Another negative answer to your cold email? Deal with it like a pro

Piotr Zaniewicz in

Blog/Cold Mailing/Another negative answer to your cold email? Deal with it like a pro

If you’ve sent cold emails before, negative answers probably made you panic and lose common sense more than once. There’s an easy fix – have a tactic to deal with each answer like a pro.

A good cold email campaign takes polishing, and even if it’s awesome it will still generate a percentage of negative, even hateful replies. They’re no reason to get discouraged because they can actually be an opportunity. 

I want to tell you where most salespeople fuck-up in cold emailing – it all starts when they read a negative answer.


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It sucks, I know

Getting a “no” or better yet a few, totally uncalled for insults is not enjoyable. Don’t take them personally, B2B Sales is a game of numbers, for each positive reply there will always be a percentage of negative and insulting ones.

Besides, negative answers can be beneficial for you and your company:

  • a chance for real time feedback of your selling process
  • a decisive negative response frees you up to talk to people that want to buy

You can’t sacrifice your business goals for the satisfaction of saying “fuck you” back – getting emotional in a business situation is a classic no-no. You need clever tactics to quickly deal with negative answers, and free up time for more promising leads.

Tactics for common negative answers

#1 Lawsuit threats

the first negative email

Scariest case first – lawsuit threats. In most cases it’s a passive aggressive way of dealing with a salesperson. Most sales professionals won’t write back again and that’s the whole point of doing it. But people have got no reason to actually pull out the big guns (lawsuit) unless you provoke them to. Typically they’re not even rude answers. 

Now, you can’t defend yourself if you organised outreach based on, for example, a ready-made, untargeted and unsegmented prospect list. What you did was spamming and all you can say is “sorry” and hope for the best. It’s your job to first make sure you’re writing to the right person before you send the email.

I know that it’s easy to panic in this situation, but that only leads to escalating it. Relax – no papers were actually served yet, and won’t be if you honestly apologise.

#2 The “no” in disguise

A “long yes” doesn’t exactly sound like a negative answer, but these cases are most often “no’s” in disguise. The person is too shy to just say “no”, and writing “maybe” is just doing you (and her) a huge disfavour.

You’ll keep following-up, she will have to push back until you realise nothing can actually happen – the sales snake eats it’s tale and it’s a pointless conversation loop.

There’s the hopeful “long yes” – with words that signalise hope (might, maybe, hopefully, in the future, not at the moment):

no in disguise

And the controlling “long yes” – in which the recipient decides when she wants to get back in touch:

long yes in email

The best way to uncover hidden “no’s” is to focus on actually scheduling a follow-up or meeting. Besides that, most people can’t be quickly convinced – that’s why you offer options to stay in touch, and in turn nurture those leads:

  • option to connect on Linkedin – they’ll see mutliple notifications from you and you’ll stay on top of their mind, all you need to do is post quality content (doesn’t have to be yours)

  • option to add them to your newsletter subscribers – if you’re generating content regularly then this will be a much better lead nurturing channel than Linkedin, just make sure your newsletter provides value and shows your expertise


Those are not the only ways to stay in touch, but just make sure you offer a way to receive notifications from you. Next time someone needs a solution like yours, they’ll know where to look.

#3 Not interested

not interested email

Standard “not interested” – without insults and accusations. This is the best case to ask for feedback. However, your questions can’t be about your product or service. You’re looking for feedback on your selling process.

What exactly? The quality of your emails – was there something interesting, funny, convicing about them? Was anything annoying?

Are you targeting the right people? You might be writing to the wrong decision makers, or targeting the wrong industry entirely. Ask nicely and give something in return – even if it’s just “One last question and I will never annoy you again”.

#4 Simply rude

rude email

For a person that’s had a shitty day/week/year, your cold email is just the cherry on a shitty cake. They’ve been under too much pressure lately, and your email  just gave them an opportunity to vent (irrelevant of how awesome it is).

You should always respond, you’re the one who wrote in the first place so take responsibility. They’ll probably ask that you stop writing to them, so make sure you don’t send another follow-up to those people.

Business is business, sometimes there’s no other way than putting your tail between your legs and saying “I’m very sorry to have annoyed you” to a rude person.

Remember that they might be onto something – if you’re getting a lot of these, you’re definitely doing something wrong. But a tiny percentage of these is a normal thing, as long as you also generate plenty of positive replies.

#5 Challenge

Some prospects write back with a challenge. They’ll do X, if you do Y, and this is actually very important to deal with – that’s why I’ll show you 2 examples. In many cases, these responses mean a “no” – not because they’re completely not interested, but because you shouldn’t waste time.

It’s important because you can’t sacrifice your business model just to get a single client, unless it’s a potentially huge deal or a very influencial client. The cost can’t be bigger than the reward though. Mistakes here can lead to big workflow issues later on.

Example 1:

unusual email

Example 2:

unusual email

Keep your integrity. Don’t break – it’s really not worth it in most cases, especially not if you have other leads you could spend time talking to. Reserve exceptions only for those clients that can deliver big value in return (more about lead qualification from cold email campaigns).

Stay calm

People might think they’d never use your solution. That’s fine, but it’s also temporary. If you don’t burn that bridge with an ill-fitted response, they might come to you if they change their mind. So why close that door?

You should always reply and just be kind and thoughtful. They took the time to read and respond to your email, now you take a few seconds to thank them for it.

Don’t let emotions drive you in a business situation. A potential client is not exactly your buddy, pal, friend or bff – in outbound tactics, like cold emailing, you’re approaching total strangers. You initiated the conversation – whatever they respond, you have to deal with it in the same manner that you started with – check out how write best subject lines for cold emails.

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Piotr Zaniewicz

Founder and CEO at RightHello. Believes that the most important validation of business ideas is to find paying clients. That’s when you know you’re going in the right direction.

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