You’ve been communicating with an associate or coworker and need a response. You send a follow-up but — crickets. This is a situation that we all have to struggle with on a pretty regular basis.
Getting Non-Responders Attention
The best advice I can give is if the request is that important, pick up the phone and call. If you are frustrated due to a lack of response, consider whether picking up the phone or actually having a person-to-person discussion may be more productive. The reason being that with incessant follow-ups we also risk being perceived as terse in tone or demanding in intent.
I understand how it can be aggravating to not receive a response. You are running a business and you need answers to do your job, service your clients, proceed with that project. But we really should avoid reflecting that we are getting miffed in our business emails.
That never accomplishes anything other than causing further distance, delay or alienating the person whose response we need. There is always a way to cajole the information you need from those you communicate with when it appears your emails are being disregarded. It’s called courtesy and tact.
The reality is folks are busy and overwhelmed. Their priorities are not your priorities. So, we need to understand this and proceed accordingly with clarity and a gentle but firm approach.
How to Get the Response You Need
To encourage specific results, what I do is use the Subject: field to help set expectations for my email follow-ups. Before the established Subject: field on ongoing conversations I use:
When that doesn’t work I take it up a notch:
Now, this doesn’t mean you just change the Subject: field and hit Send with no further comment in the email itself! You still need to follow the 5 Essentials of Every E-mail. You are using the Subject: field to clarify your intent.
Adding a Follow-Up Intro
You want to also include a new statement at the top of your follow-up noting why there is an increased need for a response:
- Hope all is well! I am growing concerned that I’ve not heard back from you in regard to this issue. Can you let me know all is well and when you have some free time?
- Following up to get your input! The deadline is the end of this week. I don’t want to proceed without your ideas because I value your advice. If you need an extension just let me know!
- Were you able to look into this for me? If I don’t hear back from you by Tuesday, I’ll have no choice but to move forward without your input. However, I’d prefer to have your guidance. Appreciate your reply!
- Sorry to bug you again but I really would appreciate your two cents. I want to make sure that we have all the bases covered. If it is more convenient for you, give me a call at 555-1212. Thanks in advance!
You see what I did there? I relayed why I was following up and why it was important to hear back from the recipient. If this approach doesn’t work, pick up the phone.
Letting the other side know why you are seeking their reply by virtue of a modified subject and additional comments encourages action. You may also find that those you communicate with appreciate this little “hint” in the Subject: field too!
What do you do to encourage responses in your email follow-ups? Let me know if the comments below!