I'm always surprised when people ask me if they should send a follow up email to a potential client, investor or anybody they're trying to get in contact with. Following up with people is critical in business, especially when you're building a startup that most people haven't heard of yet. How do I follow up? Why follow up? Here are some basics on how and why to follow up.
The first follow up email should usually occur 5-7 days after the initial reach out. There is no golden rule here but most people will respond to an email within a week. You want to give them the opportunity to respond while still remaining persistent. People are busy and you shouldn't feel like you've been rejected because you haven't heard back in a week. I've found that following up after a week often yields a quick response that gets you a call or meeting. Other times the person will respond apologizing and explaining that they're currently super busy. No problem- when this happens it's your job to either get something on the calendar for the future or set a reminder for yourself to follow up again in 6 weeks once things settle down for that person.
When to send the second follow up email is more debatable. Some will swear that you should send it a week later. Others will say, "Wait, you mean you send more than one follow up?" Yes. Of course. Part of following up is that you can't ever assume rejection. I like to wait a couple more weeks before sending a second follow up. It's an easy way to show that you're serious about getting in touch with the person but not overeager. I've had a ton of success getting meetings through second follow ups. You really can't quit until you get a response.
What do I write in a follow up email? My advice is keep it short and sweet. The most important thing is to reply to your previous email as a reminder of what your initial ask was about. Something like, "Following up to see if you can chat later this week," is a basic follow up that works well. You may want to add another line or two but the follow up is really just a reminder. In general, the shorter the email the better it is.
Why follow up? Persistence wins and most people feel guilty about following up. They think that they're too annoying. They fear rejection and worry about being rude. Well if you have any experience building a startup or in sales you already know that rejection is part of the game. There is nothing wrong with following up. All successful entrepreneurs and salespeople follow up often. Very often. People are really busy. People get way too many emails. I know one investor that often deletes his entire inbox. That investor understands that if something is important they'll get a follow up about it. So if you're fundraising, trying to get a job at a cool startup or just in sales don't be afraid to send a follow up. You'll be rewarded for your persistence over time.