How to Keep Your Sales Pipeline Filled with Qualified Leads

Cold Email

*Editors Note: Guest Post by Heather Morgan, Copywriter and Founder of Salesfolk. Salesfolk helps B2B companies refine their sales messaging to attract more customers.

Are you generating enough qualified leads with outbound email to keep your pipeline full?

If you’re not, it’s probably because you’re either:

  1. Spending too much time developing personalized message for prospects one at a time
  2. Blasting out mass, impersonal emails to an untargeted list.

Neither one of these approaches is effective or scalable.

We recently helped Y-Combinator startup Ambition (they specialize in sales productivity through gamification) with a 6 week cold email campaign. Our cold email campaigns generated 73 response from the 578 leads collected by Ambition. The campaign targeted 2 of Ambition’s optimal customer personas: “VP/Director of Sales” and “VP/Director of Sales Operations,”

Let’s check out the process and our stats in detail:

Ambition Campaign
VP Sales 1 + B Ops Ambition Case StudyVP Sales 1A & B --Ambition Case Study

Our engagement netted Ambition 73 leads, and revealed several valuable lessons that taught Ambition how to make their outbound efforts even more effective in the future. These same lessons can be applied to any SaaS company hoping to improve their outbound email campaigns.

Here are the major takeaways from the case study:

Are Your Cold Email Messages Adding Value?

The first major lesson from our engagement is the importance of value messaging. Before beginning any email campaign, think critically about the prospects on your list. How well do you understand your audience? What are their pain points and how can your product/service fix them?

Many cold email campaigns are unsuccessful because the message is often too self-focused. The results of Ambition’s campaign show that prospects respond the most to emails that offer add value to the customer’s business. During this recent campaign, Ambition decided to try a different approach. Each email contained a unique value message, focusing on a different pain point, highlighted a different feature, or offered a unique value add of Ambition

Let’s take a closer look at one of the top performing emails from the campaign, to see why it was so successful.

Director/VP Sales—Email #2A (value add)(some social engineering)
SUBJECT: idea to gamify {!Company}’s sales team

Hi {!First},

I’d like to share a quick idea with you that has helped [Clients] gamify their sales team and exceed their revenue goals.

The concept is fairly simple, and leverages the game mechanics of competitions like Fantasy Football, and has powerful results.

When can we have a quick call so I can explain?


How Failure Can Help You Learn and Improve Your Sales Processes

Email 2A had an open rate of 45% and received 6 responses. This email connected with prospects well because, instead of listing all the product’s bells and whistles, the copy engaged the prospects by targeting a specific pain point facing the VP/Director of Sales persona. By tapping into the need to find new ways to motivate their sales teams, Ambition was able to pique the interest of their prospects by offering a solution to one of their major problems.

Cold emails campaigns aren’t only about generating leads, but also about figuring out which aspect of your message prospects respond to the most.

Though email 2B performed quite well, email 5A only elicited one response.

Email #5a VP/Director of Sales
SUBJECT: {!Company}’s most important sales KPI

Hi {!First},

Do you know what changes you need to make with your sales team to ensure your {!Company} meets its quota for Q1 2015?

Tracking profit-per-sale doesn’t tell you enough. Companies like [Client example] realize improving sales performance requires knowing KPIs like profit-per call, email reply rate, etc. Our software shows them their sales teams’ stats in real time and plots trends so they can see what drives peak sales performance.

I’d like to share some important sales KPIs with you that {!Company} should be tracking. When can we do a quick call?


While this email didn’t resonate as well with prospects, there are still important lessons to be learned by it’s performance. Ambition now knows that its value propositions about “KPIs” don’t resonate as well with its prospects. The wins and fails of this outbound campaign signal to Ambition which messages they should and should not include in the future, making their email campaigns much more successful.

Why the One and Done Cold Email Approach isn’t Working

Many companies are still only sending the prospects on their list 1-2 emails and giving up after they don’t get any responses. While you don’t want to be an obnoxious spammer and turn off clients, only sending 4 emails or less means you’re missing out on opportunities with qualified leads.

ambition case study response rate

Combining the data from both personas, the chart above, shows that 24 positive responses came from touches 6-8. Had Ambition taken the traditional approach, they would have never been able to capitalize on these 24 prospects.

The results also show that email 8 received 8 responses, 2 more than email 1.

The key lesson from these observations is that persistence is an essential element to any cold email campaign. Your prospects are busy people. There are many reasons why they aren’t responding to your initial touches. It could be the time of day, the day of the week, or that a certain message isn’t resonating with that particular persona. If you can target the right people with the right message, you’re going to get responses.

Running an effective cold email campaign take time. It’s tempting to cut a few corners by creating a generic message that can be sent to all your prospects at the same time. The less personalized your message is, the less likely your prospects will relate to it.

Spend time crafting a quality message that adds value to each individual persona you’re reaching out to. Test your message so you can target your prospect with a message that will make them respond. If your campaign fails to generate responses in the beginning, make adjustments but don’t give up!

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    • Great article, Heather! I helped oversee the campaign that’s the subject of this post — happy to answer any questions anyone might have regarding these findings, the outcome of the campaign, etc. 🙂

      • @jeremyboudinet:disqus Isn’t that response rate too little given the number of emails sent to each person?

        • That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it Gopi? 🙂 Not sure, to be honest, given that there’s no benchmark for it, at least in our industry (gamification).

          • Got it. When I last check Mailchimp, they offered such benchmarks for each industry. Also, were you guys using SMTP (the sales rep’s inbox) or a 3rd party mailer for this campaign? I ask because you wouldn’t have received “Spam reports” if you sent from your sales rep’s ID skewing numbers; I for one would *Definitely* have marked these emails as spam after the 3rd time.

            • Do Mailchimp’s industry benchmarks get more specific than “software and web app,” in our case? And we used PersistIQ to run the campaign.

              Respect your distaste towards this approach, by the way. No hard feelings. Two things are certain: 1. People will forever greet cold callers/emailers with annoyance. 2. Many of those people will, at some point, become a satisfied client of a product/service introduced via cold call/email.

    • Loved this article! Excellent system and well written
      A couple questions: what software were you sending the mail merges out with? Most of the ones I have used don’t allow for mail merge in the subject line
      Were the A group and B group emails completely different or just sent in different order?

      • Hey craig, not sure which mailmerge you’re using, but mail merge always worked for me on subject lines.

      • Hey Craig, sorry for the delayed response on this. We used PersistIQ to send out the mail merges. Great product, highly recommended.

      • Hey Craig,

        As Jeremy mentioned, PersistIQ can do that for you. It’s like mail merge on steroids. You can put together what are essentially mail merge campaigns with as many variable and touchpoints as you need. It also has build in analytics and team functionality, and integrates with CRMs, like Salesforce. I’m actually part of the PersistIQ team and would be happy to answer any question or give you a demo if you’re interested.


    • That’s a pretty valuable article, although the title suggest that it’s more of a lead generation resource and reaching out to more leads instead of “optimizing your current list of prospects”. Other than that – great case study.

    • You are an obnoxious spammer.

    • Awesome article and advice Heather. Will have to give all of this a try soon.

    • great advice. adding value and persistence are key!

    • Great article! What is your definition of a positive response? Also, how many of the 73 leads became actual customers?

    • Looking to fill your sales pipeline with affordable and accurate leads, try using

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