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How to get people to reply to your emails

We all know that many of the emails we send out to people just never get answered. We’ve asked something that we think is important and we’d like to get an answer or some feedback, but nothing happens. No reply. Did they just delete it? How rude!

It’s frustrating, I know. I’ve been there, wanting a reply from someone and never getting it.

As a disclaimer, I’d like to say that I reply to every email I get, although sometimes it might take a while to reply (I’ll get to why shortly). I manage my email by deleting everything that I don’t want, and I file what I want to keep but don’t need to answer (or have already answered). I leave in my Inbox everything that I still want to reply to.

My Inbox (a unified inbox of 5 different email accounts) has about 40 emails in it as I’m writing this, with the oldest being 21st March 2014. There’s someone who’s been waiting for almost two months to hear back from me. (Sorry!)

Anyway… back to the question of this post -how to get people to reply to your emails. Or, often, how to get them to reply to you FASTER than what they currently do.

The email from 21st March… I don’t know them, but they had taken the time to write to me about passive aggression, which I replied to with some information and advice. The email that’s currently waiting for me to respond to is their reply with a few pages of their life story. I’m going to need to take the time one day to drill down into what they’re wanting to get back from me, so that I can reply to them appropriately.

And that’s the reason why people don’t reply to your emails – because you’re not being specific with what you want from them.

If you ask me a question, like:

“Hi Alan, I read your post here (link) on passive aggression, and I was wondering if you could tell me the best way for me to get over my own passive aggression. Hey, and keep up the good work!”

Now, something like that is likely to get an immediate response from me, because it’s clear what you’re asking, and what you want from me in my reply to you. That’s easy, so I’ll do it straight away, or maybe even within a day.

If you send me a long and detailed life story with vague questions here and there, you’ll likely bore me. If your email reads like a book that’s asking me a question after every chapter, then I probably won’t be replying straight away. It might take me a few months to get around to it. I’ll value you having spent the time writing it to me, but its complexity will force me to delay a response.

And that’s why most people will not reply to your emails.

Including too much information and history about why you’re asking for something is a bad idea. The person you’re sending it to probably won’t have the time or the interest to read it, let alone care about what you’re trying to say.

Just be specific with what you need from them, and why. Let them read it in just a few seconds, and be able to respond in maybe just a few minutes.

Everyone is busy with their own lives, their own careers, their own families, their own problems. They don’t care about your problems, especially if you make it difficult for them to respond to you quickly.

When you send an email to someone that you need something from, make it short, sharp and to the point. But ask it in a way that allows them to spend the least amount of time answering it, while still being able to help you.

This doesn’t work:

[Insert three pages of your life story about how poor you’ve been and how you’ve always had trouble achieving any level of success.] Can you tell me how to earn money online?

I don’t need to know your life story to know you want help earning money online. And you can get that information just from searching Google, so why would I help you learn how to earn money online? Especially when I’m still learning myself! I might even think you’re just a spammer and delete your email, since I don’t know you and it’s of no personal interest to me.

This works:

I’ve created my own blog to promote a business idea I have, and I was wondering if you could give me a few specific strategies that have worked for you to increase traffic to your site?

That’s short, sharp and to the point. It asks for my help in a way that I can easily provide, either using my own experience or providing links to other sites that might be of help. Since I create websites and blogs for businesses, there’s also a chance that they could even become my own client if I give them the help they want, which I can easily provide.

In a world where we’re all busy with our own problems, if you can keep it simple for the person reading your email, you’ll make it that much easier for them to respond to you. And if you can also somehow appeal to their ‘what’s in it for me’ interest as well, then you’re even more likely to get them to respond.

So don’t write stories, and don’t be vague with what you want from someone. Just ask and be clear and specific about what you want, and give them them the opportunity to help you without it taking up too much of their time. You’ll get better results.

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