What to use instead of a “touching base” email

For years, sending a touching base email has been part of proper sales etiquette. You don’t want to be too pushy, but you can’t risk falling off the radar, either. The solution? You send a follow-up email and hope for the best. While this “follow-up” technique isn’t necessarily a bad one, there are alternatives that could garner much more exciting results.

What is a touching base email?

“Touching base” is a popular idiom primarily used in business circles. It means to reach out and check in with someone following a meeting, interview, or another form of communication. Most experts think America’s favorite pastime inspired the phrase. In baseball, runners and fielders both have to “touch base” to ensure they’re safe or effectively getting the opponent out.

When you send a touching base email, you’re making contact to achieve a specific purpose, such as:

  • Reminding the recipient that you’re waiting on a response or other promised communication
  • Seeing how the other party is progressing with their part of a shared project
  • Checking in with a colleague, client, or acquaintance you haven’t spoken with recently
  • Asking for an opinion on an ongoing project
  • Saying hi and keeping the lines of communication open, even if there isn’t something specific to discuss

An example might look something like this:

Hi Beverly!
I’m just touching base to see if you’ve had a chance to discuss our proposal with your team. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. We’re eager to work with Company XYZ on the new SuperGizmo and hope to hear back from you soon.
Best,
Graham

Benefits of sending a follow-up email

Touching base via email is popular because it’s easy, it’s fast, and requires relatively little effort. Just sign in to your email account, dash off a few lines of friendly text and your work is done.

These brief emails can work well in scenarios where there might not be a need for more extensive dialogue. It can be awkward to schedule a conference call when you just want to see whether a collaborator’s trial is on schedule. The other party may not be able to give an immediate answer, creating an awkward situation. An email gives them time to consider your question, do any necessary info gathering, and then send an equally fast but measured response.

When not to send a touching base email

Touching base emails can seem like an easy way to reach out and connect with clients. The problem is that easy and effective don’t always go hand in hand. The big problem with these emails is that they tend to lack value. They’re usually devoid of actionable content and are largely skippable. The open-ended “just touching base” line is overdone, underwhelming, and easily forgettable. What is the recipient supposed to do next?

The lack of a call to action can stall the conversation rather than propel it forward — the exact opposite of your intent.

Alternatives to a touching base email

Next time you want to check in with a prospect, try swapping out the overused “touching base” email with more substance.

Deliver value

If you’re sending your email in an effort to remind the recipient that you exist, it’s best to include something of value. One example might be sending a link to an article, e-book, or podcast your prospect might fight interesting.

Tie into a previous conversation or shared interest

Have you noticed if your prospect has just shared a new article on LinkedIn? Spied a story that reminds you of a previous conversation? That could be the opening you’ve been anticipating. The trick here is to forward the link with a quick yet insightful comment. You don’t want to be too generic, but neither do you want to come across as overeager. Aim for sincerity and be complimentary without gushing.

Say congratulations

A new product launch or big acquisition deserves a bit of celebration. Even a successful sales promotion can leave prospects in great spirits and primed to take on another venture. Make sure you’re top of mind by dropping a line to applaud their accomplishment and let them know you’re paying attention.

Close with a call to action

If you really want to move the deal along, it’s time to stop being vague and start asking for something concrete. It’s probably too pushy to try to snag a sale via email. Instead, you can suggest a specific action that might get you a lot closer to hearing that all-important yes.

  • Ask for a meeting on a specific day or within a specific time period (e.g., “How does a meet-and-greet with Sally on Thursday sound?”)
  • Request a follow-up with a few suggestions for a product title, pricing structure, or other key detail
  • Provide a calendar link and ask them to book a slot at their convenience. Or even better, send them some specific times.

Examples of touching base email alternatives

There are countless ways to customize the suggestions above. You may decide to use a single technique or combine several approaches for a more dynamic, interesting message.

Here are a few examples to get you started:

Example #1:

Hi Janet,
I just finished reading this blog, and it reminded me of our discussion about uncapped commissions. I thought you might find it just as interesting as I did. Hope all is well — let’s connect for another chat about the X Project soon!”
Best,
Graham

Example #2:

Hey Samantha,
I’m on the sixth hole at our favorite course, and I can’t help thinking this would be the perfect place to hammer out the details about the QuotaPath agreement we’ve been discussing. I just checked and they have a 9 a.m. tee time Thursday. Are you interested?
Best,
Graham

Example #3:

Dave!
I just got news of your promotion, and while I can’t say I’m surprised, I’m definitely thrilled! Clearly, your company knows they’ve got a keeper.
You’d mentioned September is when you start reviewing budgets for next fiscal year. I’d love to come by your office and drop off some champagne and see if we could make something work. Are you around Tuesday at lunch?
Congratulations,
Graham

The average businessperson’s inbox sees more than 120 emails every day. How will you make your next message stand out?

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