Email, Phone, LinkedIn, lions, tigers and bears. Oh my. Whether you’ve been in sales a few days or you remember the days when a Rolodex and landline as your glory days, it’s crucial to understand how a deep knowledge of each outreach channel plays a role in not only your success but also how your potential buyers react to each outreach channel.
Before we dive deeper, take a look at this research from the Rain Group - 5 Sales Prospecting Myths Debunked to get a better understanding of how sales prospecting channels lineup between the buyer and seller.
Email Sales Outreach
Lazy email prospecting is incredibly easy. Pump a thick list of prospects into a campaign, write your email and boom. You just prospected 500 leads. It’s so easy in fact, that it doesn’t work anymore because of something we call “inbox overload” - meaning too many people have succumbed to their laziness and now buyers are wary to even open an email from a name they don’t recognize.
However, there is good news. Email prospecting is still effective when done in the proper way and is the top preferred channel by buyers. Statistics show that 80% of buyers place it as their top outreach channel for contact by sellers.
In order to get the desired results with email prospecting, you should have a rudimentary knowledge of how to not only craft great email copy, but also how to ensure you are using deliverability best practices to ensure they make it to your prospects inbox instead of triggering a spam filter.
Let’s start with understanding the difference between the look & tone of a great cold email and a spam email.
Anyone can write an email. Very few reps can write a great email that communicates enough value and understanding while staying concise enough to hold the attention of a buyer and create genuine interest. Ultimately, there’s a very fine line between spamming your buyers and creating thoughtful sales outreach.
Spamming, by definition is To send the same message indiscriminately to large numbers of recipients on the Internet. To make it more clear: Spamming is sending the SAME MESSAGE (untargeted messaging) INDISCRIMINATELY (untargeted, random sales outreach).
It all starts with a great subject line. First, you must master how to write a great cold email subject line.
If you can’t bother to write copy that’s direct in both the messaging and persona targeting, you’re only damaging your brand by pissing off your buyers. On the flip side, and this might be a controversial statement to some, but writing personalized emails isn’t always the best solution either.
While it yields greater response and conversion rates, but is not the most scalable option. Also, nobody cares that you researched their school mascot or looked up what the weather is like in their city. Insincere email copy is almost as bad as spam and can be easy to do if you are spending too much time focused on the wrong parts of personalization.
At SalesHive, we’ve found that the balance is right in the middle. If you can write clear, concise messaging that can bring insight and value to a specific buyer persona, you don’t need to spend 15 minutes writing every email. We’ve booked over 3,000 meetings in the last year using cold email sales outreach, and not a single email was 1-off.
Phone / Cold Calling
As the second-highest channel rated by buyers, the phone is ranked as a top channel at 49%, a key stat that is putting the nail in the coffin to phone avoidant reps claiming cold calling is dead. It’s not dead, a lot of people are just bad at it.
Cold calling is a hot topic within the sales community but continues to shine through for reps that spend time mastering the skill. The current avg success rate for a cold call is ~1.48%, which is staggeringly low.
Here’s the kicker though; since it’s an average, the majority of reps are seeing <1% success rates in cold calling, while the best reps are significantly skewing the averages by finding success rates 10-20x higher than your average rep.
Phone avoidance comes from a lot of places, but we believe a huge contributor is that the average success rate creating the illusion to most reps that it’s not effective.
They couldn’t be more wrong, and it gets even more effective when you’re targeting high-level buyers.
According to Rain Group, 54% of C-Level and VP buyers prefer the phone vs 51% for Directors and 47% for Manager titles. Tech buyers are also more receptive to cold calling, with 54% preferring it vs 40% for finance and 46% for professional services.
The key takeaway here? Know your audience!
Texting is another outreach channel that has grown popular in recent years, although it’s far less preferable to buyers in comparison to picking up the phone with 21% of buyers preferring it.
As a complementary channel, texting can help you stand out against saturated channels like email and cold calling, but multiple unwelcomed messages can be a burden to buyers. Best to use this channel infrequently until you’ve established rapport with your buyer.
Do people actually listen to voicemails? As a complement to cold calling, voicemails can make it easy to leave a verbal note with buyers after an unsuccessful call, although the current usage by reps almost doubles the percentage of buyers that approve of a voicemail.
Rain Group found that 21% of buyers are positive about receiving a VM, while 38% of reps leave them. It’s worth mentioning that many cell phones have voicemail-to-text features now, so a voicemail on a cell phone may have a higher probability of being seen vs a voicemail left on an office phone that may get deleted within a few seconds.
LinkedIn Sales Outreach
LinkedIn has exploded in popularity in the last few years for sales reps, and for good reason.
At SalesHive, we found that 93% of prospects that agreed to meet through LinkedIn messaging did not respond to standard email outreach. Like all channels, this comes down to the personal preference of the buyer.
Although there are many reasons to use LinkedIn prospecting, there are also reasons to be wary of placing all of your bets on it as a standalone channel. Much like email, this new channel has also opened a pandora's box of terrible prospecting and has caused many buyers to be wary of accepting connection requests from people they think will pitch them immediately after they’ve connected.
Statistics show that 21% of buyers consider LinkedIn a top outreach channel for contact from sellers. On the flip side, 82% of buyers look up profiles on LinkedIn before replying to their sales outreach efforts.
Yes, buyers are judging you based on your LinkedIn, so it’s within your best interest to not only have a LinkedIn whether or not you’re using it for prospecting, but also make sure you have a well-designed profile including a professional headshot, a strong headline, a background photo, a detailed summary, skills, work, and education experience.
Not only is a well built profile a best practice from a seller standpoint, but it’s also necessary when developing a personal brand that can help build immediate trust with buyers if you are seen as an expert in your field and attract recruiters for that next step in your career.
Having a thorough network is far more important than breaking over the 500+ Connections tag displayed on your profile. Buyers place more importance on having shared connections than communicating a reason to connect, with 43% of buyers with a Manager or higher title admitting they are likely to connect with a someone they don’t know but share mutual connections with vs 39% of buyers that connect with someone they don’t know but provided a reason to connect.
While having a network is important, it’s still overshadowed by contacting the right buyer that has a need for your product, which confirms our running theme that targeted outreach is king.
54% of buyers with a Manager or higher title are likely to connect if a seller offers a service or product that’s of interest to their organization. LinkedIn can also be effective for penetrating C-level prospects, with C-Level titles being the most likely to connect with someone they don’t know across all three categories.
Direct Mail Sales Outreach
Before email was automated and direct phone numbers were found on databases, many marketing and sales professionals relied on the power of physical mail to reach prospects they would otherwise struggle to get in touch with.
Although it’s safe to say direct mail prospecting never truly left, its value diminished due to lazy prospecting. It was easier to send a brochure to 100,000 people than to contact them directly through other channels, so it lost effectiveness.
The truth, however, is that direct mail can be effective for sales prospecting if approached from a different standpoint. Rather than sending a piece of tacky company swag or a brochure, some sales reps use it for gifting. This effectively catches the attention of buyers and is the 3rd most effective channel behind email and phone.
At SalesHive, our highest conversions from any outreach channel come from direct mail prospecting. The average rates range between 20% - 60% for direct mail campaigns, compared to single-digits for email and LinkedIn. A physical item is not only powerful for grabbing a buyer's attention, but also humanizing yourself in the process. It shows that you took the time to send something of value than treating them like another dynamic tag.
Since cost is always a factor, Direct mail is most effective when used as a complement to other channels.
We often target decision-makers at key accounts as well as engaged prospects that haven’t converted into booked meetings. The next step is to follow-up through LinkedIn, cold calls, or email to confirm receipt and try to convert.
Handwritten notes with thoughtful gifts like coffee gift cards, travel pillows sent to executives before traveling to a conference or champagne bottles after a promotion can be successful and should 100% be added to your current outreach sequence if you can find the budget.
Eventually, one should remember that it’s all about standing out to your audience in a creative and thoughtful way. With that said, which is your preferred outreach channel as a sales rep, and which has brought you the most success? Plus, do you have a hidden gem that we might have missed out on? Keep the discussion going on our social platforms.