Fix Your Follow-Up Email Sequence or Be Ignored

It’s templated. It’s boring. It’s just like everyone else’s. It’s pushing for a meeting. It’s your follow-up email sequence. And it’s not earning much response. But why is it so difficult to converse with prospects who have already shown interest to engage?

contextual marketing

It’s templated. It’s boring. It’s just like everyone else’s. It’s pushing for a meeting. It’s your follow-up email sequence. And it’s not earning much response.

Inside/digital sales development reps (SDRs and BDRs) are taking marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and converting them to conversations; then, passing prospects to sales reps for close.

But why is it so difficult to converse with prospects who have already shown interest to engage?

Because many SDRs are given one goal: Get the prospect on the phone. Qualify them. Fair enough. Problems arise when reps are not given an effective, repeatable way to earn time with prospects.

‘Faking’ as a Strategy

If your follow-up email sequence isn’t helping to book enough appointments with MQLs there’s a reason. Most likely:

  1. Reps are mindless drones, cranking out templated meeting requests.
  2. Customers see your meeting requests as unqualified (too big an ask, too early).
  3. Messages are self-centered, redundant and templated marketing speak.

Yes, persistence is 70% to 80% of the battle. But we live in an age where everything is templated and fake sincerity is easy to spot. As is faked, mail-merged personalization.

Templates don’t stand out. They scream “fake” and “insincere!”

Your Follow-Up Email Subject Line

The following is an actual sample from my inbox with names removed. This entire sequence screams “I’m insincere” and “I’m too lazy to hit your LinkedIn profile for a minute or two … to discover a way to make my approach relevant.

Along with a harsh critique (of what you may already be doing), I’ll offer a more effective alternative for reps to apply.

If your follow-up subject line looks like the majority of follow-up subjects from sales people you are done! And most do.

Subject line: [CRM vendor name] and Communications Edge [my company’s name]

Many inside sales teams are still using this dated subject line template. It’s like yelling, “sales rep looking to pitch you!” to a client.

Instant delete key.

I’m not sure who recommends this subject line format, but don’t use it. Let’s get to the meat …

You Have 8 Seconds (or Less)

If your follow-up email looks like most flowing in to targets’ inboxes — you’re sunk.

“Hello Jeff… my name is Jake, reaching out directly from [vendor name]”

What exactly does Jake mean by directly? As opposed to communicating with me indirectly?

Why is Jake telling me who he is and what he’s doing? I saw who he was before opening the message. He is obviously reaching out. That’s how his email arrived. He sent it. Duh!

As sellers we have plus/minus eight seconds to earn attention and curiosity of prospects. Jake just wasted two.

“… I’m curious to see if you have any concerns with your current systems for managing relationships and projects.”

Jake’s curiosity about my concerns isn’t relevant to me! In fact, he’s one of many such reps looking to set a call with me — based on their needs to fit me for a product/service.

Jake is blending in with other, needy sellers who clutter my inbox with “Can we speak so I can suit you up for my thing?” messages.

That’s another three seconds blown … for a total of five precious seconds down the tube.

Every. Word. Counts. Be deliberate with word choice. Be careful with every word you write in follow-up messages.

Your Follow-Up Email’s Ask

In his first message, Jake asks,

“Do you have 15 minutes this week or next for a quick chat to understand how we have helped similar companies in your position? Best, Jake.”

Jake is like many other sellers hitting my inbox daily. He wants my time — so I can understand how he’s helped people in my position.

My position. How does Jake know anything about my position? Most likely he doesn’t. And why would I want to invest time helping sales reps understand my position?

Jake should know my position before emailing. Make sure you/your sellers take a moment to understand (research the prospect) and state what is understood.

This authenticates you and makes your message relevant to your client’s selfish interests. Instantly.

Otherwise prospects will conclude: This rep doesn’t know me, hasn’t researched anything about me … claims he knows my current situation … and wants 15 minutes of my time for show-and-tell. Forget it!

So how big is your ask? Regardless of who you’re calling on, time is money. The most precious item customers can offer you is their time.

  1. Respect this.
  2. Don’t ask for time; don’t try to persuade; this looks needy.
  3. Instead, help your prospect feel “Hmmm … this might be worth my time.” (provoke curiosity)

Give prospects a reason to believe investing time is going to be worth it. Help them want to ask for your time.

This also helps prospects qualify out, naturally.

Personally, if I gave 15 minutes of my time to everyone who asked for it I’d fill half my day!

Instead, Jake should help me qualify meeting with him. If I can justify meeting with Jake, I’ll gladly do so. Demonstrating he understands something about my business would help me want to meet with Jake.

Follow-Up Email No. 2

The next day Jake returns with the second message in his follow-up sequence.

“Hey Jeff.”

Hey, Jeff? What are we fishing buddies? Old friends?

“Jake here, from _________ [CRM vendor].”

Again, Jake tells me who he is. Just in case my email client doesn’t display his name … and so he can, again, waste precious seconds.

“Do you have 5-10 minutes this week or next to hop on a call regarding opportunity and relationship management?”

Again, Jake persists. He wants a meeting to talk about “opportunity and relationship management.” Again, Jake makes no effort to help me qualify investing time with him.

He pushes for my time — so he can qualify me!

“We have been working hard to change the connotations around the CRM industry and as a result have the fastest customer acquisition rates out of any of our competitors.”

How selfish. How self-centered. This isn’t about you, Jake. This is about me.

How foolish. Sorry, but how can changing the way people view an industry result in faster customer acquisition rates? Noodle on that for a minute.

This is just one example of marketing nonsense that permeates today’s email follow-up sequences. Jake should be receiving guidance on how to communicate with potential clients.

I’ll spare you the remainder. Jake ticked off a few pains he perceives I have. Then, he asked for my time again.

Instead, Jake should resist guessing at my challenges. Everyone is doing this. Most reps are busy sending email messages demonstrating complete lack of research on my business. Jake should also stop promoting how great his company is. Jake should, instead, ask me a question that helps me decide if I can justify meeting with him. This helps Jake and me!

For example,

“Jeff, what would cause you to re-examine the way you’re currently managing sales leads?”

This is called a facilitative question — helping prospects reflect on the status quo situation without feeling you’re leading them toward a trap (a pitch). This use of questions, if done wrong, can be disastrous. But if executed well it’s an effective cold email and follow up technique.

Follow Up No. 3

“Hello, Jeff. Jake here, with _________ [CRM vendor] again.”

Ooof. Not again! Make sure your messages do not start with information your prospect/customer already has. Get to the point.

“If you do think you might want to evaluate something like _________ [CRM vendor] down the road, it’d be beneficial to hop on a quick call so we can get an idea of how we can help you when the time is right.”

First, that sentence is very difficult to read. There are extra and weak words all over the place. It reads “wimpy.”

More striking: Jake ignores how I’ve been using his CRM tool for a year now … and I’ve practically maxed out my free plan’s limits. Jake seems oblivious to the fact: I’m a prime target to upgrade.

Jake should be looking at my account usage — at minimum — and customizing his follow-up email message accordingly.

“Do have 15 minutes to spare for a quick introductory call either this week or next? Here is an article detailing our latest product release in the meantime!”

Setting aside the missing word (“you”) … wait a minute and premature meeting request. Does Jake want to book time with me or not? Apparently he realizes I will probably ignore him. He helps me ignore him by sending me to (ha!) his latest product release page on his website.

It’s like saying, “In the likely case you won’t reply … here read this about us!”

I’m laughing but it’s not funny. This is a respected CRM software business.

Take Time

What if Jake took a moment to research something easy to notice about me … showing me he was not a mindless, appointment-setting drone?

If your MQL follow-up email sequence is booking enough appointments most likely reps are behaving like mindless drones, cranking out templated meeting requests. Stop. Customers see these premature meeting requests as unqualified.

Examine your messages for self-centered, redundant and templated copy.

Good luck. What has your experience been?

Author: Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on making social media sell. He co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc., where he built the sales team. Today, he is the authority on effective prospecting communications techniques as founder of Communications Edge Inc. (formerly Molander & Associates Inc.) He's been in sales for over 2 decades. He is author of the first social selling book, Off the Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You.Jeff is a sales communications coach and creator of the Spark Selling technique—a means to spark more conversations with customers "from cold," speeding them toward qualification.

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