In 2014 we stopped cold calling and introduced Cold Emailing. With that we significantly increased the business. Today we maintain a 50% response rate and have more fun at work.
We are an outsourced sales force for high tech and software companies that want to gain new customers in the German speaking markets. As classic enterprise sales we used Cold Calling a lot to get qualification calls and meetings with new prospects.
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We All Know The Pain With Cold Calling
- identify the right contact person who is in charge
- reach that person on the phone
- get him in a good mood, grab his attention and agree on a next step
- ultimately find out that this person is not responsible and that he is a gate keeper you wasted your time with. Back to the start.
We used to spend most of our time on the phone trying to reach a person to finally learn in the call that this person is not in charge or doesn’t want to deal with a new subject. Apart from low effectiveness it was frustrating for the whole team.
Our Cold Emailing Test
In October 2014 we did a short trial and targeted 50 companies (mid- and large size enterprises in Germany and Austria). We reached out to their CEOs and VPs via email just to ask who is the appropriate person in their organization for that subject (in this case it was a complex non-commodity software solution). We measured if and when our emails got opened and we precisely tracked the meaning of their responses. After some days we sent reminder emails to those who didn’t answer.
Above 80% of emails where opened between 5 and 90 minutes after sending. Almost all emails were opened on a smartphone the first time. (Don’t tell me all CEOs are too busy to read their emails.)
18 companies didn’t reply at all but from 32 companies we received responses like “talk to Mike”, “it’s me you should talk to, call me Monday”, “I’m Mike. my CEO forwarded your email to me, let’s talk” but also “we have an alternative solution in place”. All good feedbacks which helped us to qualify the prospects! In total we had a 64% response rate (after first email and reminder).
After that trial we immediately adapted our outbound lead generation process and dived deeper into perfecting Cold Emailing. We played around with timings and content and found out what works and what not.
Today, almost one year later I can say that this approach was a real game changer for our outbound lead generation – for us and for our clients. Today, we maintain a response rate of around 50%. Consequently, since December 2014 we haven’t done a single cold call.
What We Really Achieved With Cold Emailing
- Prospect’s CEO and VPs work for us. They tell us in their own interest with whom to speak with. And they should know it best.
- With a top-down referral we already have the attention of the person in charge.
- Significantly better hit ratio (prospects vs. presentations) due to more and qualified responses.
- Effectiveness in the qualification process. We get first hand information directly from the executive board.
- Efficiency. How long does it take to send an email compared to chasing someone over the phone?
- Much more fun and less frustrations at work.
The individual response rate depends on the type of offering, the target group, the vertical but primarily it depends on your own skills how to write such emails and to whom.
We constantly fine tune and A/B test the emails based on the responses we receive and based on the additional information we get in a meeting about their vertical. Again, in average (among all our different clients over several months) we maintain a 50% response rate. Trend is up!
[2019 Update] What did Change, if?
A note on GDPR:
Yes, initially GDPR didn’t make it easier for email prospecting. You definitely don’t have consent when you send a cold email but if you do it right (research quality!) and respectful (value first!) you can play the legitimate interest play. Here’s two very good articles about GDPR and email prospecting:
How to do cold emailing after the GDPR (hunter.io)
Keep Calm and GDPR on (discoveryorg.com)
Today’s Success of Email Prospecting:
What happened to our 2014/2015 success on email prospecting? Do we still maintain such a good response rate? Absolutely! Actually, we typically expect a response rate between 50% and 80%. That is amazing, I know. GDPR helped to reduce the general email noise and to increase overall quality on this channel.
And what about Cold Calling? Did that change?
The only way cold calling works is when you have your most senior salespeople do it. They need to be working the phones. Why? Because they have experience and ability to:
- Build rapport with the C-Level
- Handle objections
- Tell a story
If you want cold-calling to work, get the senior-most farts burning up the phone lines. Cold Calling works! It doesn’t scale, though.