Dealing With Email Auto-Replies

A simple tip for the next time you receive OOO messages.

Have you ever got an automated "I'm out of office" email from a prospect?

Email is a key channel to communicate and nurture your most important relationships. But people get busy and take holidays often, and we never know how to deal with auto-replies. Most consultants end up postponing the action ("I'll put a note in my agenda to follow up"), which almost always never gets done.

So here's a little tactical tip for you to implement the next time you get one of those. It consists of three simple steps:

  1. Write an email that shows you've read that auto-reply, and naturally restate your intention. You can use this simple format: "Welcome back" + "Personalization" + "Why you're reaching out"

    Here's an example of how you could reply to someone who was on holiday:

    "Welcome back John, hope you had some well-deserved rest!
    I reached out because _____"
  2. Find the date when they will be back by scanning the auto-reply. If the date is not clear ("I'll be back next week"), add a couple of days to it to avoid getting another OOO message.
  3. Schedule the email to be sent at this future date.

Done. Once you've scheduled the email, you won't need to think about it anymore. You won't waste time adding this task to your to-do list. And you'll get the email out of your inbox.

If the task takes you less than 3 minutes to get done, take care of it immediately. This is sound advice that's backed by research. It reduces multi-tasking (context-switching) and cognitive overload.

Extra tips:

  • You can create a template for out-of-office replies and save it in your email client tool (Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail), so you can quickly personalize it every time you get one of those back.
  • People usually include their phone numbers in auto-replies. If you don't have it yet, add it to your CRM so you can also give them a call in the future when needed.

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