Sales follow-up statistics in B2B: Belkins’ 2023 study

Michael Maximoff
AuthorMichael Maximoff
Published:2023-06-12
Reading time:5 m
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Why is it essential to be strategic while creating sales follow-ups? And how do they impact your reply rates?

We have analyzed 11 million emails sent by our clients across more than 90 industries to demonstrate to you the significance of the follow-up process and how to avoid bottlenecks to yield maximum results.

With the statistics below, you will find out how follow-up emails correlate with reply rates, the optimal number of emails for cold outreach campaigns, and the best time intervals between sales follow-ups.

All figures and stats were derived from Belkins proprietary data on emails sent by our customers from 2021 through 2023. Follow-ups were taken as the second and third (and so on) rounds of B2B outreach emails sent to the same set of recipients in a given email sequence.

Key takeaways

  • According to our data, the first follow-up email is the most effective, boosting the reply rate by 49%.
  • The second follow-up email increases the reply rate by only 9%, while the third follow-up email decreases the reply rate by 20%.
  • The optimal number of follow-ups for a B2B outreach campaign is 2 emails.
  • Our research shows that cold email outreach campaigns with 3 email rounds tend to have the highest reply rates (9.2%).
  • Our analysis found that the optimal time to wait before following up on a cold email is between 2 and 5 days.

To equip you with more details, check out in-depth data on our key findings below.

How does the number of follow-ups impact reply rate?

Our data shows that on average, the first follow-up email increases the response rate by 49%.

After assessing the top 20% of best-performing cold outreach campaigns, we identified that on average, the first follow-up emails resulted in a 220% surge in reply rates.

Graph: How the Number of Follow Ups Impacts Reply Rate

As you can see from the chart, the second follow-up increases the email reply rate only by 9%, whereas the third follow-up email decreases the reply rate by 20%

At first glance, sending 4 emails in the email outreach sequence seems advantageous; however, our analysis reveals that the fourth email (i.e., the third follow-up) actually results in a 20% drop in reply rates.

Cold email statistics show that the number of follow-ups is essential; however, what you put in your copy is also a determinant factor of how your message will be perceived. According to Donald C Kelly, the founder of the Sales Evangelist, what you should not do in the first follow-up (the second email) is just send a follow-up or bomb the inbox.

Obviously, for most people, it is seen as an annoyance and more pasty. That’s why the first follow-up email needs to deliver value: It can be a video or any other insights. It makes it feel a little bit more generally consultative rather than just bombing or a pasty reminder.

What is the optimal number of follow-ups for cold email campaigns? 

Based on our research, 2 follow-up emails is an excellent choice for B2B cold outreach campaigns. As a result, 3 email rounds (or 3 total steps in the email sequence), tend to have the highest reply rates (9.2%).

Three emails turned out to be the magic number since email campaigns with 1 initial email + 1 follow-up and those with 3 follow-ups produced lower reply rates.

Graph: optimal number of follow-ups

Here’s what Anastasia Tatsenko, Chief Customer Officer at NetHunt CRM, thinks about the number of follow-ups:

From our experience, the optimal number of follow-ups in a cold email outreach sequence is between 2 and 4. We agree that the first follow-up drastically improves the likelihood of receiving a response, yet we can’t share any specific figures to back this point.

But as per Vlad Oleksiienko, VP of Growth at Reply.io, sending more emails in the sequence still can have positive impact on campaigns’ performance.

In the earlier days of Reply, we would typically send 3-4 follow-ups after the first cold email. Now, we use around 6-7 follow-ups. The result? We still get positive responses even after the 7th touchpoint. Of course, this varies by use case and target audience, so we highly recommend you carry out your own A/B tests to see what works best.

Does sending more emails increase the chances of getting a reply? 

Theoretically, the more follow-ups you send, the higher the chances of the total reply rate increasing. However, as our research shows, the figures vary. For instance, sending 5 emails gives a reply rate of 7%, whereas a 10-email scenario has the worst rate at 3%.

Therefore, moderation will balance out your time investments and help you avoid getting labeled as a spammer.

So how does email frequency impact email outreach performance? As per Caspian Lewke, an associate sales engineer at Gong, this truly is an art:

As your prospect progresses through your sequence, they will (hopefully) begin to recognize your name. As such, ensuring that your sequence’s email steps are frequent enough that your prospect recognizes your name but not so frequent that your reader is annoyed when your next email arrives in their inbox is crucial.

Alex Birkett, Co-founder of Omniscient Digital, is sure that the amount of follow-up is a secondary matter:

The numbers in the research match my experience within a margin of error. But following up any amount of times with any amount of time interval may not get a response if the targeting or messaging is off, or if the person is simply not in market or willing to engage with cold email.

How long should you wait before following up?

Follow-up frequency plays an essential role in building your cold email campaign. The ground rule here is that following up too soon will make you look intrusive and ruin your chances of getting a reply.

Waiting 3 days before following up brings the greatest increase in reply rate (31%). Our analysis found that the optimal time to wait before following up was between 2 and 5 days.

Irina Maltseva, Growth Lead at Aura and Founder at ONSAAS, shared her thoughts on our research:

“From my experience, the ideal timeframe for following up on sales emails depends on the context and the recipient’s expectations. As a general guideline, waiting for 2-3 business days after sending the initial email is considered appropriate. However, if you have a pre-established timeline or urgency, you may choose to follow up sooner. Ultimately, it’s essential to strike a balance between being persistent and respectful of the recipient’s time.

Waiting longer than 5 days decreases the likelihood of a response to 24%, while following up within 1 day had a negative impact on the reply rate (-11%).

Graph How long you should wait before following up

Alla Ivanova, the Head of SDR at Belkins, says that the frequency of follow-ups is determined by the topic relevance and the capability to organically craft the messages without being annoying.

It is worth making intervals in 2–3 days after sending the first email. Send the third one the next week to make your prospect miss you. In general, the number of follow-ups doesn’t depend on the correlation with the industry your business operates in. However, what you should not do is being too pushy, especially reaching out to titles related to security.

When it comes to following up, our experience as a B2B sales enablement agency says there is no silver bullet in terms of the optimal number of emails sent and the time intervals between follow-ups. Yes, there are average benchmarks we obtained based on the emails sent to our customers. However, if you see bad results in your follow-up strategy, we recommend evaluating the metrics based on the criteria we shared with you. 

Want to generate well-crafted follow-up emails to increase your reply rates? Feel free to contact our experts to discuss your case.

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.

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.

Michael Maximoff
Author
Michael Maximoff
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Co-founder and Managing Partner at Belkins
Michael is the Co-founder of Belkins, serial entrepreneur, and investor. With a decade of experience in B2B Sales and Marketing, he has a passion for building world-class teams and implementing efficient processes to drive the success of his ventures and clients.
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