Enterprise Sales: How We Get A 15% Response Rate

February 5, 2015


It’s hard to get through the sales clutter. We all have a product or service that could make a positive impact on our prospects’ bottom line … if only they would only give us that meeting or respond to our email.

We asked our advisor Ruben Baerga, former VP of Experience at Walmart (and former VP of Client Services at GSI Commerce/eBay enterprise) how many solicitation emails he received per day on average. He quickly replied, “Hundreds.” You’re literally competing with hundreds to thousands of emails per day.

We all know it’s a numbers game. The more people you reach out to and the more times you reach out, the more responses you will get. LinkedIn has an excellent blog post on the importance of being more persistent in sales. But what is the content within those outreach attempts? How do you get through the clutter? My answer is this: In order to be memorable, you must be creative -- and it starts at the top.

Our Director of Sales, Dave, wanted to deploy a creative, edgy approach on prospecting to his team’s email leads; to which I quickly gave my blessing (I love edgy). The goal was to raise our outbound response rates from 2% to 5%.

Dave’s strategy was to send a series of five emails with a theme of progressive humor, targeting the top 1,000 online retailers in the U.S. (B2B). Basically, he wanted to make the recipients laugh. The first two emails were your standard, “Hey, this is who we are, what we do, and who we’ve worked with.” The magic really started to happen in the third email, which included a simple but funny multiple choice quiz.

The responses were remarkable (you’re going to want to look at the Slideshare below).

To clarify, these were cold leads. We use a software that predicts the probability of the lead’s e-mail address. That means it’s a lead that’s as cold as it gets. Ice cold.

Yet for every multiple choice email sent, Dave saw an average response rate of 10%. One in ten high-level people at household name type brands wrote back.The power behind this allowed us to build relationships. Even if we didn’t get a favorable response to move forward right away, they remembered us. Be creative to be memorable.

Although the numbers were already great, Dave wasn’t content. He wanted to push the envelope a bit further -- what else could we do to personalize this? Dave proposed including a picture of himself in the email, interacting with the retailer’s logo. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the first one, which reinforced that the strategy elicited exactly the result we were looking for. This was the yield: For every picture email sent, Dave saw an average response rate of 15%.

(You’ll notice I’m solely focusing on response rate, as then it’s in the hands of your capable salesforce to cultivate, foster, and eventually close the sale. This is understandably a long cycle; our goal was simply to get through the clutter with a creative outbound strategy.)

My biggest advice is this: If you want to increase your response rate, empower your sales force to be creative (within reason). Evoke an emotional reaction that, combined with persistence, earns a meeting and an eventual “yes.” Be creative to be memorable.

A personal note to Dave: the bar has now been raised. Your secret is out. I look forward to your next idea and can’t wait to hear it.

In my next post, I’ll describe why we have a little edge on our prospecting, and what I personally believe has kept our response rates at 10-15%. Our Sales and Marketing teams have wonderful chemistry and always work under the premise of helping one another. There are more than 330M active professionals on LinkedIn. Let me tell you how we reach them with pieces spearheaded by our content superstar, Melanie Curtin.