Lead Generation, Sales Emails, Sales Process 0 Comment

Follow-Up Emails: The Smart Salesperson’s Guide

Colin Campbell

January 31st, 2019

sales follow up email guide image

If you’re getting all the responses you’ll ever need on the 1st email you send to prospects, let me know. You’re a walking, talking miracle worker!

If you’re like the rest of the sales world, and need to send several follow-up emails to get a response, this one’s for you.

Here’s what we’re covering:

  1. Balance Scale with Personalization and Relevance
  2. Have a clear purpose
  3. Open strong
  4. Follow up email body tips
  5. Move forward – even if it’s towards a “no”
  6. Email automation tools
  7. How long to wait before following up on an email
  8. How often to follow up with sales prospects for higher response rates
  9. When to stop sending follow up emails
  10. Monitor and analyze your email data
  11. Sales Follow Up Email Templates
  12. Be willing to challenge best practices

Balance Scale with Personalization & Relevance

Never, ever forget that leads are people. They value their time, care about their privacy, and don’t love being interrupted with unsolicited sales pitches (most of the time). They’re smart too. But just like the rest of us, they tend to make decisions based on emotions, as demonstrated by behavioral economics.

Few leads will respond promptly and favorably to your outreach. But with strategic and authentic lead nurturing, enough of them will see the value you provide— with a little personalization and patience on your part.

If you only send mass email campaigns, leads might feel like they have a stalker who is not detail-oriented. That won’t get you very far. On the other hand, you won’t cover enough leads to meet sales targets if you personalize every email individually.

Instead, group your prospects by their persona, and personalize to that.

“It’s possible to personalize so much that you compromise productivity. Personalize to the persona, tell a relevant story, and spend more time on follow-up emails than on the initial one. Doing so can have a massive impact on response rates without slowing you down.”
Mark Kosoglow, VP of Sales at Outreach

Have a Clear Purpose

Committing to a strong follow-up sequence is one thing. How you approach each step in that sequence matters too.

You should have a clear next step you’d like to achieve when you follow up. You should also understand what your prospect would want to achieve in a next step. You should find a reason to talk that serves both purposes and clearly communicate that in your email.

For example, using the phrase “just checking in” is usually discouraged by sales leaders. It’s even worse if you’re checking in without offering anything new that’s valuable to the prospect!

This looks lazy:

email follow up example just checking in

There are tons of other reasons Ben could have provided, explaining the purpose of his email. He could have:

  • Given me a recap of our last phone call and reminded me of next steps
  • Asked me specifically what’s changed on my end that has made me not respond
  • Sent me some additional information pertaining to our last conversation (if we had one)
  • Asked for additional information so he can provide me something extra
  • Sent me a helpful resource, or a news article that might affect my work

If all Ben wants is to talk, he just needs to ask for that, and tell me when he’s free! I at least deserve an idea of why we should speak.

Open Strong

Subject lines matter. In fact, catchy ones can drive up to 42% open rate for your emails. Here are some ways to make subject lines more effective:

  • Keep them short, sweet, and straight to the point.
  • Be casual and personal. (But don’t say anything you wouldn’t say to your grandparents).
  • Reference the prospect’s company and/or name.
  • Use a simple call to action.
  • Be highly relevant.

Now, I know it can be tricky to put that advice into practice, so here are some examples you can play with. These aren’t one-size-fits-all example subject lines, so make them your own!

sales email sample subject lines

Warning: Great subject lines are not enough. If you’re getting improved increased open rates, great. Now turn your attention to reply rates.

sample sales email follow up

Follow-Up Email Body Tips

If you’ve gotten a prospect’s attention, you’ve got a new challenge: keeping it.

The key to writing great follow-up email copy is to be valuable and relevant as quickly as possible. This 3-item checklist should help make your efforts worthwhile.

1.  Personalize. You are engaging a person, not a robot, so extend all the respect and attention the email recipient deserves. Even if you are using a marketing automation software, ensure that your emails do not sound automated, generic, or irrelevant.

However, make sure that you are personalizing in a thoughtful way. Just referring to someone’s title, work history, or the school they attended just proves you can do basic internet research. It doesn’t tell them you took the time to really understand them.

For example, you could instead reference content the prospect has personally written, something unique to the prospect’s industry, or recent news about the prospect’s company.

According to Outreach SDR Manager Sam Nelson, you can execute personalization at scale through a combination of personalized and automated messages. For example, personalizing just the first two sentences of an email can deliver a dramatic increase in open rates. Bottom line: understand your buyer persona and fine-tune the message in a way that makes your value proposition shine.

2. Go for short and sweet. Don’t go beyond what’s necessary to generate a response from the recipient. Get straight to the point, and plainly state the email’s purpose at the onset. Then quickly offer up unique personalized value and end with a simple, clear CTA.

If you can’t catch the prospect’s attention during the first few seconds, it’s unlikely you’ll get a response anyway. So avoid getting too wild and creative, or spinning a long tale.

3. Provide relevant value. They key word here is relevant. Your marketing department’s latest ebook might be valuable, but make sure it directly addresses your prospect’s main concerns.

One example: if the recipient recently attended a conference or trade show, follow up by citing event highlights or attaching resources. Make sure whatever you share relates to the prospect’s business, activities, interests, or problems. Or, you can mention newly published news or trends that impact the prospect’s company or industry.

Move forward – even if it’s toward a “no”

You’re following up because you want the email recipient to sign something (eventually).

For that to happen, the prospect needs to make a series of decisions that result in a purchase. Including CTAs (calls-to-action) is what allows you to connect the present with that future scenario.

Any sales email is useless without a clear CTA. Regardless of what you would like the next step in the journey to be, make sure it’s also compelling to your prospect.

Short and direct is better.

Use this: “Do you have 20 mins for me next week?”

Instead of this: “Are you available for a quick 20-minute introduction call on Monday or Tuesday next week to discuss driving your sales efficiency and saving you and your team 10 hours per week?”

Email Automation Tools

Automation makes it easier to craft, send, and track sales-related emails. While a one-to-one correspondence is ideal, sales is a numbers game. New tech can help find the happy medium between massive scale and heavy personalization.

Here are some of the most useful tools for reinforcing your email-based efforts:

  • LinkedIn – the primary source for contact’s professional information
  • Rapportive – provides relevant business intelligence within your email service
  • Cirrus Insight – offers tight integration with Salesforce so you can access CRM data without leaving your email
  • Close.io – centralizes your sales call and email workflow; provides analytics to optimize sequences
  • HubSpot Marketing – excellent inbound marketing platform and overall resource on best practices, templates, and other email-related topics
  • MailChimp – the industry leader in email marketing
  • Constant Contact – helps you manage all aspects of your email: contacts, lists, templates, and tracking; has an image library and social media integration
  • Boomerang –  tracks whether the recipient opened the email, schedules transmission
  • Outreach – the market leader in sales engagement with robust leading-edge email capabilities
  • Yesware – syncs with CRM data and provides prescriptive analytics to propel your email prospecting campaigns
  • Zoho Campaigns – links your email marketing and social media campaigns

sales email follow up timing

How long to wait before following up on an email

There’s no absolute rule on how soon you should send a follow-up email. It all depends on the context and finding the sweet spot between keeping the deal moving forward and stalking/ spamming the prospect.

You should have agreed with your prospect ahead of time on an appropriate follow-up time. That way, there’s no guesswork involved.

If you weren’t able to do that, or just haven’t spoken to the prospect yet, here’s a rough guideline to consider.

Follow up the same day or within 24 hours if…

  • You just had a meeting and need to send confirmation of next steps
  • You’re thanking the prospect for anything (an introduction, for example)

Wait at least 48 hours if…

    You’re just following up on an email you sent previously
  • You provided them with lots of material for their consideration
  • Your prospect needs to meet

Wait at least 3 weeks if…

  • You already sent 5 emails and got no reply

Sending follow-up emails at different times of day and different days of the week improves your chances of getting a reply. That way, you’re not always sending the email at a bad time for the prospect, like on Tuesday afternoons when she attends a live six-month training program.

Obviously, there’s no one-size-fits all solution here. A controlled trial and error approach will help fine-tune your team’s email effectivity and maximize impact.

How often to follow up with sales prospects

Again, the best answer is “it depends”. Your relationship with the recipient, their decision-making authority, and stage in the buyer journey all matter.

Sales experts disagree on how many follow-ups is an effective number, too. A joint guide published by Ambition and SalesFolk successfully used an 8-touch sequence composed of a cold email and 7 follow-up emails.

Meanwhile, Close.io’s Steli Efti recommends a maximum of six follow-ups for completely cold prospects. That’s not the case if you’ve had some form of interaction and the lead doesn’t ask you to stop emailing them. Then, Efti says you can and should send follow-ups until you get a response one way or another.

Efti’s recommended sequence adopts the following model:

steli efti sales email sequence

Note: This is an extreme example that worked for Efti. But you should never treat templates or tactics as dogma. In sales, contexts are never identical. Even if a situation featured here sounds similar to yours, treat your selling situation as completely unique. Plus, a model or template that proves to be effective today may not deliver the same outcome tomorrow.

When to stop sending follow-up emails

You can be relentless but sometimes, there’s a point where you’ll have to stop. Email outreach requires time and resources to get done even when you are using smart tech to make it more efficient.

If you have tried all the hooks in the book, it’s time to let go. A little attrition keeps the pipeline cleaner and allows you to focus on engaged prospects. Send a courteous break-up email that leaves the prospect a final chance to respond. End with a jolly farewell knowing that you’ve tried your best. Of course, leave a link to the resources you think will resonate most with the recipient (just in case).

Monitor and analyze your email data

So you ran your sequence, and you got some replies. Other’s didn’t even open your emails. That’s not the end of it!

Even if you don’t get replies, you can get value from your efforts. Monitor your campaign, analyze email data, and document what you’ve learned. You’ve just made all your future efforts more efficient!

Consider using email tracking and analytics software, which help elevate performance. If it’s possible on your platform, run A/B tests, too.

Ask yourself:

  • Which emails drove the highest reply rates?
  • Did those replies correlate with deals that closed/won?
  • How many emails did it take to get your desired action?
  • Does your sequence work better for some prospect personas than others?

sales email templates and best practices

Sales Follow Up Email Templates

To help you jumpstart your email follow-up efforts, here’s a runup of useful templates that you can use. As you try these out, use A/B tests to identify which work best for your business and prospects. Then, try some new ones of your own.

A. Sample follow up email to a prospective client.

sample sales follow up email prospect

B. Follow-up sales email after a meeting.

sample sales follow up after meeting

C. Follow-up email after no response.

sample sales follow up email no response

If you’ve already had a meeting with this person, you can add more of a Challenger element here.

Your opener could instead be:

“You’re busy and on to something big. I get that. But we make time for the things that matter, and based on {{problem they shared}}, I do believe we can help.”

D. And since it happens a lot, here is another follow-up email sample you can send after no response.

sample sales follow up email no response 2

E. Generic sales follow-up email sample after a touchpoint.

sample sales follow up email tourchpoint

F. Follow-up sales email after an event or trade show.

sample sales follow up email after event

G. Break-up email sample after another follow-up.

sample sales follow up email breakout

Be Willing to Challenge Best Practices

I began by saying that “just checking in” is a bad idea. Then, I gave you lots of subject lines and sample follow-up email templates to use.

But you should also know that a lot of the advice about follow-up emails is really untested. Plus, it depends entirely on your context, and your prospects.

Case in point: the data science team at Outreach recently A/B tested the phrase, “just checking in”.

They analyzed its impact on more than 4000 bump emails. The results were surprising, and went against all of the other advice we’ve heard. It turned out that using the phrase lifted email reply rates by as much as 86%.

What’s the lesson? Use these templates how you like, but don’t treat anything like dogma. Contexts change and assumptions aren’t always what you expect. Conduct A/B tests to find out what works best for you and your prospects in each scenario.

About the author

Colin Campbell

Colin is the Director of Marketing at Sales Hacker. Before that, he led the strategy team at a marketing agency, and worked with hundreds of B2B brands to build winning inbound strategies. Outside of work, Colin is the world's biggest dog lover, and spends as much time as possible outside.

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