Ask any journalist and they'll tell you that there are lots and lots of folks out there who are terrible at sending follow-up emails. As a profession, we're bombarded with nudging notes from possible sources and PR pros, and honestly, most of them are nakedly self-interested, borderline rude and highly annoying (and basically completely kill your chances of getting any press for your company).
With the apparent state of the business community's pestering skills so poor, it was great to read a recent post by Teju Ravilochan, co-founder and CEO of the Unreasonable Institute. It's entitled '7 Emails you Need to Know How to Write', and among advice on how to ask for an introduction and say no gracefully, Ravilochan included clever tips on how to be politely persistent in getting someone to write you back.
The first follow-up
When he's writing to someone cold, Ravilochan notes, it generally takes at least two or three notes to get a response, which has given him plenty of practice in the fine art of the follow-up. After sending his initial request, he generally sends another "nudge" email after about a week that "acknowledges the recipient is likely busy (and that my email isn't her first priority)", "is warm and understanding", and "is short." He even offers a possible template to follow:
[Name], I hope your day is going great! Forgive me for emailing you again, but I just wanted to follow up on the email below and see if you might have any thoughts. Consider this no more than a friendly nudge!
The second follow-up
When that doesn't do the trick, he gives the recipient another two weeks before sending a second follow-up that goes something like this:
I hope you'll forgive me for writing you yet another email, but here at the Unreasonable Institute, we believe in persistence to an unreasonable degree. If [opportunity / ask], isn't up your alley, I completely understand. I simply did not want to miss this chance to [opportunity - like 'invite you to be a mentor at the Unreasonable Institute' or 'connect you to an investment opportunity I think would be perfect for you'].
Whether it's a fit or not, I sincerely appreciate you considering the request.
This technique, he claims, has only resulted in one truly negative response out of hundreds of attempts. Brevity, warmth, empathy for the other person's schedule and inbox, and simple gratitude, it seems, not only make your recipients' lives much better but payoff big time for the sender.
Could your pestering skills use a little polishing?