How To Leverage the “Out-of-Office” Reply


I love to receive out of-office-replies. Yes, you read that right! Now that I have your attention due to the fact that you think I may be clinically insane, hear me out. Seriously, more often than not, out-of-office replies contain valuable information that I can use to better understand an organization or individual. This additional information can typically aid me in growing the relationships that I am currently building throughout the sales process.

Organizations should discuss the importance of leveraging the information that is often provided in a typical out-of-office reply. Think about what is normally contained in the average out-of-office reply. You have probably seen different variations of the following: additional contact names, phone numbers, email addresses, reason for absence, return date, and appropriate communication steps. Don’t just slam the delete button! Think about how this information is valuable to the sales process. Identification of influencers is often difficult.  If the reply provides another colleague as an alternative contact, more than likely they will have some influence on the opportunity in which sales is working.

If the person provides specific information as to being on vacation or attending a trade show, this information can be used to break the ice, create rapport, and better understand the person upon their return. This added level of personalization requires minimal effort, but greatly aids the most important function of sales: building a relationship and trust between sales and the prospect. Think about it for a minute, it is fairly easy to notice a “salesy” email based on the subject line if not the first line of text if you happen to open the email. These emails can be frustrating because someone you do not know is assuming that you need their product/service. On the other hand, an email or call that begins with questions about a contact’s recent vacation or trade show can serve to put the individual at ease as you, the sales person, have proven at least a minor investment in getting to know them. Gaining trust simply by combing through the “Out-of-Office!”

Marketing and Sales should be aligned with the importance of capturing and updating the customer database or CRM with these self-disclosed, valuable pieces of information.  For email marketers, it might not be in your best interest to ignore or potentially worse, auto-delete out-of-office replies.  As marketing sends out mass emails, they should consider the impact of having the “from address” be from a real person (department head, a sales person, or account manager). If using an alias address (info@, marketing@, etc.) a specific person should be assigned to receive the out-of-office replies and be responsible for processing this information accordingly.

“Out-of-office replies”: not just an auto-delete, but at valuable asset for your marketing and sales teams!

For more on marketing automation and sales, be sure to check out “Top 3 Uses of Marketing Automation for Sales.”