How to Craft the Most Effective Follow-Up Email

The sales follow-up email is one of the most important messages you’ll send in the entire sales cycle. It’s also one of the trickiest emails to get right.

Follow-up emails serve as an opportunity to reconnect with your future customers and reinforce that you understand their issues and priorities. As a sales rep, it’s your chance to ensure “conversation alignment” — did what they say translate to what you heard?

Finally, the follow-up email forces both parties to commit — in writing — to the next steps. Put all of these factors together, and there is a higher probability of a successful partnership going forward.

But sales follow-up emails are hard. You need a pithy subject line. Do you send your follow-up through social media channels as well? Do you automate your follow-up or opt for personalization? And what do you do if there’s no response to your initial follow-up?

These are tough questions to answer and even more so in a post-COVID selling climate. That’s why we’re going to show you how to craft the perfect follow-up email between your first call and the discovery phase that ticks all the boxes.

For clarity’s sake, in this article, we’re going to be talking about follow-up after your first call with a prospect, as opposed to lead follow-up.

The Anatomy of a Perfect Follow-Up Email

Broadly speaking, a useful follow-up email will accomplish three goals:

  1. It verifies your active listening and comprehension of your prospect’s pain points and concerns and that you understand clearly how your product fits into their story.
  2. It sets clear action items and next steps:
    1. How the discovery phase will proceed more generally
    2. What the next call specifically will seek to cover and who from the client-side may wish to be present for it (e.g., your point of contact [POC] and tech support/CFO)
  3. Confirms and/or schedules a follow-up meeting date and time:
    1. What amount of time should you both be expecting before the next phone call (most likely, to begin the discovery phase)

Without satisfactory email templates, hitting all the right notes with your follow-up email can be an uneven and laborious process. Our title aside, there’s no such thing as an ideal follow-up. Even the most precision-engineered follow-up email can end up getting lost or ignored (and we’ll show you what to do if it does get lost or ignored, shortly). Nevertheless, here’s an email template to increase your likelihood of nailing down next steps.

Please note, also, that the following exchange depicted is entirely fictional.

1. The Subject Line

The email subject line is the shortest, most decisive, most nightmare-inducing part of a follow-up email for any sales professional. Subject lines can really preoccupy reps on both first/cold emails and follow-ups. It’s important to get it right.

Unlike most marketing emails, a follow-up email subject line should be direct and to the point. This is not the time to be super creative or catchy (at least, not in your first follow-up email). Short and direct are critical.

Some examples of good follow-up subject lines include:

  • [Your Company Name - Prospect’s Company Name]: Meeting Notes & Next Steps
  • [Date] Notes & Next Steps: [Your Company Name - Prospect’s Company Name]
  • [Your Company Name & Prospect’s Company Name]: Next Steps

You can find further effective subject line examples, which work well in other types of business correspondence, here.

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2. Salutation and Opening

First things first: Say hello! The key in the salutation is striking a balance between professional and friendly while not being too casual. A simple “Hi, [POC’s name]” will suffice, as it’s neither too formal nor too familiar.

Then begin your email properly by picking up where you left off in your last meeting. This is where your on-call active listening comes in handy.

Listening closely to your prospect’s words and tone during sales calls isn’t just for making sure you jot down the client’s company name with the right spelling. It’s so that you can remember how your POC talks and mirror that tone sensitively. This will put them further at ease, and that familiarity builds rapport between you and your POC. You’ve got a target audience, here — play to it.

Reprise the sentiment that you used to end the last meeting. For instance, you might say that you’re delighted that your product can potentially help with your client’s pain point (e.g., customer retention):

It was great speaking with you this afternoon. I’m thrilled that [YOUR COMPANY NAME] can help solve your most significant [BIGGEST PAIN POINT]. I’m confident we’ll be able to move forward from here.

From there, confirm your prospect’s own level of interest in moving forward. For example:

It sounded like you are equally as excited about leveraging [YOUR COMPANY NAME] to solve [BIGGEST PAIN POINT].

Don’t be afraid to be simple and sincere — your prospect will appreciate it.

3. Meat

Use the meat of your follow-up email to recap the details of the most recent call, further discuss pain points and your product’s relationship to them, as well as anything else that might act in favor of a deal.

You will typically transition into the meat of a follow-up email by recapping the main points from the previous call. This will often take the form of a list of pain points and trouble areas that your prospect described and that your product is well placed to help fix. For example:

Below is a quick summary of what we discussed on the call today:

  • Pipeline velocity
  • Lower-than-ideal conversion rate
  • Worrying levels of avoidable onboarding churn

Chorus.ai’s “Conversation Intelligence” platform can be helpful in pinpointing and keeping track of pain points.

Screenshot 2020-07-16 at 12.37.29.png

Then add in a question to confirm they agree with the summary. You want to ensure you are on the same page. This is also another chance to show active listening and gain another “yes.”

For example:

Did I miss any of the key points or misinterpret anything we discussed? If so, please let me know!

The end of the “meat” section is also a good spot to state or restate any testimonials, a case study, or social proof that can help secure that next meeting. Social proof is often a good tool to use when talking to a prospect on the phone, but seeing it committed in writing (or visually) can give it another degree of impact altogether.

4. Next steps

This what follow-up is all about — getting your prospect from this early stage in the sales process to the discovery phase by scheduling next steps. You’ll be arranging follow-up calls, providing pertinent additional information, scheduling product demos, and suggesting which other client-side personnel may want to get on board during discovery.

Highlight the next steps and action items (and who is responsible for each). For example:

As discussed, here are the next steps:

  • Action Item #1 (NAME OF COMPANY/PERSON RESPONSIBLE)
  • Action Item #2 (NAME OF COMPANY/PERSON RESPONSIBLE)
  • Action Item #13(NAME OF COMPANY/PERSON RESPONSIBLE)
  • Etc.

You may also want to ask if there are any other members of your “sales team” (particularly tech leads, account execs, or customer success specialists) your prospect may like to speak to on your call.

5. Close

Finally, close with details for the next meeting and any other pertinent calls to action (CTAs). For example:

I’m looking forward to our next call on [DATE / TIME / TIME ZONE].

In today’s ultra-international world, specifying the time zone accurately is of vital importance. You may also, as part of your closing section, wish to include an additional CTA — to mailing lists, other content, or even other products. In this case, if this deal falls through, you will at least still have your prospect on the books.

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Dealing with No Response to Your Follow-Up Email

Whatever the nature of the message you just sent, there’s one response nobody likes — silence. Curiously, the response rate for the first follow-up email is about the same as for the first cold email or around 18%. That means that your sales team may have to chase even relatively enthusiastic prospects in order to get them to reply to a follow-up.

Sources suggest that a sequence of four to seven emails yields much better results than one to three emails. If no reply is forthcoming, an email campaign may be key to getting ahead of your open rates.

But you can’t nurture a prospect with an email nurturing campaign that’s composed of just the same single message sent again and again. Here’s a template follow-up email sequence you can repurpose for your own needs.

Follow-Up Email #1

This is your standard first follow-up and should follow the template we outlined above. Use a standard subject line (“Great to talk to you!”), and keep all other steps as advised in the previous section.

The template might look as follows:

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Untitled Diagram(11).png

This should be sent no more than an hour after your call has ended.

Follow-Up Email #2

Your first email may have been lost in a bulging inbox, or your POC may simply have forgotten to reply. Use a recapping subject line (“Hey [POC], looking forward to talking soon...”), and keep all other steps more or less the same as in email #1.

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 15.59.14.png
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Send this email two-to-three days after your first follow-up.

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Follow-Up Email #3

With follow-up email #3, you can politely begin trying to force the issue. Use a subject line appropriate for this (“Hey [POC], you free to talk on [date]?”), and trim the length of your opening, meat, and next-steps sections.

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 16.05.03.png

Your priority, at this point, is to cut to the chase with your prospect and try to get them on another phone call. If they haven’t read either of your two prior follow-up emails in the last week, they might respond to something shorter. Send this around a week after your call.

Follow-Up Email #4

Some time has passed, and your priority now is to restore your POC’s interest in your product. Use a subject line suited for this (“Hey [POC], check this out!”), remind them gently of your prior call in your introduction, and then recap your product’s utility in the meat.

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 16.10.20.png

You’re trying to re-engage with your prospect at this point, so you may want to incorporate some SEO content from your site to remind them of your product’s utility. This email should be sent anytime after a week after follow-up email #3.

Follow-Up Email #5

You can start really changing up your approach to your prospect with email #5. Use a subject line that appeals to your POC’s self-interest (“Still looking to [remedy pain point discussed]?”), reminding the prospect you know what they need and are in a position to supply it. Any topical events — or events about your prospect company you’ve gleaned from Google, LinkedIn, or social media — can be mentioned for effect. It can even be something as simple as a cool article they just published on their blog.

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 16.13.53.png

Trim your email content to focus once again on getting them back on the phone, and hit send anytime after a week after follow-up email #4.

Follow-Up Email #6

It’s been about a month now and still no word — you may even have tried to catch your prospect on the phone with a second cold call or through LinkedIn or other social media. Go with a get-back-on-track subject line (“[POC], let’s get this partnership back on track”) that will hopefully combine the effects of the prior follow-up emails and remind your POC what you have to offer.

Screenshot 2020-07-17 at 16.17.23.png

There’s a virtually infinite variety of follow up email templates out there, but most of them will abide by roughly these principles.

How to Automate the Perfect Follow-Up Email

Sales pros sometimes think an effective follow-up is a choice between quality (personalization) and quantity (automation). However, the best conversation intelligence solutions on the market can strike a balance between the two.

For instance, Chorus’s advanced AI technology automatically identifies the next steps you discussed and reminds you to follow up with email summaries. It helps sales reps when crafting follow-up based on the details of the preceding conversation, making use of high-end email templates.

Screenshot 2020-07-16 at 12.37.08.png

Chorus.ai’s Conversation Intelligence platform in action. Here we can see the deal stage at present, advised follow-up, and details of the rep’s personal performance.

As we saw in the prior section, marrying quality with quantity in follow-up is a recipe for success — and the right tools can help you strike that balance.

Record. Summarize. Store. Follow Up

The key to making a marriage of automation tools and personalization is to layer an effective follow-up email with intelligence gathered during the call. For example, share Chorus.ai recording clips in follow-up emails to show the prospect you genuinely understand their needs, as in:

According to what you said (link to call snippet), here is how we can solve for that (link to resource on website).

The post-sales discovery follow-up email is the most important message you’ll send in the entire sales cycle. It must not be taken lightly, nor can you afford to write off a deal as a failure if your first lovingly crafted follow-up doesn’t elicit a response. Remember, prospects are swamped at the moment, with important emails getting crowded out of packed-to-the-brim inboxes.

Persistence is the key. The perfect follow-up email(s) is one that has been composed with diligence. A good deal’s not over till the last email’s been sent.

Want more cutting edge sales insights to beat the post-pandemic downturn? Tune in to Chorus’s Weekly Briefing series for the freshest and best hot-takes from top industry leaders.

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