Sometimes prospects go dark—stop responding to email and voicemail. Even after good meetings or productive sales calls… where they're enthusiastic about meeting again. Sometimes customers disappear.

Suddenly, and without reason, silence. No heartbeat. No response.

Here's what we've learned after studying unconventional (yet effective) sales email follow up tactics and templates.

Lessons on sales email follow up from the FBI

“If you’re a parent, you already use an effective sales email follow up tactic instinctively,” says Chris Voss, a renowned former FBI kidnapping negotiator and business negotiation expert. 

“What do you do … when your kids won’t leave the house/park/mall? You say, ‘Fine. I’m leaving,’ and you begin to walk away. I’m going to guess that well over half the time they yell, ‘No, wait!’ and run to catch up. No one likes to be abandoned.”

Mr. Voss says starting to walk away may seem like a rude way to address someone in business. But you have to get over that. Indeed, it’s not rude. Ignoring you is what’s rude.

Bottom line: This works as a tactic for follow up emails. It even works across international business cultures. Because the tactic is cloaked with the safety of “no.”

Make your sales follow up email template a safe place

“Yes” is commitment. “No” is protection. Think about it when designing your email follow up messages for unresponsive customers.

“There is no shortage of times during the day when someone is trying to trap us with ‘yes,’” says Voss.

He’s right. Most often, sales people send emails—or have discussions—that “sprinkle a small trail of ‘yes’ to lead us down the path to the big bear trap of ‘YES’,” says Voss.

We try to persuade, convince. Think about it in your life, as a buyer of goods or services.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Voss says there are 3 kinds of “yes.”

  1. Commitment (“I will”)
  2. Confirmation (“I heard you”)
  3. Counterfeit

Most of your clients are becoming experts at giving the counterfeit “yes” … as a reply to the bear trap “YES” lurking around the corner.

This is what makes “no” so powerful. “Yes” is commitment. “No” is protection.

When prospects say “no” they are:

  1. Protecting themselves (from you)
  2. Avoiding feeling vulnerable to you
  3. Demonstrating power, control… and, thus, are more open to listening

That's the psychology.

Whether it's after a meeting or after a sales call... customers tend to protect themselves and are open to demonstrating their decision-making power.

Use one sentence to provoke "no"

Wait a minute. Provoke no? This sounds crazy. Why would you do that?!

Because it works. 

Here’s why this works: Provoking “no” is an email follow up tactic that plays to prospects’ natural aversion to experience loss.

Thus, asking one focused (and unusual) question encourages a client to respond with “no” because it makes the implicit threat you may walk away, on your own terms. If your prospect does not want to lose you they will stop it from happening. They’ll reply with something like:

“No, our priorities haven’t changed. We’ve just gotten bogged down with ________ …”

Prospects will explain why they have not responded to you. That’s the gold.

Here’s another email follow up mental trigger… why this works. Potential buyers will take pleasure in proving their power over you… they will hit reply and disagree.

That’s the beauty of this post-call and/or meeting email follow up. If you don’t receive a reply you likely have an unmotivated prospect. Cut bait and move on!

An odd (but effective) follow up email after a meeting

Is this another charlatan b.s. gimmick? 

Nope. Here's what our clients say:

"Okay, I put this one sentence into action yesterday and today. I wrote 5 of my ghost clients and four have written back. One client wanted me to resend a proposal, one client is not interested at this time and the other two will be checking in with the rest of the team today and asked me to follow up next week. Crazy!"
Brad Gamson

"Jeff - A bit over a week ago I read your 'gone dark' (one sentence) article and I told you I thought it was cool. I finally got around to sending two this morning to two prospects from whom I had total radio silence over a multiple-email period. BOTH wrote back within about 20 minutes. I mentioned it to my partner - he sent one to another prospect. 20 minutes."
Jim Edholm

Join us in our online sales conversation training Academy. I'll share the one-liner template with you.  

Look---you can keep reading conventional tips that don't work OR you can start DOING. Knowledge is worthless---without action. Take action.

None of this is easy. But with the right people involved (helping you) it feels effortless. Fun. Enjoyable. Our community focuses exclusively on new, innovative ways to start conversations using sales email follow up tactics ... after meetings and calls. But that's just the start of it.

Remember: Email prospecting isn't about getting more yeses... or more meetings. Writing sales follow up emails is about getting yeses and meetings from prospects who are ready to give them!

What do you think? Let's chat about this (and your experiences) in comments below!

In 1999, I co-founded what became the Google Affiliate Network and Performics Inc. where I helped secure 2 rounds of funding and built the sales team. I've been selling for over 2 decades.

After this stint, I returned to what was then Molander & Associates Inc. In recent years we re-branded to Communications Edge Inc., a member-driven laboratory of sorts. We study, invent and test better ways to communicate -- specializing in serving sales and marketing professionals.

I'm a coach and creator of the Spark Selling™ communication methodology—a curiosity-driven way to start and advance conversations. When I'm not working you'll find me hiking, fishing, gardening and investing time in my family.

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