How to follow up after a prospect replies to a cold sales email in B2B

byGuido Croce

The stage of following-up after the first contact can be one of the most frustrating for companies. You put in all the work to get replies from prospects but then none of those conversations lead to anything. I have also experienced the disappointment and have learned a few tricks along the way. So, I want to share those with you in this post and how to follow up after a prospect replies to a cold sales email. You will learn how to separate types of leads, set sales goals and accomplish them.

Before I start breaking down each lesson, here is the list of them for reference:

  • Qualify as SQL or MQL
  • Have a goal in mind
  • MQL goals
  • SQL goals
  • How to reach the goal

Keep in mind that every company deals with different industries and cultures, which requires tweaking in goal setting and adopting different tactics.

Qualify as SQL or MQL

A prospect that demonstrates an interest in your product or on establishing a conversation with you can be qualified as a MQL or a SQL. It is crucial to be able to differentiate between the leads so that you can act appropriately.

A Sales Qualified Lead is usually ready for a demonstration of your product in the near future. Also, they do not need to be given initial stage resources (e.g.: ebooks, cheat sheets, general blog posts, etc). Instead, they should get interested in the demo/free trial through customer references or stories.

A Marketing Qualified Lead will need more convincing and engaging before they are ready for a demo, a free trial or even a call. Therefore, customer stories are not yet appropriate at that stage of readiness. They need blog posts, pdfs and ebooks that educate and provide insights on the industry.

Have a goal in mind

It is the job of the salesperson to guide the interaction with a lead towards an end goal. Therefore, a goal has to be defined as a guiding star for a sales team. Otherwise, you will rely on luck to guide the interaction to a deal but you will have lower conversions.

A few examples of goals include booking a demo, signing up for the newsletter or a free trial. Each of them requires different levels of time and effort commitment from a prospect, so choose the best ones for your industry. Next, I am going to discuss the goals and how to lead the prospect to them.

MQL goals

Marketing Qualified Lead goals are better used when the prospect is not ready to commit to the end of the funnel activities. It is usually because they are still figuring out what type of solution do they need or are educating themselves on the problem. Here are three common MQL goals:

Get a free assessment – this goal is useful for businesses that offer consulting or have a software that can do a free assessment quickly; it is a good way to provide immediate actionable value to the prospect.

Download a resource – a resource is the less personalised and committal of the three examples; that makes it perfect to get the MQL into the system (e.g.: newsletter) while providing a small incentive.

Attend a webinar – a webinar is a more time-consuming event for the prospect which is better used after simpler goals (e.g.: downloading a resource); whether you sell at the end of the webinar or not it is up to you, but it works because of the value offered to the prospect.

SQL goals

Sales Qualified Lead goals are more useful when the prospect is ready for the end of funnel activities, with the possibility of striking a deal. Here are two common SQL goals:

Sign up for a free trial – free trials can be a great way to build stickiness to the product and convert the prospect into a long term customer; if your product requires more than the typical free trial period (max 30 days) to prove its worth, then I would not recommend the free trial goal

Schedule a demo – demos are popular in the software world for a reason, they work; a structured demo can take a SQL from ‘on the fence’ to ‘ready to sign a contract’; that is because it goes in-depth to show how it would solve the prospect’s issue in a practical manner

Now that I have shown you the different MQL and SQL goals, let’s examine how to reach the goal and its contingencies.

How to reach the goal

Once you have decided on a goal that generates an opportunity for the company, then you need to lead prospects to it. Besides not having a goal in the first place, a couple of common mistakes seen post-first contact are:

  • a lack of aggressiveness to move the prospect to the next stage
  • too much aggressiveness in moving the prospect to the next stage

In the first scenario, SDRs tend to expect the prospect to re-engage for more information on your product. Or maybe the SDR provides information but never attempts to convert the lead into a call or a demo (whatever goal was set). That will frustrate ready to buy prospects leading them to your competitors.

Being more aggressive is better than not enough, but it can still hinder you if you do not calibrate. There are prospects that are simply not ready to move to the next steps as quickly as you would like. It could be because the solution is not a priority at the moment, or they need more time to evaluate options. If you are too aggressive you stand the risk of driving them away.

One solution is to keep providing information and resources with reasonable time intervals. At the same time, you gauge for interest to move to the next level to finally accomplish the goal. The closer a prospect gets to the goal the more sales information you want to share with them.

E.g.: general blog post -> gated resource -> customer story


Getting prospects to reply to your message is important. More crucial is being able to guide them to your predetermined goals. Hopefully, with the lessons I have shared you will be able to increase your post first contact to goal ratio. Here are the key takeaways from this post:

Does the prospect qualify as SQL or MQL?

Make an assessment of the prospect to put them into the MQL or SQL category.

What is the goal you have in mind?

With no goal in mind, your conversions will be much lower and exposed to luck and downturns in the market. Make sure to set a MQL goal (e.g.: free assessment, download resources, attend a webinar) and/or a SQL goal (e.g.: book a demo, sign up for a free trial).

How do you achieve your goal?

Avoid being too aggressive because you will drive leads away, even if they were on the fence. However, do not be too passive either or you will lose the lead to another company. Expose the lead to progressively more sales-oriented resources to lead them to the predetermined goal.

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