By Mike Mehlberg

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

You have a great meeting with a potential customer who is showing all the buying signs. They are interested. They are excited. They all but promise to buy your product. You send them a follow-up email to thank them for meeting.


You send them another email with some marketing collateral and remind them of your initial conversation.


You try one more time, this time asking for a follow-up phone call to discuss and catch up from where you left off.

And what do you get in return?

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. <- Yes, that’s the sound of more crickets.

Now you begin to question your initial meeting… was it really that good? Were they leading me on? Did I say something wrong on the way out the door?  Or maybe it was those few follow-up emails. Were they too aggressive? Did I email them too fast, or wait too long? Did I end up in their spam folder? Ugh.

It seems impossible to know what to do next. Many give up. Take note, however. If you’ve given up in past scenarios like this, you may have lost a sale.

Fortunately, there’s a bit of psychology and salesmanship we can apply to get a response and move one step closer to landing new business.

The Reason People Don’t Return Your Emails/Calls

It’s not because they’re busy. They are, but there’s more to it than that. It’s also not because they don’t like you. They may not, but the desire to buy your product will usually overcome any minor problems they have with you. No, the answer is more simple than that.

Think about it from their perspective. Put yourself in their shoes. You’ve got a day full of meetings. People interrupt you constantly. And your inbox is full of emails. Then my email comes in…

It’s friendly, professional, and helpful. I remind you that we were going to meet to discuss how my product or service could help you. Yes, yes, you remember. But then I ask you to do something. I ask you to either a) call me back, b) email me back, or c) schedule a meeting.

Now, these aren’t complicated requests. But you’ve just given me an action item! You’ve got a list of 1000 other things to do, most of which would directly benefit people you work with on a daily basis. So what happens to my sales email? You flag it and promise yourself to deal with it later.

Only later comes and goes. You find yourself looking at my email a few times until so much time has passed you feel sorry for not getting back. Now responding becomes more complicated. You feel like you have to apologize and explain yourself (and don’t you just hate apologizing even more than you hate explaining yourself).

Besides, that initial motivation you had to buy has waned. Other priorities have popped up, and you’ve slowly lost interest. Eventually, you’ll forget why you were so excited to speak with me in the first place. In other words, you go back to “just making it work,” and whatever help my product or service offered is forgotten.

When my next email or call comes in, it’s simply too complicated to deal with… too low priority. Maybe one day you’ll get to it, but not today. After all, I’m a persistent sales guy… and you can just wait for me to get back to you.

A Story of the Perfect Buyer (Who Wouldn’t Call Back)

Years ago at an industry tradeshow, having crushed my presentation to an audience of potential buyers, I wandered back to my booth to collect leads for our latest product. Many people stopped by. They watched our demo. Most everyone exchanged business cards. But one gentleman, in particular (I’ll call him Bill), showed incredible enthusiasm toward our product. Bill went so far as to say he had an immediate need. He’d been looking for a product just like ours for some time.

We talked, and swapped stories. He asked questions, and I answered them. And we committed to getting together soon after the conference to discuss next steps.

His interest far exceeded anyone else on the show floor. His need was immediate. He had the money. And he was ready to buy. I left the show thrilled!

Not long after, I followed up with Bill, reminding him how we met and asked when he could get together for that meeting.


I wrote him again, followed up with a voicemail, and asked him when we could get together and chat.


My enthusiasm still high, I contacted him again, and again, and again until I started to feel like a pest. I began to question whether he was faking interest at my booth. I started to wonder if I’d said something that offended him.

The Email Template that Gets Results

Not to be one to let someone escape their commitments to me, I decided I’d write one last email. It would be the proverbial nail in the coffin:

I’m reaching out one last time in case you have been too busy to respond. If you are no longer interested, don’t feel the need to write back… I won’t pester you again.
However, if you would like to get in touch to continue our discussion from the [tradeshow], just shoot me an email or give me a call. I’d be happy to pick up right where we left off.
Take care,

With a sigh of both disappointment and relief, I wandered over to my coffee pot to reset and refresh myself for a busy afternoon. That’s when my phone buzzed.

A new email, from Bill, apologizing and asking to meet!

How One Template Received over 60% Response Rate

Excited that Bill returned my email so quickly, I sifted through my sent folder looking for similar unanswered emails. I’d previously referred to them as “black holes.” Emails went in, and nothing came out. Now I wondered if I’d found the secret to escaping the suck. Over the next few months, I would follow up with dozens of prospects using the email to Bill as a template.

My success rate? Over 60%!

That’s right, over 60% of prospects were now writing me back to schedule calls and meetings. These were prospects I would have previously signed off as “no longer interested.”

Why the Hello Kitty Did That Work?!

In some respects, it doesn’t really matter why it worked. If you read nothing more, you’ll at least have a free email template to get those difficult prospects to call you back (with overwhelming success).

But let me say this about that…

This email won’t work in all circumstances. Even with a 60% success rate, that leaves 4 out of 10 prospects who don’t call you back. If we can, we want to land those sales too! Thus, learning why this technique is successful could prevent hours of lost work, hundreds of unsuccessful emails, and $millions in lost sales.

And it all has to do with one word: Responsibility.

When you’re in the booth or presenting your products and services at a meeting, you are responsible. You know it, and your prospect knows it.

If things go wrong, it’s your fault. If the prospect isn’t interested, you blame yourself (and so does your potential buyer).

Assuming your meeting goes well, when it comes time to set that second meeting, the ball is still in your court. You need to follow up. You need to reach back out. You need to send them more information or set up that second meeting.

But even if you ask your prospect for meeting times, you still own the relationship. Why?

Why doesn’t the prospect feel some responsibility to call you back, provide meeting times or, at the very least, respond to your follow up?

Because they know you’re the salesperson, and they know you’ll get back to them if they don’t answer. Their job is to do whatever it is that they do. Your job is to follow up.

In other words, if you haven’t made a conscious effort to transfer the responsibility to them, the responsibility remains yours.

And unless your prospect has a hot need for what you’re selling, they’re going to wait for you to convince them while they go about their day.

Now It’s Time to Get Some Responses

So now you know.

Not just a little trick to get your prospects to respond…

Now you know why buyers sometimes don’t respond, and why transferring responsibility of the relationship to them can help move the sale along.

So let’s use that knowledge to get some responses.

  1. Go through your sent email and look for messages that are older than a few weeks and haven’t seen a response (you can do this in Outlook by sorting your Sent folder by date, then turning on “Show as Conversations” in the View tab).
  2. Copy and paste the template above into a reply to each of these “black hole” emails, personalize it, and fire away!
  3. Wait patiently. Do NOT email or call them again… like you said you wouldn’t.

So long as you are friendly, respectful of their time, don’t place any blame on your prospect for not getting back, and leave yourself open to being contacted, I’m hopeful you’ll see great results.

Even if you don’t get a call back, you should feel a bit of relief. With the ball in your prospect’s court, you can get back to business until they respond. Any outstanding actions from your meetings with them are now complete.

You’ve simultaneously increased your chances of a sale while reducing your workload.

What could be better than that?

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

Yeah, I can’t think of anything either :-).

Let me know if it works! Experiment with your emails and share tweaks to the template that get better results.

I’m currently experimenting with passing responsibility earlier in the relationship… getting the prospect to own the engagement instead of waiting for them to “go dark” before using this technique.

Mike Mehlberg helps small businesses owners live their passion and achieve their goals. His approach to technology, strategy, product development, marketing, and sales is both practical and highly effective. Mike has helped multiple small businesses grow a thriving company full of loyal customers. Get his free Small Business Growth Guide on