August 6, 2020 | 4 min. read

COVID Confirms: Spam Still Belongs in a Can, Not an Inbox

As COVID-19 surged in March and April, we saw record highs in sales email volume across the SalesLoft platform.

With companies scrambling to adapt to a global pandemic, it’s not surprising that many sellers turned to email. Unfortunately, the more emails reps send, the more message quality typically declines, both in terms of personalization and data hygiene. 

Subsequently, lower quality emails sent during the height of COVID-19 led to higher bounce rates, decreased user engagement, and potential long-term impacts on sender reputation and deliverability. In this post, we’ll discuss our findings and what that means for sellers as the pandemic continues. 

More Emails, Less Engagement

With in-person channels for customer relationship-building fewer and far between, sellers naturally have turned to all forms of electronic communication. In the first few months of the pandemic, three behaviors have emerged:

  1. Customers started emailing prospects more frequently with less personalization. They performed bulk sends rather than investing in 1:1 personalized emails, which led to spam complaints and deliverability issues.1
  2. COVID-19 hit businesses hard with big layoffs and overall reduction in spending. With many contacts losing their jobs, email senders saw higher bounce rates. And with budgets tightening, sellers had fewer opportunities to engage prospects.
  3. Customers started acquiring new lists from vendors or retargeting old data that had potential spam traps and a high percentage of invalid emails, which also hurt deliverability.

The graph below shows the number of emails sent with SalesLoft from June 2019 to May 2020 and illustrates a spike in email volume beginning in March.

sales email volume

The SalesLoft platform saw 6 million emails per week as of March 16 (a 31% increase from February) and came close to 7 million by mid-April. As email volume drastically increased in mid-March, open and reply rates declined significantly as seen in the charts below.

Open Rates Sales Emails COVID

Reply Rates Sales Email Spam COVID

When Less Is More

In two quarters during 2019, we examined the email habits of 30,000 sales reps. The graph below shows the relationship between how many contacts reps added to cadences at a time and how many total email replies they received during that period.

sales email

We found that the number of replies a rep received increased as they increased the number of new contacts added to cadences, but only up to a point. After that mark, we observed not only diminished returns, but NEGATIVE returns, plus more work for the seller. 

For instance, if a rep adds 100 contacts to a cadence each day, they need to execute about 500 actions a day! Not only is that a lot of work, it isn’t necessary. When reps add people to cadences in batches larger than 120, we expect them to receive fewer email replies than if they had added only 20 people

When sellers increase the number of contacts they’re engaging with at a time, the quality of their work decreases because they’re likely sending less personalized, irrelevant, or canned content, resulting in fewer email replies. That’s why we coach reps to stay in the “Goldilocks Zone” when it comes to adding new contacts to their cadence each day. This zone ranges anywhere from 20-80 contacts because not all businesses and customer journeys are alike. 

For instance, companies with longer sales cycles typically have high-value deals with complex customers. Reps selling these products have fewer prospects and employ more personalized touches because every account matters. These sellers will want to stay towards the lower end of the zone. 

On the flip side, emerging markets typically have faster deal cycles with a larger pool of accounts. When it comes to adding contacts to a cadence, it makes sense for reps at these companies to lean toward the high end of the zone in order to make volume-oriented plays.

Regardless of where you stand, here’s the takeaway from COVID-19 and past experiments: with everyone else spamming, this is your golden opportunity to stand apart. Rather than pushing your reps to reach more people, coach them to be more targeted and personalized in their emails. Not only will they connect with more customers, they can also invest all the time they’re saving into becoming a better seller.

Want more guidance on how to connect with prospects? Check out our eBook, 33 Tips For Optimizing B2B Sales Emails.

33 Tips For Optimizing B2B Sales Emails: The Ultimate Guide

Email volume, SalesLoft app data, Q1 2020

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