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The Email Query

by David Brock on June 20th, 2013

I get these every day.

“Hi Dave,

I just wanted to follow up to see if you received my last email?  In case you did not, I’ve included it below.

Let me know if you’d like to jump on a quick 10-15 minute call to discuss.

Have a great day!”

It was signed by the sales person and the original email was attached.

I responded:

“Yes, I received your last email.  My lack of response should be an indicator of my total lack of interest.”

Why do sales people do such stupid things?  Why are they trained to do such stupid things?  Why do their managers encourage them to do such stupid things?

If I never received the first email, then clearly I wouldn’t receive this email.  So why ask?  (I did make sure this sender was added to my SPAM list, I suspect next week I’ll receive an email “Did you receive my last email inquiring about my previous email which said this……’)

If I received your first email and didn’t respond, why inflict it on me again, and ask me to reread it?  Wouldn’t you be better served by trying another approach to catch my attention?  Do you have a different message, do you have a different idea, do you know what might be relevant and interesting for me to respond to?

If your first email didn’t get a response, do something different!

From → Performance

  1. John Sterrett permalink

    And yet, just last week this was the scenario I found myself in. After my follow-up email failed to illicit a response, I called, got through to the customer and we furthered our discussion.

    In these days of instant communication, many things can go wrong. Orthography is not a certainty. ASCII interpretation is not a certainty. Bandwidth is not a certainty. Packet transmission is not a certainty. Individual and Corporate SPAM filter settings are not certainties. You could accidentally include a word in the subject line that gets your mail filtered.

    In my case, it was an international email that just disappeared into cyberspace.

    As I find that 90% of my clients would rather be contacted by email, I will always send the second one, just in case. THEN I will “try another approach” like calling, sending a personal note via the USPS (!), inviting a co-worker of theirs to lunch and asking them to invite the target contact, or enrolling my kids in their kids’ pre-school.

    So I have to disagree that this is a “stupid thing”. Annoying to the receiver sometimes, but not ‘stupid’ on the part of the sender.

    • John, I had to pull out my dictionary on this note 😉

      I think you may have misunderstood my problem. I love email, even well crafted email campaigns targeting me. Email campaigns and email nurturing campaigns are very powerful. They build interest, they build a story, they build knowledge, and to a degree the build familiarity — and a relationship.

      The problem with this email campaign is the guy didn’t build a story. He just wanted to keep telling me the same story over and over. Even worse, rather than recrafting it, (perhaps I hadn’t seen it), he just forwarded it with a note “Did you see it?”

      It’s laziness, it’s bad salesmanship, it’s bad campaign strategy.

      Your approach of sending a second email, a phone call, maybe another email and another phone call, and another….. is perfect. Mixing the channels–email, phone, snail mail, is brilliant. But I bet you don’t say the very same thing—word for word, or forwarded, in each email, etc.

  2. Dave,

    Maybe this was a test to see if anyone was paying attention but I COMPLETELY DISAGREE with you!

    If your entire sales strategy is built around not pissing a single person off then you’re not going to sell much.

    If someone fits my ideal prospect profile, just because they don’t respond does not mean they are not interested.

    I would argue that a lot of people are unhappy with what they have but are too busy solving other problems that they don’t have the time or maybe the budget to do anything about it right now and that’s why they don’t respond to an email.

    Now granted perhaps this person was unimaginative in his approach and he’s trying a hard sell approach before knowing if you are dissatisfied with what you have.

    That’s my 2 cents worth.


    • Craig, I think you may have misread, or misunderstood the post. Email is extremely powerful in contacting and connecting with the customer. We all know an effective campaing requires multiple emails, perhaps combined with telephone calls. I do that, my folks do that, and people do that with me all the time.

      My objection is not a well thought out email campaign, or a nurturing email campaign. My objection was the fact the sales person resent the original email with a “did you see it.” I wasn’t interested in his previous story and didn’t respond. So why send it to me again, and again. Why didn’t he craft a different email that told more of his story, what didn’t he expand on the possible value propositions whey doesn’t he execute a strategy of Email 1, Email 2, Email 3…. building on messages, perhaps increasing my interest, or trying a different idea—maybe I wasn’t interested in the last one, but I am in this one.

      If you want to catch my interest, tell me something new, don’t tell me the same story you told me last week–even worse, don’t forward last weeks story and say, “Did you get it?”

      If the first one didn’t provoke a response, don’t send it again, send a different one, if that doesn’t, send a different one.

      The strategy has nothing to do with pissing someone off, the strategy has to do with capturing their attention and imagination.

      Even Sam-I-Am got it right—Would you like it on a plane, would you like it on a train, would you like it on a boat, would you like it in a car?

  3. David, I am certainly glad I read comments to get a more complete view of your point. The blog post left me annoyed Failure to respond does not equal not interested. It may mean not now, I didn’t receive, or I am just too damn busy right now. If the author knew you didn’t care about his pitch, he probably would not have resorted to resending it. I bet he thought he had crafted a wonderful, compelling story and made a reasonable assumption you had not read it since there was no response.

    How would he have known differently?

    • Thanks for the comment Ray. You are absolutely right, failure to respond does not mean not interested. We know effective email marketing programs require multiple touches. We know we enhance the results of these programs by multi channel–for example a combination of telephone and email. We also know to increase the effectiveness of email marketing programs, we create a series of messages or stories. Perhaps the person isn’t interested in the first, so we change it for the second, maybe then we catch their interest, and again for the third, and so forth. We know we are more likely to provoke a response by trying to look at a wide range of interests or issues that our target audiences are likely to respond to. All the research, all the data points to these as best practices in driving high response rates.

      So this sales person, for whatever reasons–bad training, management directing him to do something, lack of skill, or pure laziness chose to ignore all those things that drive higher response rates. He might have skated buy if he sent redistributed the original. He could have done some analysis—was the email opened? If it wasn’t opened, it may not have been delivered (and subsequent emails would not have been delivered, but no one would have been annoyed–no harm, no foul). If it hadn’t been opened, the resend would have been fresh to someone opening it for the first time–again, no harm, no foul. How does he know this—well he should be using some sort of emailing program (which he was), to have determined this information.

      For those that had opened his email, they may or may not have read it, they may or may not have been interested, they may or may not remember it if they read it, they may have been too busy. But we know for this audience, the best practice for engaging is a different message. Perhaps it could have started, “Last week I sent you this…., I’d like to share more……” That would have been a pretty good approach, building on the previous messaged, subtly reminding someone, provoking an “I remember…”

      Instead, he executed probably the worst strategy he could have–forwarding the previous, not telling me anything new if I had read it. Or telling me he was too lazy to develop something new–both if I had read it, or letting me know he’s lazy even if I hadn’t read it before. And would good practice be the following week to resend it again, and again, and again.

      Email marketing is very powerful and very effective. Best practices are well known. Great tools make it easy for anyone to do a great job. But he chose not to. It’s plain and simple bad salesmanship, bad marketing. Now was it his fault–I don’t know, but I really don’t care.

      My point is, it is so easy to do so much better and to be so much more professional. I know I’m probably being overly critical, but we need to hold ourselves and our profession to higher standards. If we have any hope to effectively engage and create value for our customers, driving results for ourselves and our companies, we have to be at the top of our game every day, in every interaction.

  4. If others hadn’t commented, I probably would have read this article, nodded my head, and moved on. But now I can’t.

    I absolutely agree with what I thought was the point – the mindless repetition that substitutes for well-thought out pitches. It serves no purpose other than to fill your Sent mail box and make you think you’re doing something productive.

    • Thanks for the comment John. That’s precisely the point. Hammering someone over the head with exactly the same message over and over is pointless! Thanks for the note. Regards, Dave

  5. David,

    Thjs is a classic example of personal preference versus unbiased empirical evidence. You don’t like these emails. That is clear. That doesn’t mean they aren’t effective or shouldn’t be used as a sales tactic. It just means they don’t work on YOU, and since nothing works on everyone, that is OK as long as there are more people unlike you than like you. The salesperson’s job is to find what works for the most people most of the time.

    My company ( sends millions of sales emails on behalf of our customers every week. We have found this to be universally true: the short follow up “bump” email you reference above is actually more effective at eliciting positive replies than the original email that was sent. That’s right. The email you hate, across millions of emails, is more effective at generating positive replies than the original email you don’t seem to mind. And, interestingly, bumping the original message twice with the quick “did you get this” email in-thread replies is even more effective.

    This means you can write 1 good email and bump it twice with short emails, and statistically – not preferencially – speaking, get better results than writing 2 longer emails like the original one referenced in the bumper messages.

    Because the bumper messages can be automated, with the right tool (shameless plug), you can create efficiencies that dramatically affect productivity and results with this sound tactic.

    Being a bit snarky here, but before you call a salesperson (and his/her manager) using statistically intelligent tactics stupid (as you did above), make sure you aren’t talking out of ignorant personal preference.

    • Mark, thanks for your thoughtful response. Clearly, you can create better, incremental results through bumping. Your data’s not surprising. But is that producing the best result possible? Do we bump up the overall effectiveness of email as a marketing tool by adopting better practices. For example, the research shows over 70% of marketers have no or limited targeting in their campaigns–so we get bad results because we’re sending them to the wrong people. Bumps will, as your data shows, improves that a bit. But we have the ability to target and design more appropriate more relevant messages in the first place. And there is plenty of data supporting this. Then what if we tried to build a conversation with the customer over time, in the follow ups, rather then resending the same old message (bumping), other data shows that extending the story in subsequent emails draws better responses. The Dr. Suess example in the post simplistic example of building and extending the story started by the first email.

      Other data shows a general market weariness of email in general, with email effectiveness declining and other channels picking up.

      So while we might take a poorly conceived email, which fails to capture anyone’s attention, and get incrementally better results through bumps, what if we tried to change our approach to email, leveraging best practices of targeting, relevant/timely messages, building on the story to drive further responses. Clearly, the research shows these approaches as best practices driving higher levels of results and engagement. Wouldn’t everyone be better served by looking at the data underlying these best practices and trying to do those.

      People do mediocre and stupid things every day, somehow producing results. One can look at those statistics and say, “Sure, let’s do more stupid stuff.” They can find ways of convincing themselves these are great. Perhaps it is better to go back to fundamentals of great email marketing (or anything for that matter) and say, how to we leverage best practices to produce the best results possible.

      People can leverage tools like that you provide to produce even superior results to the bumps.

      • Dave – I see the context of your critique now! You are right. No tactic can help make a horribly written, templatized, piece-of-junk email more palatable to prospects being drown everyday by them.

        I once heard a sales trainer I respect greatly (Mike Weinbert) tell me that it’s too bad 95% of sales people are bad, because it ruins it for the 5% that are great partners in helping prospects come to the best decision.

        I’ll keep fighting to have my team work hard to stay in the 5% if you keep calling out the 95%! Deal?


        • Mark, thanks for the response–we’ve got a deal. Actually, I don’t believe the 95% want to be bad (at least the majority of them). I think they are trained, told, and measured incorrectly. This is what causes them to do bad/stupid things.

          We need to continue to work with their management to help them do the right things in the right ways.

          We’ve got a deal, but you still go after the 95%, as well, telling them how they can more effectively leverage tools like yours to produce even better results to connect with their customers more effectively.

          Thanks for a great discussion. Regards, Dave

  6. So I have to agree with David here.

    I’ve written and ran thousands of email tests and campaigns for 200+ B2B companies in the last 2 years, and what I’ve found is this:

    The winning strategy for cold email is all about “maximizing variance.”

    Yes, you need to first have a targeted audience that consists of qualified potential buyers, and you need to have messaging that matches that audience’s needs/pains.

    However, here’s the reality:


    And sending one email that follows up with the same redundant content is not going to help you test or appeal to the naturally occurring variance within your audience.

    That said, we always create a sequence of 8 emails for our clients to send to their list, along with multiple variants.

    We do this because we’ve found that about 1/3 of total responses will come from emails 5-8 on average.

    This is partly because of good old “persistence,” but the real value comes in when it comes to “maximizing variance.”

    (We never ever ever ever send messages that are redundant that say “just following up,” because those are about 3-4x more likely to get marked as spam by about the 4th redundant message than if you altered your messaging.)

    Redundant emails might “work” in the sense you’re getting responses, but how many of those responses are actually negative?

    And how many more responses could you be getting if you weren’t just putting all your eggs in one basket, and trying different things?

    When we “maximize the variance” within our campaign by crafting and sending 8 emails (times how every many variants), we are able to:

    A) test as many different kinds of messages as possible to see what actually appeals to our audience, so we know what works and does NOT work, rather than just making blind assumptions based on what the sales/marketing department might want to push for political reasons or wrong habits they’ve learned from other companies.

    B) appeal to a larger number of people within our audience, since different people within the same “buyer persona” will have different personalities, priorities, and pain points…and so not all messages will resonate equally with our audience. (The more you try different things, the more different types of individuals will respond, thus increasing your response rate.)

    The results we see based on this approach:

    On average our email campaigns get 3-10x the industry standard, with positive/neutral response rates ranging from 10-35%+, depending on the industry, list quality, and product-market fit.

    I’ve written quite a bit on this, but you can see more about it on the salesfolk blog or at this link which contains some stats from one of our campaigns we ran with Ambition last year:

    If anyone has questions about this, feel free to comment back or shoot me an email to heather at salesfolk.


    • Wow Heather! We’ve all just had the opportunity for “post grad” schooling on email. Thanks so much for taking the time to educate everyone following this and me!

  7. I’m going to jump back into the conversation.

    It’s great to see people contributing their experiences and perspectives so other people can benefit.

    So in the spirit of contributing to the conversation, I have a couple of things to add.

    I teach a kind of blended approach.

    I have a short email that has a main point and then three bullet points.

    I then schedule three follow-on emails that bump the first one with each bump providing more detail on one of the bullet points that were in the original email.

    I like to schedule my bumps on Monday mornings because people have something on their list of things to do and want to get it off that list as soon as possible and they reply or call.

    Or, Friday afternoons because if people have not gotten it off their list, they very often want to before the weekend and they reply or call.

    Here is the link Fast Company article that I think every BDR, SDR, sales person, sales manager, entrepreneur, LeadGen and marketing professional needs to read if they want to maximize the potential of the emails they send –

    My two rules are:

    1) Use a two-word subject line to create curiosity and have the recipient read the first sentence.

    2) The recipient needs to be able to ready and reply in ten seconds or less or they will say to themselves “I’ll read this later” and we all know LATER = NEVER!

    Sometimes even short emails get that kind of response.

    AND …

    That’s why I think follow on emails or bumps as Mark says are so important!

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