Closing a deal is hard. Closing consistently? That’s even harder.
Fortunately, there’s an overlooked sales tactic that can dramatically improve your sales performance: the follow-up email.
Following up is a secret weapon. Nearly half of sales reps don’t follow up at all.
If you do, you’ll reap the rewards. Sales reps who follow up consistently build better client relationships, close more deals, and become sales leaders in their company.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to send high-performing follow-up emails.
- Why following up matters
- How to write a great follow-up message
- Proven follow-up templates you can use right away
… and much more.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
- Craft Compelling Subject Lines
- Provide Context
- Personalize Your Message
- Continue to Deliver Value
- Keep It Short
- Make It Easy To Say Yes
Why Following Up Matters
Most sales professionals know that following up can make an incredible difference, turning an email that goes unanswered into a productive conversation that leads to a close.
And yet even experienced sales pros still don’t do it nearly enough.
The numbers paint a bleak picture. 48% of sales representatives never follow up at all. And 44% stop after the first attempt.
That means just 8% of sales reps are consistently following up with prospects. And if you’re among them, you’re putting yourself at an enormous competitive advantage.
After all, 80% of sales deals take five or more follow-ups to close. Having a strong follow-up game is essential if you want to position yourself among the top-performing reps landing most of the deals.
So why is it so hard to follow up? It’s all about mindset.
We don’t want to be annoying. And we all fear rejection. Those fears lead a lot of sales professionals to contact a prospect just once, or perhaps send one follow-up. But that’s a sure route to a lousy close rate.
Top sales professionals understand that not hearing back from a prospect is totally normal.
That’s why being persistent is critical. The best approach is simple: keep following up on unanswered messages until you get a response.
If a prospect tells you it’s not a good time, you can simply respond and ask what a better time would be — and follow up then. And if a prospect does tell you they’re not interested, you can stop following up going forward.
Following up regularly takes commitment — but a strong, consistent follow-up game will put you in the elite group of sales reps who close the most deals.
How to Write a Great Follow-Up Email
Everything we talked about there applies here, too.
Every follow-up email you send is another step in a direct outreach sequence. Like your initial cold email, it has one job: to get your prospect to take action.
Studies have found that nearly 50% of responses to outreach campaigns come from follow-up emails. Put another way, you can effectively double your response rate with effective follow-ups.
Craft Compelling Subject Lines
Your subject line can make or break your email. It’s the first thing your recipient sees. And a great subject line can drive open rates of up to 87%.
The most effective subject lines accomplish two goals at once. They present a clear benefit to the reader, while also building curiosity for what’s to come in the message. Great subject lines tease the message content without giving too much away.
Check out how these top-performing subject lines did it:
- Collaborate? 👊
- We set the stage for [COMPANY] to be the talk of [LOCATION]
- [BENEFIT] for [COMPANY]
Decision-makers have a lot going on. And especially if they haven’t responded to you yet, they might not remember who you are.
The last thing you want is for your prospect to get your message and think, “who’s that?”
When you start your message, make sure readers know who you are and why you’re reaching out. Refer back to your last point of contact to give context for your message.
Check out how our sales team follows up with prospects by quickly providing an overview of the last call:
Personalize Your Message
Now that you’ve gotten readers into your message, you want to be as relevant and personal as you can.
Prospects are real people, and they want to be treated that way. They want to see that you’ve taken the time to learn about the pain points they’re facing and demonstrate that you understand their business. By taking these steps, you begin to build a relationship and show how you could be a great partner for them in the future.
In this example, our sales team starts with a personal greeting before transitioning to benefits that are relevant to the reader:
Continue to Deliver Value
Effective follow-ups don’t ask your prospect for something. They show your prospect what you can do for them.
That’s the right approach to take in your initial outreach email. And as you send follow-ups, you should continue to focus on demonstrating the value you can provide to your prospect.
One of the best ways to deliver value is sharing content that’s relevant to your reader’s challenges. Take a look at how the team at Freshworks nurtures leads while continuing to deliver value:
Keep It Short
Take a look at the follow-up templates later in this article, and it won’t take you long to notice: they’re short.
That’s by design.
Decision-makers are busy. And they don’t have time to read lengthy emails. If they open up your message and see a wall of text, they’ll likely move on — or worse yet, hit delete.
The good news is, you don’t have to write a long message to be relevant and personal:
Hi [FIRST NAME],
You likely deal with [PAIN POINT], so I thought I’d share a quick tip many of my clients have found helpful: [1-2 SENTENCE ACTIONABLE PIECE OF ADVICE].
I have a few more ideas around [IMPROVING PAIN POINT]. Let me know if you’re interested in hearing them.
One of the easiest ways to check-in is this short, simple follow-up from the team at Sumo. By offering to help, you position yourself as focused on delivering value:
Hey [FIRST NAME],
Hope you had an amazing weekend.
Wanted to see what your team thought of my suggestions… Let me know if I can help at all.
Keep in mind, writing short, simple emails isn’t just about brevity. It’s about readability. Take steps to make your message easy to move through quickly.
- Use lists and bullet points to make your message easily skimmable
- Put important takeaways in boldface type
- Avoid unnecessary information or detail
Make It Easy To Say Yes
As with all outreach emails, you want to make it as easy as possible for your reader to say yes. That means taking a close look at your CTA.
The close is where many outreach emails go wrong. Even if you’ve written a great subject line and a compelling message, a weak CTA will kill your reply rates.
Fortunately, keeping a few basic guidelines in mind makes it easy to write strong CTAs.
- Focus on the relationship. While it’s tempting to go for the sale right away, it isn’t effective. Prospects want to get to know you first before they commit to a deal. Start with a smaller request that moves your relationship forward, like sending a short video or getting on a quick call.
- Make a crystal-clear ask. Quite frankly, it’s hard for prospects to respond if they don’t know what you want. Avoid vague, hesitant CTAs like Let me know what you think, and be clear on the next step you want your prospect to take.
- Don’t ask for too much. Clarity is great. Putting work on your prospect is not. Making demands of your prospect’s time or effort is the quickest way to get to the trash folder. Instead, make an ask that sounds easy. Close with a simple question or share a resource your prospect can review quickly.
Now that you know what a great follow-up looks like, it’s time to think about how to create your follow-up sequence.
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Planning Your Follow-Up Sequence
Since most sales deals require multiple follow-ups to get to a close, having one or two follow-up templates in your back pocket won’t cut it. You need a well-thought-out follow-up sequence you can send consistently to help move more of your prospects toward the sale.
Here’s how to plan yours.
Timing Your Sequence
Timing is critical. In most industries, it makes sense to plan a sequence with frequent touches at first, transitioning to longer intervals as time goes on.
The First Day
Since as many as 50% of buyers choose the vendor that gets back to them first, being responsive early in the sales cycle is crucial. Especially when you’re reaching out to a warm lead, you’ll typically want to send the first follow-up email within a day of your initial contact.
If you’re touching base after an initial meeting, this is a great time to send a short, simple follow-up. Here’s how the team at Salesflare sends a brief meeting recap to quickly follow up with new leads:
Great chatting with you earlier and learning more about you and your role at [COMPANY].
I now understand the issues you’re encountering with [PAIN POINT DISCUSSED IN MEETING] and how it can make it harder to [GOAL THAT PAIN POINT IS PREVENTING].
As discussed, I’ve attached some more information about our solution and how we can help you with [PAIN POINT] and solve [SPECIFIC BUSINESS ISSUE].
Please do let me know if you have any questions and I’d be happy to chat again. If not, I look forward to talking again on [MEETING DATE / TIME].
The key with the first follow-up is a light touch. Consider sending a summary of your initial meeting and confirmation of next steps, or a simple note to thank your prospect for their time.
The Next Three Weeks
Over the next three weeks, continue to send regular follow-ups until you get a response.
Remember, by doing this, you’re not being annoying. You’re demonstrating that you’re a proactive, customer-focused professional — which is exactly what your prospect will typically be looking for.
At this point, the key is to strike the right balance. Following up every three to four days is a sweet spot that enables you to stay top of mind and continue to deliver value, without making your prospect feel irritated.
Staying In Touch
If you’ve sent five or six emails over a three-week span and haven’t gotten a response, you can confidently conclude that now isn’t the right time for this prospect.
Not now doesn’t mean not ever. It simply means this isn’t your prospect’s focus right now. Even if they’re not interested in moving forward now, in three months, they may be eager to have a conversation with you.
Dial back your message frequency, and continue to reach out to your prospect every few weeks. Focus on delivering value now by sharing relevant content your prospect will be interested in so that later you’ll be viewed as a knowledgeable partner when the time comes to discuss a sale.
Vary Your Send Times
One of the easiest ways to improve your follow-up email performance is to start sending emails on different days and at different times throughout the day.
Your prospects are different — and they have different routines for when they check and respond to email. If you send follow-ups consistently on Monday mornings at 10, you could be missing prospects who are frequently out of the office on Mondays or don’t check email until late in the day. Sending messages at a variety of different times gives you a better chance of reaching everyone, no matter what their schedule.
- Best Time To Send Email: Time, Day, and Frequency (Backed By 2020 Data)
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For most sales professionals, the hardest thing about sending follow-up emails is simply doing it.
Let’s face it. You’ve got dozens (or hundreds) of prospects to keep up with. And getting targeted follow-ups out to all of them is a full-time job in itself.
That’s where automation is a game-changer.
With a solution like Yesware Campaigns, you can plan targeted follow-ups that go out to your prospects automatically until you get a response. Automation enables you to schedule follow-ups in advance, so they go out effortlessly while you’re having sales meetings with your most promising new prospects.
Know When To Stop
Even if you’re using automation to send targeted follow-ups at scale, you can still reach a point of diminishing returns. Yesware’s study of follow-up emails found that after the seventh follow-up, response rates drop below 10%, making it increasingly unlikely that you’ll hear back from a prospect.
Sales experts generally agree that with completely cold prospects, a maximum of six or seven emails is reasonable. If you haven’t heard back by this point, it’s safe to assume that the prospect isn’t interested and you can move on to more engaged prospects.
With warm prospects, however, things are different. If you’ve already had contact in the past, it’s completely reasonable to continue following up as many times as you need to get a response. As long as the contact doesn’t ask you to stop reaching out, this enables you to stay top of mind with your prospect so you’re the person they go to when they’re ready for your service.
Optimizing Your Follow-Up Sequence
As you start sending follow-ups consistently, you’ll likely start to see more responses coming in.
And what’s most exciting is that this is just the beginning.
Now is the time to take a close look at your follow-up sequence to see what’s working — and what you can improve. By taking the time to optimize your sequence, you’ll generate even more responses and drive more sales.
Getting familiar with your data is essential. With a tool like Yesware Reporting, you can view metrics for all your emails at a glance and quickly find out which templates are performing best.
When it comes to leveling up the performance of your follow-ups, you want to focus on two key metrics: your open rates and your reply rates.
Improving Open Rates
Keep your expectations realistic. For personalized cold email campaigns, the average open rate is about 47%.
If you’re seeing low open rates, something is happening that’s preventing prospects from opening your messages. Check for common problems like these:
- Your emails aren’t reaching the prospect’s inbox. Of course, if your emails aren’t getting to the inbox, there’s no way they’ll get read. Make sure your marketing team is using an email verification tool to confirm your prospects’ email addresses and avoid common triggers that can get your message flagged as spam.
- Your subject line is completely ignorable. Failing to offer value or trigger a sense of curiosity can easily cause readers to click over your email. Avoid overused, salesy subject lines like “Quick question?” which can immediately trigger resistance in your reader.
Improving Reply Rates
If your messages are being opened, but aren’t getting a response, there’s likely an issue with the body copy that’s preventing prospects from responding. Some of the most common issues include:
- Your message isn’t personalized. While follow-up messages are typically shorter, and offer fewer opportunities for personalization, you should still look to customize your messages as much as possible. Something as simple as mentioning a specific pain point or sharing a relevant resource can help you stand out.
- You’re not focused on your prospect. People don’t care about you or your product. They care about themselves and their own problems. Focus your message on how you can help your reader, and resist the temptation to talk about yourself or your company.
- Your CTA is asking for too much. We’ve discussed this earlier, but it bears repeating: your entire message should make the reader’s decision smooth and hassle-free, so that saying yes is a no-brainer. If your CTA sounds like it will require time or effort, you’re introducing unnecessary friction. Read your close, and be honest with yourself. Could you make a simpler ask?
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Follow-Up Email Templates You Can Use Right Now
Top performing sales pros don’t write emails to each prospect. They multiply their productivity by creating one great template, and using it hundreds of times.
Fortunately, you don’t have to start from scratch. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite follow-up email templates to give you everything you need to get more replies and start closing more sales.
Here they are.
After an Initial Meeting
After your first meeting or sales call with a client, a prompt follow-up is key. Sending a follow-up is a great way to stay top of mind with your prospect, move your prospect toward the sale, and position yourself as a responsive professional.
Subject: Next steps
Hi [FIRST NAME],
Thanks so much for your time today. It was great to meet you and chat about [TOPIC].
I’d like to find out how you’d like to proceed. Are you ready to [SPECIFIC ACTION]?
Looking forward to hearing from you.
After a Voicemail
Taking a multi-touch approach is the best way to drive the sale forward. Some prospects are more responsive by phone, while others are easier to reach over email. If you’ve tried unsuccessfully to get a prospect on the phone, a quick email is a great way to keep the conversation going.
Subject: Trying to connect with you, [NAME]
Hi [FIRST NAME],
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get in touch with you on the phone today. I was calling to discuss [SPECIFIC DESCRIPTION OF OFFER].
I’ll try reaching you again at [DATE AND TIME]. Until then, you can contact me here or at [PHONE NUMBER].
After a Trigger Event
One of the best times to reach out to a prospect is after a trigger event. Any time you notice that a prospect has opened an email, reviewed a proposal or engaged with your marketing materials is a great time to send a follow-up.
With this type of follow-up, you want to come across as responsive, but not creepy. Here’s a great example of how to strike the right balance.
Subject: Looking for more information?
Hi [FIRST NAME],
I noticed that you just signed up for our free trial. Here are some resources that are great for getting started with [COMPANY NAME]:
Feel free to reach out if you have questions or can’t find a certain feature. I’d be happy to help.
After No Response
Your best prospects are busy, and sometimes they don’t respond to your initial follow-up. In this situation, one of the best approaches you can take is to send a recap of your initial conversation. By doing this, you gently elicit a response and position yourself as a trustworthy business partner.
Subject: Question about our last call
Hi [FIRST NAME],
Just following up on our last call. I wanted to send over a summary of [TOPICS YOU DISCUSSED]. From our conversation, I think I can really help you with [BENEFITS YOU DISCUSSED].
See the attached meeting notes. Do you have five minutes to go over these benefits?
After a Networking Event
If you’ve connected with a prospect at a networking event, sending a thoughtful follow-up email is essential. It’s the difference between being forgotten by your contact, and striking up a long term professional relationship.
When you follow up after a networking event, focusing on personalization is critical. After all, the idea is to build a strong relationship with your contact. Take this template as a starting point:
Subject: You might want to see this, [NAME]
Hi [FIRST NAME],
Great connecting with you at [EVENT] on [DATE].
I was thinking about what you said about [PROSPECT PAIN POINT] and thought you might appreciate this case study on how we helped [SIMILAR COMPANY] achieve [GOAL] in [TIMEFRAME]: [LINK TO CONTENT]
I’d love to discuss how we can make this solution work for you. ^^Do you have 15 minutes for a phone call this week to discuss this?^^
After Multiple Follow-Ups
Once you’ve followed up several times, it’s clear you’re not getting your prospect’s attention. At this point, you need a pattern interrupt — a message that breaks through and grabs your subject’s attention. In this situation, Dean Jackson’s nine-word email is perfect:
Subject: [FIRST NAME]?
Are you still looking to [BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF GOAL]?
Finding The Right Person
Sometimes, when you’re not getting a response, it’s because you’re not reaching out to the right person. If your first few touches don’t yield a reply, gently trying to navigate to the right decision-maker can get great results.
Subject: Appropriate person?
I haven’t heard from you, but maybe this isn’t your focus.
Who is the best person on your team to speak to about [YOUR SERVICE]?
Later in your sequence, your goal is often to stay top of mind with your prospect so that you can start a conversation when they’re ready. In this situation, using follow-ups to build your authority is a great strategy. Send relevant content, like whitepapers or ebooks, that your prospect might find interesting. Use this template to get started:
Subject: Ideas for [COMPANY]
Just reaching out because we published a new [TYPE OF ASSET] recently and I thought you might find it helpful for [SOLVING RELEVANT PAIN POINT].
[LINK TO CONTENT]
I’d love to schedule a brief chat this week to learn a bit about you and what you’re focused on right now at [COMPANY]. Do you have time next week?
After Sending a Quote
By the time you’ve driven the sales process to the proposal stage, things are looking good. Proposals can take several days to get approved, but sending a follow up after a couple of days shows that you’re being responsive and helps you to address any concerns. Start with this template:
Subject: Any questions
Hi [FIRST NAME],
I wanted to follow up on the quote I sent on [DATE], outlining the features we can offer to [COMPANY] to help you improve [PAIN POINT]. As a reminder, our software package would include:
Do you have any other questions?
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Breaking It Off
After you’ve been in touch for a while, consider a breakup email. With a breakup email, you let the prospect know that you won’t be in touch any longer unless they respond to your message.
By letting them know you won’t be in touch anymore, you leverage loss aversion to increase the odds of a response. And telling the prospect you’ll keep them on your radar helps to keep your relationship warm for future interactions.
Subject: [PROSPECT’S COMPANY] Priorities + [YOUR COMPANY]
Hi [FIRST NAME],
I’ve been reaching out because I see a great opportunity for [PROSPECT’S COMPANY] to [BENEFIT], [BENEFIT], and [BENEFIT] with [YOUR COMPANY].
Hate to be a bother, so I’ll plan on reconnecting in a few months, unless you’re ready to evaluate sooner. If you were interested in getting your team on a pilot period to try us out, I could help set that up too.
In the meantime, I’ll keep an eye out for [PROSPECT’S COMPANY] news!
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Consider what a strong follow-up game says about you.
You’re showing that you’re a proactive, customer-focused professional who’s committed to helping your prospect solve their toughest business challenges.
And by continuing to deliver value, you naturally position yourself as the person they’ll go to when they’re ready for the sale.
Take time to start building out your follow-up sequence this week — and if you already have one, look for ways to extend and improve what you already have.
Start sending more follow-ups, and before long you’ll be amazed at the results!
About the Author: Chris Collins is a copywriter and conversion strategist for B2B and SaaS companies. He specializes in research-driven copy and content that helps brands engage visitors and turn them into customers.