Sales Tactics : 8 min read

3 Ways to Improve Your Reply Rate with a CRM

In the early 1990s, unknown and unemployed author J.K. Rowling split her time between writing the first draft of Harry Potter and pitching her idea to publishers.

Her manuscript was ignored by 12 different publishing houses before Bloomsbury finally accepted it. That novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, would go on to sell more than 120 million copies across 74 languages—and made Rowling and Bloomsbury exceptionally wealthy.

Rowling’s rejections demonstrate that the quality of what you’re selling doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. You can take the third highest-selling book of all time to a publisher and they still might say, “No.” Likewise, your sales reps can pitch the best product or service and hear nothing back from your prospects.

But that doesn't mean there isn't anything you can do to help your case. In fact, you probably already have all the tools and data you need optimize your outreach strategy. In this article, we’ll discuss how you can use a CRM to improve your communication with prospects and help get more replies.

Segmentation

During the mid-1990s, when McDonald’s was still growing into a fast food behemoth, executives decided they wanted to improve milkshake sales.

McDonald’s marketing buffs began by defining the market segment by product (the milkshake), then profiling the demographic and personality traits of everyone within it. Next, they ran countless focus groups and tested a whole range of different types of milkshake variants—thicker, thinner, more chocolatey, less chocolatey, cheaper, chunkier, fruitier, the list went on an on. Finally, they selected the best-performing milkshakes and put them on sale.

Then… nothing. Not a single spike in sales or blip in brand buzz.

Exasperated and confused, McDonald’s turned to famed Harvard business professor, Clay Christensen. Christensen spent a day interviewing McDonald’s customers and immediately realised their customer segmentation strategy was flawed. Their core milkshake customers weren’t fans of milkshakes; they were long-distance commuters in search of a filling breakfast they could eat with one hand.

McDonald’s overhauled their marketing to target commuter consumers and their milkshake sales increased sevenfold.

Segmenting your customers—and segmenting them accurately—has a huge effect on whether a prospect reads your email or returns your call.

And one of the most effective ways to segment your customers?

It’s through your CRM, and it’s probably already collecting all the data you need. Here’s a snapshot of the lead data that’s (probably) already in your CRM.

  • Demographics: This is all the data about the person behind the lead. How old are they? Where do they live? What’s their job title? How much do they earn?
  • Pipeline Stage: Your sales pipeline is a sequence of stages that a prospect moves through from newly prospected lead to customer. Your CRM tracks where each prospect is within your pipeline.
  • Behavior: Most CRMs have some sort of behavior tracking built in, allowing you to see what blog posts prospects are reading, if they’ve signed up for newsletters, and so on.
  • Purchase History: If your prospect is a returning customer, you’ll be able to see their entire purchase and communication history.
  • Contact preferences: Good data capture offers leads a decision on how they want to be contacted. Do they want weekly or daily emails? Do they want to hear about company news or just advice?

Having customer data is good but the most important thing is how you use it. McDonald’s marketing executives had all the data in the world but still managed to segment their audience poorly.

Here are some effective ways you can use your CRM to effectively segment your prospects and improve your reply rates.

Touchpoint engagement

Watching how your prospect interacts with your business through your CRM is one of most effective ways to understand what makes them tick.

track prospect interactions in copper crm

For example, if a lead spends half their time on your pricing page, it’s a strong indicator that cost is an important factor in their decision-making process. Or if a customer spends two hours scrolling through your Help section, there’s a good chance they need support—even if they don’t directly call and ask for it.

Use your CRM to analyze what touchpoints people have with your business after they enter your sales pipeline.

Look for common points like popular blog posts, site pages, engagement on social media, and online support. Then use those touchpoints to segment prospects and trigger campaigns targeted to their predicted wants and needs.

It’s a good idea to go as granular as possible or, at least, as granular as practical with touchpoint segmentation. For example, Optimove found a strong correlation between segment size and average performance uplift: segments with 10 prospects performed around five times better than segments with 150.

Suppression lists

Another useful segmentation tool is the suppression list. Suppression lists allow you to keep certain segments out of your sales pipeline. For example, if your company only serves the U.S. market, there’s no point in funneling U.K. leads into your pipeline.

If you set up a suppression list for all prospects with an international shipping address, you can automatically filter them out of your pipeline and keep your sales reps focused on leads that they can actually close.

Timing

According to Mailchimp, the best time to send an email is Wednesday morning at around 10:30 am. However, if you do send an email at this time, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t receive a reply.

When Mailchimp refers to the ‘best’ time, what they are actually talking about is an average—and we’ve known about the limitations of averages for quite some time.

In the 1940s, the U.S. Air Force took the physical measurements of hundreds of pilots and used that data to calculate the dimensions of the average pilot. Engineers then redesigned plane cockpits around the averages, believing the new average seats would fit everyone perfectly. That’s not what happened.

The new average cockpits didn’t fit anyone because no one person actually fits that average.

Like the U.S. Air Force pilots, all your prospects are unique. They have unique job roles, unique schedules and unique preferences. Building a one-size-fits-all outreach schedule and applying it to all your prospects is a sure-fire way to have half your emails and phone calls ignored.

In the past, understanding the unique schedule of each prospect was an administrative nightmare and impractical for most sales reps. Now, your CRM is already tracking your prospect’s behavior and creating a personalized snapshot of day-to-day life. Much easier.

CRMs like Copper will embed an invisible tracking pixel within your emails, allowing you to track when prospects are interacting with your messages.

tracking emails in copper
Looking at your interaction history will reveal the best times to reach out to each contact.

You might find that one prospect reviews their emails at 8:30 am before they start work. Another might read through everything in the evening when they get home. Someone else might click in and out of their emails all day, reading messages as soon as they arrive.

Once you know when a prospect is most receptive, you can tailor your outreach to those times. Most CRMs will allow you to write your emails in advance and schedule them to send when you know your prospect is looking at their emails.

And if you talk to a prospect when they actually have time to listen to you, they’re much more likely to respond.

Automate follow-ups

Business professionals receive over 140 emails per day. If you include direct messages, phone calls, and personal communication, you could probably multiply that number by three. With so much content bombarding us on a daily basis, it’s impossible to read every single message.

So, people put up a filter and ignore 80% of emails that fall into their mailbox.

Next time you email a prospect, remember that statistic because there’s a four in five chance that they aren’t reading your message.

The best way to deal with ignored emails is persistence. If your first email gets ignored, send a second. If that gets ignored, send a third.

According to Woodpecker, reps who send three or fewer emails receive an average reply rate of just 9%. For reps who send between four and seven emails, the reply rate jumps to 27%:

number of prospecting emails in a sequence.
While the numbers are clear, sales reps often find it difficult to implement a multi-email outreach sequence.

For one thing, humans are bad at monotonous tasks. They get bored, their mind drifts and the quality suffers. And if a sales rep has to write seven different emails for 100 different prospects, they’re eventually going to succumb to boredom.

For another, sending one ignored email after another feels like a waste of time. Sales reps are more likely to ignore the prospects who aren’t replying and focus on the ones who are.

The good news is much of this work can be automated through a CRM in what’s called a drip campaign. Drip campaigns handle the process of sending multiple emails, reducing your sales reps' workload, and improving the consistency of their communication.

drip email campaign life cycle
A typical lifecycle of a follow-up drip campaign

The campaign kicks in when a sales rep sends a prospect an offer and stops either when a prospect replies or it reaches the final ‘break-up’ email.

If a prospect does reply to any of the emails, a CRM like Copper automatically pauses the drip campaign and lets the sales rep take over.

Drip campaigns allow you to maintain a consistent presence in your prospect’s inbox until they have time to talk to you. Without that persistence, it’s likely that your prospects simply won’t notice your emails.

Improve your reply rate in just a few simple steps.

Your prospects have busy lives and demanding careers, so fitting your sales pitch in is always going to be tricky.

When you imagine the day-to-day lives of your prospects, think about how to tailor your approach to each individual in order to get more replies.

Here’s a recap of how you can use your CRM to get more replies:

  • Segment your prospects so you deliver a highly tailored message.
  • Analyze your prospects' activity so you’re reaching out at the best time.
  • Automate follow-ups to make sure you stay present in your prospects' inboxes.

How do you use your CRM to get more replies from prospects? Tweet us and share your best tips!