If you’ve been reading some of our pieces about email marketing, you’ve heard us say it again and again: Following up with leads is the most important thing most sales teams can focus on.
Everyone knows – on paper – that following up is important. And as the value of each sale gets bigger and bigger, it only becomes that much more vital.
The reasons are simple:
- Every individual sale of a big ticket item makes a much larger impact on the bottom line.
- The more complex and costly a solution is, the longer it generally takes to decide to buy.
But when you’re starting out in sales, it’s natural to feel like an early lack of interest is a signal that the uphill climb to follow will be more trouble than it might be worth.
And when you’re experienced, you have a heck of a lot of other things to do.
How can you break out of that mindset and rake in the dough that following up can represent?
The answer: Follow up emails.
Follow up emails are faster, easier to personalize, and much more convenient for both you and your lead than trying to get a busy decision maker on the phone.
We’ve all seen some boneheaded follow up emails. When you master the messaging, though, following up goes from that dreaded hours-long activity to one that takes just minutes.
And it can even be fun!
Here is the five step follow up email process:
Step 1: Always Start with Your Goal in Mind
The secret to mastering the art of following up is to match the right tool to the right job. Look at emails in terms of the situation you and your prospect are in – not just your end goal of making a sale.
Let's review the most common situations where you’ll need follow up emails:
Follow Up Email #1: Getting Information
When you need to clarify something, you send this kind of email. It helps you figure out what the status of your ongoing deals are. Every once in a while, you’ll use it to see if you got the big job.
Follow Up Email #2: Meeting Requests
There are plenty of reasons to meet with contacts: Getting insights, giving a pitch, reviewing a current or future project, asking for something (make it worthwhile!), or just grabbing some feedback.
Follow Up Email #3: Catching Up
Want to make sure someone remembers you? If it’s been a while since you added value, a catch up email is what you need. Share some news or offer kudos over another’s achievements.
Follow Up Email #4: Saying Thanks
Saying thank you is a powerful way to demonstrate genuine interest in others. Everyone wants to be appreciated! Just remember, the sooner you get around to this email, the better it is.
No matter what kind of follow up email you write, always start by determining what your goal is. Since a good email can be less than 70 words, you want to make sure every detail hones in on your intended outcome.
Step 2: Remind Your Reader Who You Are
Effective salespeople foster relationships with their prospects and leads. Inbound marketing is a great way to do this, since you’ll always have insightful and informative content to build a bridge.
Sometimes, you might even find yourself sending an email to introduce some content!
Since contacts could be talking to dozens of other sales pros, not to mention hundreds of people overall, you’ll have to do a little more to jog their memory than be useful to them occasionally.
Nothing stops a response cold faster than the other party realizing he or she isn’t sure who you are. If you’ve ever had a “complete stranger” stop you on the street to say hi, you know that awkward feeling.
So, start with enough context to bring the person up to speed.
You could try saying:
- “Following up from last week’s email regarding the [product] suite ...”
- “We met during the [convention] last month after your talk on [topic] ...”
- “Our mutual friend [person] suggested we talk about [topic] ...”
Of these, a connection you can make as the result of a contact in common is usually the most powerful. On top of that, just about any of these could also serve as a subject line!
Step 3: Get to the Point (Really Quickly)
Context will usually only take one sentence, so the second one gets you down to business.
Stating the purpose should be as specific as possible. Don’t email someone to tell them you want to “pick your brain” or “grab coffee.” Busy people want to hear what, where, and especially why.
Think about your sales or marketing endeavors. You wouldn’t call someone and tell them you want to “talk about sales.” You would mention a specific metric or skill area – closing deals, breaking into Fortune 500 accounts, or ... yes ... writing follow up emails.
Phrases like these pique a contact’s interest without boring them with too many details:
- “I’d like to invite you to join me at [event]. It’ll give you insight into follow up emails.”
- “As we discussed, here is a link [include link] to the whitepaper about marketing ROI.”
- “I’d like to meet up later this week to talk about how your team overcomes objections.”
Combining what you want to do and what you want it to be about can get you to the point in one sentence. Then, all you’ll need to do is propose a day and time, which can stand on its own line.
Step 4: Write a Terrific Subject Line
Naturally, when you’re writing a subject line for someone you know, you can’t front-load it with value or make an “offer,” per se. It’s OK to strike a conversational tone and let your knowledge of the person guide you.
Things to bear in mind:
- Create a little urgency with concrete timeframes – “tomorrow” supercharges open rates.
- Omitting a subject line can be effective, but only if a contact knows your name on sight!
- The first line of your message typically appears as preview text, so use it strategically.
Step 5: Time Your Follow Ups Appropriately
With a follow up email, you strike while the iron is hot and keep it hot, all at the same time.
Of course, it’s essential to avoid the temptation to send too many emails and annoy a contact.
When you should send out a follow up depends on the situation:
- To say “Thank you”: Within 24 hours for authenticity – 48 hours if traveling far. That includes when you are thanking an interviewer after a job interview of any kind!
- To follow up on a meeting request: Once a week for two weeks.
- To keep your contact relationships warm: Catch up in some detail every three months.
With moderate practice, an outstanding follow up email might take you only five minutes to write. As this becomes second nature, you’ll be able to connect with people much more quickly – and that level of attention shows you truly care about their success.