Sales Best Practices
How to Create Outbound Sales Sequences that Kick Ass (And Convert!)
What’s the status of your Outreach sequences? It’s worth reviewing them, since outbound sales sequences provide the power behind your sales process. Think of your sequences as the digital execution of your sales playbook. That means, as your product and strategy evolves, your sequences should adjust accordingly.
To keep your content as fresh as your strategy, your best bet is to review your sequences every six months. This semi-annual check in provides you and your team an opportunity to dig into metrics, review the results of your A/B tests, double down on email copy that works, and ditch what doesn’t).
We’ve still got a few weeks left in spring, so there’s no better time than now to spring clean your sequences. Ready to get started? Here’s a checklist of what to review— I recommend you set aside at least a half day to look at your sequences and be make the tweaks and adjustments you need to turn up your strategy for the summer.
9 Questions to Ask During Your Sequence Review
1. Is your target defined?
Know your target for each sequence—it can be a persona, industry, or specific company. Your sequence strategy will vary based on the target, so check to make sure yours is clearly defined. And keep in mind that persona plays a big role in the characteristics of your sequence. If you’re targeting a VP-level persona, for instance, the sequence will likely last longer (five to six weeks) and will involve more manual touches than if you’re targeting a lower-level persona.
Download the full guide to catchy email subject lines that get replies
2. What is your desired outcome?
Once you have your target audience locked down, it’s time to consider what you want to accomplish with the sequence. Maybe you want a meeting. Or perhaps you’re after a referral. In some cases, the sequence’s purpose is purely educational. Define what you are trying to achieve, and as you review the sequence, make sure every step supports that end-goal.
3. How are your tests performing?
If you want to have top performing sequences you need to have top performing emails within your sequences. To get there, you need to A/B test your emails to learn what works and what doesn't. You should always be looking for ways to make tweaks that’ll improve your results. If you don’t have A/B tests in place, add them. And during your review, take time to check in on test results and act on them: lose the control version if the test outperforms it. (Pro tip: Make sure you just turn off underperforming versions—if you delete them, you’ll remove the data around what didn’t work, and you don’t want to make the same mistakes in future sequences!)
4. Do you have the right mix of sequence step types?
As you review your sequences, look to see what type of steps are involved, from emails to calls to LinkedIn touches. Some sequences lend themselves to more calls, while others are email-heavy. Any sequence, however, should ideally have a mix of step types. This is what makes sellers appear real and genuine to buyers. And that quality, in turn, ups the likelihood of a response and builds rapport.
5. Are the steps in your sequence well timed?
Here is another reason to have a good sense of the target of your persona. Knowing this can help you guess their email habits. For instance, if you’re aware that executives tend to clean out their inboxes on Sunday evening, make sure you’re sending an email in that golden period. Pull analytics to see which times generate best reply rates by persona and adjust the timing of your calls and email sends accordingly.
6. Are your metrics at or above baseline levels?
You’ll need to have a sizable group of people receiving your communications—at least 250—in order to have a benchmark that’ll help you assess your open and reply rates. Make sure each email in your sequences is delivered to at least 250 addresses to get the reliable data you need. Once you have that quantity, here are some more metrics to review:
- Top line reply: What percentage of the individuals in your sequence reply at some point? This includes returned calls, emails, or any other point of contact. This metric assesses how well the sequence elicits a response. Baseline: 12% reply rate for a cold prospecting sequence.
- Email Open rate: Your sequence may involve five emails or 15. This metric looks at what percentage of all these emails are opened. Baseline: 27% or higher.
- Email reply rate: Our top-line metric shows overall responsiveness to the sequence. This metric drills down to email response. Baseline: 2.9% is the average sequence email reply rate.
- Bounce rate: What’s your bounce rate? You want that to be below 2.8%. Any higher, and you risk being flagged by spam servers. Check your data sources (and the spamminess of your emails) if your bounce rate creeps above that number.
- Opt-out rate: How many of the emails result in recipients unsubscribing? If it’s high, consider re-tooling the email. And, make sure you have an unsubscribe link in your emails. Here’s why: If there’s no easy way to opt out, people may respond to the email to ask to be taken off, which artificially inflates your reply rate. Or worse, people will mark your emails as spam, which can cause problems with your domain reputation. Baseline: 1.1% opt-out rate
7. Do you have any bottlenecks?
Take a look at each step with an eye toward pain points -- when you see a point at which prospects stop moving through your funnel, you need to rethink your sequence. For instance, if you have a phone call step with 200 active people in it, and all the steps after it have dwindled down to 20 active propsects, you’ll know you’ve created a bottleneck. This will cause your sequence to screech to a standstill. Take the time to figure out what’s going on during these bottlenecks—if your reps aren’t keeping up with phone calls, it could be due to inertia, an inability to prioritize, or a problematic step in the sequence. Dig into what’s going on, and use this as a teaching moment with your reps, too.
8. Could you add another step?
Take a look at the reply rate for your final step—if it’s still high, go ahead and tack on additional steps in the sequence. If the reply rate has dropped off, you can feel confident that you’ve exhausted all resources and won’t see any gains from adding additional steps.
9. Are your emails effectively constructed?
Sending a lot of emails in a sequence can be effective—but not if the emails aren’t high quality. Here are some tips for sending a strong, effective sales email:
- Include the essential components of an effective email: An introduction, which explains why you’re emailing; details on the value you’ll provide, along with metrics and other proof to back up your claims; and a clear, explicit call to action.
- Make it about them, not you: Your buyer doesn't care about how great your company is, how many awards you've won, or how great your product is. They care about how how you can make their job easier and how you can make their business more money. Rule of thumb: make sure you use the words 'you' and 'your' more than 'I' and 'we'.
- Keep it short and snappy: Who has time for an epic tale? Preview your email on your phone—if you have to scroll to get to the end, your email is probably too long. (And, needless to say, your email’s copy should be clean and free from typos and grammatical mistakes, which will detract from your message.)
- Avoid being desperate: The person you’re reaching out to doesn’t owe you anything. So skip the guilt trips and references to failed attempt (e.g, “I didn’t hear back from you after my email earlier this week.”). Instead, send a few bump emails, and if they don’t get results, switch to a new thread with a new value prop.
- Meter out your sell. No need to include 20 bullet points, links to videos, and a downloadable white paper in your first email. Spread out the proof of how great you are at helping companies like theirs — this will just give you more fodder for solid emails further along in the sequence.
- Above all, be human: Make your emails relatable. Don’t be afraid to use humor -- not for humor’s sake, but because the jokes are relevant to your target or what you’re selling.
It’ll take some time to go through reviewing your sequences, but the effort is well worth it. Strong and tested sequences in place to execute your tactics, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of your carefully planned sales strategy.