A follow up email is usually about getting what you want, but you can’t do that without giving your recipient what they want.

Hint: your message can’t be riddled with mistakes. No typos, crimes against grammar, or poor manners.

We’ve covered good email examples in a separate post,  so now it’s time to cover the bad & ugly. Below are seven common follow up email mistakes and to avoid at all costs.

Want to know what happens after you press “send”? This invisible tracker tells you.

1. Leaving Your Recipient in the Dark With No Context

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

follow up email mistake

Without a prior email attached to the thread, your busy recipient is expected to spend their time figuring out who you are and why you’re reaching out. Chances are, they won’t.

How to Fix Your Follow Up

First, make sure your follow up is on the same thread as your initial message.

Second, reiterate exactly what you’re following up about. 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?

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 mistake 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.

Type it once, save for re-use — email templates that save to your inbox

3. Accidentally Revealing Your Custom Fields

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


If you use custom fields in a follow up email (ex: {!FirstName} and they fail to pull in their information, you’re revealing the man behind the curtain.

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

follow up email mistake 3

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.

How to Fix This Mistake

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.

Yesware Campaigns could quickly double check that their custom merge fields are good to go by selecting the preview tab before sending.

4. Only Addressing Who You Think is the Top Player

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.


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.

5. Sounding 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.

follow up email

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.

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

How to Fix This Mistake

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.


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 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.

7. Sending at the Wrong Time

Sending a follow up can become discouraging when you don’t see any replies come in.

You might feel like you’re pestering your recipient, which makes it easy to conclude that it’s just not meant to be.

But that’s not the case.

According to Yesware’s data, if your first email gets no reply, you have a 21% chance of getting a reply to the second one. In other words, you should evaluate the best time to email your recipient.

The Fix

Stop falling into the 70% of email chains that stop after unanswered attempt #1.

Instead, follow up efficiently and at the right time.

You can do this by visiting our latest free tool: The Best Time to Send Map.

It’s insanely easy. All you have to do is:

  1. Input your location
  2. Enter your recipient’s location
  3. See a recommended time to send an email, based on our data

Use a tool like Send Later or Campaigns to help you schedule emails to send at the accurate time.

BONUS: This tool sets up automatic follow-ups filtered to no-replies.

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