The Best Cold Email Follow Up Sequence (after no response)

Most cold emails aren’t followed up on: that’s a fact. For proof, look at how many you receive – how many emails you send right into your spam or trash folder, at a quick glance of their dull, generic subject lines. Maybe the sender was lucky enough for you to actually read their email, but how many times have you actually performed an action after reading or responded to a cold email? Yeah, not many.

Article by Philip Ilic,
B2B Growth Specialist.

The real question is: should you write a follow-up email to your prospects even after they didn’t respond to the previous email?

The answer is a yes – a really big yes.

Why am I so confident? Well, because the statistics don’t lie. Recent studies show that sending 4 follow up emails has the power of boosting replies by 65.8%. That means that if you play your cards right, you can highly increase your response rates.

I can see how this could raise a lot of questions in your mind right now, like some uncertainties along the lines of…

  • How many follow-ups are you supposed to be sending exactly?
  • What should you say in these emails?
  • How often should you send these follow-ups?
  • What are the things to avoid, and how can you make sure you succeed?
  • How can you guarantee that you’re not just irritating your prospects by contacting them too much?

I get it, all of these questions are valid. I’m a marketing expert and I still spend a lot of time every day A/B testing different routes for my clients and myself. There isn’t a one size fits all miracle solution when it comes to cold emailing, so I know it can get tricky and frustrating when you’re not getting the results you were hoping for. That’s why I’ve created a guide to cold email follow up sequences, to help you in figuring out what to do when your prospects don’t reply.

We’ll start by going over the importance of sending follow up emails, discussing how it can help you reach your goals. Then, we’ll be talking about the Agoge sequence, and why it’s a true pillar of follow up emails as well as a technique that can really help you get those response rates up high. Next, we’ll consider what a follow-up sequence should look like, inspired by CEO and founder of Flip the Switch, Becc Holland. Lastly, we’ll examine some follow up email best practices so that you can have all the knowledge you need to absolutely smash your cold emailing sequences.

Before we dive in, I would just like to let you know that I also have a Youtube channel with plenty of resources on cold emailing, like:

Where To Get Emails For Cold Emailing

Best Cold Email Software 2021

Cold Email Tutorial For Beginners (Step By Step Guide)

Best Cold Email Automation Tool

How to Write A Cold Email Campaign Which Gets a TON of Sales Meetings

How To Automate Cold Email Campaigns

The importance of sending follow up emails

The average working person receives around 126 emails per day, according to a 2019 study. Most peoples’ inboxes are inundated with information. Think about it: your prospects are probably focusing on answering their colleagues, friends, and family – dealing with the most urgent matters first. Odds are, your offering most likely does not fall within that “most urgent” category.

Sending your prospects follow up emails is giving them opportunities to engage with you at a more convenient time for them. Though they might not have been available to answer on the first try, giving them a few more tries will let them think about your offering when they can.

But isn’t it pushy to send too many follow-ups?

Some people are worried that it might be perceived as irritating, pushy, or slightly aggressive to send several follow up emails. I do understand, but I also disagree. Why? Because:

  • 70 percent of sales emails stop trying after their first attempt, showed a recent study by Yesware. If you consistently follow up, you’re actually doing something a small percentage of people manage to do. Just by following up, you’re being different from most of the other emails lingering in your prospects’ inboxes. Just the thing to give you an edge on your competition, right?
  • Most people actually enjoy the persistence of following up. It’s nice to feel like someone is taking an interest in you, especially if you manage to make it feel like it’s not just a transaction. Following up means turning up, consistently, and interacting with your prospects like the reliable, dependable human you are.
  • Following up gives your prospect the impression that they’re not just part of a meaningless, immense bulk email list that you were never going to care about in the first place. Following up says “you’re an individual

The Agoge sequence: combining personalization with automation

What is the Agoge sequence?

The Agoge Sequence is the sequence that the team over at Outreach uses specifically for high-priority prospects. The term was originally coined and developed by Sam Nelson, SDR (Sales Development Rep) Leader at Outreach, when he was first promoted as manager. The Agoge sequence is a framework for getting the most personalization in the right place and at the right time and then milking it all the way through the sequence. Sam’s aim was to find a way of increasing performance, consistency, and innovation within the Outreach sales team.

How does the Agoge sequence work?

Sam Nelson’s Agoge sequence is actually pretty straightforward. The whole thing revolves around personalization and consistency. Sam has his SDRs (Sales Development Reps) manually personalize the very first email sent to every prospect. In a LinkedIn article, he detailed why it’s extremely important to personalize the initial email and keep personalizing every follow up in the form of replies.

Sam’s theory is that the more attention you’re able to grab from your prospect at the beginning of the process, the easier it will be for you to get a response during every follow up step, even if it’s not after the first or second follow up email. That’s why he has SDRs personalize every first email. He continues to do this even today because the team has had immense success in personalizing every email for those high-priority prospects.

You might be thinking: “Personalizing every single email to new prospects? What a waste of time! No way!” I get it. However, personalization doesn’t mean you can’t automate. There are so many tools out there that are available to help you automate even the most personalized of tasks, like my absolute favorite, Woodpecker for example.

How to follow the Agoge sequence?

The Agoge sequence, created by Sam Nelson, is as follows:

  1. Manual personalized email
  2. LinkedIn follow
  3. Phone call
  4. Email reply
  5. Phone call
  6. Phone call
  7. Email reply
  8. LinkedIn InMail
  9. Phone call
  10. New email
  11. Reply email
  12. Reply email
  13. Phone call
  14. Phone call
  15. Breakup email

By the way, you can read more about the Agoge sequence by going through Sam’s article about it here. It’s really well detailed and explained, so if things are fuzzy right now, don’t hesitate to give it a read.

Okay, but how do I write so many emails?

Here are a few examples of emails written in the style of the Agoge sequence. The idea is to mix pre-written chunks of text with highly personalized portions to create a truly human feel.

First email

Subject: hey {{first_name}}

Hi {{first_name}},

I noticed upon browsing your LinkedIn that [insert a comment or observation that couldn’t possibly have been written by a robot, and that sounds personal and authentic]. I would love to help you [insert how your business can help this prospect]

[Insert a pre-written template of 2-3 sentences describing the value of your service/product]. (make it short and sweet – as short as you can in fact)

I’d love for us to hop on a call!

I’m free {{give a time}} or {{another time}} pretty much all day. What works best for you? [Alternately, you can add a scheduling website link like Calendly, for easy calendar access].

Thanks in advance,

{{Your name}}

Follow up email 1

 

Hi {{first_name}},

 

Just checking my last email reached your inbox. I know it’s easy for stuff to get lost so I wanted to get back on your radar.

 

When can we talk?

[insert Calendly link here]

 

PS: attached is (some kind of value you’re adding) – you’ll want to do this because it’s important to always add value to anything you send. *

Thanks,

{{sender.first_name}}

A sidenote about Becc Holland’s take on follow up emails

This is something that I learned through a Youtube video called Follow Up Emails: How to Not Eff-Up your F-Ups, featuring the awesome Becc Holland. Becc is the CEO and founder of Flip the Switch, a company that helps with sales training. Her method is inspired by the Agoge sequence, though it differs a lot in some ways.

For example, Becc suggests sending 4 follow up emails after the first initial email, slightly less than the 6 emails Sam Nelson sends to his high-priority prospects. Becc’s framework is more similar to what we’re going to be presenting today, though. I feel like it’s more accessible to smaller teams and easy to implement even if you’re the only one doing the follow up emails, thanks to those handy automation tools like Woodpecker or Mailshake.

So, what should a follow up email sequence look like?

Alright, now that we’ve gone over the Agoge sequence, and Becc Holland’s take on it, we’re going to take the sum of those two + my personal experience A/B testing hundreds of different cold email parameters to conjure up the perfect email sequence. The question is, what on earth is a follow-up email sequence supposed to look like, realistically?

As Becc quite justly stated, follow up emails are what is going to make sure your prospects start their journey with you by having a great customer experience. By sending out consistent follow up emails, we’re being constant, we’re turning up every time and showing we care. Here is the framework for the ideal follow up email sequence:

  1. A highly personalized initial email
  2. A personalized reply email

For the purpose of this article, we’re going to skip through discussing the initial email, because of the fact that we’re trying to focus on follow up emails. However, many of the tips and tricks I’ll be bringing up will be relevant to the initial email you’ll send to your prospects, too.

The first follow up email – the reply

The first follow up email you’re going to send your prospects is just a quick reminder that goes something along the lines of:

“Hi there,

Any thoughts about the email above?

PS: attached is (some kind of value)”

As you can see, this first part of the sequence is inspired by the Agoge sequence, mixed with Becc’s great idea of adding value every single time. She swears by the fact of adding value to any kind of email or communication with prospects whatsoever. This appears in the form of a quick and efficient “PS:”. Here, you can input anything that is relevant to your situation. This could be:

  • Some gated content like a downloadable guide
  • An article or blog post
  • A webinar
  • An e-book
  • A video
  • A LinkedIn post

So the first follow up email is a reply email to your first personalized email with a simple set of words: any thoughts? + PS + adding any kind of value you could add.

The second follow up email – the fresh, new thread

The second follow up email, unsurprisingly, will be a highly personalized email again. What you’re going to want to do is start fresh by writing a brand new email and not clicking reply as you did with the first follow up email.

The premise: making things personal

The idea here is to introduce the email by including what Becc Holland calls a “premise”, which consists of whatever you can find that is as personalized as you possibly can make it. This could look anything like this:

  • Mentioning an article your prospect wrote, saying you really enjoyed it, and briefly explaining why
  • Complimenting your prospect on the growth of their business
  • Chatting about some content that your prospect engaged with, which would be something they liked or shared on LinkedIn or other social media
  • Commenting on your prospect’s recent success
  • Congratulating your prospect if they’ve recently had a promotion or new opportunity
  • Discussing a hobby or passion your prospect has mentioned on their LinkedIn for example

By the way, Becc Holland has brilliantly classified these “premises” and put them into 5 different categories, which I thought it would be interesting to share (here they are on the Chorus.ai website) :

  • Self-authored content (e.g., a piece of content the prospect wrote)
  • Engaged content (e.g., a piece of content that was liked or shared by the prospect)
  • Self-attributed traits (e.g., something you have noticed that the prospect does well or has succeeded in)
  • Junk drawer (e.g., the prospect’s hobby or maybe a school they attended)
  • The prospect’s company (e.g., news about the company that you feel like you can comment on)

The premise part of your second follow up email is going to be the longest part of the email. Why? Because it’s literally giving a reason for the outreach – it’s explaining why you have an interest in the prospect and hooking their attention.

Hooking the personalization to your value proposition

Once you’ve explained why you’re contacting your prospect, and what connects you to them, it’s time to link the premise with your value proposition. Becc actually says that this part should be “the least valuable real estate in the email”, so make things brief and straight to the point. The only thing you should be trying to do is quickly go over your offering. It shouldn’t be more than one sentence or two.

By the way, Becc’s advice is that the whole follow up email isn’t much longer than 4 sentences. That way, your prospect won’t feel overwhelmed, and you’re making yourself and the information you’re offering much more accessible. It’s not going to steal away a whole chunk of your prospect’s day to read that email, which makes it more likely they will.

The last line: the call to action

It’s very likely that your prospect will look at the first line of your email, then the last line. The last line of your email should be the shortest of all parts, and it should contain the call to action (CTA). Make it simple and really clear. It could be something like:

“Can I have a few minutes at 3 p.m. next Tuesday to chat about this?”

A few important guidelines

You can add as much light humour as you’d like, as long as you stay brief, straight to the point, and respectful. Try to stick to these principles and you’ll smash your follow up email:

  • Don’t be too casual or sound too silly – avoid GIFs or using slang
  • Don’t waste text by saying anything like “I know you’re busy, but…”
  • Don’t sound authoritative or irritated that your prospect hasn’t yet answered
  • Never question your prospect’s authority by saying anything like “maybe you’re not the right person” or anything that suggests they’re not sufficiently informed to deal with you
  • Don’t glorify yourself or your product/service by making yourself the hero, always keep things revolving around the prospect
  • Don’t make your prospect feel stupid or less than by saying things like “Does that make sense?”

The third follow up email: holding yourself accountable

Humility and accountability goes a long way

It goes without saying that if you’ve got this far in your cold email follow up sequence, it’s because you haven’t yet had an answer from your prospect. At this point, it’s easy to get frustrated and impatient. We’ve all been in the position of thinking “why on earth is this person not answering me?! My offering is perfect for them!”. But no, hold on tight, it’s very important to be patient.

In fact, not only am I advising you to be patient when your prospect still hasn’t answered three of your emails, but I’m also going to say that this is the point when you should be holding yourself accountable for their lack of response. Let me explain.

It would be very tempting here to add value to your offering by insinuating that you’re still here, turning up, even though your prospect hasn’t answered your previous emails. Instead, try and add value to your offering by implementing humility in a proactive way. It’s all about accountability and taking the blame, not placing it on your prospect.

You can do this by offering up a little bit of vulnerability. Admit your mistakes, go all out to show that you may not have been 100% right in the way you approached your prospect in the first place. This is actually probably true: if you’ve got to this point in the sequence it’s most likely because you weren’t compelling enough in the eyes of your prospect. So, just be honest. Lead with the mistake you previously made. This can look something like (again, inspired by Becc Holland’s take on follow up sequences):

“I was reading an article this morning about being relevant to your buyer, and I was convicted about the email that I sent you. I’m worried that my outreach wasn’t super relevant to you as a buyer”

Ask for your prospect’s consent and permission

This is the point where you’re going to be requesting your prospect’s approval to go into another personalized pitch before you start. You’re asking their permission to pitch them again. This will look like this:

“With your permission, I would like another shot at earning some of your time”

Add a premise to personalize things + CTA

At this point, you can just simply use the same infrastructure as you did in the previous email by adding something relevant to your prospect, something personal. Explain the reason for your outreach, differently than how you did last time. Be careful that you don’t bring up something completely irrelevant to your offering, just for the sake of personalization.

You can then go ahead and include a CTA that will go something along the lines of “Can you give me some time this week?” or anything that induces an action from your prospect.

The fourth follow up email: the break up email

Why send a break up email?

Right, so… The four previous emails haven’t worked. You’ve still not been able to get a response from your prospect – no sign of life, not one word, nothing. I know, it’s extremely frustrating. Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to go on forever. You’re going to have to break up with your unresponsive prospect.

Allow me to reassure you: breaking up isn’t always a bad thing! Here, it will open the door to a myriad of important points for you. First of all, it will allow you to focus your time, energy, attention, and efforts on other leads that may be more responsive or interested in your offering. Indirectly, this can do wonders for your conversion rates, according to recent research. Parting ways with your unresponsive prospects could allow you to:

  • Save time by regaining focus on the prospects that matter
  • Declutter your pipeline
  • Raise your response rate
  • Trigger relief or want in your prospect – we all want what we can’t have!

What does a break up email look like?

In a breakup email, you’re promising that you’re going to let them go after this. Spoiler alert: you’re going to have to stick to it. Do not try and pitch anything else after the breakup email, don’t try and get one last little push out of the prospect. Time’s up – make sure you’re honouring your promise of leaving them be.

Your break up email should look something like this:

  1. Check-in with your prospect and make sure they don’t feel offended. Be genuine with your prospect.
  2. Personalize the email by inserting your prospect’s situation, whatever you talked about previously in the four emails. Your aim is to give some kind of research and personalization to their company. Try and give a personalized reason as to why you originally thought it was a good idea to reach out to your prospect.
  3. Call out what you reckon your prospect is thinking as to why you haven’t connected yet. It’s important at this point that you show your prospect that you don’t have an agenda of pushing a product on them if it’s not a fit and that what you really have is their best interest at heart.
  4. Lead with the truth that you’re okay if they don’t buy your product or service. It’s okay if you’re not a fit for each other. Try and communicate the idea that you’re after their own good, only if there’s an immediate need. If not, you’ll let them go.
  5. Sign the email.
  6. Leave with some kind of value, just like we mentioned in the first follow up email.

“Hi x,

The reason for my outreach is that I wanted to check in one last time and just make sure that I haven’t overstepped.

Given your ——————, I thought you might like the attached piece of content on —————

Maybe it’s me, but I’m getting the feeling that now is just not the best time to connect.

If not, no worries, maybe we can connect in the future?

All the best,

Your name

PS: I thought you might enjoy the following content: add value”

Cold email follow up sequence: the best practices

Now that we’ve been through the detailed structure of your follow up sequence, hopefully, you know what these emails are supposed to look like. I thought it would be nice to include a few tips and tricks as well as some of the best practices I like to stick to when writing these (sometimes challenging) cold email follow up sequences.

Write catchy subject lines

I know that subject lines can be a tricky thing to get perfect, but this isn’t a matter of getting things perfect – your second follow up email should feel like an effortless conversation, just like you popping in to say hi. Don’t worry about it being overly polished and perfect. You’re a human talking to another human, and this email should reflect that.

I usually suggest not to give away too much information in the subject line, but do awaken some kind of curiosity, without misleading people which will lead to them inevitably being irritated that you click-baited them within their own inbox. Really, don’t do that, like ever. Find the right balance between catching prospects’ attention without misleading them completely. This, for me, works by writing subject lines that are like: “Call?” It’s short, it’s sweet, and it kind of tricks people into thinking it’s something important because it’s got to do with a call. I’m not however misleading them into thinking they’ve won a prize or something, see what I mean?

Keep things short, always

Recent research performed by popup builder Sleeknote shows that emails with shorter paragraphs of 95 words had a significantly better performance than emails with longer paragraphs of 170 words. In fact, the shorter emails had a 5.81% higher response rate.

Don’t bother with unnecessary greetings such as “I hope you’re doing well” – you can remain polite without adding the superfluous bulk to your email. Remember that your prospects have many more emails to deal with in their inbox, so you’ve got a very small opportunity to make an impact. Every word counts.

Make it look real and authentic

The email should look like it’s a real email. Write it in a way that really does feel conversational and spontaneous. Don’t overthink it – when it looks overthought, everything is structured 100% neatly and perfectly, it will end up looking pre-planned and automated, the opposite of personalized. So that’s definitely something you want to avoid because you’ll see that your reply rates will end up going down. I’m confident that organic, authentic, and personalized follow up emails are what will get you that sale in the end.

Personalize as much as you can

My aim is really for it to look genuine and human like I really did just manually write that email to that specific person. I want a reply on this, even if it’s “no sorry I’m not interested”, and the only way I can really get a reply is by convincing my prospects that I’m a real person they can talk to. I mean, what’s the point of answering an automated CRM email? Your lead won’t even be sure it’s even getting to a real person, so they’ll probably feel like it will be a waste of time. You won’t even have the opportunity to convince them your offering is the right fit for their problem. That’s why I make things as personalized as I can.

A few bonus tips

  1. Never forget to include a clear and natural CTA (Call to Action).
  2. Be very careful never to sound passive-aggressive. Avoid any microaggressions like “you didn’t reply to my last three emails” or anything of the sort.
  3. Be coherent within your email sequence. Be careful that every email in the sequence is related and tied together.
  4. Add value whenever you possibly can.

Write the email in your Gmail for it to feel human and not CRM generated (thanks to tools like Woodpecker that connect to your Gmail)

The bottom line: the importance of following up

In my experience, the follow up is where the majority of conversions happen. Don’t expect a conversion to happen in the first email, because it most likely won’t. You absolutely need to follow up. Focus on bringing irresistible value to the table, rather than selling your offering to your prospect. You can be truly valuable to your lead, the only thing left to do now is to be consistent, patient, respectful of boundaries, and always turn up.

I do hope this article will have been useful to you. I’m a marketing expert and I have a ton of resources out there to help you in navigating the complex and huge world of cold emails, among other subjects. Feel free to browse through my blog, which is updated regularly, and watch some of my many Youtube videos. Here are some of the resources I think will help you most with cold emailing:

Cold Email Tutorial: Where To Get Emails For Cold Emailing (2021)

Best Cold Email Software 2021 (top automation tool)

How to Get Emails for Your Cold Outreach Campaign?

Cold Email Tutorial For Beginners (Step By Step Guide) 2021

IS Cold Email Illegal? (Fully Answered)

Is Cold Email Illegal (GDPR Explained)

Cold Email Marketing Tutorial (4 Strategies For 2022)

How to Maximize Your Cold Email Deliverability in 2022?

How To Write A Cold Email (using a FLIRTING technique)

How To Use Video In Cold Email (The Video Prospecting Method)

How to write the best B2B follow up email sequence to drive massive growth (Fully Explained)

Best Cold Email Automation Tool | Woodpecker (the quickest to learn)

How to Write A Cold Email Campaign Which Gets a TON of Sales Meetings (The First-Liner Method)

 

Useful Resources & Tutorials

I hope you found this ebook helpful. Down below, I’ve listed some links to tutorials that you might find useful if you’re looking to set up LinkedIn ads.

How To Run Successful LinkedIn Ads in 2021 – a step by step 38-minute tutorial where we cover all the fundamentals of running LinkedIn ads.

LinkedIn Campaign Manager Tutorial – a 9-minute video that’ll give you a deep overview & bring you up to speed on how LinkedIn Campaign Manager works.

Lead Generation Forms (step by step tutorial) – this 10-minute tutorial will show you how to use lead generation forms & get the cheapest cost per lead.

Which LinkedIn Ads Objectives – Explained (2021) – in this 13-minute video, I cover how to properly use the right LinkedIn ads objectives to your advantage.

Philip Ilic

Philip Ilic

B2B Growth Specialist

Phil helps B2B SaaS companies with growth marketing and is a deep specialist in Linkedin advertising and paid social more generally (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). He runs a paid social agency called Superlumen.co and is the founder of B2Bhero.co.

0 Comments

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Agoge Sequence (Fully Explained) - B2B HERO - […] I mentioned earlier, I have a really in-depth article if you want to see real examples of a cold…

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: