How to Improve Sales Follow-Up Emails

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Writing follow-up emails is a critical step in any sales process. Follow-ups should serve many purposes: Remind the prospect that you’re here, build upon a positive repartee, and offer value. In fact, 70% of purchases happen after five or more points of contact. Email is a great medium for following up because it can be personal yet less time-consuming than a phone call.

Yet too many sales follow-up emails are generic and meandering. They’re too long and chock full of cliché language. You’re “just checking in” or “following up on our call.” Sound familiar?

With so many emails flooding our inboxes these days, it’s critical for sales representatives to master the art of the follow-up email. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve follow-up emails:

Start with a purpose

You’re not contacting the prospect just to “check up” or say hello. The email you’re writing has the general purpose of moving the prospect through the sales funnel. You also probably have a more specific purpose. Perhaps you’re seeking information from the prospect, want to set up a meeting, or are offering content targeted towards an eventual sale.

Whatever your specific purpose is, you need to keep the purpose in the forefront of your mind while you write the e-mail. Your email is a persuasive piece of writing designed to elicit an action.

Depending on the situation, you may even want to ask the prospect outright to perform the action. This is what copywriters refer to as a Call to Action (CTA). The best way to get people to perform the action you want is simply to ask them.

Craft a great subject line

The subject line is one of the most important parts of any email, but many sales representatives spend the least amount of time on it. You need to create a great subject line that stands out in a crowded inbox.

Here are some tips for improving your subject lines:

• Draft several subject lines before deciding on one. Chances are that the first subject line to pop into your mind isn’t the best one.
• Be short and specific. People respond well to concrete dates, times, and figures.
• Avoid marketing-type subject lines. As a sales representative, you’re forming a relationship with a person. Some formulas that work great for marketing, such as “limited time offer,” aren’t right for a sales follow-up email.
• Experiment, and track what works. Although there are some general best practices, every audience is unique. There are numerous tools available to help you track open rates.

Above all, you want a friendly and helpful subject line.

Personalize the email

Take steps to personalize every email you send. Start off by addressing the recipient by name—a simple step, but one that too many sales representatives don’t take. Remind them who you are, where you met, and of any previous conversations you’ve had. Be specific. Instead of saying that you talked “last week,” say “Thursday afternoon.” Your CRM will be helpful in helping you to recall these details.

To show prospects that this isn’t just a copy-and-paste email, reference specific issues pertinent to what they’ve said. Answer any questions that came up during the conversation thoroughly, and offer to provide further assistance.

Show your prospect that you’re not just all about promoting your product. If their company has recently enjoyed a success, offer your congratulations. You can also discuss mutual connections, or a non-business-related topic discussed during your initial conversation. Even these small gestures can go a long way towards demonstrating that you are taking your time to get to know your prospect and genuinely care about their interests.

Be upfront and concise

Although writing short emails is usually harder than writing lengthy ones, being concise is an important skill for any sales representative. Prospects just don’t have the time to read lengthy emails. Short, to-the-point emails demonstrate that you respect your prospects’ time. As a general guideline, keep your emails in the range of 200 words — the longer the email, the less chance it has of being read.

To write concise emails, filter out unnecessary phrases like the dreaded “just checking in.” Get to the CTA without meandering.

Provide useful information

According to the firm Scripted, 57% of e-mail recipients consider email to be spam if it isn’t relevant to them, even if they know the vendor well.

Sales follow-up emails need to be consistent with a customer-centric approach to sales. It isn’t about you, but the customer and their needs. Keeping that in mind, be sure to provide useful information to prospective customers. You don’t just want to answer their questions, but anticipate any questions they might have in the future. Be pro-active in addressing their concerns.

Providing content is an important tool in your arsenal, but this needs to be done carefully and thoughtfully. Your prospect doesn’t have time to read half a dozen whitepapers or watch your entire library of videos.

You should develop a thorough understanding of your content library if you don’t already have this knowledge. Provide prospects with content selectively, geared towards their particular needs and stage in the sales cycle. Talk to people in marketing about your approach. They likely know things about how to use content effectively that you don’t.

It can also be useful to offer references to prospects at a latter stage in the sales cycle.

Study templates for successful sales follow-up emails

There are many examples of sample follow-up emails out there for your reference. Study these emails so that you can gain an idea of tone, format, and information to include. Look for general patterns and think about how you can personalize and improve them. Examples can be a useful learning tool.

Using these examples as templates is a major mistake that can cost you a sale. Nobody wants to receive a canned response, so make sure that you’re performing due diligence and following the principals discussed in this article.

By following these general principals, you can improve your sales follow-up emails and close more deals.

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Marketing Manager @ CloserIQ. Previously Recruiter @ ManpowerGroup & Freelance Social Media Strategist. University of Wisconsin Journalism & Strategic Communication Grad.