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.
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.
Follow-Up Email to a First Conversation
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.
If you haven’t heard back by now, frustration is bound to start creeping in. But don’t give up -- here’s a fourth-touch 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.
What if you're fairly certain that the prospect isn't interested, and you just need confirmation? Try this message:
This message 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.