Before 2010, sales were mostly made through cold calling, but that ran the risk of interrupting and annoying prospects. Cold emails’ advantage of sitting there quietly until the recipient is ready to open it, leaves them more receptive to your message. But it also brings a new set of challenges – locating, emailing and following up with prospects. Ryan O’Donnell, Co-Founder of SellHack and Replyify has developed tools to solve these problems and make for successful cold emailing outcomes.
Please tell us a little bit about your background before co-founding SellHack and Replyify.
After graduating from Kent State University in 2003, I worked in NY on Wall Street at a boutique investment firm. Since my passion has always been internet marketing and tech, I left after a year and worked for Yahoo from 2007 to 2010, running an international business unit throughout Latin America, Europe, and Israel. After leaving Yahoo, I saw the need for tools that could help locate email addresses and automate cold emailing, so we built SellHack and then Replyify.
What is SellHack?
Before 2010 sales were mostly initiated by cold calling. Nowadays, email is the preferred method of communication since prospects do not feel interrupted and can read email at their convenience. While It is not that difficult to find new prospects by searching the web and sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, the challenge is finding their contact information. SellHack solves the problem of finding and validating email addresses.
SellHack is a great tool for anyone who represents or sells a B2B product or service who is looking to engage new contacts with the hopes of getting that person into their sales cycle. Our clients include startups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 enterprises.
How does SellHack find and validate email addresses?
If I have your name and your company name, your email address is likely one of the 12 common different combinations – FirstName@, FirstName_LastName@ FirstInitial_LastName@, etc. Back in the day, we used to send a “BCC bomb” by putting one email address in the To field and the other 11 possible combinations in the BCC field, in the hopes one of them would find its way to you. This no longer works as mail servers have gotten smarter and identify that sort of attempt as spam.
So now the only way to figure out an email address is to manually search the web. While it could take an hour to locate and validate ten email addresses manually, SellHack automates the process to just under a couple of minutes.
That could free up several hours a week for having meaningful sales conversations with your prospects and closing new business deals rather than living inside of an Excel spreadsheet trying to organize data.
How does SellHack work?
Using a prospect’s name and company name, SellHack’s algorithm generates the 12 possible email address combinations and tests them against 12 different sources, meaning we’re running 144 checks in real time to validate each email address. We’re pinging the company’s email server, checking databases, crawling the web, checking social media – we’re doing all the things that would have taken way too long to do manually. Based on the response we get for each of the 144 tests, we’ll return an email address with a confidence score.
Searches can be initiated one at a time as you identify prospects or by uploading a file with multiple names.
What is a confidence score, and how is it assigned?
Confidence scores reflect our confidence in deliverability of an email address based on the positive, negative, or neutral response we receive from the 144 checks.
Results fall into one of three different categories.
Verified is anything 75% or higher, meaning we got positive signals that this is a valid email address that will not fall into a catch-all.
Pattern-Match is a 65% percent score as a possible email address. This means although we couldn’t verify the address with the ping, it follows the pattern of other verified valid email addresses at that company
Accept-All have a score of 40% percent or lower and fall into the area of “educated best guess.” There is not enough data to identify the company’s pattern, but we’re pretty sure it is valid. The client can then decide whether to risk a bounce or disregard the address.
Does repeatedly pinging an email server raise a red flag?
The frequency at which we ping across several different mechanisms and the signature on that request are so varied that it’s negligible to the receiving email server.
How do your products automate a sales pipeline?
With our tools, you can be more efficient at the very top of your sales pipeline. After SellHack has identified email addresses, they can be set up in a drip campaign in Replyify. Create the ideal sequence and schedule of emails that you would do manually in a perfect world under perfect conditions; have Replyify send an introductory email and five days later, a follow email to anyone who has not responded. Ten days later if there is still no response, maybe you’ll follow up again – it’s totally up to you. Any contact that replies or chooses to unsubscribe is automatically paused in that campaign sequence.
Since Replyify connects directly to your email, the automated emails never look automated. We’re like little elves that live in your inbox, so emails look and feel as if they are coming from your personal email. When you send, receive and respond to emails via Replyify, those emails are all sitting in your inbox and sent folders.
Replyify campaigns also compound as new contacts are added over time. Those new contacts inherit the sequence, so on any given day there are people receiving the first introductory email, with others receiving the second email, and others, the third, fourth, and so on.
How can you analyze and manage contacts and campaigns?
There are many ways to view, analyze, and manage the contacts in your inbox. You can see what they’ve been sent, what they’ve opened, where they’ve clicked, and what they are scheduled to receive in the future. You can reply directly to emails, move them to another campaign, add a note, or unsubscribe them.
Additionally, running customized reports can give you remarkable insight into your campaigns. Let’s say you want to view everyone who has opened an email, clicked on a link but never replied. Going through the query results, you might decide to move a contact to a nurture campaign where every 30 days they are sent an email with a more educational approach. Or you might decide to call a contact who is obviously interested and see what prevented them from replying and engaging.
What Replyify brings to the table in terms of analytics on emails, replies, and follow-ups could never be gleaned from a CRM or mailbox alone. This is the kind of intelligence that could make the difference between getting that meeting or not.
Can changes be made to Replyify campaigns?
Yes, you can extend timelines and add steps to a campaign. The only thing we don’t allow once a campaign has started is changing the order of emails because depending on a contact’s position in the sequence; they could conceivably receive the same email twice.
You can also run A/B tests, even C/D/E/F/G tests – as many as you like! To test out subject lines or the order of emails, create a B version of your timeline, and add new contacts. Once you’ve looked at the data, you may see things you like from A and things you like from B and decide to create a perfect hybrid for all new contacts in a version C.
What are Replyify’s advantages over a CRM or a third-party email platform?
For starters, cold emails cannot be sent from third-party email platforms like MailChimp and Constant Contact since they require all contacts be opt-ins.
Additionally, when receiving mail servers identify that first email to someone you have never contacted before and sees it was sent through a CRM automation or email marketing platform’s IP, it’s a quick trip to Spam. Replyify emails are sent directly from your email box, so there is a much higher chance it will be delivered to the primary Inbox and read.
When I hear that cold emailing has not worked for a company in the past, it is either because they tried to do it manually and never followed up effectively, or because it was sent through their CRM and none of the emails actually reached the prospect.
Of course, the most important advantage is the way Replyify connects directly to your email box. This makes sure your automated campaigns never look automated and keeps all your email activity in one place and can be easily managed and analyzed.