Did someone ignore an important email that you sent?
If so, don’t take it personally. There’s a lot happening in the world right now, and people are struggling to keep up with the pace of daily life. It could be that you caught someone at a bad time, they’re busy, or they simply just forgot to follow up. An analysis of 12 million outreach emails found that only 8.5% of them receive a response, with most email communications falling through the cracks.
And while you want to make sure consumers are receiving your messages, it’s understandable if you feel uncomfortable or worried that you’re being too pushy.
Don’t. You never know what someone is going through and you have to do your job. While some of your recipients may not want to hear from you, your goal is to reach the people who do.
Whether you’re a sales rep, recruiter, or marketer, here are five tips to help you increase your chances of a response.
1. Be patient.
With all that’s happening in the world, you may have simply reached out to your recipient at the wrong time.
For this reason, don’t follow up too quickly, especially if you’re sending sales emails — your recipients will notice and appreciate your patience.
Timing for your follow up emails depends on the specific objective. If you’re a hiring manager or recruiter trying to fill an open position at your company, consider waiting three or four days to follow up. If you’re a sales rep or marketer sending an outreach campaign, follow up with your recipients in a week or two.
Being patient and waiting to follow up is a great way to show you care about your recipient’s personal time and boundaries. If you’re not sure how long to wait, consult with your team. Getting a second opinion about your communication style is always helpful.
2. Adjust the subject line.
Does your subject line inspire a call to action?
It’s easy for overloaded minds to ignore generic subject lines like “checking in.”
“Those are not only vague — they may also make the reader feel bad for being slow to respond (even further delaying a prompt reply),” wrote Rebecca Zucker, an executive coach and entrepreneur for Harvard Business Review.
Zucker recommends using subject lines that give recipients a “short preview of the request.” One approach is to nudge people along with phrases like “next steps” and “question about.” You can also let someone know that a request is time sensitive.
Help people understand what steps they need to take.
3. Ask a direct and meaningful question.
The way people interact is evolving, and it’s not just because of the pandemic. Even before 2020, human communication expanded to include text messages, clicks, taps, instant messages, swipes, and emojis.
One evolutionary pain point, though, is that people have different reactions to text-based communications and digital interactions. Your recipients may need some guidance or pushing.
Keeping these challenges in mind, it’s good to assume that your communications won’t always reach your intended audience or be effective at all. For some audience members, your email communications may not connect with them at all, and you may need to perform some diagnostics in your follow-up message.
One approach is to ask a question that your recipient will feel compelled to answer. Here are a few ideas:
- What are some of your goals this quarter? I’d be happy to sync up to see how I may be able to help.
- A lot of companies like yours need help with [x, y, or z]. Would you like to learn about a few solutions that provides more support to your team?
- Are you the right person at [Company X] to talk about [Topic Y]? If not, could you please connect me with the individual in charge of the [Z department] at your company?
Your question should show that you’re open to conversation, seeking to offer support, and care about your recipient’s best interest.
4. Be clear that you need a response within a certain timeframe.
It’s common for people to procrastinate, especially when sending and receiving emails, and it’s not uncommon for them to forget to reply to an important message altogether.
One way to avoid this problem is to be crystal clear that you need a response by a certain date. Start by explaining your needs and the reason why you’re following up. From there, be very explicit about needing a response, and share the timeframe for when you need to hear back.
Be kind and compassionate — the person on the other side of the screen may need some human support. Help your recipient prioritize your needs.
5. If all else fails, reach out on Twitter.
Twitter is a social media platform where fleeting discussions are natural. As a general rule, you don’t want to use personal channels (like Facebook) to hound your email recipients.
It doesn’t hurt, however, to send someone a Twitter DM; “Hey! I sent you an email about [X]. Did you receive it?”
Especially if your cold emails are being ignored or hitting spam folders, a short follow-up via Twitter may be just the thing to garner a response. But don’t push it. Not receiving a response may be a sign of lack of interest.
You can also try connecting on LinkedIn where you can continue to stay engaged with your recipients. The last thing anyone wants is to start receiving negative replies.
Last but not least
Sometimes, a connection wasn’t meant to be. If you’ve followed up a few times over several months, it may be time to move on. Don’t worry about letting go — there are plenty of people out there who are open to hearing from you, and sometimes getting a “yes” takes a few “nos.”
Radio silence can be unnerving, so it’s important to remember that the problem isn’t you or your communication — it’s that people are overwhelmed with messages and their to-do list.
Cold emailing can be a wonderful way to build new connections. Don’t give up, and don’t underestimate the value of a simple, “Hey, I’m looking forward to hearing from you” ping.
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