Follow Up Email Etiquette: Get a Response Without Being Annoying

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follow up email

You’ve sent the email. You’ve waited. But it’s been a couple of days, and you haven’t heard a reply.

It’s time to send a follow-up email—but the challenge is how to get a response without you coming across as annoying, aggressive, or desperate.

Good email etiquette is essential here. Remember that when you’re following up on an unanswered email, your team inbox tool is an asset. And with a little teamwork, proper delegation, internal coordination, and long-term thinking, you can write and send a solid email follow up that gets a response.

Determine what emails in the team inbox need follow up

Maybe you’re following up with an email after a meeting, pursuing a warm or cold lead, or moving a prospect further along your sales funnel. Whatever the scenario, your follow up emails are a piece of relationship-building strategy: it’s a long game.

Whatever outcome you and your team are seeking, it’s key to remember that unless you’ve gotten a firm “no,” it’s okay to continue sending occasional follow ups (and later we’ll give some pointers on how often to do just that).

Following up at all immediately puts you ahead of the competition. In one survey, only 24 out of 1,000 companies tried to follow up with customers and prospects. Other studies have confirmed that 70 percent of email conversations stop after one unanswered email. Consistent, timely follow up can yield an 18 percent response rate to the first email—and 27 percent to the sixth email.

If you aren’t following up, you’re leaving deals, revenue, and relationships on the table.

Most emails are opened the day they’re sent, and often replies can come in during the same timeframe. If that response hasn’t come by now, odds are it’s not going to. From your team’s all-in-one collaborative inbox, you can monitor emails to see what hasn’t been replied to, and tactically check back on those conversations for context and history.

So if it’s been more than 2 to 3 days and you haven’t heard anything yet, it’s time to flag that conversation for follow up.

Hint: You’ll have better luck getting a reply if you avoid emailing on Mondays or Fridays when people are typically either catching up from the weekend or wrapping things up before the weekend.

No, you aren’t “just checking in”

Of course, there are times where you’ve received those annoying “just checking in” emails. Do they motivate you to respond right away—or roll your eyes as you hit “delete”?

Before sending your own follow ups, make sure to scrub your email subject lines and body text of phrases like “just checking in,” “how our company can help you,” “quick follow up,” or “quick question.”

In fact, the word “quick” can be a quick way to get your email ignored. Avoid “quick” altogether—having it in the subject line alone can lead to a 17 percent lower open rate.

Instead, be clear and concrete about what you’re following up about. If you are suggesting a meeting or call, also offer specific, realistic time frames, such as “a 5-minute call” or “I have one question about [blank].”

Prevent recipient overload: Delegate each email to one point of contact

It can take five follow ups to close about 80 percent of sales. An email from one person might have many people behind it.

However, compelling emails work best from one point of contact. If your customer or prospect is getting emails from multiple people on your team, it can become overwhelming and frustrating. The customer can easily lose track of who they need to get back to, leading them to not want to talk with anyone on your team.

No matter how many people are involved internally, delegate emails so that one person is in charge of the conversation. Funnel input from all internal stakeholders to that point of contact. Not only does this help keep track of each email (and prevent duplicate contacts), there will be no question about who is responsible for getting back to the sender and managing follow up.

A library of saved follow up templates can also help your team answer common questions or customize emails quickly. (Your website’s FAQ can be a great resource for finding content to repurpose in email templates.)

When putting together a follow up, collaborate on drafts as a team when needed. Use private notes to share details, test language, share drafts, confirm facts, or checklist the email’s discussion points—do this instead of forwarding and CC-ing emails because the more you do that, the more likely it is that some of your team’s conversation will be (embarrassingly) accidentally forwarded to your client.

Internal coordination will keep your emails accurate, comprehensive, and on-point. You can also be more certain that anything else that needs to go in the email is set and ready before sending.

Have a clear call to action

Vague is annoying. When you send an email, the customer or prospect shouldn’t read it and then be left scratching their head about why you emailed.

Are you doing an interview follow up, need additional information, or are checking to see if they have any questions? Are you reinforcing that you are excited about the opportunity to help them, or are trying to set up the next step in the sales process?

The person receiving the email should know exactly what you wrote about, why you are writing, and what action you are seeking from them.

Before sending, make sure your email finishes with a clear, succinct call to action. Whatever it is you need to them to do, make sure you are asking them to do it.

What to do when your follow up email hasn’t gotten a response

You sent your email on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Your email is succinct yet clear and closed with a precise call to action. No matter how well-written your follow up email was, however, you still might not get a reply.

Again, remember: Getting a reply can be a long game. If your follow up email hasn’t gotten a response (including a “no thank you, not ever, don’t email me again”), then it’s okay to keep emailing. The key is to set and adhere to a further follow up schedule.

Send subsequent follow up emails four days later, a week later, two weeks later, and then every 30 days.

Email follow ups won’t guarantee success, but they will increase your chances of getting the response you want or moving the customer or prospect through a sales process. Stay focused, relevant, courteous, confident, and consistent. Instead of coming across as annoying, solid email follow ups from your team inbox can be key to getting that response you’ve been working toward.

Posted in Email

Anthony St. Clair

Anthony St. Clair

Anthony St. Clair is a business copywriter, author of the Rucksack Universe travel fantasy series, and a craft beer writer specializing in Oregon. Learn more at anthonystclair.com.