clean office desk with computer
March 2, 2016
Sales Process  |  8 min read

How to Write a Sales Follow-Up Email That Actually Gets Results

Created with Sketch.
Jake Johnson
Created with Sketch.

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing your sales follow-up emails aren’t working. And it sucks. 

You probably use trusty hackneyed phrases like:

  • “I just wanted to check in…”
  • “Just following up on our conversation…”
  • “I wanted to circle back…”

What’s wrong with those? The salesperson was just “touching base.” No big deal, right? 

Wrong. These sales follow-up emails are robotic, uninspired, and void of value to the prospect. And worse yet, they only serve the salesperson. 

Plus they make you look like this…

did you get my email meme.png 

Lead nurturing is not about “checking in” or “touching base.” It’s about offering prospects something of value with every connection. 

So what is the right way to follow up? We’ll get to that, but first, something to keep in mind:

Inboxes are doorsteps: Knock at the right time with the right message

It’s 6:30 a.m. Gary’s alarm clock is sounding. He sits up, rubs his eyes, and picks up the smartphone by his bedside. 

Gary opens his email app and looks at the dozen messages he received overnight. A few are promotional. They take a backseat to those work emails he received and the one or two personal notes that arrived. 

There, in that bleary-eyed state, Gary opens the front door to his inbox for the first time of the day. He’ll do so again and again throughout the day. The door knocking never stops. 

Knock, knock, knock.

Would you like a moment with Gary? Get in line, and make sure you show up at the right time with the right words. Do you think he’s going to get excited by seeing “touching base” pop into his inbox? Will he stop what he’s doing and reply to such a message? Don’t count on it. 

Now here are seven tips to writing a sales follow-up email that actually gets results.

Nail the subject line

The average email subscriber gets 416 commercial messages per month.  If you want to get noticed, you have to cut through the clutter. The way you do that is with a stellar subject line. 

We have a whole post on writing great email subject lines if you want to dig deep. 

Here’s the TL;DR version:

  • Keep it short and shocking OR long and provocative
  • Use punctuation to your advantage, like ellipses (…)
  • Mix up your tactics
  • Study your competitors
  • Don’t use words like “free”, “%off”, “reminder,” “checking in,” and more.

Feeling intimidated? Good news. There’s help. Check out subject line graders like CoSchedule’s and Advanced Marketing Institute’s. They aren’t perfect but they’ll set you in the right direction. 

Also, A/B testing is your friend. Write two headlines, set your winning criteria, blast to part of your list, determine a winner, and then blast the rest of your list. (Here’s a free, handy, dandy tool for tracking your tests). 

Get to the point, quickly

It’s important to know your format. No one wants to read the War and Peace of sales emails. It’s key that you make your message short, sweet, and to the point. The first sentence or two should make clear what you’re asking and the value you’re providing. Repeat after me: Be clear, not clever. 

whats your point.png 

If you’re like me and have a hard time writing crisp, clear copy out of the gate, then Hemingway App is for you. Run your copy through it and see where you can simplify things.

Make it personal

Nothing turns a reader off quicker than an email that has nothing to do with them. Not only do they stop reading that email, but you also run the risk of them blocking or unsubscribing from your list. Irrelevant content is listed as a top reason why people bounce from a list. 

How do you offer personalized content that meets your prospect’s needs and advances them down the sales funnel? The answer is found in automation

Have your automation software determine next messages based on how the client interacted with your emails in the past. Allow it to determine the right frequency and timing for the prospects with whom you need to follow up. And watch as your open and response rates tick up.

Couple that with a CRM that allows you to segment your email campaigns, and you have a winning combination. Case in point: “A 760 percent increase in email revenue came from segmented emails in 2013.”

Prick the pain and provide immediate value

Your prospect has a pain of some kind, and your product is the solution. Remind them of that pain out of the gate and also remind them that you’re the best solution to solve that pain. 

Only you can determine the best way to do this, and it depends on your buying cycle. It can take the form of sharing a valuable article or e-book. It could be a case study showing how others have benefited from your product. Or it could be a discount or free consultation. 

 help me help you.png

Whatever it is, it must remind them of their pain and provide immediate value related to that pain. Otherwise, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

Use data to back up your claims 

Here’s a hard truth: people distrust salespeople. They think you’ll say anything to make a sale. And, unfortunately, some people will. That’s why data gives validity to your claims in a big way. Whenever you can, share case studies, research, testimonials, and more to build trust.

Provide a clear next step

You’ve done the hard work of getting your email noticed and read. But if they don’t know with crystal clarity what they are supposed to do next, it’s all for nothing. 

what do you want from me.png 

Make your call-to-action (CTA) easy to find and understand. Here’s a great primer on how to make your CTAs work hard for you.

Avoid typos 

Typos are easy to make and hard to recover from. They make you look like an amateur and, believe it or not, can be the one overlooked detail that sinks a sale. Write like a pro by making sure your email copy is error free. Have a colleague read the email over. Also, take advantage of services like Grammarly, which go way beyond your word processor spell check. 


Cash in a Flash: How to Manage a Flash Sale - Download Now

Was this post helpful?

Subscribe to our newsletter

Fresh small business insights and ideas delivered weekly to your inbox, gratis.

You may also like

young woman thinking in front of a yellow wall

Sales Process | 4 min read

Rethinking the Sales Funnel Metaphor
gold trophies against a white brick wall

Sales | 4 min read

When are Sales Won or Lost?
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

What you'll get from it:

As a thank you for subscribing, we'll send you a copy of our 2018 Small Business Marketing Trends Report with insights from over 1,000 surveyed business owners. The gifts just keep on coming.

4 Reasons to Subscribe:
  • Weekly tips to dominate sales and marketing

  • Expert small business resources that cost you zero dollars

  • We're focused 100 percent on small business success

  • Righteous GIFs

    GIF of Ferris Bueler principal's assistant

P.S. We'll never give out your information. We'll only use it to send you awesome content and resources, if you're cool with that.