Smart Ways To Deal With Rejection In Cold Emailing

Monika Chmielewska in

Blog/Cold Mailing/Smart Ways To Deal With Rejection In Cold Emailing

There’s no reason to get discouraged when your cold emails generate negative replies – it happens in most campaigns. There are a lot of things you can do to turn those negatives into a positive thing, and in turn get better results from your campaigns.

Regardless of how great you are at sales, there’s always a chance that potential customers will downright refuse your offer. They have every right to do so, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it.

In fact, a definite NO from a potential customer might provide an important lesson about your campaign, or even your business.

That’s why this guide covers one of the most overlooked aspects of cold emailing – dealing with negative replies.

We’ll explain what causes negative replies, how to approach them, and what they can teach you.

Firstly, let’s deal with the myth that effective cold emailing should only generate positive replies.

Are negative replies normal in cold emailing?

The results of a cold email campaign are always a mixed bag.

In that bag, there’s usually a decent number of positive replies, and a bit larger number of negative replies.

How many negative replies are too many?

It’s relative – instead of looking for a specific percentage, it’s easier to assume that at least a quarter (¼) of the replies should be positive.

For example, a bad campaign is one that generates 15% negative replies, and only 1% positive.

But if we’re looking at 15% negative to 10% positive, then it’s not too bad.

So negative replies are completely normal, and nothing to be afraid of — unless there’s too many of them compared to the number of positive replies.

What usually causes negative replies?

Common types and causes of negative replies

If you have experience in direct sales, then you probably know all too well the different things that people say when they don’t want to disappoint you with a quick “no, thank you”.

The truth is that if most people learned to just say “no” when they don’t need something, then a lot of salespeople would’ve had much easier jobs.

Let’s list the usual suspects. The most common negative replies usually contain arguments like:

  • the budget is too small,
  • other priorities are more important,
  • no need at the moment (but maybe in the future),
  • in-house resources are good enough,
  • already working with another company.

Sometimes we knock on someone’s doors at the wrong moment. They might be annoyed, depressed, sick, drowning in work, or all of the above. This mechanism causes another common negative email reply – the angry reply. That’s when somebody replies something along the lines of “leave me alone”, or “if you don’t stop emailing me, I’ll report you”.

Once they get a good workflow going, people don’t want to stop what they’re doing, especially because of an email. Those people might reply that they’re not interested without even realising what you offer – in their mind, they’re just getting rid of another thing that’s interrupting their workflow.

Now that we’ve revised the common types of negative replies – how do we deal with them?

Best practices for handling negative replies

The common mistake with cold emailing is that we expect amazing results, but refuse to put in the work that’s necessary to achieve them.

That’s why most people won’t even bother with negative replies – they just let go of those leads.

In specific, rare cases that is indeed the right thing to do. But too often we’re leaving money on the table because we want to avoid dealing with negativity.

It’s as if you were a cook who throws away a perfectly good cut of meat only because you’re not really sure what to do with it. Very wasteful approach.

So what is a non-wasteful, proper approach to dealing with negative replies?

There’s only one crucial rule here — always be professional. If you were a superhero, your name should be The Professional.

In that spirit, here are several important pointers for professionally dealing with negative replies:

  • don’t get emotional,
  • don’t get drawn into an argument,
  • don’t try to convert aggressive leads,
  • don’t give up on cold emailing.

With these rules in mind, let’s see how we can manage risk and maximize our return from negative replies. We’ll try to visualize that with specific examples.

Example 1: You send a cold email, and get a negative reply that essentially says “our own, in-house tech is enough to satisfy our needs”.

The BAD way to deal with it would be to not write anything, or get annoyed and write a snarky response like “okay, I didn’t want you as a customer anyway, bye!”.

The GOOD way to deal with it would be to try and keep the conversation going: “I understand your tech is currently enough, but what if you wanted to increase your production capacity?”, or “Maybe our offer could be a useful addition to your current tech stack?”.

Example 2: You send a cold email, and get an aggressive reply that essentially says “You’re a spammer, and I’m reporting you. Leave me alone, asshole!”.

The BAD way to deal with it would be to start arguing, along the lines of “We’re not spammers, I’m not an asshole, and don’t offend me because you don’t know me!”.

The GOOD way to deal with it would be to disarm the angry reply with professionalism, along the lines of “Sorry if my email annoyed you, my goal wasn’t to inconvenience you. I won’t be sending emails your way anymore. Please forgive me, and best of luck to you and {{COMPANY}}!”.

Example 3: You send a cold email, and get a reply that essentially says “we’re working with your competitors already, and are satisfied with the results”.

The BAD way to deal with it would be to dig a hole under your competitor, along the lines of “well, did you know that they don’t do good work, and their office stinks like old onions?”.

The GOOD way to deal with it would be to applaud their choice, and leave an open window for cooperation in the future, along the lines of “That’s a great choice, they’re an awesome company. But if you ever think about switching providers, I’ll appreciate it if you keep us in mind.”

3 examples is probably enough to give you a general idea of how to be professional, regardless of the type of negative reply that you have to deal with.

Another great, professional thing that you can do with negative replies is to ask for feedback.

Avoid asking the angriest leads for feedback, but as long as it’s a non-aggressive, disinterested reply, you can always ask what they didn’t like about your campaign, or even about your offer.

In case someone replies that they don’t have time, you should try your best to schedule a specific time at which to get back to them.

It might not seem like much, but an event scheduled in both your calendars is much more effective than an “email me again in a few months, maybe”.

It’s never good to burn bridges. By keeping it professional, and applying the above ideas in your cold emailing strategy, you will significantly reduce the risk of destroying relationships with potential customers.

Negative replies, if managed well, can serve as convenient bridges towards great partnerships in the future. If you can keep the conversation going after an initial negative reply, then there’s a big chance that you’ll turn that lead into a customer later on.

Let’s move on. What can you learn from negative replies?

What negative replies tell you about your campaign and your offer

A regular amount of negative replies doesn’t tell you much – those are always going to be there.

But an irregular, weirdly large amount of negative replies can be a very important sign.

In most cases, this signals that you’re targeting the wrong customers.

Perhaps you should test a different target group? Or reduce the amount of emails you send, while increasing the quality of your contact list?

In case of a new product or service, if you get too many negative replies, but the campaign was perfectly made – your offer might not be good enough.

Try to revise what you’re offering, see if you’re giving enough value, and if you’re solving your target customers’ actual problems.

Another lesson that negative replies teach you, is that your emails may either be annoying, not personalised enough, or both.

If you’re not sure how to fix your emails, you can always:

  • Work on a killer subject line (people don’t open emails with bad subject lines)
  • Cut out unnecessary, forced jokes (it is a serious situation, after all)
  • Fix all grammar mistakes (ask an english native speaker for proofreading, or use a tool like Grammarly)
  • Reduce TMI (if there’s Too Much Information, reduce your emails to the least necessary amount of information)

Sometimes the lesson will be unique to your situation, so the most important thing is to stay vigilant, keep analyzing the replies generated from your campaign, and keep looking for these lessons yourself.


Negative replies are inevitable in cold emailing, and they don’t always mean that there’s something wrong with your campaign.

If there’s too many of them, then yes – it’s a sign that you should probably look into fixing your campaign by choosing a different target group, or reworking your emails.

Some negative replies can be turned into a positive thing – a future customer, or a priceless lesson – as long as you keep it professional.

Hopefully, after reading this guide, you now understand why it’s important to play your cards right every time, and what methods to use to squeeze every bit of sales juice out of negative replies.

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Monika Chmielewska

Chief Marketing Officer at RightHello, inbound marketing specialist with the focus on lead generation. Passionate about content marketing and social media. Obsessed with personal development.