customer doesn’t answer straight away, it’s in their inbox for Monday morning.

Tuesday is the best weekday to send follow up emails. However, if you are able to send follow up emails at the weekend, either manually or using scheduling software, you can reap the rewards.

To work out the best day depends on who your customer is. This is where it helps to know more about them, or at least take an educated guess.

Is your customer a Founder, or if not, at the very top level of the organisation?

While everyone is different, and no one likes to generalise, entrepreneurs and people at the top of an organisation work to a different schedule to other people. They are more likely to check into their email all day, every day of the week. No matter what they are doing, their email is their window on to how their company is functioning. They’ll open every email they receive, even if it is just to check there hasn’t been a disaster.

Saturdays and Sundays are good days to send follow up emails to these types of people. You avoid the super-hectic busy weekday periods, but they will still open your email and read it. They may even be impressed that you’re the type of salesperson who is never off duty, just like them! If your email is engaging and your offer appeals to them, they will reply.

If your customer is not a Founder or top-level executive, maybe they do not check their work email at home in the evenings or at weekends. They may not even have access to their emails when not on work premises. For the biggest impact, you are limited to emailing during regular working hours.

When is the best time of day to get a response from this customer?

The time of day is just as important as the day itself. You don’t want your follow up email to linger in your customer’s inbox, waiting to be read and replied to. The longer it stays in their inbox, the less likely it is they will answer.

The key is to think about how people engage with emails sent at different times of the day. When you wake up in the morning, how long is it before you reach for your phone? I’m guessing a matter of minutes, maybe seconds! If you have a notification badge by your email app, you’ll check your email and read whatever is there. Most people go through this routine in the morning. However, you are unlikely to reply to this early morning email. You’ll put it on the back burner until later. Unfortunately, if it’s a follow up email from a salesperson, it will drop down the priority list and ultimately get ignored.

For your follow up email to receive a response, you need to send it a time when people are not too busy. You also want to catch them when their mind is fresh and uncluttered. The best time for this is between 10 and 11 in the morning.

Lunchtime isn’t a great time to send follow up emails, as your customer is likely to be away from their desk. On the other hand, immediately after lunch is a good time, as many people check their emails to ensure they didn’t miss anything important.

Final tips

To conclude, if we were to have a top 3 times of the week when to send follow up emails, it would be:
Tuesday 10 am – for customers who work standard hours
Saturday 10 am – for founders, entrepreneurs and top-level execs
Sunday 8 pm – for people who like to plan their week ahead

That’s not all, however. Here are some more timing tips for maximum follow up impact:

If you’re using email scheduling software, don’t set your emails to go on the hour or half hour. Seeing an email arrive at 10:00 or 10:30 doesn’t look natural. An email sent at 10:22 looks like an email from someone who is trying to help. That is the impression you want to give with your follow up.
Use software to track what times your customers open your emails. Does a pattern emerge telling you what time of day works best? Your customers will point you in the right direction.

Experiment

We can generalise all we like, but no two customers are the same. Try different approaches with different customers to see what works.
When you talk to your customers, listen for clues about their working schedule and how they like to be contacted. Better still, ask them!

In sales, the more you know about your customers, the better you can serve them and the more deals you will close. Follow up emails are a great example of this being true. When you think more deeply about who your customer is, you are more likely to find that optimum time to follow up with them.