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Following Up vs. Nagging. What’s the difference?

3 min read
Updated Aug. 4, 2021
Published Apr. 3, 2017

Like anyone with a company email address and a LinkedIn profile, I get a fair amount of cold emails. In my position, it’s actually pretty useful. Every cold email is an opportunity to do some user research on how sales reps are using email to start conversations, something I write about on a weekly basis.

While technology has had a dramatic impact on the personalization and accuracy of cold emails, 80% of email still lands on the content and tone, both of which come from the sales reps themselves and their communication skills.

And when it comes to soft communication skills, most sales reps have a long way to go.

Pestering vs. Persistence

So much of sales success today is based on persistence. While research reports differ on the specifics, all recent studies agree that it takes a number of touches on multiple channels to make a successful connection.
Internally and across the industry, we refer to this as “persistence” as it’s a good word for illustrating the determination and resilience it takes to get to a first meeting. But executed poorly, a multitouch approach falls well short of persistence and becomes pestering. Multiple emails or touches from a sales rep do little good if each one is as ineffective as the one before it.

So how can sales reps walk the line between following up effectively and nagging? There are a few basic tips that have been around for years that many sales reps seem to have forgotten about that can make all the difference.

Offer New Information

Nothing’s worse than getting the follow-up emails that offer nothing new to the conversation. Perfectly tailoring one email with current, relevant information isn’t enough. Every email you send should be hyper-personalized and provide value to your prospect. This doesn’t require a great deal of effort and can actually make second or third follow-ups a bit easier.

Make a comment about recent news related to their company or industry. Pass on some recent content or resources. The specifics don’t matter as much as having a reason for your follow up beyond “just moving this to the top of your inbox again..”

Use Multiple Channels

We’ve all heard the old adage “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” While sending multiple emails or making multiple calls to the same prospect isn’t exactly insane, it’s not the smartest decision when you have so many channels at your disposal.

If your first or second emails aren’t getting a response, try LinkedIn, Twitter, or phone. Sales platforms like Salesloft allow you to create multi-channel cadences for your prospects in minutes, making cross-channel communication a breeze. From your prospect’s perspective, three messages on different channels will seem far less pushy and irritating than just three emails.

While technology can make you far more accurate and efficient, effective sales will always come down to the empathy and communication skills of the sales rep. Before rushing off to blast your prospects into submission with emails, take a minute to put yourself in their shoes and think about what you could do differently to breakthrough.

A little thought and attention can go a long way.

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