There is a lot great of information out there on how to send a good initial cold email, but the truth is there’s a good chance your prospect won’t reply. If you’re like most B2B sales reps, you’re averaging reply rate hovers around a 12%. If you’re really good, you’re north of 15%.

However, nearly half of all salespeople give up after one attempt, according to Scripted. It’s easy to think, “If I just gave my best effort with a great 1st email, then what are the chances a prospect will reply to any subsequent emails? I should just move on to the next lead.”

It’s logical to think this, however, it’s dead wrong.

In 2014, Sirius Decisions reported that 80% of sales require more than five follow ups. In fact, multiple sources report that this number has increased to eight or more in the last year.

Another self-defeating thought is, “I don’t want to follow up too much, lest I becoming annoying.” Yes, this can easily happen if you’re not following up correctly. However, if you are, then your follow-ups are welcomed.

It’s time to rethink how your follow up with your leads. It’s time to develop a solid follow up strategy. It’s time to start closing more deals! In the rest of this post, I’m going to cover the five key characteristics of highly effective outbound sales follow ups.

We’ll explore:

  1. How many follow ups does it take to get a reply?
  2. What other channels should I be using besides email?
  3. What’s the best timing for follow ups?
  4. What should I say in the content of my follow up?
  5. How personal should my follow ups be?

 

1) How Many Follow Ups Does It Take To Get a Reply?

There’s no magic number for how many times you should follow up with a prospect to get a reply, but there is one that that we know for sure at PersistIQ: persistence wins!

Steli Efti of Close.io has a clear and straightforward philosophy: “I follow up as many times as necessary until I get a response. I don’t care what the response is as long as I get one.” In fact he has a story of following up with an investor 48 times before getting a meeting.

I’ll admit that you probably can’t (and shouldn’t) follow up with everyone 48 times, but the point is you have to follow up more than once or twice. We recommend following up at least eight times across multiple channels (which we’ll talk about later).

A big challenge with multi-touch follow up sales campaign is simply remembering to follow up. With all the activities a sales rep is tasked with each day, it’s easy to forget to follow up, let alone keeping track for a total of eight times. This is where an outbound sales platform like PersistIQ is crucial to follow up success.

Of course, this isn’t the only variable in the equation. Even if there was such a thing as the perfect number of follow ups, reaching out this number of times at the wrong intervals, through the wrong channels, or with the wrong message, will doom your campaign.

 

2) What Other Channels Should I Be Using Besides Email?

As we previously mentioned, there are multiple channels you can use to get in touch with a prospect. Although emails is the most common, followed by phone, these should not be the only weapons in your arsenal. This is where social selling plays a pivotal role.

78% of salespeople using social media outperform those who don’t. However, the name “social selling” can be slightly misleading. The idea is NOT to sell to people on social channels, but rather use social channels as part of the nurturing process.

By liking a prospect’s tweet, connecting with them on LinkedIn, commenting on their blog posts and any other social touch, you start to increase familiarity and slowly gain trust. Trust doesn’t just happen over a single night, which is why leveraging multiple channels is imperative if you want to win in the long haul.

The best sales reps go beyond the traditional social channels Twitter and LinkedIn. The best reps have an uncanny ability to find creative and less crowded channels to get in front of prospects. Here are some other, less conventional but highly effective channels to diversify your sales channels:

  • Personal website
  • Direct mail
  • Fax
  • Door to door
  • AngelList profile
  • Meetup.com profile
  • Klout profile
  • Etc.

Notice that some social media giants like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat aren’t on the list. It boils down to context. These are more personal channels and should be kept to only personal communication. Respect the prospect and the channel. Ignore this advice and your prospecting efforts will have the opposite effect.

3) What Is The Best Timing For Sales Follow Ups?

An old sales mentor of mine us to say, “The difference between lettuce and garbage is timing.” The right message at the wrong time is worthless.

Forget about those reports and articles about “the best day to send emails.” Have you noticed they always change? One authority comes out and says Wednesday at 3pm is the best day of the week. Then, everyone start sending on Wednesdays at 3pm. Guess which day and time is now a terrible time to send an email?

Like the other factors, there is no golden rule. But here are some guidelines to help you make the most of your timing.

Be a little more persistent early on, then tapering off if the prospect hasn’t responded. We’ve seen great results sending the 2nd touch one day or even 12 hours after sending the first. Studies have shows that emails that receive replies do so within 24 hours of the email being opened.

Here is an example of a workflow that has been effective for us:

  • Day 1: Call and email
  • Day 2: Email and Twitter (favorite a tweet)
  • Day 3: Twitter (Follow and retweet)
  • Day 5: Email and LinkedIn (connection request)
  • Day 7: Email
  • Day 10: Call and email
  • Day 17: Email and Twitter (tweet at or retweet)
  • Day 21: Blog and/or LinkedIn (comment of content)
  • Day 28: Call and email

The days are going to vary a little depending on who you’re trying to reach. For instance, associate and entry level employees don’t check their email during weekends. If you choose to follow what we’ve laid out, then only count work days. However, most directors and VPs check their email every day of the week, and at nearly every hour. You can match this workflow to the day. We’ve even seen great results from sending emails to VPs at 5:30pm on a Friday!

 

4) What Should I Say In The Content Of My Follow Up?

The content of your email is largely going to determine if you come across as an annoying pest or a persistent businessperson. Starting each successive follow up with “just checking in” or “just following up” gets old fast.

Sales trainer and guru John Barrows says, “‘Touching base’ and ‘checking in’ are two of the most meaningless phrases in sales. They mean there’s no reason for your call, so therefore there’s no reason for me to talk to you.”

The fix is simple: have a reason to call. John suggests starting off the communication with, “The reason for my call is…” If you can’t finish that sentence, you shouldn’t be reaching out.

You must offer value at every single step of the way. You cannot be boring. And most importantly, you must make it about your prospect, not you.

Here are four legitimate reasons to follow up with your prospect:

  • Reemphasize business value. It’s all about what you can do for the prospect. Find a way to show them value. Talk to their pains, priorities and/or motivations.
  • Offer insights. Again, make it about them and their benefits. It could be sharing a different way to approach their problems or a novel idea for how they can reach goals.
  • Educate. Don’t pitch in your follow ups. Instead, offer a piece of valuable content, whether it’s a whitepaper, ebook, webinar recording, case study, etc.
  • Share news. Why do you think social media is so addictive? One reason is that people want to stay up on news. They don’t want to miss out on anything. Follow up with prospects by sending them relevant industry news, product updates, or competitive announcements.

5) How Personal Should My Follow Ups Be?

Every sales rep knows in theory that the more personal your follow up the better. That’s why there are many new tools and platforms to help make communication seem more personal. That’s the beauty of technology and automation.

However, most sales reps fall short when it comes to executing a truly personalized sales campaign. There are three reason for this: they don’t understand customization is NOT personalization, they don’t have enough information on their prospect to personalize their outbound sales communication, and they don’t have time to invest in personalizing.

Let’s address each one of these.

They don’t understand that customization is NOT personalization. There’s a subtle distinction between customization and personalization, a distinction that makes all the difference. Entering a variable, such as {{first_name}}, and running a mail merge is customizing an email, not personalizing an email. With today’s technology, everyone knows this is possible. If the rest of your communication sounds generic, it doesn’t matter how many variables you have, it will never FEEL personal. The technology itself doesn’t make it a good cold email. Only taking the time to do the research and add the human element will make your email feel personal.

They don’t have enough information on their prospect to personalize their outbound sales communication. Not having the information is not a good excuse. If it’s not in your CRM, them go out and find it yourself. Or use a service like LeadGenius to enrich your data and generate new custom leads. Or better yet, do both! You can never have too much information on our prospects.

They don’t have time to invest in personalizing. This is often a flaw in thought process. Here’s what I mean. The typical sales rep thinks that if he want to exceed quota, it’s a numbers game. The more lead into the top of the funnel, the more will come out the bottom. That’s not always the case. We’ve already established that by being more personal, you’ll get a better response rate. We seen campaign response rates double by simply adding personalization. Would you rather double your meetings booked by keeping your response rates the same and doubling your sales activity or by doubling your response rates and keeping your sales activities the same?

There are many tools, tricks and hacks to make your emails more personal without having to invest too much time and money, but it always starts with you.

Now that we have all the pieces of a successful outbound sales strategy, it’s time to start executing. Remember, there’s no single silver bullet, no magic equation to get results. But if you follow some of the keys that I’ve laid out above you’ll have a much greater chance of getting more replies, booking more meeting and crushing quota. It takes the right mindset, like prioritizing personalization over a spray-and-pray approach. It takes testing different channels, number of touches, content, timing and levels of personalization. And it takes using the right technology to help you get the job done, like LeadGenius and PersistIQ.