What we learned from analyzing cold email results from 250+ startups

What results should you be getting from your outbound campaigns?

We’ve all been there as startup founders. Every one of us knows what it’s like to trawl the internet for a list of companies who might buy our stuff and then blast them all with cold emails.

The results are usually pretty underwhelming, right? You send out 100 emails and you might get one interested response if you’re lucky. But is everyone getting the same results from cold email? Or are some companies better at this than others?

That’s something I always wondered — until I started a lead generation & outreach company that has sent over a million cold emails on behalf of 250+ clients.

We’ve run outbound campaigns for companies of all sizes across 30+ verticals from SaaS and healthcare to finance and snacks, and now I’m here to give you a rundown of the results you should be aiming for from your cold email campaigns.

The gist is that your results will depend on the audience that you’re targeting, so I’ve split this article up into 3 key categories: enterprise companies, technical roles, and non-technical roles.

1. Stats for selling expensive products to large companies.

If you’re selling a $100k+ product to C-level folk at enterprise companies, you’ve got the odds stacked pretty heavily against you.

These contacts receive so much email, from salespeople and from their own staff, that they have to be hyper-selective about what they respond to, and about which areas of the business they are prioritizing (or ignoring) in any given moment.

But closing a single deal is a big win, and there are usually a lot of different people at the company that you can possibly use to get into the account, so here’s how the stats usually pan out.

If you’re doing this well, you’re looking at an open rate of 25-30% and you’re also looking for interested responses from 1.0-1.2% of your leads. That’s not just a reply rate. We’re only counting prospects who say “yes, I want to hear more.”

If you’re not hitting these numbers, you either aren’t targeting the right people at the right companies, or you haven’t found the right messaging that resonates with your audience.

2. Stats for selling to technical roles.

Stats for selling to technical roles

If you’re selling $20k+ products to senior level technical folk, which includes roles like IT, engineering, finance, and even legal, you’re probably going to run into reduced open rates in the 20-25% range if you’re doing your outbound well.

Technical people are busy being technical, and most of their day is spent building or analyzing, rather than communicating with either internal or external staff, so they’re more likely to see communication and solicitation as a waste of their time and a distraction from their work.

That’s why you’re likely to get fewer interested responses from technical leads — somewhere in the 0.8-1.0% range if you’ve got your targeting and messaging right.

If you’re not hitting these numbers, you’ve still got some room for improvement.

3. Stats for selling to non-technical roles.

If you’re selling $20k+ products to senior level non-technical folk, which includes roles like sales, marketing, and HR/benefits, you’re playing in an entirely different ballpark to the categories above.

Your open rates should be in the 40-50% range and you should be getting interested responses from 2-4% of your leads if you’ve got your target audience niched down correctly and your value proposition nailed.

Non-technical roles are effectively the inverse of technical roles because they already view communication (both internal and external) as part of their job and are therefore more likely to engage in a conversation with you.

We’ve run hundreds of campaigns and we hit these numbers more often than not when doing outreach for products and services that create measurable value for their customers.

If you’re nowhere near these results, consider having a cold email expert take a look at your audience targeting and messaging to see if you can optimize your campaign.

Conversion stats: closing deals from cold outreach

Conversion stats

Of course, tracking open rates and interested responses is just the beginning of the outbound process. Once you can consistently turn cold leads into interested responses at a sustainable rate, you’ll want to focus on improving your conversions.

A good ballpark figure that works for most successful startups is 50%. If you’re turning more than 50% of interested leads into meetings, and more than 50% of meetings into qualified opportunities, and more than 50% of opportunities into wins, you’re up there with the best of them.

This is based on the simple idea that if you’re winning more than you’re losing, you’re doing something right, and if you’re losing more than you’re winning, there’s room for improvement.

We’ve seen the above results over and over again across outbound campaigns for hundreds of startups, so hopefully your results are comparable — otherwise you’re pouring leads into a leaky bucket and you should hit the pause button to plug the holes.

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