We all send emails that leave us feeling anxious for a response.
It might be a sales email, an inquiry about a job, or even a risky email sent to your boss. We’ve all been there.
In all these scenarios, you’ll want to optimize your email to invite a response—and get it as quickly as possible.
And guess what? Tacking on a desperate “PLEASE RESPOND” is not a good look.
Fortunately, there are plenty of better ways to get more email responses.
Let’s explore 11 tricks for how to get someone to respond to your email.
Table of Contents
- 1. Send at the right time
- 2. Send to multiple people
- 3. Start with a friendly greeting
- 4. Use the person’s name
- 5. Convey urgency
- 6. Be authentic
- 7. Focus on your recipient
- 8. Evoke emotion
- 9. End with a specific call to action (CTA)
- 10. Follow best practices for your message
- 11. Master the art of following up
1. Send at the right time
Do you respond to emails 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?
Of course not. Some times are more favorable to get a response than others.
The same is true for other people. That means sending at the right time could instantly improve your response rate.
The question is, which time works best?
This is tricky to answer, since different people have different email preferences. I’ve written a full guide about the best time to send an email, so be sure to check it out. That mostly focuses on emails related to sales and marketing, however.
If you’re sending an email to a boss or coworker, you’ll need a different set of considerations; when is this person likely to be available? What are their work habits like?
2. Send to multiple people
A little peer pressure never hurt anybody.
Sometimes, you’ll be more likely to get a response if you include multiple people in the recipient field (or the CC/BCC fields). There are a few intersecting motivations for this. For starters, a person may feel pressure to respond quickly and look good.
They may also want to be the first to respond so they can control the message. Or maybe they want to close the loop quickly for the sake of convenience.
Whatever the case, it works.
Just be careful not to abuse this; for example, don’t “copy up” by including someone’s boss as an incentive to get them to respond faster. Be respectful, first and foremost.
3. Start with a friendly greeting
You’re not going to win many friends if you go straight into a business message without a courteous greeting.
A simple salutation can instantly make your message better received—and therefore more likely to get a response. Try to use the person’s first name (if you’re on good terms) or full name (if you want to exhibit professionalism), and be as friendly as possible.
See this list of perfect email greetings for any occasion.
4. Use the person’s name
People love to hear and see their own name. Using someone’s name shows familiarity and could make your email seem friendlier. It also makes the message more personal—which is especially important if you’re trying to differentiate your message in a marketing campaign.
Use their name in the greeting, then at least one more time in the email, maybe at the end.
5. Convey urgency
A lot of times, a message doesn’t get a response because it just doesn’t seem that important. You’ve likely found yourself in a similar position; you’ve received a message, and you know it deserves a response, but you have a million other things to do—so you just don’t respond to it.
Overcome this obstacle by implying some degree of urgency. You could even use the word “Urgent:” in your subject line for some extra attention (though this is somewhat risky; if the matter isn’t truly urgent, you’ll lose some credibility).
You can also convey urgency by noting that there’s a limited time to respond; there may be a limited time offer to take advantage of, or you may be going on vacation next week. Make sure to call this out if you want to attract more responses.
6. Be authentic
Friendly, fun messages tend to get more responses than stodgy, overly professional ones. If you seem like someone that would be fun to talk to, people will want to talk to you. Go figure.
You can make use of this by injecting some personality into your message. Be yourself and talk in a way that mirrors how you talk to your friends. Use emotes. There are some exceptions to this friendly approach, of course—you don’t want to be too casual in a formal environment—but it works in most cases.
You can also try using some tasteful humor. If you get a good laugh, they’ll practically have to respond.
7. Focus on your recipient
Too many salespeople and marketers use messages as vehicles for “I” statements. They talk about themselves, their company, their product, their solution… it gets a little tiresome.
You’ll probably increase your chances of getting a response if you focus on the recipient instead. Talk about their problems. Talk about their needs. Make it clear to them how they’re going to benefit if they choose to respond to you. Make it all about them.
8. Evoke emotion
Emotions prompt actions. So if you’re trying to figure out how to get someone to respond to your email, think about how you can evoke some emotion.
It’s no coincidence that the most viral content tends to be emotional in some way. It’s hilarious. Or it’s outrageous. Or it’s deeply sad. Or intensely joyful.
Your emails aren’t much different. You’ll get more attention (and probably a response) if you’re able to evoke emotion.
Be surprising, intriguing, or suspenseful. Make your recipient thrilled, or angry, or maybe a little bit afraid. That emotion will practically force them to respond.
9. End with a specific call to action (CTA)
The best way to get something is to ask for it.
And if you’re looking to get a response to your email, you need to make it clear that that’s what you want.
In a marketing or sales email, you can frame this as a call-to-action (CTA). Invite your recipient to contact you for more information or ask them a question that prompts them to respond directly.
If you’re sending a message to a client, coworker, boss, or other colleague, it’s better to explain what type of response you’re looking for, as concisely as possible. Something like, “Please get back to me by Wednesday” works fine.
10. Follow best practices for your message
There are some other best practices for emails that get responses.
Following email etiquette is a big plus, for example.
These are some important additional tips to succeed:
People don’t have a lot of time. And they have a lot of emails. So how big of a jerk would you be if you asked 100 questions in an email?
I’ve never gotten an email with 100 questions to answer. But I have gotten some with 10 or 15. And some with multiple paragraphs that didn’t need to be there. And I’ll tell you, I groaned when it came time to think about responding.
You’ll get much better results if you’re concise, only saying what needs to be said and asking for what you actually need.
Be simple and straightforward.
Straightforward emails also get better responses. They’re simple and to-the-point.
Don’t beat around the bush, implying what you might want. Just come out with it. Obviously, you’ll have to employ some tact in certain situations; for example, you don’t want to lead a sales email with: “HEY! Buy my product now please.” But being direct certainly isn’t a bad thing.
Keep the reading level low.
Some email writers like to flaunt their talents by using big vocabulary words or showing off their knowledge with high-level content. And okay, that might make you seem smart. But it will also make you seem pretentious—and less worthy of response.
You’re better off writing at a high school reading level, or preferably, below. It’s faster and easier to read, not to mention more approachable. And guess what? It’s easier to write too.
Make it easy to respond.
This is a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many times someone made it difficult for me to actually respond. For example, they write out a detailed description of a problem that they clearly want my help solving. What exactly am I supposed to do about it? Are they asking for my advice? Do they want to check in about a solution? Or are they just venting to me?
If I don’t know, I might not respond at all. End your email with a question, or at least imply what type of response you want.
Always proofread. I say it all the time, in almost every advice article I write. Why? Because it’s that important. An email rife with spelling errors or grammatical errors is going to lower your chances of getting a response—and possibly hurt your reputation too.
11. Master the art of following up
No matter how good your initial email is, there’s a chance it’s not going to get a response. Your recipient may be busy, distracted, or irritated with you.
Let’s hope it’s not that last one.
In any case, sometimes you have to follow up to get the response you want.
I’ve written a full guide on how to follow up effectively, so make sure you read it, but in the meantime, these are some best practices to follow:
Give it a day (or two, or three).
Don’t follow up in an hour if you don’t hear back. You may be eager to hear a response, but your recipient is likely busy. Even if they aren’t busy, they’re going to be annoyed that you’re not giving them any time. It’s perfectly reasonable to take a full day or two to respond to an email, so give your recipient that time.
If this is a truly urgent matter, perhaps email isn’t the best medium. Consider calling or texting the recipient if you’re in dire need of a response.
Keep the follow-up message concise.
See how important conciseness is? Your follow-up message needs to be even shorter than your original message. There’s no need to repeat yourself—just call attention to your previous message and say something like, “Hey! I just wanted to follow up with you on this. Do you have time for a quick call?”
Respect the recipient’s time.
Understand that if your recipient hasn’t responded, it’s probably for a reason. Most of the time, that reason is that they’re busy with more important work. You need to respect that.
It’s helpful to make mention of this somewhere in your follow-up message as a demonstration of sympathy. For example, “Hi, I know you’re busy, but I was hoping to get a response from you by the end of the week so I can place this order. Let me know if you need any help!” This acknowledges the lack of time and attempts to make up for it (albeit slightly) at the same time.
Your first follow-up message may not work. Now, you don’t want to be annoying, but you should understand that oftentimes, one follow-up isn’t enough. Some people will only respond after getting three, four, or even five or more messages. If you don’t remain persistent, you could miss out on some critical opportunities.
…but know when enough is enough.
Of course, at the same time, you need to have a sense for when enough is enough. If you don’t get a response after a week or two, or after five follow-up messages, it’s time to call it quits. Send a wrap-up message like, “it seems you’re not interested. Let me know if you change your mind!” to finalize things, and leave the door open in case they ever decide to respond in the future. Just make sure you’re polite about it, so you leave the conversation on good terms.
So there you have it; 11 tricks for how to get someone to respond to your email.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.