How to Write a Follow-Up Email After No Response

Email follow up

By James Archer

You get a new lead through your website. It sounds like they’re a great fit for you, and you immediately shoot them an email back telling them you’re excited to talk with them and proposing a few times to chat.

Then nothing happens. They never respond.

It’s just...silence.

You’re baffled. They were obviously ready to talk because they contacted you, and you responded to them within minutes. You could have had a follow-up call with them today, but instead a week has passed and they never replied. The ball’s in their court, but it’s like they walked away from the game.

So what do you do next?

Why no reply to your email?

I’ve been there before. Hundreds of times. Over the course of several years, I started to get the hang of getting people to respond. But, more importantly, I also came to understand (and have some empathy for) why they weren’t replying.

Because business owners tend to live and die by those email conversations, it’s easy to read too much into them. They love me! They hate me! They went with someone else. We bid too much. We bid too little. I worded the email wrong. I forgot the attachment. I spelled their name wrong. It’s an emotional roller coaster.

But the truth is, they’re probably just busy. That reply is super important to you, but it’s just one of a thousand things they’re dealing with at the moment, and it’s really easy for them to ignore or forget about it. Your email landed in the middle of their inbox along with countless others. Even if they really like you and want to talk to you, it’s just hard to stay on top of everything.

So the first thing to remember is that following up is really doing them a favor. It’s very possible that they wanted to reply to you and simply forgot, or just didn’t have time. By following up, you’re relieving the pressure on them to keep track of everything. Not only does this help them remember to reply to your email, but it also builds their confidence and trust in you. They know you’re not going to leave them hanging.

The other thing to remember is that the ball is never in their court. It’s always in yours. When you send an email off, it’s not their responsibility to reply. It’s your responsibility to follow-up. You can check “Email so-and-so” off your list, but you have to then replace it with a task to “Follow up with so-and-so,” and you keep doing that until you get a response.

How to write a follow up email after no response

The trick to writing a great follow-up email is that you have to come across as the kind of person they want to talk to. It has to feel good. If you’re annoying, spamming, or boring, they’re never going to reply—or if they do, it’ll just be to tell you to buzz off.

Instead, be warm and personable. Keep it short so they know you’re respecting their time, and be casual so they feel like they can be straightforward with you.

Even when dealing with Fortune 500 companies, this is what my email follow-ups typically sounded like:

  • Hey, Mary, just following up to see when would be a convenient time for you to chat for 10-15 minutes. How’s this Thursday at 2pm looking for you?

  • Tim, I don’t think I heard back from you after my last email. When would be a good time for us to connect? Would you have some time to talk tomorrow at 4?

  • Hey, Susan, I’d love to get your thoughts on the estimate I sent over. Have you had a chance to look at it yet?

  • Carlos, we met at the conference after-party last week. I enjoyed our conversation about your customers, and would love to show you a few real-world examples of solutions we talked about. Could I stop by for about 30 minutes on Friday afternoon?

By keeping the emails short, it helps them feel like it’s okay to give a quick reply instead of sitting down to write a lengthy response. That’s a good thing. It keeps the conversation flowing, and some reply is a million times better than no reply to a follow-up email. Even if it’s just “Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet,” at least then you know.

Sometimes people heap on the guilt to try to get a response, writing things like “I’ve sent you three emails and you haven’t responded yet. When can I expect to hear from you?” That’s terrible. It makes you sound needy and creates a feeling of guilt that they’ll associate with your name. You don’t want to go there. Just keep it light and airy and be persistent.

That said, it’s good to add some kind of a hook that creates a small sense of obligation. Remind them—very gently—that you took a step and now you’re waiting on a response for them. The messages above, for example, included “I don’t think I heard back from you” and “Have you had a chance to look at it yet?”, both of which can make the recipient think Oh, yeah, I still need to do that. That may be enough to tip them over into actually replying to your email.

And try to keep things specific. If you just say “a quick call” or “a few minutes,” or “let’s talk next week” it’s vague and they’ll assume it’ll take longer or be more complicated than they want. But if you say “10-15 minutes” or “Tuesday at 2:00pm” it’s a lot more tangible and they can give you a concrete answer.

How many times should you follow up after no reply?

It’s hard to know exactly how frequently you should follow up after an email with no reply, because you want to be persistent without being spammy.

The real answers will vary depending on your industry and customers, but as an example to use as a starting point, here’s a typical schedule you might follow:

  • First follow-up email (no reply)
  • 1 day after first email
  • 2 day after first email
  • 1 week after first email
  • 2 weeks after first email
  • 1 month after first email
  • 2 months after first email
  • 3 months after first email

Once you’re 14 days out without a response, the chances of hearing from them go way down. However, it doesn’t hurt to toss them onto a monthly cycle for a few months, since they might have just gotten distracted by another project, an unexpected business trip, a key employee resigning, or something like that. There’s still hope that you can catch them at the right time, and I’ve won a surprising number of projects over the years simply by sending an occasional follow-up message to someone I thought I’d never hear back from.

Obviously, you don’t want to send the same message each time. Mix it up! Try to keep it relevant and interesting. Here are a few hypothetical examples:

  • 1 day after first email: Hey, Martha, just wanted to follow up again to see if we could chat for 30 minutes this afternoon. Would 3pm work for you?

  • 2 days after first email: Since we weren’t able to connect yesterday, would you have about 30 minutes to speak tomorrow morning at 9am? I’d love to show you some examples of projects we’ve worked on that are very similar to yours.

  • 1 week after first email: Martha, how’s Tuesday at 2pm looking for you? We weren’t able to connect last week, but I’d like to show some past work we’ve done that’s similar to what you’re looking for, and see if we can work out an initial solution for your project.

  • 2 weeks after first email: Hey, Martha, just wanted to check in to see if you’re still interested in the project you’d asked about. If so, would you be available to chat for 30 minutes tomorrow?

  • 1 month after first email: Martha, I’m guessing you found a provider for your project already, but I thought I’d just check in to make sure everything’s going well for you. Did you ever find a solution to that particular problem you’d mentioned? I’d love to know how you approached it. Could we have a quick call for 15 minutes this Friday afternoon?

  • 2 months after first email: Hey, Martha, I saw on LinkedIn that you’d been promoted to manager. Congratulations! Are you still over that project you’d asked us about? If not, who would be the best person for me to talk to?

  • 3 months after first email: Martha, you’d reached out to us about three months ago to ask about a potential project. Did you ever get that resolved, or is that still something you’re looking for?

Obviously, you’ll want to tailor those to your specific needs and audience, but those will give you an idea of the kind of quick and easy follow ups you can send.

Email follow-up reminders

The hardest part about all these reminders is just remembering to do them. That’s where the process usually breaks down.

If you’re very good at using a to-do list like Todoist, Wunderlist, or Asana, you can track them all there. It’s a bit of a hassle, but it can be done. For the email wizards out there, you might also be able to set up a system of flags and folders to help you remember to follow up. In my experience these tend to get out of control quickly, but you might find luck with them.

The best answer may be an app that’s specifically focused on helping you stay in touch with clients, like MailButler, Follow Up Boss, or our own Peachee. These can integrate with your email and other accounts, and help you to easily remember to stay in touch without having to do extra work.

Whatever solution you wind up using, you’ll find that well-written and consistent emails can help you overcome the dreaded “no response to follow-up email” problem, and win you projects you would otherwise have certainly lost.