Regardless of your business, sooner or later you will be developing a nice relationship with a potential client, partner, etc., and suddenly, the trail will go cold.

No matter what you say or do, or how many times you call or email, there is no response from someone who previously seemed so interested in you or your business.

Now, it’s like an old war movie – your prospect is running silent and deep, like a submarine practicing “radio silence,” not even a blip on the radar. What’s a conscientious businessperson to do?

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It doesn’t matter why the trail went cold, you just want to know whether this is a relationship that will continue – or not. As one of my sales gurus says, “close the sale or close the file.”

So how do you do that? Here’s a how-to lesson on what I’ve learned and applied from many sales gurus over the years. I particularly like the term sales coach Tom Batchelder uses: “going-away emails.” It’s a great name for tactful approach to finding out whether radio silence means “no” or if something else has happened to interrupt the flow.

So here are three guidelines for writing an email that gets a response when nothing else works:

1) Lose The Emotions!

Business, like the rest of life, is about relationships. But unlike those relationships we cultivate with family or friends, the vibrant application of emotions is not always the best approach when it seems like there’s something wrong in business.

Here’s a sample email (and response) that dialed out the emotional component. By simply recounting the conversation to date, the respondent had an opportunity to provide me a simple answer, with options on whether to continue the conversation or end it:

Subject: FW: Your public relations efforts: following up on our previous meeting

Hello Harold,

I'm sure you have a thousand things to do. My intent is not to be a pain.

I’m going to assume that for one reason or another, you aren’t open to connecting at this time to discuss COMPANY public relations efforts.

If I’m mistaken and you are open to connect for a brief meeting some time in the near future, send me a quick email or give me a call. Either way, I wish you the best.

Thanks, Harold.


Here’s the response, which continued the conversation and told me we were still in the mix. Much better than radio silence:

We have been crushed here lately but hope to address our PR situation in the near future. We without a doubt will keep you in mind but need to get all parties on board before we officially look for a firm.

Please stay in touch.


2) Stick to The Facts

This means plainly and yet comprehensively recounting your developing relationship to date. What’s great about this is that you get to remind your relationship partner that this has been a mutual process so far – maybe they asked for a proposal, or they took a meeting with you, etc., etc. and then something happened.

Subject: Follow-up regarding COMPANY-WordWrite meeting

Dear Tim,

We had set a few dates to meet but other events required us to reschedule. I have not heard back from you on my most recent suggestion for a date and time. Tim, I’m sure you have lots going on. I have not heard back from you so I am going to assume that now is not a good time to talk about our services and how they might be relevant to building your business at COMPANY. If I’m mistaken and you want to talk, let’s schedule some time next week for an exploratory phone call. Otherwise, I won’t bug you further and I wish you nothing but the best.

Which prompted this response — and got me a meeting, and the opportunity to share a proposal:

You’re right, I have been ridiculously busy . . . I actually just had a death in the family . . . we can still set up a meeting next week.

Here are 3 times, you choose which is best for you . . . You tell me the time and I’ll confirm.

3) Provide Options to Continue (or Not)

In other words, once you’ve clearly laid out what’s happened so far – without introducing emotions – you provide suggestions on how to continue the dialogue or end it. You just want to know where this is all leading. Here’s an example:

Subject: Follow-up to WordWrite proposal of September 28, 2010

Dear Dave,

I’m writing to touch base on WordWrite’s public relations proposal of September 28.  I have called and e-mailed a few times and I haven’t heard anything from you and I'm not sure how to move forward.

My sense is there is something going on that is keeping the program from moving that might be either:

  1. You really are too busy to look at it.
  2. Something has changed and the program is no longer a corporately supported initiative.

I don’t know if any of these are on target.  Either way is ok, all that I ask is that you let me know.  Then we can decide how to either move forward, or not and then I can move on.

All the best,

Which prompted this response, and got me a meeting with the prospect and his boss:


Sorry for my poor response. I have looked at it while traveling I have not had time to review it with my boss because of conflicting schedules and other issues. My plan is once I bounce it off him to try to have both of us meet with you personally. I am in today but then I leave for CA tomorrow. Next week I should be able to get back to you.


The Bottom Line

My point in sharing these examples is to illustrate the three principles I described – and that these kinds of emails work! In several years of using these emails with stuck relationships, I honestly cannot recall a time when I didn't get a response. Many times, the response comes within an hour or two of me hitting the “send” button.

In the 21st century, enabled by great marketing platforms such as HubSpot, we can accomplish more good for our organizations more quickly than ever before. Yet when a relationship becomes stuck, there’s nothing like a personal, factual email to clarify what’s happened – and what should happen next.

My wish for you is that the year ahead is filled with business relationships that enable you to “close the sale or close the file” – and I hope this approach to emails on stuck deals helps you achieve that goal.

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Originally published Dec 18, 2013 2:00:00 PM, updated October 19 2023


Sales Emails