If your job requires a computer, then you likely spend time each week sweeping back a tsunami of email. A salesman reaches out to your business email address with an offer. Later that week he sends you another message. And then another one. And then another one.
Even if you don’t have the type of job where salespeople solicit your business, you’ve probably received multiple promotional emails from a favorite store or organization.
And when you notice companies sending you the same or similar emails over and over, you probably wonder: If I didn’t answer the first time, do they really think I’ll be interested the fifth time around? Why do they bother to keep sending me emails I don’t respond to?
Well, we’re prepared to answer that question.
At LeadGenius, we help our clients find and communicate with their ideal customers. Part of this process involves helping them send a lot of emails—a process we want to make as efficient and helpful (to both buyer and seller) as possible.
The short answer to why sales people keep emailing you, even after you ignored their first 4 emails is simple: odds are, you might come around. The numbers don’t lie.
The statistics show that when salespeople continue to send follow-up emails to people who haven’t responded yet, they win a lot more business.
In fact, our data suggests that most salespeople give up too quickly and should possibly send you more emails—32% of the positive replies that our customers received from leads came in response to their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th cold email.
If you’ve ever emailed a friend, mentor, or co-worker without hearing a response, you’ve probably debated whether to send another email. Will you seem annoying or desperate?
Salespeople face the same dilemma—at scale. It seems like common sense to assume that the open rate will fall precipitously after the first email. After all, why would anyone open a sales email if they ignored the first one?
But that’s not what happens in practice.
When LeadGenius customers send follow up sales emails—after not having received a response—fewer people open the emails. But the decline is modest: 40% open the first email, and 26% open the fifth email. (These open rates are high for the industry because LeadGenius uses a combination of machine learning and human researchers to identify and send emails to only the most promising leads for a given company. In essence, targeting matters.)
Opens. Clicks. Unsubscribes. These are the metrics most sales and marketing teams uses to measure the success of their email campaigns. These numbers are used not because they are what matter most, but rather because they are what’s readily available through most email marketing tools.
However, what sales people really care about are positive replies—how many leads respond with interest to an email. LeadGenius keeps tracks this data for customers.
When we look at positive reply by email send, we once again find that the first email leads to the most potential business—but not by much:
It seems reasonable after sending 3 emails to assume you won’t get a response. But LeadGenius customers who sent a 4th email received almost as many positive replies as they did from their first email.
The result of this surprising dynamic is that our customers received a whopping 32% of their positive replies from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th emails they sent.
Sending a sales email followed by a single follow up email might strike you as a good, polite policy. Yet almost 20% of the successful replies came in response to emails number 3, 4, and 5. If you’re a sales organization, you can’t afford to leave 20% of your potential profit on the table.
One reason why sales people might shy away from sending so many emails is that it could deter business. Companies work hard to cultivate a positive brand impression. If a sales rep turns into a gnat buzzing around the customer’s head, that could ruin your chances of successfully connecting further on down the road.
Another reason companies might limit their emails is for fear of unsubscribes and SPAM complaints. Under American law, anyone sending an email for business purposes has to offer a way for people to opt-out of future emails, which is usually accomplished by including an Unsubscribe button. By emailing people until they unsubscribe or complain, salespeople risk getting their company’s IP blacklisted.
Yet our data does not show this happening. When our customers email leads, the leads unsubscribe at a lower rate in response to a 5th email than they do to a first email.
Even when salespeople send 5 emails without getting a reply, there’s no sign that people revolt at receiving all these emails.
So what’s going on?
Follow-up emails do nearly as well as a first email because all emails risk getting lost in a sea of communication. The Radicati Group research firm estimates that the average worker receives 121 business-related emails each day, and managers who are the targets of sales emails usually receive even more.
Consider the experience that journalist Minda Zetlin relates in an article about pitching a former client. She emailed four times and called twice without receiving a response.
This seems like a clear sign of a lack of interest. But Zetlin called one more time, and the client picked up and agreed to the pitch. “She hadn’t read or didn’t remember my emails or phone messages,” Zetlin writes.
Everyone has different email habits and different ideas about email etiquette. But one constant is that it’s rarely a good idea to assume that someone has seen an email just because you sent it once.
What’s more, many people who are interested in an offer, demo, or conversation simply don’t have time to write a response the first, second, third or fourth time they get email. In this situation, each send nudges them a little bit closer to responding.
So why do you keep receiving the same sales emails over and over? Because it works, and because the only way to reach people lost in a torrent of email is to just keep trying.