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    How to Write B2B Follow-Up Emails: Tips & Tricks

    Email outreach is practically a marketing birthright. We've mastered the art of email communication using templates, HTML, and large swaths of our CRMs. We know how to address pain points, features, benefits and when to offer solutions.

    However, we're often quite terrible at having genuine conversations.

    Let’s be frank. We talk to audiences, not individuals - even if we segment them into tiny buckets. Most of us, and this is especially true for content marketers and creators, rarely have a chance to speak one-on-one with the people we are addressing in our writing.

    We can be generalists, speakers, and proclaimers. Yet, we’re rarely listeners.

    When it comes to feedback, rather than listening to individuals, we prefer to analyze in bulk (NPS scores, page visits, number of referrals, time spent on website, downloads, rankings, conversion rates - all sorts of “mass” data).

    That’s why we’re seldom good at writing follow-ups for email campaigns. Think about it. Many of you reading this are sending email communications from the sender, noreply@. Yes, indeed—no reply.

    I experienced this problem myself when I created outreach to targeted sales experts for my Sales Funnel blog post. I did pretty well with personalization in my very first message.

    However, I felt perplexed and didn’t know how to act when I saw my emails opened but unanswered.

    Of six people whom I targeted, only 2 responded. The high response rate (30%) is due to two factors. First, I made every email highly personalized. Second, it was a tiny outreach, so I may have gotten lucky. Nevertheless, I failed at following up with the rest of them.

    That’s when I began thinking about how my co-workers, primarily the Sales Development Representatives, manage to make the most of every email they send.

    Some do outbound prospecting for our own sales managers. However, most of them serve our clients. They do multiple send-outs and set appointments on a daily basis. How do they manage to successfully turn prospects into qualified opportunities?

    What’s a follow-up?

    The main purpose of follow-up messages is to advance a conversation forward.

    In B2B email outreach, we use follow-ups to stay in touch with the prospects and gently guide them toward an outcome or resolution of a conversation.

    You can’t have pure, 100% conversions by engaging in mass send-outs. Some companies will be inevitably sorted out. It’s the part of the process.

    However, if a conversation isn’t over, it still weighs on the mind of a Sales Development Representative. It needs to be finished gracefully - whether it results in success or rejection, it’s unavoidable for this profession.

    On the contrary, some conversations get “buried” under a pile of new engagements. They become forgotten in a couple of weeks. The worst thing about it - they’re lost opportunities.

    The conversations weighing on an SDR’s mind all the time is a rarer case. Most of the suspended conversations at the top of the funnel are simply put away and forgotten.

    Don’t let that happen with your opportunities!

    Set an appointment or say goodbye, but don’t let this unaddressed conversation get lost in your mailbox.

    When should you follow-up?

    There are multiple situations when a conversation seems to be forgotten.

    1. One of the most frequent reasons is when a prospect opens your email several times and never answers back (a good CRM like HubSpot can help you track this activity).

    The C-suite targets are usually people who can open your letter multiple times in one hour. It’s because they are often distracted. Anna, our unofficial follow-up queen, says that you should reach out to them only if they opened it more than five times. There’s a good chance that they’re interested but haven’t answer because of tasks.

    Don’t follow up immediately. If you think a person that didn’t answer your first email will open the new one, you’re wrong. The good period for such “reminders” is over two days, but less than a month.

    2.You received a vacation auto-reply.

    This means this lead is out of sequence now. There are two things you can do: get him or her back on a cadence manually or leverage the opportunity to personalize your next message.

    Don’t follow up on the very first day they’re back to work. They’re processing their emails, catching up with tasks, and getting readjusted back into the workflow. Give them time. Email marketing is not about the number of leads, but about their quality.

    3. You get a request for more information.

    Maybe the prospect is interested in your value proposition. Or maybe they use it as a way to get rid of you. The time will show. Send them what they want and wait for a while.

    Follow up in 3-5 business days.

    4. The prospect agrees in her or his email to set an appointment but then falls silent.

    According to Anna, these are the most promising leads and she focuses her attention on them primarily.

    Here are several rules for writing a follow-up:

    Sales intelligence and personalization.

    If you organize large email send-outs, you customize, but you don’t have the opportunity to personalize. The latter is a game-changer.

    Check the prospect’s media channels. First, study their company website, blog (for prospect’s posts especially) and social media accounts.

    cience-blog

    Example of our CMO’s content on a corporate blog. If you want to follow up with him, read this post and mention what you think about it in your email! It shouldn’t necessarily be praise.

    Then check out the person’s LinkedIn profile (Experience, Articles, Activities, Connections) and Twitter.

    eric-quanstrom

    Wow! Eric has quite a record of skills mentioned on his LinkedIn profile (so now you know his scope of interests, too), but his last article was written back in 2016… So we need another medium.

    Finally, Google them (they might be featured in an article and simply haven’t mentioned it on their social networks.)

    hs-eric

    A quick search in Google led me to Eric’s profile on HubSpot’s Service Blog. Looks like our CMO is also interested in Customer Improvement.

    “Hi Eric, I recently came across your post on HubSpot and recalled that I haven’t heard from you in a while. So I have two questions for you: How do you improve your customers at CIENCE? And do you have time this week for an appointment with our sales rep? You’ll see that we begin approving our customers as early as the negotiation stage.”

    Do the research without a grain of regret. If it’s open for public, then it’s not unethical to learn about it. There’s, however, one line I’d rather not cross - Facebook (it’s too personal for most people).

    Tip 1: Search for two things - recent events (a posted article is also an event) and current pain points (that you can solve). Use the former to begin your conversation and the latter to show that your company cares and can help.

    Tip 2: Refer to a recent event in the subject line to catch his or her attention:

    RE: Saw “price of the lead,” can I ask U smth?

    Don’t act like a regular SDR! Otherwise, your email will immediately go to Trash/Spam.

    The key traits of a “regular SDR”:

    Begins his or her letter with omnipresent sentences.

    Our CMO Eric once showed his mailbox to Anna. He would open the prospecting follow-ups and they all started essentially the same. That was eye-opening. So think out of the box!

    Cares only about their quota.

    At CIENCE, we keep saying - it’s not about the number of appointments. It’s really about the quality. Think about it: does it makes sense to set 20 appointments with a 40% show-up rate and a 0% conversion? How will it impact your sales team in the end? How frustrated will they be at such epic failure?

    Don’t forget to briefly remind them who you are and what your last email/arrangements were about.

    If you hope that a CEO of a company remembers your conversation from 2 weeks ago, please stop doing it right now and never do it again. And don’t hope they will scroll down to read the whole back-and-forth. Just remind them.

    Keep it short and clear: who + prospect's pain point.

    I’m Anastasia from CIENCE. We talked about the cost of an in-house SDR team and the ROI of outsourcing opportunities for {company name}.

    Serve.

    You’re there to bring value to the company of your prospect. He or she won’t always understand all of the information you provide. Don’t hesitate to remind them that you can help or ask if they need your assistance.

    Close gestalt.

    I’ve mentioned the conversations that can last for months. Dare to finalize them. They don’t bring value to the prospect (which is awful) and takes their time (and yours obviously).

    The good advice here: combine the yin and yang. Be gentle, but assertive.

    This post was created using Atomic Reach.

    Topics: Email Marketing

    Published on November 5, 2018
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