How to Respond to Cold Email Rejection

“Thanks, but we already have a vendor.” Or “Thanks, but we already have a solution.” It’s tough to read such replies to cold emails. Nice to get replies, not so pleasant to get negative ones. But should you stop when receiving such push-back?

“Thanks, but we already have a vendor.” Or “Thanks, but we already have a solution.” It’s tough to read such cold email rejection. Nice to get replies, not so pleasant to get negative ones. But should you stop when receiving such pushback?

One of my students, Mark doesn’t.

Mark runs a successful business helping professional association leaders grow revenues and memberships. These professionals are volunteer Board members who feel passionately about their work and give back to their industry by donating time. He literally takes over daily, mundane operations of small associations so leaders can focus on leading their associations. He allows them to outsource the boring and tedious parts of running a professional trade association.

Like most small business owners Mark prospects new customers. Unlike most of us, he does it effectively. Really effectively.

Going in Cold

Mark prospects using LinkedIn as a research tool … locating his targets and qualifying them. Sometimes he starts with LinkedIn, providing he’s connected with the prospect. Other times he goes in cold with email.

His subject line in this example was simple and effective: Succession plan?

Mark’s approach is deadly simple and effective. He wisely focuses on topics customers usually don’t consider enough … or at all. In this case, “what will happen when the Board President retires?” The question often results in prospects reflecting on it … realizing there is (currently) no succession plan. This often provokes replies and starts discussions for Mark.

Mark makes sure his email messages:

  • Are read in 15 seconds or less
  • Prove (in sentence one) he’s researched his target
  • Provoke response using a non-biased, facilitative question

He quickly points out facts that prove he understands his target’s situation. For example, “Hi, Steve. Noticing how Sally Jones has more than 37 years of diligent service in her career.”

Next, he asks how his prospect will move forward when Sally approaches retirement. He follows by asking if the prospect has a strategy in place. And, if not “What would cause you to consider discussing one?”

Not “would you consider having one?” A yes/no question is not ideal here as it is biased to what Mark wants: A discussion. Instead, “what would cause you to consider discussing one?” is a more neutral, un-biased question. This helps prospects focus on their own decision-making process, not feel vulnerable to answering your question with a “yes” or “no.” It also encourages them to provide you with valuable information in the reply.

When the Cold Email Rejection Comes

Mark’s first touch (cold) email didn’t generate a response. But his follow-up did. His target, Colin, replied: “We already have a plan in place.”

Mark immediately wrote his trusted email coach (that’s me) with, “How the heck do I respond to this??? My gut tells me to write ‘Care to elaborate?’ But, I probably need to write a little more to lighten this guy’s likely knee jerk reaction of saying ‘no.'”

As a habit, Mark rarely gives up. Like many of my students he pays close attention to word choice in responses that come back negative.

For example, a prospect may push back with “this will probably be too disruptive for us to consider.” Use of the word probably often signals a soft spot. There is a perception of too much disruption … it is relatively uncertain for the prospect. Remove the word probably and the sentence takes on a more final or definite tone. “This will be too disruptive for consideration.”

In many cases every word counts. Words contain clues.

How to Respond

Accept the cold email rejection. Embrace it. After all, rejection frees you to pursue chasing more yeses.

Most of all, study the rejection; word for word, consider it for a moment. Within rejections most of my students find gold. But only if you take the emotion out. Remove your disappointment and expectation.

In Mark’s case:

  • The prospect is not saying no to a discussion, he’s saying he has “a plan in place.”
  • Mark got him! The prospect did reply initially. If he wasn’t open to hearing from Mark again would he have replied? (at all)
  • The cold email and follow-up worked: It was provocative enough for Colin to quickly understand — and reply to. It was easy for him to do so.
  • The prospect should expect Mark might reply given his response.

Thus, Mark should reply, but carefully and casually. Without sounding needy or disappointed. This part is key. Mark’s reply should remain neutral and embrace Colin’s cold email rejection.

Mark replied: “Thanks Colin. Sorry if asking was pushy. May I ask what your plan is? If you choose to not share, it’s ok. I ask to understand, not push you.”

Affirming your prospect’s right to choose is a psychological trigger.

This tactic indirectly says to your target: “I am not threatening your right to say no. I’m at peace with your power over me.”

It’s the one really easy persuasion technique everyone should know: Affirming your prospect’s right to choose. Supported by 42 studies on 22,000 people it’s practical, can be applied in almost any situation and works consistently.

Remember: The more you need the meeting, discussion or sale the more your prospect feels it … and the more you will be rejected. Simply because your words telegraph “I’m wanting it very badly.”

How do you respond to cold email rejection? Do you politely accept that rejection yet probe a little deeper … as a habit? Selectively?