The Problem With Most Email Follow-Up Techniques
Most sales follow-up emails fail to earn replies, let alone start conversations. Do your email follow-up techniques try to convince prospects to take an action? That's a trap. Instead, your prospect should convince themselves to take action.
There are three problems with 98% of email follow-up techniques I see cross my desk. Failing follow-up messages are usually:
- Templates that never get delivered. The email follow-up technique uses phrases that are easily removed by spam filters!
- Scaring prospects off because messages feel like a spammy campaign.
- Trying to "add value" in ways that posture and persuade.
Persuasion is the devil. Especially in sales prospecting email messages. If a prospect truly believed your solution might potentially double productivity — or increase revenue by 30% — would they delete your message thinking “I don’t have time”? No. They would make time.
When a prospect deletes your email thinking “I don’t have time” they actually mean “This isn’t worth my time.” Because you just tried to convince them; just like all the others before you.
Instead, help prospects feel an urge to consider if you are worth their time — avoid trying to convince them you are!
Whether you're using the "bubble up" follow-up technique — or one of the other popular email follow-up templates — stop. Here's what to do instead.
Your Strategy Drives the Email Follow-Up Technique
Let your outbound email strategy drive your follow-up technique. The three options are:
- Tailored: you conduct research on a specific person or company and craft multiple, highly-personalized messages to the decision-maker;
- Targeted: segment contacts based on similar characteristics and develop messages that focus on broad priorities, issues or challenges, and
- Templated: create cut-and-paste, mass marketing style templates about your solution and blast messages out to everyone on a list.
The latter is not recommended in a sales context.
With a tailored (one-to-one, personalized email) approach, your email follow-up technique demands personalization. If it's not personalized to the CEO, VP or Director level decision-maker it's instantly seen as cut-and-pasted spammy junk.
Below is an example of how to apply primary research you've conducted in a follow-up context. This tends to earn higher response rates — mainly as it proves you are not cutting-and-pasting templates to C-level decision-makers!
Noticing how you developed an enterprise energy management program delivering $2.65 million in 3-year energy savings to an ABC Corp. facility. Amazing.
Did you see the below message? Sorry to nag.
Notice above how the first line describes Mary's observation about George. She made this observation using primary research on George, who is one of 50 key account targets she has for the quarter. Notice also how this email follow-up technique is repeatable — so long as Mary has other research observations to use.
This provides a highly customized, personalized feel to the follow-up. It's not spammy, it's not a template!
Tailored follow-up techniques are best used with higher lifetime value (LTV)/average contract value (ACV) customers. This kind of email follow-up technique is also best when targeting hundreds of conversations over the course of a year---as opposed to thousands.
Targeted follow-up techniques cannot use personalization given the one-to-many (thousands) nature. A targeted technique is best used for lower LTV/ACV customers and when targeting thousands of conversations. Effective targeted follow-up messages often use geography, industry and industry-based issues to strengthen relevancy. This gives the message a less spammy, more focused feel.
Avoid Making Follow-Ups Feel Campaign-Like
Robo-calls and robo-emails are becoming increasingly ineffective. If your tailored (one-to-one) and/or targeted (one-to-many) message feels like part of a campaign you're sunk. This is another reason why follow-up techniques fail to earn response.
Human beings don't delete email anymore. We junk/spam bin it. Think about your own behavior. We mark inbound solicitation email as spam when we don't want to see it again. Following-up using push tactics risks customers marking your email as spam.
Sequences often feel like campaigns. The challenge is to avoid making email messages look like a campaign ... an automated sequence. Because everyone is sending automated sequences. The moment your emails feel like part of a mass emailed sequence? You're done. It's over. You get marked as spam. Not to mention not getting replied to.
Sequences usually feel like newsletters. People generally opt in to receive marketing newsletters. But no one chooses to get cold emails. It ends up feeling like spam. Cold emails arrive without context. Think about it: If you opted into marketing emails, you generally expect to receive information. Whether you attended a webinar for example. You already have some context as to who this company is.
People sending sales emails don’t have this advantage.
A cold email is the first time the recipient is ever hearing about you or your company. Plus, you haven’t yet earned their trust or attention. This simple fact is vital to appreciate and act on when designing your follow-up technique.
Avoid 'Adding Value'
We hear a lot about “adding value” when writing follow-ups in sales outreach. Theory behind this technique is simple: Each message adds value to the prospect. (or you don't send it!) This tactic is all about helping prospects feel an urge to respond — by providing valuable, new information. But in practice the “add value” technique encourages you to work against yourself.
This tactic usually results in pushing information at prospects. Even if information you're putting into email follow-ups IS truly valuable you are pushing it. You're trying to persuade rather than amplifying the provocation within your original message.
Think about it: If your first email didn't provoke the prospect why would you think follow-on messages would? Here's the challenge.
Push is push. Value or no value. When you follow-up trying to add value in every follow-up message, 90% of the time it comes across as pushing information at prospects. This also tends to promote 3 writing habits that work against you:
- It lengthens your message;
- gives a feel of your prospect being subscribed to a marketing list ... like they've been subscribed to a list without opting in; and
- risks customers marking your email as spam.
Bottom line: Think twice about adding value. You might be adding yourself to the spam bin. Here is the root of the challenge.
Avoid Follow-Up Spam Trigger Words
Use of spam filter trigger words (such as "bubbling up") is a no-no. Even if you pass the technical spam wall you'll get deleted by the human being you're trying to converse with.
- "I reached out to you"
- "I had written to you"
- "bubble up" or "bubbling up"
- "just wanted to circle back"
- "follow-up on my"
- "I imagine your inbox gets filled"
- "wanted to follow-up"
- "I was hoping to introduce my"
- "following up from my previous"
- "I know you are busy"
- "I've been trying to reach/get a hold of you"
- "just reaching out to see"
Most follow up email messages fail to earn replies because they struggle to convince prospects to take an action. Instead, your prospect should convince themselves to take action.
When a prospect deletes your email thinking “I don’t have time” they actually mean “This isn’t worth my time.” Instead, help prospects feel an urge to consider if you are worth their time — avoid trying to convince them you are!
What has your experience been?