How to Write a Follow-Up Email That Actually Works | Sales
In sales, it’s almost never an immediate “yes.” In fact, “92% of salespeople give up after four ‘no’s’, but 80% of prospects say ‘no’ four times before they say ‘yes’.” That’s why failing to follow up on the sales emails you send can have a disastrous impact on your sales performance.
Unfortunately, effective follow-up these days isn’t as simple as shooting off a “Just checking in” message (although this phrase has been recently proven to be more effective than we originally thought). Follow-up emails deserve as much attention as your initial outreach, so up your game by avoiding the following mistakes and testing the templates described below.
RELATED: Why You Should Throw Your Sales Playbook in the Trash
Common Follow-Up Email Mistakes
You don’t send them in the first place
The statistic above tells us this is a problem. Fix it by figuring out why you aren’t following up in the first place.
- Do you not have a structured system in place to either remind you to follow up or to automate the follow-up process?
- Do you not book enough time in your schedule for follow-ups?
- Do you assume people are uninterested, rather than busy?
Mike Carroll, head of growth at Nutshell, underscores that first problem. “You’re bound to let valuable opportunities float away without a sales engagement platform in place to do the remembering for you,” says Carroll. “Standardizing your follow-up cadence in your SEP is a necessity—a lead shouldn’t be considered ‘dead’ until the sales rep has attempted contact as many times as your sales process specifies. And even if you never hear back from the prospect, you should add them to your marketing email list to stay on their radar.”
Find the problem, and fix it. Following up is that important.
You don’t send enough follow-ups
Sales follow-ups aren’t a “one and done.” One study saw a 30% response rate to the first email and 14% to the fourth. They sent 10 emails in total and even the very last one had a 7% response rate.
Your follow-up emails aren’t good
Plenty of salespeople spend ages refining their initial cold email, but totally punt when it comes to the follow-up. This slapdash approach leads to several different mistakes:
- They’re too generic. You can’t be memorable or compelling if you aren’t specific in your value proposition or ask.
- They’re too long. This isn’t the place for epic prose. Sales follow-up emails should be simple and to-the-point. Aim for 3-5 sentences max.
- Your subject line isn’t compelling enough to them. Your follow-up email subject line deserves just as much attention as you gave to the opening line of your initial outreach.
- They don’t offer anything new of value. Don’t repeat the same content you shared the first time. Change it up, since they didn’t bite the first time. As you’ll see in the next section, this is the perfect place to offer content or share some other type of value.
- They ask for too much right away. Don’t propose marriage on your first date. Both your initial outreach and your follow-up emails should be conscious of the effort required by your ask.
They don’t have a clear call to action (CTA). Tell prospects what you want them to do – even if it’s something as simple as reading an article or clicking a link. Never leave them guessing about what to do next.
6 Follow-Up Email Templates to Test
1. The Quick Response
This script takes the pressure off prospects to give you a lengthy response, while still giving you some type of actionable information.
“I’d love to connect, but don’t want to overstep if you aren’t interested. Could you do me a quick favor? Reply back to this email with the ‘1’ if you’d like to keep the conversation going, or the ‘2’ if you’re ready to move on.”
Add as many options as you like, but consider your audience. Some recipients may find that its truncated approach feels brusque or unprofessional.
2. The New Piece of Content
Be helpful, not pushy, with a follow-up email featuring a recently-released piece of content your company has produced.
“Our company recently published a new blog post that made me think of you. It’s called “[Title],” and I thought it might share some helpful information for [the problem you’re trying solve].”
You may not even include a direct ask in this message. Treat the link click as the engagement action instead, or add a simple CTA like, “Can we set up a time to discuss?”
3. The New Ask
Testing new CTAs is a great way to determine if your earlier emails went unanswered because of the ask itself or for a different reason. If, for example, you think your first email may have asked for too much, try scaling down with a less burdensome CTA in this follow-up.
“If you’re not ready to move forward right now, could we jump on a quick call instead? I’d love to share more on how [our product and service] has made a difference for [people or businesses facing a common problem].”
Have more than one option up your sleeve. The key to follow-ups is getting prospects to take the next step – whatever that step may be.
4. The New Feature
Every time your company releases a new feature, publishes a new case study or has any other exciting company update, that’s an opportunity for a follow-up.
“Not sure if you saw on our website, but we recently released a new feature that [offers some benefit]. I thought it’d be worth mentioning, since you told me you [had a problem this new feature would solve].”
This structure works best if you’ve previously had a conversation with your prospect that defined their biggest challenges or frustrations. If you haven’t had these talks, change your follow-up email to a more general announcement.
5. The Sorter
The goal here is to define common pain points shared by your clients that follow-up email recipients can self-identify with. Once you have their attention, hint at how your solution helped these clients solve their problems.
“Many of our customers describe [pain point #1] as the biggest challenge they’re facing, though we’ve also worked with people experiencing [pain point #2] and [pain point #3]. Does that sound like you? If so, I’d love to show you how [our product or solution] made a difference.”
The key here is really nailing the pain points. Expand on the structure above, making each description as graphic as you can to really encourage self-identification.
6. The Triggered Activity
If you’re using marketing automation or some lead scoring setup, have a template ready whenever prospects take key actions (such as watching a video on your website or visiting your pricing page).
“I noticed you took a look at our video recently. Thanks for checking it out! Do you have any questions I can answer after watching it?”
There’s a balance to be found here between striking while the iron is hot and being creepy. Most prospects know their actions are being tracked on websites these days. But if you feel the “Big Brother” approach may not sit well with your prospects, keep your follow-up messages more innocuous – but still timed to their actions on your website. I usually wait at least a day after someone takes an action I’m tracking.
Sales Follow-Up, the Right Way
Ultimately, there’s no single follow-up template that works for every company, in every situation. Use the templates above – or any others you find – but make them your own. Try different versions to see what resonates with your prospects. Test sending them at different times, in different sequences, in response to different timings and triggers.
Only by gathering your own data will you be able to arrive at the follow-up email strategy that actually works for your brand.
What other follow-up email templates are you using? Which of them have performed best for you?