Sometimes people are just too busy to get back to you. Sometimes they stall because they aren’t fully convinced that what you’re offering is right for them. Other times they’re waiting for the go-ahead from another project partner.
And yet, it’s absolutely vital for your business to keep conversations moving forward. You have leads to nurture, deals to close, and projects to push through.
So why is it so hard to get a timely response? Surely that shouldn’t be that hard of a thing to do. Well, one of the biggest culprits that get conversations stuck in the mud is probably the “just checking in” email—a phrase so overused that it can make your contacts reluctant to even read your messages, let alone respond to them.
In this post, we’ll explore some better alternatives to this inbox cliché—in fact, you might want to stay out of your contacts’ inboxes altogether. What do we mean by that? Keep reading to find out…
Skip ahead if you’d like:
- The trouble with “just checking in” emails
- How to move the conversation forward
- 7 alternatives to “just check in” (with examples)
📥 Are you over email? If you hit at least one of the points on our checklist, it’s time to consider an email alternative.
The trouble with “just checking in” emails
Apart from being chronically overused, one of the main problems with “just checking in” is that it’s basically a redundant expression. It’s obvious to the reader that you’re “checking in” just by virtue of the fact you’ve reached out to them at all:
Just checking in.
I was wondering if you’d had a chance to review the report I sent last week?
What’s more, your reader will naturally interpret the expression as a request for their time and attention. They (rightly) suspect that whoever wrote it wants something from them, but is hesitant about getting to the point.
Also, notice how in the example above there’s no compelling reason for Anna to respond to Tom’s message. This is a common fault of “checking in” emails.
For example, Tom offers no additional reasons for why the report is worth reading (e.g., “I really think the winter forecasts would be of interest to you finance team.”) nor does he suggest next steps to encourage Anna to take action (e.g., “Happy to talk you through it. How’s Friday at 3?”).
The truth is that sales reps resort to using “just checking in” because it’s quick and easy. But that’s precisely the problem. If you can’t think of something even remotely useful to say, why should you expect the reader to care?
How to move the conversation forward
There are, of course, many situations where it’s necessary to check in on your prospects and customers, such as:
- If you told them you’d follow up with them within a set timeframe
- If they missed a meeting or call without providing an explanation
- If they verbally committed to sign a contract but then went AWOL
- If they started a product trial and you’re still waiting for their verdict
- If they haven’t come back to you after “internal discussions”
So the question isn’t whether you should check in on your contacts, it’s about how you should do it.
As a general rule, you want your messages to create a sense of urgency or excitement on part of the recipient.
This means you have to make the message hyper-relevant to the specific person you’re contacting, drawing on their specific needs, interests, and previous interactions with your company.
It’s also important to be upfront about what you want from them. Don’t leave them guessing and don’t shift the responsibility onto them to propose the next steps. Give them clear-cut options so it’s easy for them to answer.
You can also keep things fresh by mixing up the medium—email is not always the best option. (More on this later.)
Ultimately, you have to be thoughtful and creative about how you reach out if you want to maximize your responses. So let’s take a look at some better alternatives to the “just checking in” email.
How customer-obsessed are you? Take the quiz to find out.
7 alternatives to “just checking in” (with examples)
1. After a meeting or discovery session
Suppose it’s been over a week since you had a call or face-to-face meeting with a prospect and they still haven’t got back to you with a buying decision.
In these situations, it’s often the case that the prospect is struggling to reach a decision with the information they’ve got. They may still have big gaps in their understanding of your product or have doubts about its ability to deliver the results they need.
Whatever the reason for their stalling, you can help by reaching out with some extra information that they’ll find useful or reassuring. This could be a case study, a testimonial video, a breakdown of pricing options, a list of product integrations—anything that can help crush the doubts or objections they may still have.
Of course, you’ll want to bring up as many important facts and answer as many questions as you can during the initial meeting or call. But since you probably won’t manage to address everything, a follow-up email with more information can be a great opportunity to nudge your prospect over the line.
✍ Example: “Hi [prospect name]. I know that [relevant topic] was something you wanted to learn more about on last week’s call. I’ve attached some additional information that I think you’ll find helpful. Are you free for another call next week? How’s Tuesday morning?”
2. When an email just won’t cut it
Keeping in touch with your contacts doesn’t have to be an email-only affair, of course.
By incorporating a variety of communication channels into the mix, you can circumvent the limitations of any one channel and give your contacts the option to choose whichever medium suits them best. Here’s a quick comparison of using an email-focused approach vs more flexible methods of communication:
For example, some clients may welcome the occasional phone call as a much-needed break from the monotony of responding to emails all day. Likewise, a text image can be a more convenient way to check-in with other people on your team.
In fact, these are probably the three best non-email alternatives to staying connected with your contacts:
- A phone call: You can use your trusty cell phone for this, or a cloud-based business phone service if your company’s invested in one. The perk of having an actual phone system is that most of them let you place and receive calls across all your devices, and include conferencing, business SMS, and maybe even online fax functionality.
- Video meetings: Virtual meetings lets you talk face-to-face with colleagues, clients, and customers wherever you are in the world. Having a good video conferencing software is useful when you just need a more in-depth conversation than a “just checking in email”—and it even gives you the ability to screen share and save your meeting recordings too.
- Real-time messaging: Why clog up your inbox when you can just send someone a message in a group chat?
One of the major benefits of using a service like RingCentral to stay connected with contacts is that it lets you monitor and review your communications so that you can keep improving your team’s performance. And beyond the handy app that has messaging and video conferencing built in, RingCentral also has an outbound contact center that’s designed for sales teams to reach out to prospects—and get timely responses.
Here’s a quick look at how it works:
For example, call monitoring lets supervisors listen in on live agent-customer calls, and it gives them the ability to whisper directly to the agent with on-the-fly suggestions as well as the option of taking over the call completely when it makes good tactical sense.
RingCentral’s integrations with other tools also open up new powerful ways of working more efficiently as a team.
For example, RingCentral’s integration with Gong.io’s AI analytics engine can be used to analyze all your sales team’s conversations with clients and then unearth new insights into what patterns and speech behaviors correlate with successful calls:
Similarly, the seamless integrations with most of the popular CRM platforms can level-up your communication capabilities with features like click-to-dial, note logging, and call scheduling—all easily available from within the CRM itself.
3. When they told you to reach out within a certain period of time
Prospects will often ask for more time before they can make a decision or continue discussions with you.
Sometimes this just means they aren’t interested in what you have to offer but don’t want to come across as overly abrupt or dismissive. But in many cases, it’s a sincere request based on the fact that they just aren’t in a position to make any big calls right now. For example, they might be fully engrossed in a major ongoing project, or awaiting a decision from their leadership team, or biding their time until they receive more funding.
It’s important to reach out within the timeframe they stated, otherwise your window of opportunity might close prematurely. Be sure to remind them of your initial conversation and present some options for next steps.
✍ Example: “Hey, [prospect name]. We spoke about [topic] back in [month]. At that time you weren’t ready to make any decisions [because of X reason, if provided], and you asked for me to come back to you after [Y weeks/months]. This is me following up! Are you still interested in [topic]? If so, I’m happy to schedule a call. How does next Wednesday work for you?”
4. When they just need a reminder
Sometimes prospects just forgot they spoke with you and need a reminder of your initial conversation to get things moving again.
A recap email works well in these situations, giving you the chance to refresh your prospect’s memory about the major points you discussed and the specific problems your offer can help them solve.
Busy prospects will appreciate the reminder, and it’ll make sure you’re on the same page when you proceed to the next steps.
✍ Example: “Hey, [prospect name]. Here’s a brief recap of what we discussed on our call last Tuesday: [List main points and suggestions]. Are you free for a call this week to move things forward?”
5. When you want to reinforce the benefits of doing business with you
Case studies are a great way to help prospects visualize the success your product or service can bring them.
An initial call or meeting will often focus on the technical and practical aspects of doing business with you, but might not give you enough time to paint an exciting picture of the road to success.
By putting a greater emphasis on how you can help prospects achieve their goals, you can reframe how they think about their buying decision. Case studies are ideal for this job: they help “sell the dream” and serve as proof that working with you is worth it.
Just make sure that the case studies or success stories you provide have some bearing on the prospect’s specific needs and circumstances.
✍ Example: “Hey, [prospect name]. I’ve attached a few case studies that I think you’ll find interesting. They show how our past clients in [their industry/niche] have worked with us to achieve [relevant goals]. I’d be happy to talk you through them and answer any questions you have on a call. Would next Thursday suit you?”
6. When you want to nurture a relationship
Occasionally, you might want to get in touch with a prospect, client, or customer just to stay on their radar and to let them know that you have their best interests in mind. This is probably the most common way that “just checking in” emails are used. Doesn’t mean it’s great though.
Instead of just “checking in” to see how they are, you should only reach out if you can offer them something of genuine value. For example, you might refer them to a blog post or a piece of research that’s extremely relevant to their business, or you could let them know that there’s an upcoming industry conference in their town that they should attend.
Keep your message short and sweet—you don’t want to come across as intrusive.
✍ Example: “Hey, [client name]. I’ve just read this great blog post about [relevant topic] that I think you’ll find useful [link to post]. The author makes some interesting points, including [list key highlights]. Speak soon! ”
For more examples like this, check out these alternatives to touch base emails.
7. When you need a status update
Sometimes you need to find out where a task stands or how a project is progressing, be it from a member of your team, a project partner, or client contact.
Asking for a status update is a good way to make sure things stay on track. Email threads can easily get buried, team members get stuck in ruts, and to-do items fall through the cracks.
If you suspect your contact has just forgotten about a project, offer some context in your message to jog their memory. Then ask straightforwardly how the project is coming along.
It’s also worth reasserting your hopes that the project turns out to be a success and reminding them that you’re available if they need any help.
Finally, make your request for an update time-sensitive. Reminding your contact of an upcoming deadline, or asking for an answer within a given timeframe, is more likely to elicit a prompt response.
✍ Example: “Hey, [contact name]. Last month we had a meeting about [project name], and you offered to collect some research for our next strategy session. I was hoping you could tell me how that’s coming along? It’s a pretty exciting project—I hope we can nail it! If you could send the update by 5 p.m. today that’d be great. Let me know if there’s anything you need from me.”
Saying goodbye to “checking in” emails
Next time you reach out to your contacts, be sure to steer clear from using “just checking in.”
Instead, take a moment to think about what exactly you want from your contact and what they might want from you. Your messages should be precise, concise, and conscious of the reader’s needs and circumstances.
Use the tips and examples covered in this post to help sharpen up your business communication.
Originally published Jul 06, 2020, updated May 21, 2021