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6 Common Email Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Follow-Up Emails

It happens way too often with follow-up emails. The message is riddled with mistakes. There are typos, crimes against grammar, or just plain poor manners.

We already covered examples of good emails, so it’s time for the bad and the ugly. Below are six common follow-up email mistakes and how to avoid them in your own pursuits.

Mistake #1: No Context On Who You Are Or What You’re Talking About

If you want to lose your prospect, then send them an ambiguous follow-up email. Like this one from “Fred”:

follow-up email mistake

Failing to provide specific details on who you are and why you’re following up forces your busy prospect to spend valuable time figuring out what you’re even talking about. Chances are, they won’t.

Schedule your follow-up emails to send as a reply (mistake-free) right from your inbox.

The fix: First, make sure your follow up email is on the same thread as your initial message. Grouping all your communication together makes it easier for someone to reply because the context of your original message is right there for reference.

Second, reiterate exactly what you’re following up about. Again, the idea here is to quickly jog their memory, so keep it short and to the point — two sentences or less. For example:

Hi Elise — I wanted to circle back on my email below re: setting Yesware up with a free

trial of Widgets R’Us. Are you free for a 15 minute call this week?

Mistake #2: Not Realizing You’re Sending a Follow-Up Email

We can’t stress enough the importance of checking your CRM before sending an email.

As an example, three months after I had a call with a company, I got the email below from a different person on their team.

follow-up-email-mistakes-2

I already had the context (and a demo of) the company. Either the person I had a call with did not log the meeting to CRM, or the sales rep above did not check CRM. Whichever the case, it resulted in reintroducing the company to a warm prospect.

Emails like this hurt your chance of business. They ignore prior history, and they imply that you’re not top of mind with the sales team.

The fix: Always check your CRM to know the complete history of a prospective account.

Mistake #3: Your Custom Fields #Fail To Pull In The Correct Information

Remember that moment in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy realizes that they’ve been duped?

wizard-of-oz-quote

Nobody likes feeling like they’ve been scammed. But if you use custom fields in a follow up emails (ex. {!FirstName}) and they fail to pull in the correct information, you’re showing your recipient the man behind the curtain.

man-behind-the-curtain

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

email mistakes

The recipient’s company name did not merge into the custom field properly. It’s a glaring mistake—one that screams “I didn’t actually take the time to write to you specifically. I wrote an impersonal email to a bunch of people at once.”

Avoidable email mistakes like these can reduce the likelihood of getting a reply back because they essentially turn your prospect against you. It’s a psychological phenomenon known as anchoring bias:

  1. Your recipient uses an initial piece of information about you — i.e. that you messed up — to make subsequent judgements.

  2. They decide you’re not worthy of their consideration.

The fix: If you’re sending a series of automated follow-up emails, be sure to test your emails before they go live. Confirm that every merge field is correctly mapped to the right placeholder.

For example, someone using Yesware Mail Merge could quickly double check that their custom fields are good to go by selecting the preview tab before sending. It takes two seconds.

mail-merge-yesware

Mistake #4: Failing To Address All The Key Players

If you’re going to send a follow up email to multiple decision makers, make sure you address it to everyone on the chain—not just the person you think is the key buyer. One of many avoidable email mistakes.

In today’s world of B2B buying decisions, an average of 5.4 people must sign off on a purchase for it to go through. So it’s incredibly important to be cognizant of and courteous to everyone you deal with over the course of the sales process.

Example: Here’s a follow-up email sent by Randy (name changed) after a sales call he had with our team.

follow-up-email-mistake-4

While both Archer (VP Marketing) and Bernie (Content and Engagement Manager) attended the meeting, Randy here forgot to address Bernie in the greeting of his message. Instead, he hones in on Archer, who presumably has the final word in the business relationship.

Rude.

The fix: Don’t get tunnel vision on reaching VP and C-level executives and impressing them alone. You could be unintentionally slighting a potential ally who could help build consensus inside the company and push the deal through.

Keep a list of everyone involved on a call or discussion—ask for their cards if it’s in person or write their name down if it’s by phone. When you’re ready to write your follow-up email:

  1. Include every person on the email itself (in the To line)

  2. Address them collectively or all individually. Do not single out one person as more important than another.

Find out when each player opens your email (and clicks any links)

Mistake #5: You Sound Like a Robot

Writing a mission-critical follow-up email shouldn’t require leading-edge leveraging of a soup-to-nuts communication strategy, yet it is always a good idea to apply outside-the-box thinking where it can make the maximum impact.

Have your eyes glazed over yet? If you speak like that in your follow up emails, you can bet your contact’s eyes are looking for the delete button. One of many email mistakes that is easily avoidable.

Business jargon might seem like convenient shorthand, but it suggests to prospects that you’re on autopilot, thoughtlessly using  phrases that are big but fluffy.

The fix: In addition to restating why you’re emailing in the first place, show who you are—especially if you haven’t had a conversation with the person yet. Write in a tone that you would talk in.

Here’s a great cheat sheet from Harvard Business Review that can help you hunt down these offending phrases in a hurry.

hbr-translate-your-bizspeak

Mistake #6: You Didn’t Do Your Research

If you press send without getting to know the person first, you might give yourself up without realizing it. Below is a follow-up sales email Ali received:

follow-up-email-mistake-6

While Ali’s full name is Alixandra, she prefers Ali, and she has made that clear in every form of her social presence. If the sender had looked at Ali’s LinkedIn, he would have noticed that at first glance.

The Salesforce integration that pulls prospect info into your Gmail or Outlook inbox

The fix: If they didn’t reply to your first email, double check to see that it wasn’t due to an off putting personalization error. You can download a free tool like Rapportive to get a snapshot of your recipient’s LinkedIn profile right in your Gmail inbox.

If you do discover that you called someone the wrong name, or addressed the wrong person, own up to it. Learn from your email mistakes. It could make someone more inclined to give you their time. According to a psychological phenomenon known as the Pratfall Effect, admitting your mistakes can draw people in because it makes you seem more human.

Share Email Mistakes

Over to you! What are some of the worst follow up email mistakes you’ve seen? Recognizing email mistakes serves as the first step to overcoming them. Post them as a comment here or tweet us a screenshot at @yesware.