7 Ways to Improve Your Follow Up Emails

22 October, 2014

Improve emailsAt age 13 I realised that business people don’t do what they say they’ll do.

(I was trying to find a holiday job and the businesses I approached didn’t get back to me like they said they would. Hardly surprising I suppose since I was below the legal age limit. But I remember desperately wanting life to be reciprocal. You know, I do my bit and then you do yours. The job would get done with the minimum of fuss and we could all move on.) But still today this isn’t how it works. In reality, you and I both have to follow up. A lot.

However no one wants to be irritating, especially when you’re asking for something. So how do you strike the balance between following up to get the job done and being outrageously annoying? After many years of refining and sharpening my follow-up email skills I think I’m getting somewhere. My response rates are good and so far nobody has told me to get lost.

If you want to reduce your number of follow up emails while making sure your recipient keeps her yo-ho-ho, here are some things you can do that aren’t naggy or annoying:

1. Have a good email filing system

SO unsexy I know but stay with me. When you have a good email filing system you can search for the last email you sent and forward it again. This way you don’t go into any time-wasting explanations – just pick up where you left off. Another advantage is that it will carry the same email thread and the conversation will be easier to follow.

2. Make it easy

Attach the relevant documents or links again. It’s a pain but it saves your receiver time and makes her inbox a brighter place. The reason she hasn’t responded already might be because yours is just one of 100 emails that came in that day. If she sees she can knock off a reply, or commit to your offer in just a few minutes, she’s more likely to do it.

3. Don’t get snippy

Make it part of your brand culture to be polite at all times. Resist the urge to be short or accusatory. Don’t say “You haven’t responded yet” or “This is the # email I’ve sent” or worse still, peppering your emails with an abundance of !!!!s. Being friendly is a good way to keep her interested.

4. Do your homework

Set up a Google Alert on your receiver and her industry. This way when interesting news comes in you have a good reason to get in touch. Don’t fall into the trap of saying “I thought this would interest you” with a long link. This puts your recipient under even more time pressure to read something they have no idea is relevant or not. Explain why you think it’s significant or interesting. And then short link it to the text.

5. Don’t be wussy

And here’s the biggie: don’t start your email with insipid comments like “Hope you are well“ or “Just following up”… ugh. You’re trying to build a relationship and need a personalised intro that speaks specifically to your receiver’s interests (which you’ll find through Google Alerts, her LinkedIn profile, her blog posts, and so on). Instead of starting your email with “Happy Friday” for example, try “I met someone at an event last night who is delivering workshops in [your field]. If we’re going to establish you as the industry leader, we need to get cracking. Check out his website [link].”

6. Have a clear next step

Tell her exactly what to do next. Join the dots. Ask “How can I get time in your diary so that we can discuss an efficient way forward? I’m available on [these days] at [these times].” This is much more powerful than “Let me know what works.”

7. Ask if you should stop

If you’ve followed up a few times and still haven’t heard back, then ask directly if you should stop. After all, why waste both your time if the interaction is going nowhere. You might say “I don’t want to annoy you with emails if you’re not interested or if it’s the wrong time. Just let me know if you’d prefer I stop following up.” And then stop. Your straightforwardness will be respected.

Following up is a huge part of any business. Learn how to do it correctly and it’ll reduce the number of emails you send and the stress of the people receiving them.

What tips do you have for sending good follow up emails? Has somebody ever sent you one that really stuck out and got you to action? Share it in the comments below.

Image credit: pixabay.com

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.