Decoding Sales

Episode 31: Cold outreach - love or hate?

October 03, 2022 Alex Allain
Episode 31: Cold outreach - love or hate?
Decoding Sales
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Decoding Sales
Episode 31: Cold outreach - love or hate?
Oct 03, 2022
Alex Allain

 Sales and marketing teams need to be able to reach out to prospects cold. But prospects hate getting bombarded by irrelevant messages. What do you do with this necessary channel for building awareness for your company? Peter and Alex debate what makes cold outreach emails bad, what makes them effective, and look for common ground on what you should do if you want to make cold outreach emails that prospects don't hate.

For more on outbound and how to be successful with cold outreach and cold calling, visit Belal Batrawy's #deathtofluff resource hub 

Show Notes Transcript

 Sales and marketing teams need to be able to reach out to prospects cold. But prospects hate getting bombarded by irrelevant messages. What do you do with this necessary channel for building awareness for your company? Peter and Alex debate what makes cold outreach emails bad, what makes them effective, and look for common ground on what you should do if you want to make cold outreach emails that prospects don't hate.

For more on outbound and how to be successful with cold outreach and cold calling, visit Belal Batrawy's #deathtofluff resource hub 

Alex:

Welcome to Decoding Sales, a podcast where an engineer, that's me, Alex, and a salesperson

Peter:

That's me, Peter.

Alex:

talk about the art and science of sales as it relates to life and business. In this episode, we're gonna try something a little bit new and different. We are gonna do a quick hitter episode where we talk about a controversial topic. In this case, we are gonna talk about cold prospecting and how you should feel about it both as a salesperson and a prospect. So Peter, why don't you get us started. You came. Prep when we were talking about what we're gonna cover today. Fired up and ready and raging to talk about this posts on LinkedIn about people who are prospecting and how they treat the SDRs. So do you wanna read us what got you going?

Peter:

Yeah. So take a listen to this. Alex uh, cybersecurity executive posted this of an SDR that has reached out to her. So she writes, Unsolicited email sales. Pitch me no reply. Repeat six times. Them quote, I'm not sure if I'm reaching out to the right person. Usually I talk to someone in vulnerability management. Could you point me to the right direction? I'm still not replying, not because I'm the wrong person, but because if I am interested in getting a demo in sales pitch, I'll contact their ceo or chief data scientist who I'm friends with. I know sales is a tough gig, but read the room. I'm not interested in asking me to point an unsolicited sales pitch to a colleague. Isn't going to happen. So this got me really riled up. I absolutely hate, Alex, Security IT folks who publicly post and shame SDRs for just trying to do their job. And that's essentially what this post was all about.

Alex:

Okay, Peter, I think this is a great little debate here because as an engineer, I hate receiving these kind of emails, especially the ones that send me like three replies and then say, I'm not sure if I've got the right person. You definitely haven't gotten the right person.

Peter:

Good, good point. I, you know, I would say to put play devil's advocate, it takes two to three seconds to reply to that. You could either, by the way, you don't even need to reply. You could just hit the unsubscribe button to not get further email communication. And remember, a lot of folks, these are SDRs maybe it's their first, second job outta school. It's an entry point into sales. They're just trying to make ends meet. Right? And a lot of these folks don't get paid a lot of money. They're just trying to do their job. So I think, you know, as a society, it would be nice and empathetic if we were to understand. And try to point folks in the right direction. I mean, imagine, think about the first job you had and how much of an idiot you probably were. Or maybe you aren't Alex, cuz you're a brilliant engineer. But I definitely was an idiot like my first few jobs and sometimes I still feel like an idiot. And I appreciate folks who are looking to help me out or who give me life feedback to say, Hey Peter, this is not the right message but thanks for reaching out. You know, I think we all need a little, a little dose of empathy and understanding for what folks are going through right now to to do their job.

Alex:

Okay, so first of all, you know, it takes the least amount of time hitting the spam button and if it's Gmail, it will also let me unsubscribe if they've included unsubscribe, which by the way, many of them don't. Um, so that's my usual strategy, which maybe is not the nicest. Um, But I gotta say, don't you think that like the companies have some responsibility here? I totally hear you on the SDR, somebody who just graduated from college, they're young and eager to prove themselves. Bushy, bright eyed, bushy tailed, probably great, like at parties. Very nice person. Um, but I am confused why it's like considered okay for the company to like unleash them on a random set of prospects with like some pretty like low quality marketing automation.

Peter:

Yeah, I think that's a good point too. I think the company and the SDRs too, by the way, because a lot of SDRs are hired to be creative and actually be thoughtful about the prospecting. At the very least, you should be reaching out to the right persona and you should be doing research around the title and the type of company you're reaching out to. Now, the problem I have with this particular LinkedIn post is that she actually says she's the right person. She said, I'm not gonna reply, not because I'm the wrong person, but because if I am interested in getting a demo, I'm gonna contact their ceo. So I think like that is is something I have a problem with because you're essentially saying they've done their job researching the right person to reach out to, and she potentially might have a problem in the area that the SDR is outlining, but she's still negatively posting about this person who, again, is just trying to do their job. You know, at least is doing a thoughtful job to filter right as far as I can tell from the post. Now, if you're spraying and praying, you're not really looking or double checking your email, you're not checking to see if you can personalize an element of your note, then, you know, maybe that warrants some public shaming. But I think that if an SDR is reaching out at about a pain point that you might have, I think it's inconsiderate to be annoyed by that, and again to publicly.

Alex:

So I do hear you that there's a little bit of maybe high and mightiness. I'm not quite sure what the word

Peter:

Yeah, Arrogance. I would say arrogance. High and mightiness. And you know, if you have time to bring down somebody publicly, like you know, you have time to bring somebody up too, right? Or time, you know, maybe you enjoy that more than doing your job, right? It says a lot about, I think you as person and your character.

Alex:

Yeah, I particularly for me, in this example you gave where the person actually knows the, the ceo, and I think you said the chief data officer, data science, whatever the specific role was, like they know people at this company and, and so on the one hand, the idea that they would, you know, reach out to those people, like, Yeah, I kind of, it resonates, but it kinda resonates with me that like both, it's a little bit like pulling rank almost. But, but also, isn't it fair to say that this prospect, maybe you should have like, spent 10 seconds on LinkedIn and noticed that this person was connected to the CEO and, and this other person and, and maybe thought about like alternative ends for their, uh, for their product. Like, isn't that just like laziness in your, your filtering.

Peter:

Um, I, I think it could be, depending on the competing priorities this SD has, right? Or the salesperson has, I think in theory you would like to check double check everybody's network and make sure there's no overlap and you have the right software tools to catch that. But in reality, that's not the case. Right? Um, and it's, it's sometimes not a 10 to 15 second exercise. It's a much longer endeavor to figure out who's mapped to who. And so another approach is, is for this particular person to reply and say, Hey, like, I actually know your CEO and chief data scientist. It's not the right time, but when it is, I'll reach out to them directly. And then at that point, the SDR should probably connect with their ceo, chief data scientist and figure out a strategy there. But you can't always bat a hundred percent on the initial, um, on the initial, uh, engagement, right? Nobody does. And, and this, this is for non-sales engagements too.

Alex:

But isn't that what we're aspiring to? Isn't the whole point of this podcast, Peter, that we're all about like building authentic relationships rather than, uh, marketing automation software.

Peter:

Yeah, but you know, the auth authentic and genuine reality is that sometimes we don't have the opportunity to personalize everything that is reality, right? I think that what this podcast is about is making sure you build authentic relationships and build authentic experiences, and part of the authentic experience and genuine experience that people go through is they need to get the volume of people to reach out to, to get 30 meetings a quarter, right? It's not possible sometimes to do that by being thoughtful for every single micro interaction that you might have, and it's a very real trade off that sometimes you have to make around personalization versus automation. And the honest to God truth is that no matter how personalized something is, if it's not hitting a pain point that you have, you're probably not gonna reply to it. No matter how automated something is, is if it's hitting a pain point that you have, you probably will reply to it. So this dynamic is what plays out with outbound sales, right? Sometimes you automate and sometimes you personalize and you take your chances on that because both, both work, right? People don't automate emails cuz they don't work.

Alex:

Yeah, so, So what you're saying, Peter, is on the sales side. Yeah. We should totally feel comfortable sending some automation automated emails at some automated content. Cause it either it's gonna work and it helps somebody or. Or they're gonna ignore it, but I don't think you can then also come here and say, By the way, it would be polite to write back and explain that you're not interested. Like if I'm getting an automated email, I want an automated system to process it, and my Gmail spam filter is actually like a pretty good one. So I feel like I'm doing the right thing after all of this by hitting that like, you know, spam button.

Peter:

Yeah, I, I think that's, uh, that's up to you and you could definitely do that. Um, I would say, you know, that's very different from publicly posting that you don't like people prospecting to you. Right. The other thing, like, to play devil's advocate a little bit more on this topic is, you know, imagine like your favorite product or your favorite piece of software that you use right now. You know, like, can you think of a few?

Alex:

Absolutely. Yeah. Really using Airtable; the tool we're using to record this, Squadcast, is quite good. Um,

Peter:

So you would, presumably, I would say you had probably replied to an automated email from Squadcast if it hit on some of the pain points you were having trying to record podcasts. Would you agree?

Alex:

Well, because I'm a, we're literally a paying customer of them, so

Peter:

Well, no, but But before that, Before that, Before that, before you were paying customer.

Alex:

Um,

Peter:

or Airtable. Let's say they had an amazing gif, or you know, they had three bullet points that you love about their product today that you couldn't find in any other product, and it outlines it clearly. Would you reply to that regardless of if it was automated or personalized or not?

Alex:

Hm,

Peter:

Would you want to, Would you want to learn more? At the very least,

Alex:

I, Well, I will tell you this one thing that I have seen. I do get a fair number of cold reach outs, and usually when I get a cold reach out, even if it touches on a pain point that I have, um, they're very low quality and they look like trash, so I don't trust them.

Peter:

There you go. So I think that's the problem, right? It's not that they're automated or not personalized, I think that they're low quality. But if there's a high quality email that you get that's automated. Right. It's still, you know, it's, it still should be worth your time to open it and be aware of the technology that that person is pitching, right? So I think that like, I think that's what we should focus on is not whether or not you're getting spammed or you're getting a whole set of cold emails. I think it's more is the quality of the email, again, whether it's personalized or automated, because I think there's high quality automated. Is the quality of the email something worth looking at and replying to? Right. And I think the problem is that most automated emails are low quality, but again, there's still somebody trying to do their job, right? And so, I think the, the premise of any public posts shouldn't be, don't reach out to me cuz I'll reach out to your CEO or don't reach out to me because I'm eating dinner with my family at 6:00 PM and you're cold calling me. It should be the contents of that email, right? Because no matter where you are, what you're doing, if you have a burning problem you're trying to solve, you probably appreciate somebody reaching out to you about that.

Alex:

Okay. I can kind of see where you're coming from. I do think that like one of the things that I have taken from like a we've talked about, and like modern sales, is that the people who actually have written the high quality emails are often usually also the people who are better at finding a warm intro and a warm lead. And so like part of my, like, you know, Bayesian heuristic is like, if it's a cold intro or cold email, it's probably low quality by default.

Peter:

Yeah, I would say it might be lower quality, it might be, but um, remember the goal for a lot of these teams is to build awareness as well, right? And it's hard to build awareness with one to one bespoke interactions. And so you also do need to scale. You also need repetition. You need a diversification of approaches and that means not always doing hand to hand um, or handwritten like handcrafted, bespoke interactions. You also need to have volume to get your awareness out there too.

Alex:

Yeah, so, So can we agree at least that sending six unsolicited follow up emails is too much and is a low quality?

Peter:

It could be. It depends, right? It depends on a variety of things. I mean, here's another situation. I'm not gonna say that six follow emails is, uh, absolutely low quality. It could be right, Because yes, like the fact that that person hasn't replied probably means your content isn't compelling. But remember on the other side, there's all sorts of other things we're looking at. We talked about intent data platforms like Bombora that scream at SDRs to say, Hey, listen, Alex, this is an account that's trending in the direction of wanting to look for a VPN replacement. And so you might hit that group of folks. You know the right titles again. With multiple messages because you're getting indicators and data points that this company's ready to move off their VPN replacement. So you want more shots on goal to try and engage them. And sometimes people reply to the email and say, Hey, thanks for being persistent. I actually was meaning to reply to you, but my inbox is filled with messages and I have priorities. So you just never know, you know, as a seller, like what situation everybody is in. And so it's hard to, It's hard to guess, right? It's hard. It's hard to mind read what situation you're getting yourself into when you're sending emails.

Alex:

But that logic, you might as well send a hundred follow up emails, but I think we would all agree that sending a hundred follow up emails is like not a great.

Peter:

Yes, there's a diminishing returns and like, that's why I think these platforms like Outreach and SalesLoft are good because they give you like open rates and reply rates for every single sequence. And so it also is actually like a data framework and experiment to see, you know, where that fall off is. Right. But, but yeah, I agree. There is a diminishing point of returns after like maybe the seventh or eighth email. Yeah.

Alex:

Yeah. Well, I will tell you, I don't think I've ever responded to anything after maybe the second or third. I ha I will say I have seen some good follow up emails, um, particularly in recruiting, where people will actually drip interesting content in their second or third emails. It makes you wanna listen or like pay attention. So I see the value there. I think if you've hit six and it's like bump type messages, I,

Peter:

Yeah.

Alex:

low quality crap,

Peter:

I, I agree. I think, I think the other point is that the call to action can't be the same thing. You can't be single threaded on that, you know? And a lot of times salespeople just want the meeting, right? But there's other things of value, right? There's like this piece of content I thought you'd be interested in, or we're hosting a virtual networking event or a physical networking event. So I think if you're creative with the approaches, right, and creative with what you're offering, and it's not always like, listen to me pitch. but it could be like, just meet with, you know, 15 of your peers, you know? Then it becomes interesting, I think. Right. So I think, again, like that goes back to quality versus whether or not, um, you should be reached out to, Right. Because for the most part, I do think sales teams are, and marketing teams are forced to get to the right title, the right type of company, right? Because time is limited and they do need to focus.

Alex:

That you know that that resonates. Actually this idea of like multiple offers. I could see six emails if you had something different in each of them and they weren't like a week apart or some crap like that where it's obviously just garbage. One one thing I not, you know, I, I got one of these emails today was actually not for a product, but it was like to attend to some dinner for a conference I'm going to. And I actually just like archived it cuz I was like, if they're serious, they'll send me another email. And um, and part of the reason I did that was actually, I think because their first email was crap. Like, it didn't say why I was invited or who else was invited or anything like, And so I'm assuming that like they're gonna, they're sending out their first email and then their second email is gonna have more content in it to explain it. Or if not, I'm like, I don't really wanna go this anyway, because like, I don't know if this is about,

Peter:

Yeah.

Alex:

so like, it's really, I, I think there's a, there's like a meta game that's being like gamed out here where like recipients also do expect follow up emails,

Peter:

Yeah, that's a good point. Yeah.

Alex:

but to your point, like they have to provide, like all these emails have to provide value and frankly, Person who sent me this email, you know, is automated, whatever, like if they'd explained more detail and it wasn't like a crap email, I might have been more

Peter:

Exactly. Yeah, imagine cuz you mentioned a couple things. Social proof, right? Like who's gonna be at it? And then also the first thing is like context, like why am I invited? So yeah, that probably would've been very different if it's like, Hey Alex, notice you've been at you, you've been CTO at U.S., Digital Response for three years, and by the way, Peter's going to this dinner about sales, podcasting. You probably reply to that right? So yeah.

Alex:

And to your point, it doesn't need to be super personalized, but it needs to be like, we are hosting an event for like CTOs or like something, It's like, why, why, why am I getting this?

Peter:

And like XYZ person in your network is gonna be there, Right? That makes it a lot more compelling,

Alex:

That certainly would make it a lot more compelling. Um, okay, so I think we're, okay. So this has been a really interesting debate. Why don't we like try to like, extract some takeaways for folks that, you know, point of this is not just to argue about whether I should be hitting the spam button, but like, what does it mean, Like, what is the experience you're trying to create at a company? And it sounds like we're saying a few things. One, You. So things just have to be scaled and automated and like that's gonna happen. And like multiple emails are fine, but you need to provide concrete value in all of the emails. You need to explain why you're sending it to somebody, why they're the right recipient. Like you gotta like put in the, the scaled work. But there's still the work of, of saying like, you're a CTO or you're a, you know, VP of enterprise or whatever, like explaining why that email's coming in and then like, you should expect to send follow ups, but your follow up should be meaningful and additive and maybe clever. You know, I got one email thread where it was from a company and, and the second email was a sample of the data that they were offering. It was like interesting. Um, it was trying to recruit, it was a recruiting email and, and this company did like comp related stuff. So like, they sort of gave you like, here's what it looks like and here's how we think about comp for our company.

Peter:

Very cool. Yeah.

Alex:

a really clever way to do it. So, It feels like there is something there. Um,

Peter:

It's all about thoughtfulness and being automated doesn't mean that there's no thought put into it, and it also doesn't mean your personality isn't injected into it, right? Because people are still creating these automated sequences to show that they're clever and that they're adding value.

Alex:

Yeah. It also kind of feels to me though that companies have a responsibility to manage their, their, like new grad SDRs and not just let them put in these like, bullshit like five emails over the course of a week. Like bump, bump, bump, bump, bump.

Peter:

Yeah, exactly. Every new company or every company that's building an SSCR team should just have them listen to this episode.

Alex:

I think, I think that's right. I think Okay. I think we've got, I think we've gotten somewhere, Peter. I think we can conclude that. Um, it's, it's probably sort of like unprofessional maybe to complain a lot about receiving reach out emails. And I, I wanna land on one last thing. There was actually a response to that post that you shared. You shared it with me before this call. You wanna, I thought it was really interesting. It was from the, from the, from a CISO.

Peter:

Yeah, from a CISO, I really respect, and he said, I typically reply to these emails and let them know it's not a right fit right now as I'd hope someone would extend the same kindness and compassion to SDRs and AEs in my own organization. So that's a really good point, right? You probably have SDRs and salespeople that are trying to get the word out there about your product too. So, you know, extend that same sort of compassion and empathy to other SDRs reaching out to.

Alex:

Yeah, and I would just add one caveat, which is like, You're at that CISO's company probably has SDRs and and AEs who are sending high quality emails, and I think that's the differentiator.

Peter:

Yes. Yes, definitely. And if there's a few that send low quality emails initially, you know, we shouldn't shame them. They're learning, right? And we all learn. And, but yeah, that the end goal is to make sure companies are training their workforce to, to send out high quality content.

Alex:

Yeah. And I, and I would just say like, I don't think this is about shaming the the AE or the SDR. It's about the company. The company's doing a bad job of managing their sales team if they're sending out garbage, like they're not setting them up for success.

Peter:

agree. Agree.

Alex:

All right. Well, Peter, this was a fun episode. I liked the debate style, felt like we got into things. Um, for our listeners, um, what do you think, how do you feel about cold reach outs? Do what are your tips for making a cold reach out palatable? Do you respond to cold reach outs? What are your thoughts? Let us know. Um, send us an email, podcasters@decodingsalespodcast.com. Or post about us on your favorite social platform. And finally, uh, don't keep us a secret. We would love your, um, if you think we're worthy of it, your five star reviews on Apple Podcast and share us with your friends, and especially your SDR friends.