Skip to main content ↓

How to Write an Effective Follow-Up Email Sequence That Draws Replies

a pyramid of wooden blocks with a green block in the middle

I’m not going to tell you that 48% of salespeople never follow up because that statistic is fake.

What I’m going to tell you, however, is that I receive enough cold emails to know that most of them aren’t followed up on. What I can also tell you is that as a sales automation tool, my company helps hundreds of customers write their follow-up emails, because most of the time, they’re pretty bad.

Is following up always worth it, though? Based on our experience and data, 70% of responses are generated by the 2nd to 4th email of the sequence. So without a doubt, I’d say yes.

While there’s no “one size fits all” model to writing a cold email sequence, there are a few rules you can rely on to get things moving.

The minimum sales email sequence

This is the AK-47 of follow-up email sequences. Easy to set up, efficient in most cases, and scalable.

It allowed me to land four guest posts in less than two weeks (a 22% success rate).

Every sales email sequence should include at least these three steps:

1) An opening cold email

Without going too deep into details about how to write a cold email, keep it short and include the following elements:

  • Grab the attention
  • Lay out why you’re reaching out to them
  • State what’s in it for them
  • Explain why they should trust you
  • Use a single, clear call to action

Keep a conversational tone, personalize your content, add value (more on that later), and clearly express what it is you want.

Also, it’s always good to warm up a cold email recipient with a personalized LinkedIn contact request.

2) A gentle but firm reminder (2-3 days after the initial email)

Emails tend to be overlooked; your prospect might be busy, not in a good mood to answer, or simply out of office for a few days. You’d be amazed at the power of a simple reminder.

Don’t repeat yourself, though. Follow up in the same thread and simply ask if they saw your previous email, if they got a chance to think about your offer, etc.

3) A break-up email (4-5 days after the previous email)

I’m about to let you in on a secret.

Seriously, this is the formula for a break-up email that gets a response.

You know how no one wants to miss out, and most people want to help. And also how some people simply need a second reminder?

There’s a single sentence that encapsulates all that. Here it is:

What could have changed your mind?

Try to use that as your subject line (or as part of your subject line) and ask in your body text if they can point you to a couple things that might have swayed their decision.

Why is it so powerful? It makes the reader think about your offer and the reasons they wouldn’t give you an answer. And suddenly, when they type those reasons out, they don’t seem so compelling anymore.

Hate your current CRM? Still working off spreadsheets? Register for our “Intro to Nutshell” live demo and see why sales teams love us!


Powerful email marketing, minus the headaches

Nutshell Campaigns plugs directly into your CRM data, so you can create highly targeted audience segments, track the impact of your emails in real-time, and manage all your communications out of a single tool. Get started for free!


an envelope with a piece of paper in it that says to audience

The business sales email sequence

Depending on the importance of the decision, the risk, and the reputation of the company, some follow-up sequences may require more than a few emails and demand more persuasion.

This follow-up sales email sequence involves more work but also drives much more value. It helped us recruit our first 175 customers.

It runs over a two-week period and looks something like this:

  • Opening cold email
  • Gentle but firm reminder (2-3 days after the initial email)
  • Value bringer #1 (3-4 days after the previous email)
  • Value bringer #2 (3-4 days after the previous email)
  • Break-up email (4-5 days after the previous email)

Now, the question is…

…how do you bring undeniable value to cold emails?

There are five main ways to make your emails incredibly valuable and help your prospect take an action that will move the sales process forward.

1. Case studies

Case studies are powerful because they show how one of your customers solved a specific problem successfully and with measurable results. Neil Patel, co-founder of KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg, managed to increase his sales by 70% by including case studies in his emails!

They allow you to grab the attentiondemonstrate valueshow differentiation, and mitigate the risks.

2. Success stories

Success stories are about summarizing the successful experience of a customer with your company, just enough to pique interest. (As opposed to case studies, which focus on the methods implemented to make that experience successful.)

Objections are stories; they’re a projection of what might go wrong or might not work. As Shawn Callahan puts it: “You can’t beat a story with fact, you can only beat it with a better story.

If you can anticipate the reasons for your prospect’s reluctance, bring them stories that deal with those reasons. Keep in mind that facts alone aren’t generally enough when handling objections.

3. Testimonials

This time, you’re not the one telling the story—your satisfied customer is. And that can have a tremendous impact.

According to Groove, testimonials placed on their homepage, guest post landing pages, and email marketing have helped increase conversions by 15%.

They allow you to build trustsell without selling, and overcome skepticism.

4. Referrals

According to Joanne Black, referrals can help close new customers/clients at least 50% of the time! That means more new business with fewer leads.

The best referrals start with an introduction by someone your prospect knows, trusts and respects.

Referrals allow you to bypass the gatekeeperget you ahead of the competitionearn trust and credibility, and maybe win an introduction from them to another prospect.

5. Relevant content

If you don’t have any customer data to share—or none that would be relevant to your prospect—you can still offer value by including a piece of valuable content.

It’s easy and it provides you with an opportunity to prove you took the time to understand a prospect’s challenge and find something that could help them solve it without necessarily including your product in the process.

Longer cycles

Whereas small transactions may lead to fast decisions, big or complex transactions may require you to establish extra credibility or be more persistent in order for your prospect to wrap their head around the idea of responding to your messages.

Keep in mind that these longer sales email sequences must be integrated in multi-channel approaches that will allow you to build a more meaningful relationship.

You can’t be an expert in all outreach methods but you also can’t stick to only one way of reaching out. Sales is about creating relationships and the more natural you are about it, the more successful you’ll be in winning new clients.

Here’s the approach Phill Keene implements at Costello; it uses six different methods over the course of a month before going into nurturing phase. It might seem aggressive—it is called the Crazy Ex Sequence—but hey, it works.

Adapt and execute your email sales sequence

Find out as much as possible about your prospect, know what you’re expecting from them, and tailor a follow-up automated email sequence based on that!


About Forster Perelsztejn

Forster is currently the marketing manager at Rooftop, a powerful shared inbox and collaboration platform.

Check out his 7 Painful Lessons I Learned From Cold Emailing 943 Companies and connect with him on LinkedIn!


16 sales process templates for B2B pipelines

Whether you’re building your first sales process or overhauling an existing one, these Nutshell-approved templates will give you a great head-start.



blue paper boats in a row with the words "Nutshell 16 sales Process templates for b2b pipelines"
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Join 30,000+ other sales and marketing professionals. Subscribe to our Sell to Win newsletter!