How Not To Chap Off Prospects Who Clearly Didn’t Want Your Email

Not everyone is happy to receive email, even when they know it’s the marketing world we live in. And you know what? That’s okay. Think of it like you’re about to introduce yourself to another person but accidentally bump into them instead. Are they happy you bumped them? Probably not. Will they forgive you if you know how to maneuver around their frustration? More than likely. To that end, here are a few things you can do to ease any email tension — and maybe even leave the door open for potential new business.

Thank Them

If someone took the time to write you back, even if they aren’t thrilled about what you’re asking, it’s usually best practice to thank them for at least letting you know. And as long as their email’s language doesn’t appear hostile, you might try asking them whether it would be worth their time for you to reach back out in 3 – 6 months. This leaves the door open in case the timing might simply be better later on, or to get a firm response as to whether they really, really don’t see a fit.


Some people are more offended by uninvited prospecting emails than others. Trust us when we say we’ve seen a wide range, from those who acted like the sender was trying to convert them, to others who felt compelled to unleash rapid-fire expletives. Then there are the rare folks who venture into territory where, shall we say, HR might need to have a word with them if they ever saw their response.

Regardless of your recipients’ behavior, an apology is the best way to diffuse the situation, followed by letting them know that you will no longer contact them. Or, if it’s really bad, just unsubscribe them.

Keep Your Word

If you tell someone you won’t contact them, do your absolute best to honor their request. We know that managing a big database with a lot of contacts — including many who work at the same companies — does run the risk that mistakes can happen and people may be sent or forwarded emails that they don’t want. That’s why periodic database management is good for making sure your records are up to date, the appropriate contacts are unsubscribed, and you’re abiding by CAN-SPAM compliance by giving your leads the choice to opt out.

Respect the “No”

For all the mean-spirited responses you could get when you’re automating your marketing emails, there will also be plenty of folks who may not be interested but will be exceptionally polite about it. They might even thank you for reaching out and wish you well with your business search, because they understand the landscape. But, if they tell you no up front, even if it’s done with respect, don’t take advantage of that kindness by pushing the soft sell or probing with additional questions. That’s an easy way to annoy them, give off the impression that you aren’t listening, and likely prompt them to be rude to you in order to get you to stop.

Don’t Be Misleading

Some people will ask how you even got their contact information to begin with. Don’t try to imply that someone else referred them if you really got that data from a lead list or through prospecting automation. Instead, let them know the truth: you did research on their company, their name came up, and you thought they were a good person to reach out to. If they still get nervous and press the issue, let them know their email was found using software or a list, and respectfully remove them from your outreach.

At the end of the day, email marketing is still going to continue and be successful. Most businesses accept and embrace that, especially in our growing remote-based culture. That said, concerns with cybersecurity are also on the rise, which can put a lot of people on edge when they hear from someone they don’t know outside their organization. That’s why having your LinkedIn profile updated and available can go a long way to help, or have your name mentioned on your company website’s team page — anything that proves you are a legitimate person interested in a legitimate business conversation. As for those leads who aren’t too keen to get your outreach: be kind and respectful, because there will plenty of others who will want to talk with you.

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