How many times has a deal been going along without a hitch until, suddenly, it’s not? One week of silence passes, then two, and you’re left wondering what you did wrong and if there’s any way to fix it.
By this point, you’ve likely sent previous follow-up emails or left voicemails on your prospect’s inbox. Even if the situation looks bleak, it’s important to continue following up after no response.
Research shows that salespeople who send at least one follow-up email reach a 27% reply rate on average. Those who do not get stuck at a 16% average reply rate.
You don’t want that 11-point gap to cost you a major contract or prevent you from exceeding quota. In this post, I’ll tell you how to send a follow-up email after no response — and get that prospect to close at last.
How to Send a Follow-Up Email After No Response
First, ask yourself if you included a close in your first attempt. Never forward or cut and paste an old email, and don’t follow up too quickly. It’s important not to include the same ask in your follow-up. And avoid the temptation to send a breakup email too early.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Well, if they didn’t respond the first time, then surely they’re not interested in the product and I should leave them alone.”
Many factors affect a prospect’s decision to not respond to your email. It may not have been the right time; they may have seen it, but forgotten to reply; your email got buried in their inbox; they may not be interested now, but if you stay in contact, they’ll be interested later.
There are too many reasons for following up, but let’s not look at reasons. Let’s look at data.
Why send a follow-up email after no response?
Following up is critical because it significantly increases your chances of getting a response.
Research shows that if you add just one more follow-up email, you can increase your average reply rate by eleven percentage points. Those eleven percentage points may look small, but they’re the difference between a yes and a no.
Follow-up emails also have a higher reply rate in general. The first follow-up email has a 40%-increase in reply rate in comparison to the first email. It doesn’t mean your reply rate is 40%; rather, it increases by 40%.
For instance, if your average reply rate for your first email is 5%, your follow-up email will have an average reply rate of 7%.
So don’t ever skip following up — it can cost you a closed-won deal.
When to Follow Up After No Response
At most, wait three days before following up after no response.
If you wait a week, it’ll be too long. And if you send an email on the same day, you’ll appear desperate. Send two to three emails in your sequence, and remember: never send a breakup email. Instead, leave the conversation open and return to it at a later date.
On that note, let’s go over best practices for sending a follow-up message.
Second Follow-Up Email After No Response
When sending a second follow-up email after no response, you must think about timing first. Wait three days before getting in touch again, and always send a fresh message. Last, include a call to action that shows your prospect what you want them to do next.
So, what’s your next step? Here are several principles to adhere to when sending a follow-up email after no response. Follow them, and you’re more likely to welcome a few of those prodigal prospects back into your open arms.
1. Ask yourself (honestly) if you included a close in your first attempt.
When we send an initial follow-up email to fish for a response, salespeople often soften them. We throw in an “I’d love to hear back from you” or “I’d like to learn more about what you do.”
The problem is, these aren’t questions and none of them ask for a close. Closing isn’t just a will-they-or-won’t-they-sign-the-contract question. Every communication you have with a prospect — from initial outreach to final paperwork — should include a close. Whether you’re closing for another five minutes of their time, a demo, or a discovery call, you’d better have a purpose and call-to-action every time you reach out to your prospect.
So, instead of an ambiguous statement like, “I think I can really help you. I hope we can catch up soon,” make sure you give your prospect an opening to respond. Include firm questions like, “Are you free for a demo this Friday?” or “Can you return all feedback on the initial proposal by next Tuesday?” and give your prospect an actionable request to respond to.
2. Always send a fresh email.
Never cut and paste or forward the original email. It might feel empowering, but all it’s doing is advertising to your prospect that you’re making them feel guilty for not responding. From a practical standpoint, this leaves your emails vulnerable to being filtered by spam or blocked entirely.
Treat each follow-up email as a blank slate. Try new subject lines, opening greetings, and calls to action. You never know what’s going to finally move your prospect to respond — so why limit yourself to one email thread that already has nine obsolete messages weighing it down?
3. Don’t follow up too quickly.
Salespeople like to categorize themselves as persistent. It’s one of our calling cards and part of our identity, but when conducting follow-up, persistence can begin to look a lot like pestering.
Being persistent without insight into why the prospect isn’t responding is not smart. If you’re only waiting a day or two to touch base again after the first outreach email, you’re not giving them time to respond.
Worse, it signals to your prospect you’re not that busy — and no one wants to work with a desperate salesperson. Wait at least three days between your first and second follow-up attempt. Then and only then should you accelerate your outreach cadence.
4. Adjust your close every time you don’t get a response.
We touched on this briefly above, but you might simply be suffering from the wrong call to action. Each time you follow up with a prospect after no response, your close should get easier to deliver on (because each email that goes unanswered, it gets easier and easier for your prospect to ignore you).
If your first follow-up email asked for a meeting, your second might ask for a referral instead. If you still get no response, your third email should request more general information. For example, you might ask, “I’m trying to navigate your organization right now. Where’s the best place for me to go to learn more about Team X and Project Y?”
If all else fails, ask a question entirely disconnected from work. If a new putting range opened in their town, ask, “I saw you have a new Topgolf open in your neighborhood! Have you checked it out yet?”
At times, it’s easier for prospects to answer personal questions about themselves. It reminds them you’re a human and not just a sales machine. Once you get a response to your Topgolf question, steer the conversation back to business.
5. Don’t send a breakup email.
Never send a breakup email. If you’ve tried steps one through four, stop sending your prospect emails. Go away, wait, and follow up a few months later.
There’s an old sales adage warning reps not to announce intent. If you send a frustrated email after your fourth follow-up saying, “Well, since I haven’t heard from you, I’ll assume you’re not interested,” you’ve made your prospect feel bad, made yourself look like a victim, and decreased the likelihood of them reaching out to you in the future.
By not saying anything and reaching out again after a few months have elapsed, you’ve kept yourself in a position of authority and avoided passive-aggressively blaming your prospect for never responding. Follow up with a friendly, “I hope you had a great summer! I know a lot of clients are focused on [benefit your product/service offers] heading into the fall months. Is this a priority for your company right now?”
6. Resist the temptation to be passive-aggressive.
When you’ve sent one or two emails and haven’t heard back, it’s easy to start to take it personally. Salespeople have to have thicker skin than that. Lines like, “I’ve tried to reach you a few times now,” or “I know you’re busy, I’m busy too,” do nothing to move your deal forward.
Best case scenario, you guilt your prospect into responding to your message. Worst case, you offend and alienate them. If you reach out a few times and don’t hear back, keep your tone positive.
When in doubt, assume positive intent. Phrases like, “Just wanted to bump this email to the top of your inbox,” or “Wanted to touch base on this,” quietly acknowledge your prospect is busy and might just need a gentle nudge to get the ball rolling again.
7. Don’t trick for the open.
Using subject lines like, “Re: Our meeting last week,” or “Following up on our phone call,” when you’ve never completed either of those actions with the prospect is lying and always a bad idea.
Don’t try to trick your prospect into opening your emails and responding to them out of confusion. Keep your subject lines positive, clear, and concise. Try these email subject lines instead.
Follow Up Email Example
Below is a great follow-up email template I’ve used in the past.
If that one doesn’t fit your situation, I’ve drafted several more examples.
1. Following Up After Sending Resources
If you sent a list of resources and the customer hasn’t responded, use the below email template. You might have even seen that they opened the email on your CRM, but they didn’t get back to you. In that case, they’re likely too busy to respond.
Tip: If they didn’t respond to your first resource email, whittle it down to just one or two particularly specific resources that connect to their pain points and needs.
2. Following Up After Demo
Most customers who’ve gotten to the demo stage won’t ignore your emails. They’re likely very interested in purchasing your product or service. But if there’s a customer who received a demo and then stopped responding to your emails, it’s useful to touch base again and ensure you’re still on their radar.
Tip: Refer to the last call-to-action you established, then provide an alternative that may be more feasible.
3. Following Up After a Missed Call
Have you sent an email and also called? And neither of those have gotten a response?
First, this is one of those situations where you’d wait a week. You don’t want to pester the prospect too much. Second, send an email that re-establishes the value you can bring to their company.
Tip: If you’ve tried to get in contact several times and get no response, it’s safe to assume they’re not the right person to talk to — or they’re an unqualified lead. Either ask for another contact, or stop emailing the person and wait for the company to hire the right contact.
4. Following Up After Sending a Contract
For smaller or freelance businesses, sending a contract is something you do early on in the sales cycle — more similar to a quote than a legally binding document.
If you’re in enterprise sales, sending a contract is a much bigger deal. It’s implied that the recipient is ready to sign at that point, so you probably won’t need to follow up.
Still, if you’ve failed to get a response after sending a contract over email, send a short check-in message.
Tip: You’ve gotten to the contract stage because you’ve effectively created a connection. Use emotions — positive emotions — to amp up their enthusiasm.
5. Following Up After They Submitted a Sales Inquiry
Your prospect may have submitted a form, signaling purchasing intent. You responded, but they didn’t get back to you.
This lead is still hot, and it’s most definitely worth following up.
Tip: Repeat their pain points, reminding them why they reached out and why they need your product.
6. Following Up After You Connected on Social Media
If you connected on social media, sent an email, and received no response, follow up again — especially if the prospect seemed interested in your offering.
Tip: If your first email didn’t get a response, provide more value than you did previously, and don’t forget to include a call to action.
7. Following Up After They Don’t Renew their Contract
Some prospects choose to ghost when it’s time to renew their contract, ignoring your first email and even automated reminders from the system.
Tip: The prospect may not be ready to renew because of a budget or internal issue. Close with a request for a call so you can pitch alternative options, such as an adjusted package.
8. Following Up After Sending a Quote
Typically, you send a quote over email, and if you receive no response, it’s critical to follow up so that you can re-emphasize the efficacy of your solution.
Tip: Like in the last example, the prospect may be encountering an unexpected internal hold-up. Offer the opportunity for them to talk through some of the terms and fees, and be open to negotiation.
9. Following Up After Sending Product Samples
In some industries, such as the print and manufacturing industries, product samples are required before the prospect can move forward with a quote, contract, or purchase.
Always follow-up if they didn’t respond to your first email — especially if they’re an enterprise customer.
Tip: If they’re not responding after receiving the samples, the products may not be a good fit. Offer an opening for them to ask for additional samples.
10. Following Up After a Free Trial
A free trial is a great opportunity to showcase your company’s SaaS product and to capture a prospect’s attention. If the trial period is about to end and your prospect isn’t responding to your emails, it’s time to check in.
Tip: A prospect’s lack of response does not necessarily mean “No.” And if they took a free trial, they’re very much interested in your offering. But they may need more time. Offer an extension if possible, and always try to schedule a call to find out how the trial is going.
Always Send a Follow-Up Email After No Response
Salespeople work hard, and receiving answers to our emails makes us feel successful. We don’t want to send too many follow-up emails, but they’re critical for leading the conversation toward a closed-won deal. Test out a few of these tactics in your follow-up outreach and watch as they make a significant difference in your response rates.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in June 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.