Now that so many people are working remotely, email has become the primary form of contact we have with our teams and prospects. I’m getting more follow-up emails than ever before, and to be honest, a lot of them just stink. You can do better!
Here are my tips for follow-up email success:
- Make the subject be the subject.
- Stay out of the Spam folder.
- Let the recipient decide the priority.
- Keep it short.
- Always end in a question mark.
- Get the details right.
- Perfect your timing.
A well-crafted follow-up email can be the difference between closing a deal or being lost forever in someone’s inbox. Here’s what I’m seeing that doesn’t work and some ways to avoid those pitfalls.
Make The Subject Be The Subject
Let’s start with the subject. “Touching Base” is starting to feel like a dirty word—I’d love to never see that phrase again. Instead of some tired cliche like “Meeting Followup,” “Circling Back,” or “Touching Base,” put the actual subject—the reason you’re following up—into the subject line of the email. That’s why it’s called a subject line!
Your subject line should be what you want to talk about, especially if it’s your very first email to a prospect. “Following Up” is simply too vague. Make the subject descriptive, but remember—we’re all working on our phones these days, and mobile devices will only display a few words of your email subject. Keep it concise.
If I’m following up with one of my prospects, the subject line is “Coaching Discussion.” Your subject can be as simple as “October 1 Follow Up” or “Proposal Next Steps.”
Stay Out Of The Spam Folder
While we’re on the subject of subjects, it’s crucial to note that certain subjects can put you on the wrong side of a recipient’s spam filter. Obviously, certain keywords will get your follow-up sent straight to the “Junk Mail” folder, but did you know that even simply typing “RE:” or “in re:” in your subject line can flag your email as spam?
Email clients automatically add “RE:” to a subject line when you compose a reply, but if you’re typing “RE:” in yourself with a brand-new subject line, it’s similar to the deceptive practice used by spammers to trick people into opening unwanted email. Don’t do it!
High Priority Is My Priority
It’s annoying when someone puts the high-priority icon on an email that I didn’t decide was a high-priority. Your follow-up shouldn’t need to plead for attention with exclamation points, nor does it need a bunch of asterisks and all-caps in the subject line.
It’s my inbox, and it’s my decision what emails should be prioritized. Don’t try to make that decision for me—it’s not cool!
Shorter Is Better
Let’s move on to the body of the ideal follow-up email. My rule of thumb is three sections of text divided by whitespace. Anyone facing down a massive wall of text is going to skip it—every single time. Treat the body just like you treat the subject: short, sweet, and to the point. Adding whitespace simply makes an email easier to digest, and calls out the items that you need a response to.
Check out this sample follow-up email:
Happy Monday to you.
I really loved our time together on Friday, and I’m pretty excited to hear what you decided to do with coaching.
I left you a message earlier today, but thought this may be easier for you.
I have a meeting at 3:30, but am free until then.
Do you have time to talk today?
All my best,
Remember, the longer an email is, the easier it is to ignore.
Always End In A Question Mark
You’ll never have a follow-up email without an action item, and the best place to put that is at the end, with a question mark. If your email doesn’t have a question mark, don’t expect a reply.
And of course, the bottom of your email will have a well-crafted signature, so your recipient knows how to to get you the answer to that question!
Get Your Facts Straight
A certain sender has been sending me emails calling me “Greg” for so long it’s become an inside joke at the office. I’ve replied multiple times letting them know I’m not a Greg! Don’t let a broken database or error give your prospect a reason to immediately move your email to their Trash folder.
Another email I got recently was an invitation to meet over coffee. The clever sender attached a picture of himself with two cups of coffee – one with his name, and one with mine. Brilliant idea—but my company name was wrong!
Not getting your facts straight makes you look sloppy, rude, or even gets your email marked as spam. Your business probably depends on your follow-up email, so act like it!
Time It Right: When To Send A Follow-Up Email
The timing of your follow-up email can be critical. Here are my rules of thumb:
- If I talk on Friday, I send an email Monday.
- If I leave a voicemail, I send a follow-up email immediately.
- If it’s a prospect, I try to send the email as early in the morning as possible, so it’s the first one in their inbox.
Use the send later function in Outlook, so you can schedule exactly when your email goes out. There’s no excuse for less-than-perfect timing!
Follow up and away!
Now you know the pitfalls to avoid when crafting your follow-up email. Keep those subjects and bodies short, actionable, and precise! Your follow-ups will be more effective, everyone’s time is respected, and your email will be safe from the dreaded “Spam” and “Trash” folders. As a bonus, we’ll never have to see those dirty words “Touching Base” ever again.
Did you find some ways to improve your follow-up emails? If you want more tips on effective communication, time management, and staying motivated, subscribe!
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Until next time—go sell some stuff!