How To Send Cold Email Follow Ups That Get Replies

 

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If you’ve ever sent cold emails then you’re already familiar with the unfortunate reality of not always getting a response. But there’s an easy solution for that.

Bombard them!

No… not really. But sometimes my inbox feels like senders are trying to bludgeoned me into submission. Like I’ll eventually agree to a conversation just to stop them from destroying my inbox.

In this article we’ll explore the best ways to send follow up cold emails. So you only communicate in ways that are respectful of your prospects and reflect well on your brand.

And it will massively improve your chances of getting a positive reply.

Let’s get started!

Cold email follow up messages

The Math Behind Sending Follow Up Cold Emails

The first thing we want to ask is whether it’s even worth sending a reminder message. I mean, they didn’t reply to your first email. Why would another try be any more likely to succeed?

Yes, it’s worth it.

We’ve seen time and time again that reaching out to your target audience multiple times has a positive impact on campaigns with a solid value proposition (note the caveat). 

Before marketing automation, many sales professionals would give up after sending just a single message. If the right person didn’t reply then they must not be interested, right?!

It’s understandable to a point. Salespeople are busy and it’s very easy to lose track of prospects that aren’t actively engaging with your outreach.

But now that sales automation tools are readily available, there’s no excuse for not following up. It’s 100% automated and it’s very effective.

This is illustrated by Crowdstrike‘s cold email campaign results. They reached out to 26,000 prospects. Their first cold email response was only 2.5%. But by adding in two follow up messages they were able to increase their response rate to 11.4% – a massive increase.

Brian Dean studied 12 million outreach messages and found emailing the same person multiple times leads to 2x more responses. He also found there is a positive effect from adding multiple contacts at the same company (up to 5 stakeholders). Email sequences with multiple attempts and multiple contacts boost response rates by 160%.

So the math is pretty clear. If you want more responses, you should add some follow up messages to your outreach email campaign.

Confirm Your Relevance

OK, remember the caveat above? That sending follow up messages only works for campaigns with a solid value proposition. 

The truth is, many cold email campaigns don’t elicit a positive response because they don’t DESERVE any sort of response at all.

So before you explore how to make a perfect follow up email, take a moment to confirm you should be contacting your prospective client even once!

Like you, I get cold emails almost every day.

Cold email is a science so I save mine. And I study them to improve my understanding of what works, and what doesn’t. I look at what the sender did well, and where they fell short. I looked at which ones I replied to, and which ones I wanted to delete.  

I recently did a small cold email case study. I looked at the last 562 cold emails I received. I identified 160 unique companies and classified them as Relevant, General, and Irrelevant. 

As an aside, counting was more difficult than I expected because the sender names kept changing. Some companies used more than 10 sending names to promote their solutions – crazy!

Cold Email Follow Ups 

For the case study:

Relevant: refers to companies that are contacting me intentionally. They know what I do and have a specific reason for reaching out.

General: refers to companies that provide a service that most companies could benefit from, including our own. For example, Pinterest and Google contacted us about campaigns on their platforms.

Irrelevant: refers to ridiculous offers. They wouldn’t have sent the message if they had spent even 20 seconds researching us. But they obviously couldn’t be bothered.

Here’s what I found:

The average company sent 3.5 emails, but that number was heavily skewed by companies that sent 10 or more.

Only 12.5% of outreach messages demonstrated any understanding of Sales Higher or what our business challenges might be.

35% of the messages were generally applicable to us. But not in a specific way. For example, a SaaS tool or a general business service.

The remaining 52.50% of companies had no reason to contact me and shouldn’t have wasted the digital ink.

Cold email follow ups are important. But you’ll NEVER get a response if you send it to the wrong person. So before you optimize your follow up process, make sure your sales targeting is on point.

Cold Email Follow Up Timing

Conventional wisdom suggests that you should follow up with your prospects frequently and continuously until you receive either a positive or negative reply.

Sadly, conventional wisdom may want to reconsider this approach. Hitting prospects with the same (or similar) messaging over and over doesn’t work. It’s annoying and it tarnishes your brand.

How Many Times Should You Send A Follow Up Email?

According to research from Inside Sales, the ideal number of times to contact someone is 3 – 6 times, spread across multiple channels. That includes LinkedIn, SMS, calls, voice mail, and so on.

For email, we like to keep it to just two or three messages before stopping. If they aren’t responding, there’s a reason. Usually it’s one of:

  • They’re too busy right now.
  • They don’t find the offer relevant or compelling.
  • They are vaguely interested, but the problem isn’t acute enough to take action.

In all three cases sending more emails won’t change the underlying reason why they didn’t respond to the initial email. 

How Long Should You Wait Between Emails?

Most responses to cold emails happen within 24 hours of sending them. If they don’t reply within a day, they probably aren’t going to.

But that DOESN’T mean it’s OK to contact them again the next day. Give people some time to digest and reflect on what you sent.

We’ve seen countless examples of people re-opening our emails weeks after the first cold email was sent. Everyone moves at their own pace.

We’ve found that 5 days is a good balance between urgency and patience. If they haven’t replied after 5 business days, they aren’t going to.

And if there was a short term reason that prevented them from replying then it may be off their plate now.

Five days is also short enough that your prospects may still recall your original message. Sometimes they’ll even apologise for not replying, as they had intended to.

So a typical sales cadence might look like:

Day One: Email

Day Two: Linkedin

Day Three: Cold calling / Voice mail

Day Four: Nothing

Day Five: Email

When Should You Stop Sending Follow Up Emails?

Never. Seriously, don’t stop. 

If your offer is a good fit for an intentional prospect then there’s no reason to stop.

BUT, you need to give them a break between short bursts of contact.

Let’s say you contact your prospect 4 times over 5 business days across 3 channels. That’s enough! If they aren’t engaging, another message isn’t going to help.

Instead, wait 2 or 3 months and try the cadence again in a different way.

Eventually you’ll catch your prospects at a time when they’re open to your solutions.

Stop With Reminder Follow Up Emails

How many times have you gotten an email that just reminds you about a previous email?

Did you see my last email?

How about now?

Did you see it? I’m waiting for your reply!

Here’s a real email I received.

Hi Matthew,

Just following up on my previous email to make sure you received it?

I promise not to bother you again but it would be great to know if what I had sent through was of interest or not?

Interestingly, I couldn’t even find her previous message. And I only looked because of this article. Otherwise I wouldn’t have checked.

And making me scroll down the page to see if the previous copy is attached is just silly.

The “how about now?” approach was oddly effective 10 years ago. But that was before everyone’s email boxes got absolutely smashed by outreach messages.

These days people frequently forget cold emails, and you’re going to have to work a bit harder.

In fact, you don’t even need to draw attention to the fact that you’ve sent a follow up email. Your prospect may be seeing your current message with fresh eyes. So let your value proposition stand on its own.

No one wants to sift through their inbox, or scroll down to past messages. Just share your important points in the current message

Your messages should be 75 – 125 words long and you don’t want to waste words explaining that this is a repeat of something they previously didn’t value enough to respond to.

Add Value To Your Email Cadence

If your prospect didn’t reply to your original email, consider the possibility they didn’t see enough value in it. 

Some of my favourite responses come from prospects who decline to meet. I love that they took the time to explain why they weren’t a good fit. This tells me they found enough value in the message that they felt compelled to provide a meaningful response.

So if you aren’t getting the response rate you anticipated, dig deep. Ask yourself how you could add more value to your follow up message.

Kevin Dorsey made the argument that your follow up email is for the prospects that DIDN’T reply. He suggested you should reframe the problem, restate your impact, and remind them of the cost of staying the same. Otherwise they’re no more likely to act then they did last time you made contact.

The more value you add to your follow up emails, the more positive responses you’ll get. It’s guaranteed.

Change Up Your Call To Action

If your prospect didn’t reply to your initial email, consider changing up your call to action (CTA). Most people use a meeting request as their default ask.

But meeting requests don’t usually have a high conversion rate. People are busy, and unless you catch them at the exact right time (ie following a trigger event) they may ignore your outreach.

So use your follow ups to test what CTA’s drive the highest conversion rates. 

For example, some of our clients request a meeting in some messages. But offer marketing collateral in others.

Whatever catches your prospect’s attention is a powerful call to action and it’s your best chance to start a dialogue with them. 

So don’t feel like you need to ask for a ‘quick chat’ every single time. There are lots of CTA’s you can try. 

Find out what works best for you

Effective Cold Email Follow Ups Aren’t Unique

Your follow up emails shouldn’t follow a different structure than your initial email.

Every cold email should:

  • Demonstrate relevance
  • Establish value
  • Show proof, if possible
  • Include a low friction request

When you map out your email cadence, brainstorm multiple benefits for your solution.

Then focus on one benefit for each email. Say you are selling a fuel additive that saves on fuel costs, improves engine performance, and reduces engine wear. 

In that case you have 3 emails, each focusing on a unique benefit or outcome. 

An email about fuel savings might look like this:

Hi Matthew,

Logistics is a seriously competitive industry and you’ve done an incredible job against companies like Ninja. Way to go!

I’m reaching out because we’ve seen that companies like {{ Company Name }} overspend on fuel by an average of 22%. Which puts a big dent in your already thin margins.

Are you open to trying a new fuel additive that’ll stretch your fuel budget? Express Freight tried it last month and immediately ordered it for their entire fleet.

What do you think? Let me know and I’ll have a bottle shipped over for you to try.

The next email in the sequence will focus on the second benefit – improved engine performance. There won’t be any mention of this email. It’ll focus on how the fuel additive will protect their engines and increase the lifespan of their fleet.

Skip The Breakup Emails

If you’ve been around long enough you’ve seen every type of follow up email. Many are good.

But some have outlived their day. And they need to be put to rest. I’m referring specifically to the so-called ‘breakup email’. 

A breakup email refers to an approach where you tell prospects you aren’t going to contact them any more. The idea is that since this is their last chance to reply they’ll be more likely to take action.

The thing is, it kinda works. Or at least it used to.

But there are a lot of problems with using this approach. Here are a few:

Why Stop? First, if the prospect is someone who can get genuine value from your solution, why stop contacting them? The breakup email effectively cuts off future communication with a potential client.

It’s Weak Dude. Think about it. You’re telling someone who never asked for your emails that unless they take action now, you’re not going to contact them any more. It’s kind of insulting…

It’s Overused. The break-up email has been around for at least 9 years as of this article and pretty much everyone has seen a version of it by now. You get zero points for originality. And you could lose points for appearing lazy.

Effective cold email is about communicating value and sparking discussion. A break up email is an ultimatum that your prospects will be happy to agree to.

BYE! 

You can take your ball home if you want, but your prospect never wanted to play anyway.

Share Your Thoughts on Cold Email Follow Ups

 The key to strong outreach is communicating value. That doesn’t change just because you’re sending a follow up cold email. 

In fact, since your target client didn’t reply to your first message, you’ve got to up your game. Add even more value to your follow up messages until they feel compelled to respond.

What ideas would you add about follow up cold email? I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can contact me on Linkedin or send a note on our contact page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray is the Managing Director of Sales Higher. He knows any company can THRIVE with enough qualified sales leads. So he’s spent the last decade helping companies meet engaged prospects and win new deals.

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