“I’d rather have a first-rate execution and second-rate strategy any time than a brilliant idea and mediocre management.”
Jamie Dimon, Head of JP Morgan Chase bank
Did you know that generating high-quality leads is the number one priority for B2B Marketers? Even if it isn’t your number one concern, high-quality sales lead generation is probably up there. After all, you have a great idea. But an idea isn’t the only thing that grows a company. You have to execute that idea so that it works. And to execute, you need people to buy into your vision.
Growbots started out with an idea: generate sales leads using targeted outbound sales emails. And it worked. We now have a highly predictable and scalable lead generation channel. One that you could copy to develop a scalable outbound sales pipeline, boosting your revenue and making your business scalable.
But our success isn’t down to the idea and yours probably isn’t either. To make targeted outbound sales work, you have to constantly adjust our campaigns to match the changing expectations of our customers. For us, a four step testing framework is what keeps the leads rolling in.
To maximize sales lead generation, find your best performing outbound campaign by using these four steps
Step 1: Send 400 emails to see if your campaign converts at all
Step 2: If it does, send another 600 emails to see how well you campaign converts
Step 3: Discard campaigns which don’t work or provided poor ROI
Step 4: Repeat until you have a campaign that converts well at scale
In other words, our advice is to test your campaign in a methodical way (more on that later). That is because there is no such thing as evergreen content when it comes to outbound. You have to constantly adjust your messaging. But we didn’t know that when we first tried to see if our idea would work.
We started testing our campaigns because what works is constantly changing
When we started three years ago, we know we wanted to try outbound sales. Having to start somewhere, we tried applying some of the templates we had seen in books like Predictable Revenue or on blogs from companies like Hubspot. Sending targeted outbound emails was still a new thing at the time so we had some initial success and even were able to hit a 10% conversion rate with some of our campaigns.
Much to our disappointment, these results were short lived and we found that the available email templates had, for the most part, outlived their usefulness by the time they were made publically available. Necessity dictated than that we move away from the templates already out there and start making our own.
It was a bit nerve racking at first to rely on our own creativity but the big eureka moment came when our own campaign started converting 10% of the time. And here it is:
Don’t be surprised if you have seen a cold email very similar to this in your inbox. We started getting them about six months after we sent our first. The point is that when we created the message, it worked great. Even better, it took a while for the rest of the internet to catch up with us.
At the time, our SDR’s were like adventurers, going off on their own to try and find treasure in the form of sales leads.
We had found that trying to write an email by committee got us nowhere. So instead everybody on the team would go off and write their own campaigns.
The main advantage of this approach was that we had a bunch of highly skilled outbound prospectors, who learned the hard way how to write a winning cold email. Since their incentive was to convert as many people as possible, they were able to create high converting campaigns. In any way possible. Most ended up targeting a niche segment but got amazing results. This approach was fine when we were just trying to get off the ground but we found that it created a structural problem.
Niche targeted sales lead generation converts really well but the results don’t scale
Our go it alone strategy for SDRs produced some amazing, if limited, results. There were three that really stood out for us.
The first targeted members of Linkedin Groups that Our CEO was a part of where we introduced ourselves as having common experiences and goals as the people in those groups. That got a whopping 35% conversion over 1756 emails.
The next group targeted were companies who had recently announced that they had received funding on CrunchBase. The outreach that we did reached out to individuals but highlighted the fact that they had just gotten funding and that our tool could help them capitalize on that funding to drive better returns. This campaign converted 24% over about 2,011 emails.
The third targeted prospects who followed other startup influencers (think Aaron Ross). This campaign converted 12% of the time with 2843 prospects.
Now all of these were great but there was a problem that they all shared, they only represented a small portion of the prospects who we contacted. While these highly targeted campaigns were getting stellar conversion rates, the majority of our campaigns were only converting 5 to 7% of the time. We needed to find a way to scale the results we were getting from the highly targeted campaigns to cover our entire sales lead generation efforts.
There was a bigger issue at play as well.
New members of our SDR team had to start from scratch. They eventually learned how to create their own high performing campaigns but that process could take at least four months. The first few months meant a lot of hard work with discouraging results.
What it meant is that the few rock star SDRs who had been with us from the beginning were carrying the whole team’s results on their shoulders while the rest were gasping to catch up. If we had continued like this, we would have had a lot of trouble scaling our sales lead generation efforts.
You want all of your campaigns to convert well, not just make a few convert amazingly.
By focusing on a few high converting campaigns, from a few rock star SDRs, we were having difficulty scaling. At the time we had a goal of 30 conversions a month for each sales development rep (SDR). Out of the 14 SDR’s we had at the time, only 2 were reaching that goal.
What we needed was a way to maintain a high level of conversion across the entire team. In other words, we needed to stop relying on overperforming individuals and start using the entire team as a resource. So we started brainstorming new campaigns together. Instead of writing campaigns by committee or only relying on individuals to come up with their own ideas, we started sharing ideas that could be incorporated into individual campaigns.
This new approach helped us improve all of our individual campaigns. What we now had to do was see what worked on a bigger scale than a few choice verticals. That is where our testing framework came in. Instead of being content with high performing campaigns with only a limited scope, we started to demand that campaigns performed well to a much wider audience.
By ensuring that the same rigorous standard was applied to everyone’s campaign, we could standardize results across a number of different approaches and campaigns. A major benefit was that we now could find scalable, high converting campaigns that could be spread around the team.
Widening the effective range of our high performing campaigns helped us in a few ways:
- We now have all of our people regularly hitting 40 to 50 opportunities created per month.
- It is easy to onboard and ramp up new hires so that they can start producing great results within a couple weeks after they start. It still takes a few months to write their own killer email campaigns but this way, they are converting prospects in their first week. This motivates them to succeed and contributes to the team’s overall results with out a long ramp up period.
- Our results have become so predictable that we can calculate our revenues with precision using our outbound equation.
The reason why I am sharing this is that our process can easily be applied to your own sales lead generation operation. Here is how you can help yourself.
Our four step process for finding the best converting cold email campaigns
I told you the steps we take earlier but they are useless if you don’t know how to implement them. It is very easy to apply the same rigor to your own campaign selection process. If you do, you will find your results will improve across the board.
Step 1: Send 400 emails to see if your campaign converts
This is the proof of concept for the campaign you have written. The first thing you have to do is establish a bare minimum that you are trying to achieve with this test. At this point, don’t worry about hitting your ideal numbers. Instead, you want to find out if a campaign is worth spending more time on. We generally look for at least a couple enthusiastically positive responses to find out if we have something.
The key is to not be precious with you email copy and instead be ready to focus solely on your results. If you get a good response, you can move onto the next step of the framework. If not, it is back to the drawing board. This way, you won’t waste time pursuing an email campaign which doesn’t convert.
Step 2: Send another 600 emails to see how well you campaign converts
Once you know there is something there, it is time to start quantifying your performance. To do this, you need more data. That means it’s time to send out another 600 emails so that your test group totals 1000. By the end of this process, you will know whether you can rely on your new campaign or will have to keep searching.
Step 3: Discard campaigns which don’t work or provided poor ROI
After 1000 emails, you should have an accurate picture of how effective your campaign is. While different verticals can bring different results, it is important to set a goal for performance. We have landed on a 10% conversion rate. If after testing, a campaign only converts 7% of the time, we drop it and try to find something new.
Additionally, we weed out resource intensive campaigns that only provided marginal benefits. What this means is that if a campaign converts 12% of the time but take a full day to prepare and send 100 emails, we will drop it and keep searching for one that converts 10% of the time but only takes half an hour to send 100 emails.
Step 4: Repeat the first three steps until you get a campaign that you can use
You shouldn’t think of outbound success as linear. Instead, it is a constant struggle to maintain the same standard in the face of a changing market. A campaign that works today may not work in six months. Our journey has not been one of constantly converting more as we iterated but one of adapting more quickly and efficiently each time the situation changes.
Takeaways for scaling your sales lead generation operation
- Outbound sales is a great strategy but you need to master its execution to improve your rate of sales lead generation
- Let individuals create their own outbound campaigns with the help of group brainstorming
- Use our 4 step process to standardize testing and maintain results
- Don’t be afraid to discard campaigns that don’t work.
- Always be testing new ideas. Campaigns work until they don’t and you need to be ready with a new campaign when your current campaign goes stale.