How we use our sales stack at Reach (part 2/3)

Building in Public
September 26, 2022
How we use our sales stack at Reach (part 2/3)

Prememoria: Reach is a sales enablement tool for hyper-personalizing outbound emails at scale in order to save time while obtaining higher response rates.

In our last post, we discussed the assumptions around our buyer personas at Reach as well as a few of the tools we leverage in our sales stack for creating lead lists (Apollo) and for personalizing our emails at scale (Reach). Today’s post will continue looking at the tools we’re using for email personalization and email sequencing. We’ll look at the motivations and expectations in both cases and outline the metrics we monitor as we iterate on our approach.

Email Personalization

Email personalization can refer to various things. In the context of outbound sales, we specifically mean ways to make each email relevantly different using information about the recipient or the recipient’s company. It’s important to note however that the goal is not personalization itself, but rather the benefit that personalization can provide in terms of improved response rates. Personalized emails can produce significantly higher responses compared to generic emails. This is the metric we use in guiding the kind of personalization we do and the extent to which we do it.

Personalized emails can produce significantly higher responses compared to generic emails

As far as we’re concerned an email is deemed sufficiently personalized if it makes the recipient think that we did work in understanding who they are or what they do and therefore reached out to them for a reason. It can be the key to unlocking their barrier of defense when reading.

Personalization can take any number of forms. For example, some people use variable personalization which simply fills certain keywords within an email template with those appropriate for the recipient such as {{first name}}, {{role}}, {{company}}, {{location}} etc. It’s our view that such personalization is easy to spot and therefore is easy to ignore. This form also does not show the recipient that you know anything meaningful about them.

Another form may involve personalizing the whole email based on in-depth research. This takes a significant amount of time and is only appropriate for enterprise sales when hunting “whales”. Given that we’re engaging in high volume and high-velocity sales we cannot afford to personalize each and every email in its entirety. It would lead to a negative ROI. For that reason, we focus on personalizing a piece of each email we send, specifically, the icebreaker. The icebreaker lives at the top of the email, is short, and is completely unique for each recipient. Most importantly, it sufficiently tells the recipient that we spent time looking up who they are or what they do. We refer to this type as “hyper-personalization”.

Reach: A tool for hyper-personalization

Salespeople spend ~21% of their time writing emails. Manually personalizing each email could bring that number higher. It takes a significant amount of time looking up prospects on LinkedIn, reading through their company website or recent news coverage, and then coming up with something succinct and meaningful to say on the matter in well-written English.

Reach automates hyper-personalization so we can focus on other stages of the sales pipeline. As a recap from last week, Reach creates hyper-personalized icebreaker messages for each lead based on LinkedIn, company website, and news sources.

Here are some examples of icebreakers that Reach has generated:

  1. I read on your LinkedIn profile that Reach uses AI to compose personalized Icebreaker sentences for your outbound emails. I’m also impressed with the fact that this helps you boost your response rate without sacrificing volume.
  2. I’m impressed by how Capchase is able to help recurring revenue companies scale without any dilution or debt. It’s wonderful to see a solution that can grow with your company.
  3. I read the great review that Mike wrote about you on your profile, Jeff. It sounds like you’re an amazing Sales Development Manager and he was lucky to have worked with you. I’m excited to learn more about how you helped create solutions for your sales teams and were so customer-focused.

Email Sequences

An email sequence refers to the number and cadence of emails to be sent to a prospect. For example, you might send the first email and then some days later send a follow-up email, followed by another follow-up email some days after that (and so on). Each email might include a pre-built template appropriate for the stage.

The basic motivations for an email sequence are twofold. First, only 2% of sales happen after the first point of contact. Not engaging in additional contact leaves 98% of sales on the table. Second, sequences create a repeatable playbook. Once a sequence is refined and shows that it can lead to somewhat predictable results, it can be used for managing the top of funnel engagement in a repeatable manner.

Once upon a time, we had to do this manually. Meaning we had to set tasks for ourselves to follow up after a certain amount of time with each subsequent email. Managing this process was extremely time-consuming. Fortunately, there are a myriad of email sequencing software that have emerged over the past 10 years to help automate this process. They allow us to fill each stage of the sequence ahead of time, including the ability to swap keywords for each lead using custom variables. Each stage of the sequence can be set to send at a predetermined time. Whatsmore, the software will exit the sequence if the person responds, ensuring that you don’t embarrassingly contact them with, at that point, irrelevant emails.

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

Email sequencing software has allowed us to scale up our outbound volume to an unbelievable degree. We can now set it and forget it. In addition to time saved, we’re also given extremely useful insights into the performance of each sequence. The analytics help us make informed decisions about what works and what doesn’t. It’s now easy to test strategies and double down on the best-performing ones.

Email sequencing tools

Truth be told there isn’t a huge difference between the various email sequencing tools nowadays. All have the basic functionality to create any number of sequences with any number of pre-built stages that are pre-programmed to send at certain times. They all have custom variable functionality to easily fill in things like {{first name}}, {{role}}, {{company}}, {{city}} etc. And they all offer some level of analytics to keep track of how the sequence is performing.

We are currently using both MixMax and Apollo for email sequences. It may seem odd to use 2 distinct tools for doing the same thing. In fact, at scale, it’s preferable to have a team using only 1 so that the team lead can monitor performance across all sequences and across all team members. It’s also easier to share sequences and templates within the same team. That said, we use 2 products for a couple of reasons. First, we want to feel how Reach works with numerous products. It helps us understand our customer’s needs better. Second, we use Apollo for creating lead lists and they include email sequences in the monthly plan. An additional seat however is more expensive than a basic plan on MixMax, therefore one of us uses Apollo and the other MixMax in order to save money as well. Over time we will consolidate this.

Apollo email sequences are great if you’re creating lead lists within Apollo, as it’s seamless to go from one to the other. There are some additional tracking metrics, like Interest, that can’t be found in MixMax for example. Creating custom variables, however, is not trivial.

In MixMax’s favor is the ease of creating custom variables. Simply writing them within the template using brackets creates them automatically.

How we use sequences

Nearly every outbound sales team on the planet is leveraging sequences to generate new business. When used properly sequences can be an incredible asset. Here is how we try to make the most of them:

  1. We create buyer persona-specific sequences → This helps us keep track of which personas respond best to what we have to offer. If we lump all buyer personas into the same sequence it will be impossible to understand which group is the better target. Moreover, we can craft specific copy that we think will resonate best for each persona, such as SDR Manager, VP of Sales, etc.
  2. We set the number of stages and cadence → We have a preference for 3 stage sequences. While this preference isn’t the most scientific, it reflects what we believe is the right balance between persistently following up and not being overly annoying. Each stage is 3 workdays apart. Meaning that if the first email is sent on Monday, the second email will send on Thursday and the third email will send on the following Tuesday. We will further program at what time of day the emails should be sent e.g. between 9am and 6pm EST.
  3. We track performance → After adding a list of leads of the same buyer persona group to their relevant sequence, we will monitor a few key metrics:
  • Open rate — this shows how many emails are opened out of the total sent. Open rate can tell us how good of a job we are doing at piquing interest through the email subject. It is first and foremost a metric that reflects the quality of our email subject. However, it can also be used to help us understand if our emails are going to spam. For example, a very low open rate could indicate that it’s not arriving to the recipient’s inbox and therefore warrants further investigation into the DNS settings of the sending email domain.
  • Response rate — this shows the number of responses relative to the number of emails opened. Response rate serves as the primary way we determine if our sequences, and the emails that make them up, are successful. Caution however is required. A response is not always positive. Therefore a sequence that generates many responses that are predominantly negative can look successful if you take the response rate to track quality. This requires further analysis to understand if the responses are positive or negative.

A sequence that generates many responses that are predominantly negative can look successful…

It’s worth noting that there aren’t benchmarks for success that apply to all companies. Each sector is different. These metrics can also mean different things. It’s possible that your response rate is low because you’re reaching out to the wrong type of person. Or perhaps your emails are poorly written.

For Reach, we aim for our sequences to achieve an open rate above 50%. This is simply based on the performance of our sequences and what we know we can achieve. Some perform far above this number, so this is simply a baseline to help us make sure everything is performing as expected. And while we don’t have a specific response rate target, we’re always trying to iterate on our sequences to push it higher. As it currently stands, above 5% is considered good and above 10% is considered great.

Workflow

Now it’s time to put the pieces together.

1. We import 25 leads of the same buyer persona into Reach in CSV format. Once we select the personalized icebreakers we like best for each lead based on either LinkedIn or Company website, we export the results as a CSV. The output CSV is the exact same CSV we imported into Reach but it now has a new column called {{Reach Message}} containing all of the icebreakers.

2. We create a custom {{Reach Message}} variable in MixMax and Apollo. The {{Reach Message}} variable is included in the first email of our sequence at the top of the email (below the greeting).

3. We import the personalized CSV into MixMax and Apollo. The CSV columns map to the relevant variables in the sequencing software. In doing so {{Reach Message}} is filled dynamically with the personalized icebreaker for each lead. Just like {{First Name}} and {{Company}} are.

4. We activate the sequences and track performance to think of new ways to make improvements on the email subject and email body that will generate positive responses.

These tools together enable us to send hundreds of personalized emails each day, track performance, and iterate. In our next and final post about our sales stack we will look at how we use these tools with our CRM, Pipedrive in order to track communication, opportunities, and tasks.

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