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What are B2B cold email response rates? Belkins’ 2023 study

Vladislav Podolyako
Vladislav Podolyako
Reading time:10 m

Getting leads via cold B2B emails, we at Belkins constantly monitor campaigns’ performance. The data-driven approach helps us discover, scale the most effective tactics, and then offer them to our clients as a part of our cold email outreach services.

Recently, we’ve analyzed response rates in over 11 million B2B cold emails sent by our customers from 93 business domains.

Check out our major findings on reply rate benchmarks and the drivers behind them.

Key takeaways on cold B2B email response rates

  1. To get 1 B2B lead, you need to send around 306 emails.
  2. The average cold email response rate is 7%, with the average open rate being 36%.
  3. Reaching out to 2–4 people from one company gives the highest reply rate of up to 7.8%.
  4. Emailing 5 to 10 target contacts from the same organization drops the response rate from 6.1% to 2.5%.
  5. Sending cold B2B email sequences to 240–499 people results in an average 10% reply rate.

Reply Rates Dynamics by Month

Brian Minick, Chief Operating Officer at ZeroBounce, shared his thoughts on our research:

"The findings in this report accurately reflect our own experience in the B2B space. For instance, reaching out to more than two people at one company has proven to perform better than contacting just one person. Targeting several prospects increases your chances to reach a decision-maker and move closer to a sale."

How follow-ups influence reply rates

Find out how follow-ups can increase B2B cold email response rates or drop them. This section also reveals how many emails to send and when it’s time to remind the recipient about your previous message.

B2B email response rates dynamics, depending on the number of follow-ups

When it comes to following up with your prospects, it’s crucial to strike a balance between being neither too pushy nor indifferent. Overstepping or not being there at all can lead you to losing an opportunity.

Graph: How the Number of Follow Ups Impacts Reply Rate

Let’s dig into the detail of these numbers.

Reply rates grow from 49% to 220% after the first follow-up

Our research found that the first reminder can boost B2B response rates by up to 50%. Analyzing the top 20% of highest-performing campaigns of our clients, we’ve discovered that 220% more people are answering emails after the first follow-up.

Sending the second reminder gives only a 9% increase in reply rates

Unlike the first follow-up, the second one (which is technically the third email in the sequence) brings only 9% more responses.

The third follow-up drops responses by 20%

The fourth email in a row starts working against you, even if you send it in a few weeks. The 3d B2B follow-up results in 20% fewer responses than the initial email. This means if you had 10 replies after the first email and 15 after the second one, now you’ll have just 8 answers.

📚 Related post: How to write a follow-up email the right way

Sales expert opinion: How to get more responses

Sequence length isn’t the only factor that drives higher reply rates — without resonating content, you won’t make people answer your cold B2B emails. Our internal experts share some proven tactics that boost responses:

Super-tailored niche content

"Niche approach can do magic to your reply rates. If you’ve found out that healthcare organizations face some brand-new challenge (like it was with switching to online during COVID-19) and your product or service can solve this problem — there you go. Offer this solution and you’ll double your chances to get responses from your ICPs."

Vitaliy Zubkov, Senior SDR at Belkins.

Human-like, conversational style

"The best cold emails look like regular messages as if you converse or chat with someone via WhatsApp. That’s why when I send an email myself, I always read it out loud and if it doesn’t sound like an actual person is talking, I won’t send it."

Michael Maximoff, Co-founder at Belkins.

📚 Related post: 6 best cold email templates to close more sales

Also, Caspian Lewke, Associate Sales Engineer at Gong, shares a few under-rated factors which affect email response rates:

"Having a legitimate reason to reach out. Saying “I wanted to reach out as you’re a {{ICP_Role}} at {{Target_industry}} isn’t a good reason. Thinking of it from their perspective, why should your prospect care at all about your product/service? If you can answer that, you’re on to a great start.

Concision. Save writing novels for your free time.

Creativity. People talk about personalization (which is great) but there are ways you can make emails even stronger. Can you build in a pun (when appropriate) to your email? Do it! Can you find a way to slip in a reference to their favorite movie? Or a GIF from their favorite TV show? These are the things that help you stand out from the other 1000 sellers who you’re competing with for your prospect’s time."

Brian Minick, COO at ZeroBounce notes:

"Another aspect worth stressing is that the relevance of the email makes the biggest difference. Using list segmentation and personalizing your message to the last detail allows you to stand out in someone’s inbox. Do your best to be the person who knows exactly what your prospect needs and wants. Aside from using the stats in this report as a guide, being relevant is key to the number of sales you close."

📌 Note: To help you keep your emails relevant and personal, we've prepared 9 hands-on examples, with each B2B cold email template explained.

The best time to send the first follow-up

If you drop the first reminder right after the initial email, it might look both intrusive and desperate. We’ve noticed that following up within one day decreases the response rates by 11%. Postponing the next step for 5 days and more also takes reply rates down by 24%.

On the contrary, sending the first follow-up in 3 days gives up to 31% more replies.

Thus, the perfect time to remind your prospect about yourself is in between 2 and 5 days after the opening cold email.

The optimal length of the email sequence

Our analysis revealed that the highest response rate of 9.2% comes from 3 emails in a sequence. Sending the 4th one (which is the 3d follow-up) reduces the number of answers by 35%. The 5th one gives a slight increase, but after it the replies tend to go down, showing only a 3% rate for 10 emails in one cadence.

Graph: Optimal Number of Follow Ups

📚 Related post: How to generate B2B leads from email marketing

The best time to get more email responses

The cold B2B email conversion rate can also depend on the month, the day of the week, and even the hour you send emails. Discover the prime time of emails below.

Graph: Reply Rates Depending on the Hour

Our study shows that people are more likely to reply to emails in the morning, between 7 am and 12 pm. Further segmentation found that:

  • Companies from 25 industries, including computer hardware, media, retail, marketing and advertising, healthcare, and others observe the highest reply rates from 11 am to 12 pm.
  • Manufacturing, telecom, hospitality, accounting, and 10 more industries drive the most answers in the early morning hours — 7 am to 8 am.
  • 12 industries, including VC, events services, construction, wellness, and others get more responses between 1 pm and 2 pm.

The rest of the industries have different patterns and time preferences — for example, architecture and planning companies tend to answer emails between 5 pm and 6 pm (10.3% reply rate). Government and policy organizations give most replies from 6 pm to 7 pm (10.8%).

The most favorable day of the week to get the best reply rate of 7.2% is Wednesday, while Mondays have the least chance of getting an answer. At the same time, open rates are the highest on Tuesdays (37.2%), with Wednesdays following them (37%).

Graph: Reply Rates Depending on the Day

"We’ve noticed that we get the highest open rates on Tuesdays, followed by Thursday mornings. However, people tend to reply in higher numbers on Wednesdays, just like this report shows. It could be that prospects need more time to think about the offer and consult with their teams before moving forward and making a purchase."

Brian Minick, COO at ZeroBounce.

Finally, April through June is the most favorable time of the year to get the highest reply rates of 7.4%.

Who is most likely to answer cold B2B emails?

The recipients from different industries and with different positions also have some repeated patterns of responses to cold emails. Here are some of our observations.

Reply rates stats by job title

C-level executives are 23% more likely to answer cold B2B emails than employees outside the C-suite — 6.4% against 5.2%, correspondingly. For instance, founders and CEOs have a high reply rate of 5.9%, along with CFOs, who respond to 6.4% of emails.

Graph: Reply Rates Depending on the Job Title

As you can see, CTOs and COOs reply to emails most often, while product managers, engineers, and HR managers have the lowest response rates.

Reply rates by country

People from different countries also have different response patterns. Here are a few we’ve noticed:

  • The best reply rates come from Ireland (17%), Slovenia, and Denmark (16% each).
  • Response rates in Azerbaijan (1.3%), Japan (3%), and Korea (3.1%) are more than twice lower than the industry average.
  • Unfortunately, the USA is also not far from the bottom of the list, with only 5% of emails answered.

Graph: Reply Rates by Country

Reply rates stats by industry

We’ve also noticed the following trends in response rates to cold B2B emails, depending on the industry the recipient comes from.

  • The highest reply rates of 16.5% and more can be observed from museums, non-profit, and religious institutions. This is 2.5x times more than the average rate.
  • People from religious institutions are also most likely to view your email, with an average open rate of 59%.
  • Media, events, and governmental organizations have response rates of 10%.
  • The fewest replies to B2B cold emails have businesses, operating in e-commerce and banking3.5%. At the same time, banking, utilities, defense and space, and insurance workers show the lowest open rate of less than 30%.

Graph: Reply Rates by Industry

The lowest response rates are for companies in business consulting and services — merely 2.2%. The software industry hasn’t gone far enough with 2.9%, which is twice worse than the average reply rate across all industries. At the same time, software companies are the most desirable ones to target among our clients, receiving nearly 40% of total emails.

Yet, low response rates aren’t something you can’t do anything about. Sometimes to boost your campaign’s performance you just need to improve email deliverability. In other cases, you might need to review your lead list or ICP.

Need to increase your cold B2B email conversion rate but don’t know where to start? Get in touch with one of Belkins’ outreach experts to get a thought-out email strategy that can bring you sales-ready leads.


How many cold emails does it take to get a client?

Just like with the reply rates, there’s no silver bullet. Sometimes, replies may come from the first email. In other cases, you’ll need to spend months nurturing potential customers to get to the meeting with them.

If we talk about the optimal number of cold emails not to scare them off, it’s around 2–3 messages in a row.

How many cold B2B emails should I send per day?

To prevent your cold emails from going to spam, you’d better not exceed the limit of 500 messages per day. Also, if you’ve just registered a mailbox, we don’t recommend you send bulk mailings from it. Start small by warming it up, and grow the number of emails gradually, but still don’t go over 500 daily.

What is an acceptable email bounce rate for your B2B business?

Bounce rate means your emails don’t get through to your recipients for multiple reasons. A 2% bounce rate is considered to be an industry average. If you get higher numbers, it’s high time to review your lead lists and domain configurations.

Relevant reading:

Sources and methodology

All figures and stats, unless otherwise stated, were derived from Belkins’ proprietary data on over 11 million emails sent by our customers from 2021 through 2023.

The open rate was calculated as the number of unique recipients who opened an outreach email, divided by the number of unique recipients contacted in a given industry, country, job function, etc.

The reply rate was calculated as the number of unique recipients who responded to the outreach email, divided by the number of unique recipients contacted in a given industry, country, job function, etc.

Follow-ups were considered as the second, third (and so on) rounds of B2B outreach emails sent to the same set of recipients in a given email sequence.

The number of contacts per organization was estimated as the number of unique email addresses on the same email server domain (e.g., @example.com), excluding generic domains like @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, and the like.

The change in follow-up reply rate was calculated as the difference between the reply rate for the initial, first round of emails in a sequence and the reply rate for the subsequent (i.e., second, third, etc.) round of emails, expressed as a percentage.

To estimate open and reply rates by the hour of the day, UTC times of email delivery were converted to local time using the time zones corresponding to the city and country of the email recipients. Cities and their respective time zones were collated from the Geonames database of cities with over 15,000 people.

Hours of the day, days of the week, and months of the year when either open rates or reply rates were the highest were considered the “best times” to send B2B cold emails.

Open rates and reply rates for job titles were estimated based on the total number of unique contacts, email opens, and email replies, where the recipient's job title matched a variation of a given job title (e.g., CEO, Chief Executive Officer, Founder & CEO). All job titles were taken from the Job Title field in Reply.io’s data.

The industry was determined as the industry of an organization where a given prospect was employed at the time of contact, according to a somewhat tweaked version of LinkedIn’s industry classification, as obtained from Reply.io.

The country was considered the country where a given email recipient was based, according to Reply.io data.

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Vladislav Podolyako
Vladislav Podolyako
Co-founder and CEO of Belkins and Folderly
Vlad’s an expert in the areas of culture transformation and leadership development, B2B sales, and marketing. He spent more than 10 years building technology products, has a background in communication networks and electronic device engineering.