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Sales Outreach: The #1 Thing Marketers Need to Know

Posted March 1, 2023
Jesse Ouelette Revenue Marketing Report

Jesse Ouellette, Founder of LeadMagic, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Jesse shares his insights on the insidious problem in B2B, why the only road to recovery is heeding a cautionary tale and warming up a few domains, and why when in doubt, less volume is reasonable.

Jesse is the SaaS Founder at LeadMagic. He and his team help companies learn who is visiting their websites, anonymous visitors; that sort of thing. The whole operation is sort of like a more accurate version of a lead feeder. LeadMagic helps people get their messages delivered back to the inbox utilizing cold email outreach.

There’s an insidious problem in B2B, and it has everything to do with your sales outreach tool.

Today’s episode is kind of like “learn from my mistakes.” Don’t repeat them. I think a lot of marketers out there, especially in early startups, leave sales to their own devices. If they want to get a mass email tool, fine. You guys deal with it! I’m focused over here. At the beginning of this chat, Jesse explained why this insidious issue in B2B is a bad mindset to have.

“Well, what’s changed now is, of course, email is still the #1 attack surface for hackers. So if you go into any company that has any sort of security, they’re going to have one of those phish training programs. Email security in general, there is a ton of investment there. There’s also the fact that everybody moved more remotely. Therefore, there are a lot more endpoints they have to check. The surface is just wider essentially and it’s easier to hack systems. And email being a completely exposed hole in your company’s strategy, businesses are very particular. Now, it depends on the companies you’re emailing. But in terms of sales, before I was a SaaS owner, I was in a sales rep, frontline leader role.

“We always had to go out there, just get really crazy and get everybody on the phone. Well, that doesn’t work so much anymore because what has happened is every person that hits a spam button is one less company you’re going to be talking to. However, it could also have a blast radius of a lot more. Not only could it impact your current sales process, but your current deals, current customers, and current investors. Everybody that you are emailing, especially if it is all in that primary domain name. This is where you have to start to think about something called inbox placement and the mail flow at your company. This is something that I am glad we are discussing. It’s just such an important thing. I can’t overemphasize how important this is right now.”

What is the road to recovery?

Jesse explained why the sole road to recovery is heeding a cautionary tale and warming up a few domains.

“What has happened is this thing has been slowly creeping up.  I’ve been talking about it for a couple of years now, unfortunately. Before I built my company, I was at a company and I actually made this public. I brought it to the attention of my superiors. We had something installed at the domain level that was putting us in SPAM folders. I didn’t want to put the email signature since I was running sales strategy and my team, the sales development team, wasn’t going to be able to get their emails through. 

“So I went and tried to have the conversation internally and it didn’t work out the way I thought it would. They actually fired me. It’s better for me now. It has been great. I have my own profitable SaaS company and I’m doing well. 

“These discussions are hard internally and I think the worst thing you can do is shrink to make others feel okay. That is one of the things and a lot of times, the marketers are on the better side of it because they’re used to getting to these email systems. They understand, and they signed agreements with ESP. Enterprise email-sending programs, right? They know what’s in the contracts. You want to work with your marketing team. I come from a sales background. If I could give you any piece of advice, your marketers typically are going to have this experience at least to figure out the problem over your sales leadership.

“Sometimes, what can be in at least 95% of the cases, we are finding things like the breakup email. I don’t know if you guys have ever used that, but it’s one of those emails when you’re: first of all, they were never opted-in, they were never part of your table. And you are basically going in and you’re saying in the fourth email, I’m going to break up with you and never ever call you again. You are going to be not enough. It generates a ton that’s reported as spam. We actually tested that at scale, a big test. We did this on purpose. We set up 10 domain names. In the second, that fourth one hit that breakup email.

“So whoever reads that blog post saying it was a good idea, know that that blog post is old news now since it is being reported as SPAM. When you break up with somebody, you are never really together. You never really had a relationship because they never talked to you, right? Therefore, it’s not sales enablement. You have to think in terms of if you aren’t having a conversation with someone and you’re not getting new conversations, stop doing it and try to determine what’s going on instead of going and doing more. That would be my piece of advice.”

Jesse offered more advice on this.

“So what we are seeing is if you are in one of the traditional systems, I think sales enablement platforms are trying to run as far from this as possible. The tactics are starting to work on pure cold outreach. Sometimes, what you need to do is go through the motions. So you are saying if I warm up another domain name, I can get the reputation? If I keep the scaling limits low, then how can I scale that faster? What happens is you think I probably couldn’t afford all the licenses in my traditional sales engagement platforms.  But there are sequence-type products that can handle that because they don’t charge you based on a seat number. They charge you more on a per-email number basis. They have figured this out. The impact is actually more on the sequencing. What I am trying to say is you really want to know what it is, it’s definitely new domains that get warmed up for up to 3 weeks. That’s the starting point. However, those domains can get tarnished too, but if you keep warming up while you’re sending, you can turn it up to full power. 

“So there are health things there and that comes down to how many emails in and how many emails out and how many you’ve got to track. You want to hit that number to be over, I’d say 15%. Now, what you are saying is, wow! My sales team doesn’t get a 15% response rate on anything! Therefore, what you need to do is warm up accordingly to get that response rate. Oftentimes, you will put a 30% warmup going where they are generating some artificial responses and that’s how all these systems work. The other thing is just using plain text. It really helps a lot.

“We could get emails into government agencies if we wanted to because we’ve got our domains. So we warm them up and watch every interaction and nobody complains and offer value on every email. We aren’t personalizing one-to-one. We are setting up early. We get all the data. We do it all and then we launch it and we measure the results along the way.”

“So that has been our biggest thing. Email is almost run more like paid ads now.”

When in doubt, less volume is more reasonable. The hard part is finding the balance between letting them function at scale and not burning reputation equity.

As a marketer, I am pretty protective of my domain. What’s going on is marketers have been restricted in what they can and cannot do. A lot of marketing platforms will actually enforce protocol even if you aren’t following it yourself, which you should be. In my department, we only email people who have opted-in. We only email them what they want to. As a result, our open right rates are really high. Our unsubscribed and bounce rates are really low and sales see this. Back in the day when we could buy lists and just blast everybody, I think marketing learned a lot from that and realized that it’s not the most effective way to go.

But sales particularly if you have that volume mentality and even if what you’re doing isn’t working, you’re going to get responses some of the time. So just crank up that volume. There is a problem with that. If we aren’t optimizing for conversations and we don’t understand which metrics we should be looking at to see whether our bounce rates are higher or not. All of these things are happening that will get us in trouble with the email providers. Marketers out there need to be protective of their main domain. If your sales team won’t listen to you in the context of best practices around lower volume personalization and how much better that can be for their response rates and meaning set. We are trying to get them to buy in and they just aren’t buying into it. Kesse went into detail about the limits we can put in place on the back-end tools. In other words, the best practices.

“There is a thing called mail flow. What that means is it is looking at some specific reputations or some specific score or information and it looks at two things. It looks at your IP address right now. Let’s think about whose IP addresses you are using. When you send emails from Google, you’re using Google’s IP addresses. So no one’s going to get blocked on Google. Google has a very large group of IPS that they send emails from and no one is ever going to block it. Let us face it, it would be a nightmare. It would have to be something else at the domain level. This is where many people haven’t really realized it’s going down here and they can figure out the needle in the haystack. What I mean by that is there are 350 billion emails sent every day.

“Some of those are SDR sequences. And what you can do is look at the mail flow that goes out of your domain. So you’ve got to think about how you have a bunch of positive responses coming back with your finance, your team, your CEO, and your corporate team. You have a lot there. Your marketing team is probably not getting any complaints. Very low bounce rate. Everybody’s in the list opens. The opens aren’t really important, but it’s more the other stuff. Then the last part of it is that’s like a rock in the middle of your company. By the way, that was me as a sales rep and I wanted to try and fix this problem. I saw it coming a mile away. And what I see is you have salespeople coming in and they’re using technology and technology can scale failure too.

“Therefore, you write very non-personally. I am not advocating that you go out and figure out a way to do this at scale. Don’t start sending one-off emails either. That can be very dangerous too. You are going to have to find groups and things that you can look for and I’ll get to that in a bit. The point is if you have too many sales reps sending too many emails and the response rates are under, let’s say 10%, if you’re doing it and you are scaling that way, you’re going to be facing a huge problem very quickly. What has to happen is there has to be a tip, when your domain is going to tip over and it’s going to look like your domain is now only sending spam.

“Where the problem is in most companies is their mail flow has become so lopsided since they haven’t put any controls on this sequencing product technology strategy. They haven’t built anything around there. I am not saying to write these emails manually. I want to make sure we don’t do any manually. There are other ways to do that. But the biggest problem is when you tip and you hire that sixth SDR and they come in and they do another hundred emails per day if that’s your cap or maybe you don’t have a cap and that’s a thousand per day. Now you just flooded out your entire domain name with whatever else is there. Whether it is your forgotten password, your company’s customer success information, your HR recruiting, your salary, or sending people new offers. All of these systems are impacted because of your sales enablement strategy, and email strategy. I’m trying to caution people because you don’t see the score on the other side. They just put you in spam and you lose  performance as an impact.”

“The biggest one too is this thing called, the terminology for it is Google Jail. This is the one that if you hear, remember this podcast and send some of my content and basically read what this is about since that’s the point. Now you are locking an employee out of the company. They can’t get any emails at your company and they can’t respond to customers. It’s like you have too many things up. Stop it right there and get a committee involved and start having that discussion and figure out what you need to address the issue at large but most of this can be completely avoided if you follow the steps I have outlined here.

For more expert interviews and advice, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.