The Art of the Follow-Up

When prospecting using email or LinkedIn InMail, when should I send a follow-up email—to make sure the prospect saw my email? How long should I wait to rattle the prospect’s cage? Is there a better day of the week to follow-up? What’s the optimal formula? What do I say in the follow-up that will get their attention and response?

When prospecting using email or LinkedIn InMail, when should I send a follow-up email—to make sure the prospect saw my email? How long should I wait to rattle the prospect’s cage? Is there a better day of the week to follow-up?

What’s the optimal formula? What do I say in the follow-up that will get their attention and response?

Only you know the best way to answer these questions. I’d love to tell you the secret formula or best practice. But the only way to answer these questions is to write, try, measure, re-write and try again. Get in the sandbox and create.

That said, I will give you a “starter message template” to begin your experiment. The best we can do is try to control the chaos to the best of our ability. That kind of control takes two things: Staying flexible and having a systematic approach. Because systems tend to be reliable, predictable.

It’s a Lot Like Fishing
Everyone likes fishing when they’re kids. But when I grew up I realized something exciting: Once you’ve learned how to fish for, say, small mouth bass on a river, you can go to just about any river and catch that specific kind of fish.

Because of the system anyone can learn. The approach.

But here’s the thing: Like your uncle always said, “That’s why they call it fishing, not catching!” The fish, once in a while, are totally unpredictable. Fish are like people. They sometimes behave in ways we can’t explain at the moment. And here’s why: Because the weather changes. Water temperatures may fluctuate wildly. Their environment freaks out on the fish.

Catching them won’t be easy, but it’s never impossible—if you remain flexible enough in your approach.

Keep Your Follow-Up System Flexible
It’s the same with your prospects. Experimentation with follow-up timing and wording is vital to your success.

Like with fishing, outside factors suddenly come into play with prospects. Their boss suddenly quit. They’ve been given 24 hours to get on a plane and fill in for a sick colleague at a five-day trade-show. Their child was involved in a traffic accident and is seriously injured. Their partner wants a divorce.

Prospects “disappear into the black hole” right? You know, when everything seems to be going fine with your lead and poof! Suddenly, no response. All of these factors require a flexible system … a system that allows for customers to occasionally disappear and not derail you.

You need an approach that uses creative thinking-and rewards you for getting those fish biting again.

Embrace the Idea of Experimentation
There is no one best approach. There is no best practice that will be sure to work for you. You need to discover what is best in your situation with your customers.

You need to discover what sequencing of messages works best; what subject line works best; how to time the different touches you’ll make with the phone, email and LinkedIn.

Because different kinds of buyers have different kinds of habits that drive their day-to-day behaviors.

Use This as a Starter Template
Keep it simple. Remember, always use the “brief, blunt, basic” approach to your email messages. All of them. If this approach doesn’t sound like you adjust it so it does. Don’t get too wordy just make it sound like you. Use this as a template:

SUBJECT: Are we in touch?

Hi Jeff,

Sorry to trouble you. Did you receive the below message? If I do not hear back from you by _____ [insert day of week about 4-6 days after your initial message], I will not be in touch again.

All the best,
Steve Jones

Feel free to copy this technique. Yes, it works, but it’s the structure of the email that works—not so much the message itself. That’s the system. Words keep it flexible.

Why Does It Work?
The subject line is inquisitive. It is clearly seeking a response about being in touch. Most recipients do want to get back to senders. But only those senders who ask for a quick decision to be made in their first email.

Next, the first line dramatically acknowledges the fact that it is interrupting the reader’s day. By recognizing the reader’s right to ignore or delete, you are creating distinction for yourself. You’re standing out. It’s like a refreshing slap across the face.

Finally, this wording creates a sense of urgency. It sets a deadline.

Let me know how this flexible approach works for you? Good luck.

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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