In a recent article, you learned why to respond slowly to emails. Here are 3 specific situations when you should intentionally delay your email reply:
1. When you receive a “flaky” email (wait at least 1 day to reply). If someone (not a customer or boss) sends you a “flaky” email, you should intentionally wait at least a few days to reply, despite the fact that you probably want to eliminate their inane message from your inbox as fast as possible. For example, the other day someone sent me an email to ask for another copy of a report I sent them last year for free. This report took me over one month to write, and I know it was extremely valuable for their organization, yet they misplaced their copy. Why should I drop whatever I am doing to reply quickly to this request? “Flaky” emails merit long delays in response time. If you reply too quickly to a “flaky” email, you give the impression that it is okay for someone to harass you whenever they have a “brain fart.”
2. When you receive a slow email reply from someone else (wait at least 1 day to reply): If you send someone an email, and they take forever to get back to you, it will look desperate if you reply to them right away. For example, I recently received an email from someone who waited 2 weeks to reply to one of my emails about a proposal we are working on. If I was to reply to their email right away, I’d unintentionally look desperate and give the impression that I have been sitting here waiting for their reply. It may sound like I’m playing games here, but it’s wise to delay a reply in this sort of situation. While there are exceptions, if someone doesn’t reply to you quickly, they should be prepared to wait to hear back from you, too.
3. When you receive an email from a new prospect (wait a few hours to reply): If you are a salesperson or entrepreneur, it’s incredibly tempting to respond right away whenever someone expresses any interest whatsoever in paying you. While there may be businesses where a lightning-fast reply is important, it’s very unlikely that a prospect will disappear if they have to wait a few hours to hear back from you. In fact, you may scare them off if you reply right away. (Note: existing customers should be treated differently than prospective customers.) Recently, I reached out to a freelancer I considered hiring for a project. When he replied to my initial email in a matter of minutes, it made me wonder if he had any other customers. Ultimately, I hired someone else who was responsive without being too eager.
From now on, ask yourself these 2 questions before you reply quickly to an email:
1. “Does this person/email actually deserve a slow reply?”
2. “Will I look desperate or like I’m not busy by replying to this email right away?”
If the answer to either question is “yes,” be more deliberate in how/when you reply.
Pete Leibman is the Founder of Dream Job Academy and the Author of the new book titled “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You.” His career advice has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN, and he is a popular Keynote Speaker at career events for college students and at conferences for people who work with college students.