7 minutes
August 1, 2023

How long should an outbound sales sequence be?

Crafting an optimal cadence for your outbound messaging starts with understanding your target audience, products, and sales goals. Here's how to determine the best length for B2B outbound sequences
Millie Brooks
Table of Contents

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What is the best length for an outbound sales sequence?

In the fast-moving world of B2B SaaS sales, outbound email sequences have emerged as a powerful tool to engage prospects and drive conversions.

That said, crafting the perfect sales cadence is a nuanced art form that can significantly impact your success — or your lack thereof. Message a prospect too frequently, and you’ll likely turn them away. Message them too infrequently, and you’ll never be top of mind.

Sales success starts with striking the right balance between the two extremes. Keep reading to learn more about what you need to consider when building an outbound sales sequence, strategies for engaging both cold and unresponsive leads, and why you need to balance persistence with respect for the prospect’s time.

Designing an optimal cadence for outbound sequences

The best outreach sequences are carefully orchestrated, with a series of touchpoints sent across multiple channels designed to engage prospects and swiftly guide them through the sales funnel.

Crafting an optimal cadence starts with understanding your target audience, products, and sales goals. The length of the ideal cadence can vary depending on your industry, product complexity, and who you’re selling to.

For example, a SaaS salesperson catering to small businesses might be best off with a streamlined approach that includes five touchpoints (e.g., email, LinkedIn connection, demo video, follow-up email, phone call). This is enough time to engage prospects, deliver value, and book meetings without overwhelming potential customers.

On the other hand, someone selling enterprise-grade IT infrastructure — or any product that involves complex decision-making processes with multiple stakeholders — might take a more thorough approach that includes as many as 30 touchpoints. Buyers of these solutions typically require more nurturing and education because they’re making major decisions and spending tons of cash. This longer approach can help sales teams establish trust, educate prospects, and build strong relationships throughout the process, increasing the chances of conversion.

Factors to consider when determining the timing of each touchpoint

As you begin developing your outbound B2B sales sequence, here are some factors to keep in mind to guide your planning process:

  • Prospect persona. Different prospects have different preferences when it comes to communication. While a business executive might spend a lot of time scrolling through LinkedIn, an engineer might prefer to peruse sites like Hacker News, StackOverflow, and Reddit instead. The better you understand how your prospects prefer to communicate, the easier it will be to build a cadence that maximizes engagement.
  • Buyer’s journey. Where is your prospect in the buyer’s journey? Someone in the awareness stage likely requires more nurturing than someone in the decision-making stage who’s more interested in personalized demos and phone calls.
  • Product complexity. The harder your offerings are to understand, the longer your cadences will likely have to be. Everyone knows what a smartphone is; not many people can whip up a conversation about the intricacies of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WAN), for example. On the flip side, simpler offerings may require briefer sequences because prospects already understand them. 
  • Industry standards. How are competing sales teams in your industry approaching their prospects? Spend some time researching industry benchmarks to determine what common sequences look like. This information should only serve as a starting point, however. Every business is unique, and experimentation is crucial for success. Just because tons of sales teams have been doing things one way for a long time doesn’t mean you can’t come up with an even better approach.
  • Sales team capacity. How much bandwidth does your sales team have? While a longer sequence might generate better outcomes, it could also lead to lower-quality interactions if your team is stretched too thin. In today’s difficult labor market, the last thing you want to do is put too much work on your team’s plate and force them to look for greener pastures.
  • What does your data say? It is vital to use historical data on engagement metrics (email open rates and response rates, phone connect rates, unsubscribe rates, etc.) to determine the optimal length of sequences for your team. If you find that you never create opportunities or draw responses after the 20th touchpoint in an outbound sequence, that can be a sign that you’re drawing your efforts out too long and should reinvest that time in finding new prospects to engage with.

A/B testing and the power of experimenting with different cadence variations

A/B testing plays an invaluable role in refining outbound sales sequences and converting prospects. By creating multiple cadence variations and measuring their performance over time, you can get a better idea of what the most effective approach is. 

Experiment with different touchpoint intervals, messaging styles and elements, and communication channels. Keep track of key metrics — like open rates, response rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and overall sales outcomes — to see which approach works best.

Pay attention to the data you collect and use it to inform the way forward. In some instances, a shorter, more focused sequence might deliver the results you’re looking for. Other times, a longer sequence might be the key. 

Instead of thinking you know best, let the data think for you. Continuously analyze the results of your experiments and iterate on your approach. Soon enough, you’ll zero in on the most effective cadence for your unique audience and products.

Strategies for re-engaging cold and unresponsive leads

Ideally, you’d fire off emails and every prospect would engage. In the world of outbound SaaS sales, however, dealing with cold and unresponsive leads comes with the territory. 

Just because someone might be ignoring your messaging doesn’t mean you should stop engaging them altogether. Using the following tactics, you may be able to re-engage them — and ultimately win their business:

  • Personalize each message. The more you can convince the prospect that you understand their interests and pain points and care about them as a human, the easier it is to begin a productive dialogue. To this end, it’s critical to personalize outreach and avoid generic, one-size-fits-all messages that come across as spammy. No, this doesn’t mean you have to write hundreds of emails by hand. It’s the era of generative AI, after all.
  • Change your approach. If your prospects aren’t engaging with your messaging, it could signal that you’re using the wrong channels. For example, if a prospect isn’t responding to your emails, it might be time to send them a personalized video message or an InMail.
  • Switch up timing. Radio silence could mean that you’re engaging prospects too frequently or not enough. It could also mean that your message reached the prospect when they weren’t ready or able to engage. Try reaching out at different times to increase the chances of a response.
  • Add more value. Instead of making a hard sales pitch, offer valuable content that educates prospects and addresses their pain points. While you’re at it, share social proof — like case studies, testimonials, and customer reviews.
  • Reconsider your call-to-action. Are you making a hard push for a 30-minute meeting in all communication to your prospects? Consider taking a softer approach to get a conversation started, particularly if you are working sequences for companies and prospects who aren’t familiar with your brand. Consider questions like, “Are you open to this?” or “Would this solution help [company] grow?”
  • Ask for feedback. Sometimes, you just can’t win. Leads may become unresponsive because they have hesitations about your offering. Ask for feedback about your outbound sales sequence and what you could have done to better address their concerns.

Balancing persistence with respect for the prospect’s time

The best salespeople are persistent. But they also respect each prospect’s time and boundaries. When you bombard prospects with message after message relentlessly, you do more harm than good, making your job much more difficult than it needs to be. You’ve got goals to meet, and damaging your brand’s reputation won’t help you get there.

Even the world’s most talented salesperson can’t convince every single individual on the planet to buy their products. Sometimes, you need to take your foot off the accelerator and give your prospects some space to think and breathe.

What cadence will you choose?

As you begin crafting your outbound sales sequence, remember that there isn’t a formula to follow that ensures success. Every company, product, and prospect is different, and what works on one prospect might not work on someone else. 

By experimenting, iterating, and letting data help you find the best way forward, you can strike the perfect balance between persistence and respect — leading to stronger connections, increased conversions, and long-term sales success.

This is the fourth post in a five-part series; read the first, second, and third installments. Up next, we’ll conclude our series with a look at what you can do to measure outbound sequence success.