Email as an outbound channel was almost dead at EvaBot
At EvaBot, email-based outreach was not a big thing. More than 80% of our meetings came through cold calling. As the sales team grew in 2023, we decided to invest in email as a channel for lead generation.
And the pandora’s box opened up
A seemingly simple activity required some serious tooling and integration effort for gathering the prospect and account data, research, sequence automation, prospect segmentation, and persona-based messaging. And to top it off the changes in the internal team’s processes, and aggressive iterations to make the whole thing work 🙁
We read extensively on designing an effective email outreach process, listened to many experts’ advice, and followed every nugget of advice.
A quarter in – Only 1 SDR got some results, while others struggled
After 3-4 months of effort, we found only one SDR on our team got some results while others struggled. In our quest to learn more and what we should do differently to drive better results, we questioned everyone on the following three areas
- What are they doing and doing differently?
- Are there any specific prospect types with a higher chance of opening the email?
- Are there any patterns in the outreach that are causing differences in these results?
While there were differences in their activities, we found that their activities were heavily driven by their mindset. The key to success for one of the SDRs was deeply rooted in his mindset.
“Deep empathy for the prospects and treating their response as a favor”
The activity that differentiated his output and outcomes is that he cared about the prospect and tried hard to bring forward that care through his research efforts and engaging communication. Here are the steps he followed religiously that others didn’t
- Read each individual’s profile on LinkedIn to extract a unique insight into the individual and the person to identify the talking points (Icebreakers)
- Read the company profile on LinkedIn and the website to capture potential organizational needs (Sales Trigger)
- Read the recent news on the company and the latest LinkedIn posts (if available) to identify any focus areas (Why now)
- Used the above insights to craft a clever subject line (Seeking Attention)
- Used their own company/product messaging and blended it with all of the insights above to draft an email body
He demonstrated a super qualitative effort that resulted in lower outreach numbers but high response and meeting rates.
We shared his process internally with the rest of the team, hoping for an immediate turnaround. The situation however remained the same after a few weeks. As we spoke more, we understood that enforcing one person’s process on others doesn’t work because
- Most SDRs think in templates, so they aren’t comfortable doing so much research for each individual therefore we have templated sequence automation tools like Outreach.io and SalesLoft etc.
- All SDRs carry different philosophies and approaches that make them stronger or weaker at different things
- SDRs research the prospects differently and anchor upon different aspects
- SDRs have their preferences and styles that determine how they frame subject lines and email structure
- SDRs neither know nor have time to frame creative subject lines and messages every single day based on different personas and product positioning
All these differences bring a huge difference in the output and the outcomes they generate through the outreach. We concluded that unless all the people operate through a single system, cold outreach efforts really can’t scale
|Key learning – Tailoring the process to leverage research, SDR’s style, and preferences while adhering to the org guidelines is the key. But it is also excruciatingly painful!
Today, organizations follow template-based automation for cold outreach and there’s a huge gap between how the cold outreach is practiced and what the leaders expect.
Template-based automation simply lacks human-like framing. No wonder, SDRs today operate like robots and hate the job. Because of this robot-like behavior, some experts believe that the prospecting part of the SDR role will be eliminated very shortly with AI. 1, 2
AI has the potential to dramatically improve sales prospecting by solving two of the hardest and most fundamental problems
- Getting deep research on both the individual prospect and target account at the click of a button, and
- Messaging the prospects with relevant and compliant content with deep personalization using the research
Imagine a system that leverages the currently available dataset on the prospects, enriches it with deeper research, and identifies a unique insight the same way a human would but in a fraction of time. A Sales rep can choose a specific insight to generate attention-grabbing messages that present your product’s value in the language that the prospects expect.
It is undeniable that a better solution is needed. A tool that meets the following criteria
- Works with the existing outreach tools such as Outreach and SalesLoft etc.
- Automates account research (reading 10K reports, quarterly earning calls, latest public news etc.)
- Automates deep research and insight mining on the prospects in real-time
- Offers pitch customization based on the persona
- Generates messages that can be used across the sequence – emails, LinkedIn messages, voicemails, and call scripts.
We looked at the market but none of the existing tools met the criteria and the needs of a high-performance sales team.
Given Eva’s focus on relationships, we decided to build a tool ourselves to make it easy for our team
We decided to build a Chrome extension that would sit on top of every sales tool such as Outreach, SalesLoft, HubSpot, Salesforce, etc. so the sales reps don’t have to worry about going to another website.
The heart of the technology leverages all possible publicly available sources of information to aggregate factual information on individuals and the organization. An inference engine then further enriches the data and mines the optimal sales triggers, why now, and icebreakers contextual to the prospect. All of these insights are then blended with our persona-based value proposition messaging to generate an email that’s highly likely to generate emotional reciprocity. The tool offers an easy way to choose relevant insights and configure specific preferences, frameworks, and contexts.
As the tool took shape, we leveraged it internally and ran certain experiments. The results were much better than any of our previous efforts. For straight 10 sequences, 90% of sequences had >70% open rates (Screenshot below)
The results seemed so good that we even questioned the measurement capability of Outreach.io, which is an industry-standard sequence automation tool 🙂
An unintended consequence for us was the emergence of genuine excitement within our sales team. The SDR team stress-tested the system and shared daily feedback. This process helped us refine the insights and understand the biggest nuance involved in generating the insight that every data point is not equal
“A data point that generates emotional reciprocity is the one that matters”
For example, I went to Carnegie Mellon University is a data point and any person can read that up on LinkedIn; we refer to such data as a commoditized data point. Commoditized data points do not go very far and fail to generate emotional reciprocity. Whereas, “Building 23”, which is a hanging out spot inside the campus and the “Hard Rock Cafe” at Castro Street, which is a hanging out spot outside the campus are both an example of data points that generate emotional reciprocity. If someone creatively leverages these data points and reaches out to me, I’d naturally think of the person to be either an insider or to have done great homework. And I’d be more likely to respond to this person.
|“The process of generating a mental state where a person is highly likely to react is what we refer to as emotional reciprocity.”
As we optimized the system for more impactful insights and account-based research, a few things happened
- Our internal team’s email open rates went through the roof. For instance, for 10 straight new sequences, we saw 70% of sequences achieve 100% open rates.
- SDRs spend no time on research but on experimenting with the generated insights to measure the outcomes
- Heightened focus on the problem framing and refining the value proposition
In the Q3 of 2023, our Sales team set up 60+ meetings, 80% of which were generated through email outreach. This was the first quarter in our history where the team exceeded the quarterly quota.
We shared this excitement within our close network, and to our surprise, the problem resonated with a lot of organizations who wanted to use the system. And we decided to open up trials for external organizations. If you’re open to trying the system, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.