Jeremey Donovan, Head of Sales Strategy & Sales Operations @ SalesLoft
[00:00:01] All right, we’re going to go ahead and get started. I want to just say thank you to the conference organizers the sense for giving me the opportunity to chat with you guys. Today, we have an action packed 25 minutes. And I’m going to go through a lot of actionable, data driven tips that you can use to double your reply rates. So let’s get right into it. And just by way of reference, I am Jeremy Donovan, the SVP of Sales Strategy over at Sales Loft. We are a sales engagement platform. The slides, I can I can get you the slides if you messaged me on LinkedIn. So go ahead and connect with me on LinkedIn and then I will send the slides back to you. I think that’s the best way for you to get those and just be aware of my first name. I have three kids and my first name. So when you look for me on LinkedIn, don’t forget those. All right, let’s get right into it. So we’re to go through a bunch of things. Again, I want to get to these tips as fast as possible so we can get all 16 of them in in 25 minutes time frame. But I do need to introduce a little bit of the the cadence. Why and what. So most of you, I think, are already familiar with prospecting, using cadences, engaging your customers, using cadences. If you’re not if you’ve been under a rock for a while, that it’s simply all about using multiple touches across multiple channels. You’re all familiar with the channels. I think the key thing here from our data science is that people will often know this and yet only use one channel at a time. And we see reply rates and engagement rates drop by about 80 percent, eight zero percent if you are only single channel. So I assume very few people are still living in the dark ages of prospecting. But if you are prospecting, make sure you use phone, email and social. At the very least, direct mail is definitely growing once again. And I’ve seen clever things during coronavirus where people, you know, can like a can can offer to send something to a prospect and they use an intermediary like some Dosso or Alice in the middle. And there’s probably a few other direct mail providers where the direct mail provider actually keeps that that home address private from the the rep, which I think is good security and privacy, best practice. And yet they can still deliver the benefit. So this is the actual cadence. We use it sales law for outbound prospecting. There’s a bit of data science in here as well. We have over a billion messages that have flowed through our systems from our clients to their prospects. And go through a couple of the highlights here so you can see it’s fifteen touches over 16 days.
[00:02:32] And over the course of that, what we try to do, one sort of data science thing is to double touch on any given on any given day so you can see that across the board. And then the other thing we have is this best referred to as a plus one rule. So we do a set of touches on day one. Plus one is day two plus two. Day four plus three. Day seven plus four. Day eleven plus five, day sixteen. So what we’re doing is we’re adding breathing room between any touch or set of touches and that breathing room creates a degree of pseudo randomness so that it’s not like you’re just sort of hitting somebody with messaging every day or every other day. And that degree of randomness shows some some patience. But it also serves as a pattern interrupt because human beings tend to ignore things that happen at regular intervals. So you want to inject that irregular interval in there. So those are the couple of highlights on there. They’re certainly more packed into why we do things the way we do. You’ll also notice that oftentimes we’ll call before email, and that’s another although there is one exception in here, that’s another thing that is critical. I guess if I highlighted one more thing, it has to do with how we how we handle social. So at the beginning of the Caden’s, we do that data integrity check just to make sure that the person is still where they’re supposed to be, to see that our email and our phone number is in is is healthy and deliverable. And rather than try to connect with the person on the first day, we try to add some value that could be a follow, like a share of their own content, maybe at mentioning them on something relevant to them that perhaps has nothing to do with your company. So try to give them some value in the early social touches before, you know, mid kadence you actually connect with them. All right, if if we were actually able to to talk live here, although you’re watching live, we had, I guess, cheesily chat, but I haven’t asked this question of how many total activities does it take to generate a new sales opportunity? So just imagine that you took one of your your reps, counted their total activities over the course of whatever it is, a month, quarter, a year or whatever, and then divide that by the number of opportunities and they generated. So this is not about like the fifteen touches that you might execute in a cadence. Not all of those 15 touches, not all those cadences will actually get a response. You’ve got a lot of people who don’t respond. So. So what’s the real answer here? It’s it’s a lot it’s like 200 to 300 touches, not by not into one person, but across a variety of people to get a new op. Right. So as I mentioned in the footnote here, it’s think about this is engaging 15 people 15 times and one of them turns into a qualified opportunity that sounds and feels about right. So there is you you’re going to have to do a lot of touches. And in order to get through the main thing, advice that we have on on doubling response rate is obviously to personalize it. Unless you have a hyper account based prospecting approach and maybe you’re prospecting a very, very, very small subset of accounts. Maybe you’re in the enterprise space and you’ve got, I don’t know, 10 to 20 accounts that you’re you’re going after, then it’s going to be impossible to personalize every single touch. So in the vast majority of cases, my advice is to personalize the first email. And so the question is how to personalize the first e-mail. And this is just a reinforcement of the fact that if you personalize, then you will double your response rates. The way to read this is the X axis is the proportion of personalization. So what we did was we looked at all the emails that flow through our servers and we figured out there are times where people could just send a template and those templates can have dynamic fields like first name and industry or roll or whatever. So ignoring those dynamic fields and only instances where reps overwrite portions of the template, that’s what the X axis is. So if they overwrite, say, 20 percent of the template doesn’t have to be the beginning, but it often is the beginning. That would be your 20 percent mark. If they blow away the whole template and personalize the whole thing, that’s the hundred percent mark. And then the reply rate is what’s on the Y axis. So what you can see is you get a nice return on personalization from zero to 20 percent personalization. So a little bit of personalization and then a flat line. So personalizing beyond the first 20 percent all the way through about 80 percent does not do you any extra good. And then interestingly, the response rate actually rolls back off again when you hit 80 percent. We don’t exactly know why that is, but we have a good hypothesis of why that is. And we think it’s because the you put a lot of effort into into your AB testing to get your templates right to your messaging, to get your templates right and so on. And sure, you can blow away a template, you know, and and have an anecdotal example of success. But when you’re looking at, as we did here, 300 million emails, you’re more likely to to mess things up that to fix them when you’re operating at a larger scale. All right, so to personalizes what to do, but the big question is how to do that. So I’ll start with a not so great prospecting email here. It’s it’s OK, actually. It’s got all the elements, subject line greeting. It’s a good sort of three part structure with the hook, the value prop, the call to action and then the signature. Otherwise it’s fairly generic. Right. I’m reaching out because I see you are doing X and I help people at companies A, B and C, and then they transition into their value prop and then they ask for a meeting. So that’s a pretty typical email. There’s no personalization in this one yet. So how can we make this better? And there’s a few good thinkers out there who have already thought this through Jeff Hoffman, who did it about 20 years ago and continues to do so today, and back Holland, who has some great flip the script content that has been talking about this as well more recently and with a little bit more momentum right now. So the advice that they give is to go through this flow and you start with PROSPEKT created content. If they have that, you stop, you use that for personalization. If they don’t, you move on. And I won’t go through this. You should look up their stuff. I will focus on the first one, which is oftentimes you may be prospecting people who are active on social media, for example. So they’re posting on LinkedIn or maybe they are interviewed on podcasts or have written articles, blog posts, whatever, just anything that they’ve created. So that’s that’s that’s your starting point. So when you have that, here’s an example of where I prospekt it back to one of those experts who’s talking about personalization. And I personalize the subject line and I personalized it by doing the following. I watched some of her content. And you can see this this first line here. I’ve been devouring your videos and love the anecdote. Now, I quote her back to her and that I reference something in minute. Twenty three, obsession three. So what I’m doing there is I’m personalizing in a way that a machine really could I mean it could a machine do it. Could IBM Watson do it. Sure is. But it probably wouldn’t be put to use to that application. So it’s in a way that that today’s A.I. does not conventionally personalize because you want to show that you as a human being have put effort into communicating with this other person as a human being. That’s a personalization is and the at scale piece is to use a framework like this, know like these sort of six ways to personalize, use the framework to do that at scale. But it still must be effortful to trigger reciprocity on the part of the buyer. The other important part is, is that from whatever your initial personalization is, you must segway into your value prop. Don’t just sort of have personalization. I see this mistake a lot where they personalize and then they just drop their value prop and there’s no Segway. So in this case I said, I’ve been doing your videos, loved your anecdote about preferring Pandora or Spotify. And then here’s the Segway. Just like with streaming music services, you have a choice of sales engagement platforms that do X, Y, Z. So that’s that’s a much better example of personalization. All right. Fifteen minutes, sixteen tips so we can do it. I have confidence. So first, as I often find asked, when is the best time of day or day of week, whatever it is, to engage prospects? And the short answer is the best time of day to have. Week is now. Sounds simple, but there really, although there are statistically significant variations, these are large sample sizes in, say, reply rate or connect rate via the phone. That’s the left and the right. You’re really not going to see a huge difference. So the way to read these graphs and pay attention to the one on the left is this reply rate multiplier. We’re going to talk about this a lot. So if you’re average, we just forget we’re normalizing to average reply rate. So the normalized average reply rate, we’re just calling a one or one hundred percent basically, and then say take Monday, sending an email on a Monday. At one point one means 10 percent higher than average. So if your average reply rate was five percent, 10 percent higher than that is five point five percent, 10 percent of five is point five. So five point five percent. So that’s way to read it. 100 percent is the average. The only real dip you see is you see a bit of a dip on Friday, and that’s because Friday afternoon, slow down Saturday, obviously slow. And then Sunday comes back and it’s kind of an average of the other ones. And the reason is, is that Friday, you know, most of the sorry Sunday, most of the day is low. And then people kind of get ready to catch up for the for the week. They catch up on their emails Sunday night. So your reply rates come back up again. So really any time from Sunday evening through basically Friday, call it to 3:00 p.m., those are all perfectly fine times to to send emails. I wouldn’t try to hit the right day. It’s not like you can afford to do that on the connect rate Somali. This is phone calls lasting more than two minutes. That’s how we define connect in the data. There are statistically significant differences and connect rates. But look, it’s like six or seven percent no matter what. And interestingly, a lot of pundits will say call early in the morning or late at night. This is back more, I guess, when people were working in offices. But even then. That actually was not better to do is actually worse, just, you know, call between business hours and and you should be fine. All right. Next has to do with inbound leads. We’re going to just deviate from that format of the reply rate multiplier. Just for one more second kind of obvious here is you want to respond to inbound leads as fast as possible. There’s some research from topos that says, you know, basically under an hour is fine. I tend to be more in the five minute camp. So we advocate trying to to respond in under five minutes. We tested the response time actually of cloud 100 companies and about 40 percent actually do meet that five minute service level agreement. In total, about 60 percent are within an hour or so. They would meet the topos guidance, but that you still got 40 percent of companies who take longer to respond and even 10 percent who don’t respond. So even some of the best companies in the world don’t have the the ultimate best practice here of of instantaneous response. All right. All the rest of the tips that we’re going to go into are going to go back to that format of the reply rate multiplier. So, again, what it is like 100 percent and then the though of your of your average reply rate. So keep your subject line short. We know this, but here’s the data smack dab in your face. It’s about five or 10 million emails that we use to look at this, even 87 percent higher reply rate. If you so nearly double if you have a one word subject line. I’m often asked, what’s the what is that magic word that it’s not gold. The magic word is actually your company name.
[00:14:04] So use your company name as as the subject line, certainly of your first email, even if you’re a company name, is not that well known that that’s perfectly fine. I’m also often asked that the other thing people ask me about this material is what is the zero? That actually means an empty subject line. So it’s kind of a sneaky thing to do that people think increases reply rates. And in fact, it does a little bit, but it’s not. It’s an open race and reply rates. It’s not significant. So I would avoid that subject line. That’s it’s I find it to be kind of an unethical practice and it’s actually worse than a one word subject line.
[00:14:39] All right, you often see these emails where it might say the company, like the senders company, name the recipient company, name the recipients first name. It turns out that the sender company name, as I mentioned, that’s your own company name, is the best thing you can do. Putting the recipient company name is fine doesn’t hurt these days. Putting the recipients first name and it actually does not work. It lowers response rates. That point eight means you have a 12 percent lower reply rate if you put the recipients first name in there. Why do I think that’s happening? It’s because anything that starts to look like marketing, like that’s why I say I warn with personalization that personalization really is true. Human effort, anything that starts to look like marketing starts to lower response rates. So avoid using the recipient’s first name in your emails, single biggest thing that drives reply rates. The reason I don’t put this first I put it in tip five is because it’s easier said than done, is to use the word referred or referred by in your subject line. And of course, that’s not because you’re using the word. It’s because you actually got a legitimate referral. So those are still the best things you can do in sales, period. And it proves true, obviously, in an email engagement as well. Next is, you know, we already saw we’re in a transition from the subject line now into the body. So the keeping your email short is the same sort of thing as keeping your subject line short. You can keep your emails under about 100 words. I think that’s safe. Keep it under 50 if you want to really do well.
[00:16:11] So the wait. I also think about this is if it fits on, if if it fits nicely and is easily readable on a mobile screen, you’re probably in good shape. But again, don’t don’t exceed that hundred word threshold. All right, Fast and Furious covid, We’re probably I mean, the world, unfortunately, is not over yet and hopefully we survive as as a as a planet successfully through the next year or so until there’s vaccines widely available.
[00:16:41] But prospecting wise people are really over this. If you put that cupboard in your subject line, your response rate drops by about 50 percent, five zero percent. It’s actually 47 percent. And if you start your first sentence with covid or coronavirus, your your reply rates drop as well.
[00:16:56] So just. Yeah, important critical social topic for us as a as a race and planet, the human race and the planet, but not as suitable for prospecting. All right. It is in contrast, though, hoping your well is actually a perfectly OK thing to do if you start your first sentence with hope or hoping or use it anywhere in the first sentence. I hope you’re doing well. That’s all fine. Just don’t put it in a subject line. Right? So you probably notice or you may not have noticed that in that email I sample email I showed before it was hey and then Beck or whomever. And when you use hey that their response rate, interestingly, is is significantly higher than other ways of greeting people. I think this is the sort of thing which which, you know, has been working. And it works because it’s a bit unusual as more and more reps begin to do this or as the marketing world begins to pick up on this, I think that effect will, you know, neutralize and come back down again.
[00:18:03] All right, a lot of people talk about whether you should use I or you or we in emails and they often say, start with you and always use you, never use it. I it turns out that’s bad advice to just use you. It’s perfectly fine to use I in fact, if you start with you, you have a 40 percent lower response rate and it kind of makes sense, right.
[00:18:24] If your first sentence starts with you, it’s a very aggressive approach and a very presumptive approach. So don’t sweat this whole I youwe thing. It’s perfectly fine to use I and then more than that, I’ll get this in a second is like the percentage of eyes and using emails.
[00:18:41] But we’ll hang tight and I’ll get to that ending your first sentence. So we looked at whether you use a period, a question mark or an exclamation mark. I got an email today actually with a question mark in the first sentence. That’s an OK thing to do. It’s about an average reply rate. Turns out that the most effective thing you can do again until everyone starts doing it is to put something again, be legitimate, be authentic, put an exclamation mark, a statement worthy of an exclamation mark in that first sentence.
[00:19:07] And you can see emails that we’ve looked at. Again, this is about. This one was, I think, three to five million emails in this case has about a 50 percent higher response rate.
[00:19:19] All right, we got a few minutes left, a few more tips. We’re doing well. So I talked earlier about, you know, it’s OK to start your first sentence with I. You can also think about the percentage of eyes in the entire email. So how often do you use eye relative to you? So this this x axis here is is eyes. So count up all the eyes you use. Let’s say you had ten eyes as a percentage of the the eyes and the use or yours. And so let’s say you had 20 sorry, you had 10 years. So you’ve got ten eyes over ten plus ten, ten eyes plus ten use 10 over 20. So you might have 50 percent in that case eyes as a as a total of the number of eyes and use. That’s all kind of convoluted. But what you can see from the graph here is that as long as you’re not extreme on either spectrum, like it’s long as you don’t only use you, which would be a weird email where you don’t always use eye, which is a bit of a selfish email. You’re fine.
[00:20:19] So I interpret this as basically having a conversational as having a conversational tone. So just use eye and you naturally in your emails and don’t sweat. You know that that pronoun usage too much.
[00:20:33] We looked at bullets and dashes. So if you use both your emails, your response rates dropped by thirty seven percent. So pretty significant drop. If you have to do something, use dashes instead. I think two things are going on here. One is, is, as I said, I think it looks like marketing.
[00:20:49] So any kind of HTML treatment which bullets are as opposed to plain text tends to command lower response rates. There’s also something else going on, which I think is a statisticians would call it multicar linearity. It’s that that where you have bullets, you probably also have long email. So part of the effect here may be that you’re over one hundred words that’s causing some of this dip in the response rate. But if you have to use one of the two use dashes plaintext, so carrying on that theme of don’t do HTML bold underline italics like any of that stuff, changing fonts, just just don’t do it. I guess the opposite of the Nike slogan, just don’t do it.
[00:21:34] You see all of those have have 13 percent lower, 17 percent lower and twenty four percent lower response rates. If you if you do anything that looks like fancy html don’t use hyperlinks or to I shouldn’t say don’t use hyperlinks. Hyperlinks are fine 014 fine. That’s, that’s OK. But beware of like many, many, many hyperlinks. It’s the same deals like don’t overwhelm people with choice but also don’t make it look like a marketing email.
[00:22:00] I was asked and it’s not in here explicitly but I was asked whether it mattered, whether you like have the raw you URL or whether you replace that with with text. It turns out it does not matter whether you use a raw URL or if you use it with text. I guess the exception is if you have it, you are out with really, really long tracking codes. So there you would want to replace with text and you would have there would be no negative impact. The only thing you do not want to do is use a Eurail shortener. People tend not to engage with the emails that have you URL Short-Termism. I think it’s probably because of kind of security and and privacy concerns is if you can’t read what the URL is, you get a little nervous and are unlikely to engage. And then finally, last but not least, I’ll throw in one bonus tip since we have three minutes after this. I got a kind of interesting one just fresh off the presses. Last but not least is that we looked at different ways to sign off just as we had the greetings. And so, like now all my emails begin with, hey, for years and years I had ended all my emails with regards because that’s what I was taught, I should say. That’s what I was emulating when I was at the early part of my career many moons ago, multiple decades ago. And when we ran this data, I saw that best was best. So I now signed off all my emails with best. So I start with, hey, I end with best. There are lots of other data science findings that we have emails. The bonus one I’ll throw at you is we looked recently at the use of emojis and subject lines and it turns out the use of an emoji in a subject line decreases response rates by fifty one percent, by five one percent. So do not use emojis in your subject lines. That is it. We got two minutes to go, so I’ll just use that two minutes to repeat that. You can get the slides for me. Don’t believe they’re available from the conference organizers so you can connect with me on LinkedIn. Ask me for those slides, happy to oblige and you can get the full email personalization guide of all those six ways to personalize with examples on this blog selling Sherpa Dotcom. It’s where I post besides on the sales loft blog. I’ll also post there. And the last thing is, if you do like podcasts, we do have a Sales People podcast. Quite proud that we have. Over one hundred thousand downloads of that podcast, so check us out on Hey salespeople or check us out on sales loft dotcom. All right. Hope you guys enjoyed Bewell. Well, thank you.
Sales & Marketing Stage
Ascent Conference 2020