Timeless tips for standout sequences

Posted April 2, 2019

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By Nick Hart

Outreach Customer Success Manager at Outreach

Are my sequences winners?

You should be asking yourself this question every day, or at least every six months. The sequences that got radical response rates and booked mountains of meetings last month might not be working so well today. They could be bringing your numbers down.

The minimum average cold prospect reply rate is 12%, and thats not including unsubscribes. How is that possible? We have a scalable sequence strategy and a Content Committee. This committee evaluates our sequence KPIs and steps twice a year to keep the teams sequences looking fresh. 

Heres how you can update your sequences for standout results too:

  • Define a Sequence Strategy that scales
  • Build an effective Content Committee
  • Uncover The Numbers that make your sequences shine
  • Ensure you have the perfect Steps in your sequence

Sequence Strategy

Before measuring anything, you need an effective sequence strategy.

This strategy ensures three things:

  1. You’re not building the same sequences over and over
  2. Reps are not wasting time building their own sequences
  3. You can measure what is working and what is not.

Without standardized sequences, all the subsequent measurement strategies will be close to impossible.

The framework we use at Outreach (and the framework we recommend to all of our customers) is called a persona matrix. We create a matrix (a 4 column by 2 row spreadsheet works great): On the horizontal axis are our buyer personas (Sales, Marketing, Operations, or Enablement), and on the vertical axis we have High Touch or Low Touch, which generally represents where they buyer sits on the totem pole and subsequently, how much effort we want to put forth to get a response. Each cell in the spreadsheet gets their own sequence.

For example, we would have a cell for a High Touch Sales Persona sequence which might be for an SVP of Sales or a CRO. They would get more touches over more time, more personalization, and more manual steps - such as phone calls and reaching out on LinkedIn - than a Low Touch Sales Persona because the meeting would be more valuable.

Now that you've got the high-level strategy, the best way to take your sequences to the next level is to create a content committee.

Build a Content Committee

In order to be successful, your content committee of elite sequencers must do the following:

  • Be a cross-functional team
  • Include top performing reps
  • Have monthly or quarterly meetings

In your monthly meetings you should be reviewing how your sequences are performing and making minor tweaks. Then every six months, this committee must do a complete overhaul of all sales sequences.

Why? Because your buyers business priorities change, your product or service evolves, your buyers projects change, and the sales landscape changes. You need to shape up to keep up.

Ill get into how to do this later, but here are a few sequence best practices the committee should keep in mind always:

  • A/B test your messaging
  • Leverage a variety of step types
  • Use reply steps

When the committee meets, they need to first look at the numbers.

The Numbers

Prospect Reply Rate shows the number of individuals who reply at some point in the sequence either via phone or email. For Cold Prospecting Sequences, this should be at least 12%.

Email Open Rate shows how many emails were opened in a sequence. The average sequence email open rate across all Outreach customers is 27.2%.

Email Reply Rate shows how many emails were replied to in a sequence. The average sequence email reply rate across all Outreach customers is 2.9%.

Email Bounce Rate shows how many emails bounced in a sequence. The average sequence email bounce rate across all Outreach customers is 2.8%.

Email Opt-out Rate shows how many emails elicited an unsubscribe. The average sequence email opt-out rate across all Outreach customers is 1.1%.

Baseline Sequence Metrics

Now stop everything and look at your sequence numbers in Outreach. Do they measure up? Ive got some steps to make sure your next ones do.

The Steps

After evaluating the data for each of your teams sequences, your Content Committee needs to take a hard look at the individual steps. To optimize your sequence steps, make sure you

  • Have the right number of steps
  • Don’t create bottlenecks
  • Turn off poor performing steps
  • Eliminate problematic emails

Heres how to figure out if you have the right number of steps in your sequences: If your reply rate on the last step of the sequence is still pretty good - relative to the reply rates on the other steps - (over 3% for prospecting sequences), this means your sequence is not long enough and you could be getting additional replies later on. Add another step.

Manual steps (e.g. phone calls) have a tendency to create bottlenecks if you put too many prospects in Sequence or dont keep up with your tasks. This leaves prospects waiting in Sequence Purgatory and not advancing to automated emails. If you see this happening, talk to your reps about what theyre spending their time on and whats keeping them from staying on top of their tasks.

Are you running A/B tests with each of your sequences? You should be. They're easy to set up, just clone one of your email steps in your sequence and tweak your messaging a bit in the new one and let Outreach automatically assign prospects to one or the other. After a couple hundred prospects have gone through, our Guided A/B Testing will clearly show you which email performs better so you can turn off the under-performer.

Next, leverage your unsubscribe data to help you identify and eliminate problematic emails. Is one particular step getting more opt-outs than the others? Fix it. Something in that email is not sitting well with your prospects so you should modify it.

Follow these four steps - Define a Sequence Strategy that scales, build an effective Content Committee, uncover The Numbers, and ensure you have the perfect Steps - and youll have a fresh set of competitive, winning sequences for your sales team every six months.

Nick Hart is currently a Product Manager at Outreach. He's Been with Outreach for 5 years, has worked with more than 100 customers, and was formerly an Enterprise Customer Success Manager, AE, and SDR.


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