How to write follow up emails that aren't ignored

So you had a great conversation with a potential client, sent off an email with a proposal, and now you are waiting for a response. It has been several days (or longer) and you want to know where things are.

Every piece of advice says the same thing: you need to "follow up".

So you whip out an email that starts like this...

Hey, I just wanted to follow up on this proposal and see if you came to a decision. blah blah blah...

More often than not, you won't hear back. Oh well, on to the next client.

The problem is the advice to "follow up" is bad advice.

It isn't bad advice because you should be doing something else. It is bad advice because it isn't specific.

"Follow up" can mean a million different things.

When you approach writing a follow up email, you need to approach it with the same mindset you would for any sales interaction.

Always think about value

You always need to demonstrate value. Don't rely on what you already did during your earlier discussions and proposal.

  • Can you add new value for your client?

    Adding new value for your client can be a great way to refresh the conversation and remind them why they want to work with you. It's a ton better than just giving them another todo task on their list.

    Adding value can be pretty easy. Did you read something recently that is relevant to their business? Send a link and explain how it benefits them directly. CAn you think of a new way your project will benefit the client? Explain it to them.

    You don't have to write a book, just write a quick thought to get them interested in reading your email.

  • Remind the client of the value of the project

    If you can't add something new, you should at least remind them of the most important benefits from the project.

Create urgency

For most projects there is a cost to waiting. If your project will save them $100,000 a year, then every week they wait is serious money. Don't let them lose sight that there's a cost to stalling on a decision.

I hate seeing my clients lose money over inaction. There's nothing wrong with providing a little nudge to help them realize this.

You also can't wait around forever, so there's no guarantee you'll be available if they delay.

Reiterate why you are eager to work with them

Everyone enjoys being well-liked. Let your client know that you want to work with them!

It makes them feel better as a person, and it helps build a long-term relationship with your client. It makes you stand out from the rest of the field when most people are only worried about themselves.

How long should you follow up?

There are two schools of thought on how long you should follow up.

Steli Efti of recommends following up until you get a definite yes or no.

He says:

I have a simple philosophy - I follow up as many times as necessary until I get a response. I don’t care what the response is as long as I get one. If someone tells me they need another 14 days to get back to me I will put that in my calendar and ping them again in 14 days.

If they tell me they are busy and they don’t have time right now I will respond and ask them when they feel like a good time would be for me ping them. The key here is to actually keep following up. If someone tells me they are not interested - I leave them alone.

But here is the kicker - if they don’t respond at all I will keep pinging them until they do. And trust me - they always do :)

The other school of thought is to follow up a reasonable amount of times and then tell them you are cutting your losses.

The magic email is a great tool for this method.

The magic email works by tapping into loss aversion in your client. You send them an email like this:

Since I have not heard from you on this, I have to assume your priorities have changed.

They don't want to lose you, so they will often respond to this email. If not, you have given yourself permission to drop them and move on.

With these tips you should see a much better response rate from your client follow-ups and land more sales.