Much thought leadership is dedicated to the art of selling: pitching, presenting, closing, building trust, developing a relationship, and a myriad of other skills. But showing off these talents depends on getting on prospects’ calendars in the first place.
That’s when active selling skills get put on ice, and reps have to flex their follow-up email or phone call muscles instead.
Following up is an art in its own right. While persistence is a key component, messaging is perhaps even more critical. Prospects are bombarded with emails and other tasks competing for their attention. The question then becomes, how can reps write a note that stands out enough to garner a response?
We asked five sales experts for their most effective follow-up email templates. Some are simple and others more complex, but all have been tested by the best. (PS — with HubSpot CRM, you can track email templates that generate the highest open and click-through rates, and share the best ones with your entire team.)
After a Voicemail
You tried calling, but your prospect didn’t pick up. Immediately after leaving a voicemail, Colleen Francis, owner of Engage Selling Solutions, recommends sending the follow-up email below.
Subject line: Sorry I missed you
Sorry I missed you on the phone today. I was calling because [explain your purpose].
My voicemail said I will try you again on [date and time] and you can always reach me before at [phone number].
According to Francis’ clients and her own personal experience, this email has an 80% response rate within 24 hours.
Why does it work? “Clients aren’t always at their desks to get calls, but can answer a quick email from their mobile devices,” Francis explained. “The email is short, directive, and requires only a quick answer. It’s easy to read and respond to.”
After a Trade Show
Alice Heiman, founder and chief sales officer of sales consulting and coaching firm Alice Heiman LLC, gave this example as a “’light’ version of a follow-up email after a networking event. However, she noted that the follow-up approach should vary depending on the prospect’s interest level and the context of the meeting. In addition, salespeople should research prospects to personalize their communications as much as possible.
What an exciting show. I hope you made great connections and learned some things you can use in your business immediately.
I am sure that increasing sales effectively [objective] is on the top of your list. As we promised, here is “Six Ways to Increase Your Sales” [piece of content]. If you would like more in-depth information on any of the ways [details of content], I’d be delighted to have a 30 minute conversation with you to dive into that.
I’m here to be a resource to you, so don’t hesitate to call.
Follow-Up Email to a First Conversation
I really enjoyed our phone conversation [or meeting] earlier today and especially liked learning about your unique role at [company]. I understand the challenges you are facing with [challenges discussed] and the impact they are having on [insert personal impact].
As promised, I have attached [or linked to] the resources and materials that can help you better understand how we can help you solve [insert compelling reason to buy].
Please let me know if you have any questions. Otherwise, I look forward to talking with you again on [date and time].
The Second, Third, and Fourth Attempt
Don’t just stop with one follow-up email. Follow up on your follow-ups! Persistence is a virtue in sales, and it can pay off.
“I can’t tell you how many times I was persistent and when I finally reached the person they were very grateful,” Heiman said. “Basically don’t give up unless the person tells you to stop calling.”
But she added that it’s important to add value in each follow up attempt. “There is a fine line between being a pest and being persistent. Being persistent without adding value is worthless.”
With that in mind, here’s a sample voicemail that Heiman suggested for a second follow-up. She advises writing the message out in advance.
Hi [Prospect], this is [Salesperson] calling. I am calling to find out which of the Six Ways you are using to increase your sales [details of content sent during first follow up]. If you haven’t tried one yet, I’d like to help you get started. Do you have time for a 30 minute call on [weekday] at [time] or [weekday] at [time]? Give me a quick call back to schedule at [phone number] or send me an email at [email address]. Have a great day selling!
Still no luck? Try this third contact follow-up email.
I know you are busy helping your team increase sales [job function]. I want to be sure you know you can share that article with your team. Here’s the link again. In 30 minutes I can give you some ideas on how to most efficiently increase your sales. Do you have time for a call on [weekday] at [time] or [weekday] at [time]? [Might also include a brief client story of a client who increased sale using one of the six methods.]
Let me know which of these times is convenient for you or send me a few that work for you. I look forward to talking with you.
If you haven’t heard back by now, frustration is bound to start creeping in. But don’t give up — here’s a fourth contact voicemail sample from Heiman.
Hi [Prospect], this is [Salesperson]. I am sorry we haven’t been able to connect. When we met, you were very interested in increasing your sales [objective]. I know how busy things can get with work and family. I want you to know that I don’t mind scheduling a call before or after work hours if that would make it easier. Just let me know what works for you. I don’t want to be a pest, but I do want to make sure we have an opportunity to talk if you still want to fast track your sales growth [objective].
If this gets no reply, should you throw in the towel? Heiman has a creative suggestion.
“If I have had absolutely no response I might give up, but more likely I would reach out on social media and try by phone or email in about two weeks,” she said. “Many times people who don’t respond to their email will respond on LinkedIn. More times than not, I find out they haven’t received my emails. That is why I call also, and usually mention that I sent them something by email.”
The One Last Ditch Effort
If you’ve sent six emails or more to no response, consider deploying a “breakup email.” This type of message makes it clear you won’t be contacting the buyer any more — unless they respond to your email, that is.
Breakup emails help separate prospects who want to engage but simply haven’t had the time from those who have no interest in a given product or service. Either way, the salesperson learns how to proceed, which is more than half the battle.
After sending the following email to 14 prospects, Kurlan received eight responses in less than a day.
Subject line: Giving it one last try
In the rare opportunities I have to work on client acquisition, I have not had much success reconnecting with you. It might just be that you don’t have any interest in talking with me — and that’s okay. I just need to know whether or not to keep trying. So, to make this nice and easy for you, you can reply with a simple keystroke. Just reply with either A, B, C, D, or E and I’ll know what to do, but please do reply so that I can stop emailing you if you’re not interested.
A. Stop emailing me with attempts to connect but continue to send invites for events.
B. Don’t send me anything, remove me from your list. We don’t currently and won’t ever need your help.
C. I want to talk, we need some help, but the timing isn’t right. Keep trying.
D. I would like to schedule a time to talk. We need some help. Please send your calendar link.
E. I forgot who you are. What’s this about?
Max Altschuler, CEO of Sales Hacker, puts a humorous spin on his breakups emails by using the following template:
I tried to contact you regarding [value proposition] and haven’t heard back. Let me know if:
- You’re all set and I should stop bothering you.
- You’re interested, but just haven’t responded yet.
- I should follow up in three months.
- You’re being chased by a hippo and need me to call Animal Control.
But what if you’re fairly certain that the prospect isn’t interested, and you just need confirmation? Try this email from Sidekick:
Subject line: Permission to close your file?
We are in the process of closing files for the month. Typically when I haven’t heard back from someone it either means they’re really busy or aren’t interested. If you aren’t interested, do I have permission to close your file?
If you’re still interested, what do you recommend as a next step?
Thanks for your help.
This message also puts the ball squarely back in the prospect’s court in the case that they would like to proceed. By asking the buyer to suggest a next step, the salesperson can gauge the prospect’s level of commitment and pick up the process at the right stage.
What’s your favorite sales email follow-up tip? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2014 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.