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Spam Still Belongs in a Can, Not an Inbox

4 min read
Updated Sep. 26, 2022
Published Aug. 6, 2020

Sales teams are among the first to be impacted when there is a shift in the economy. In a downward shift, prospecting picks up as sellers work to protect and grow pipeline. We saw that in 2020 when sales email volume increased dramatically within the Salesloft platform. This data analysis reveals insights for sellers to avoid spam when they’re increasing email prospecting efforts.

Overall, we found that the more emails sellers sent, the less time they spent on personalization and data hygiene. As a result, they experienced higher bounce rates, decreased user engagement, and potential long-term impacts on sender reputation and deliverability. In this post, you’ll find the results of our analysis along with tips for sellers as remote working appears to be here to stay. 

More Emails, Less Engagement

This data is from 2020, but there are likely a similar the lessons anytime there is a change in the economy and deals become more fragile. These are the times where sellers naturally turn to all forms of electronic communication. Here’s what we saw in the first few months of the pandemic:

  1. Customers started emailing prospects more frequently with less personalization. They performed bulk sends rather than investing in 1:1 personalized emails, which led to spam complaints and deliverability issues.1
  2. Businesses were hit hard with big layoffs and overall reduction in spending. With many contacts losing their jobs, email senders saw higher bounce rates. And with budgets tightening, sellers had fewer opportunities to engage prospects.
  3. Customers started acquiring new lists from vendors or retargeting old data that had potential spam traps and a high percentage of invalid emails, which also hurt deliverability.

Are you loving this level of detail on your sales engagement efforts? See what you could do with Salesloft.

The graph below shows the number of emails sent from the Salesloft platform from June 2019 to May 2020 and illustrates a spike in email volume beginning in March.


sales email volume


A total of 6 million emails were sent per week through the Salesloft platform by mid-March (a 31% increase from February) and came close to 7 million by mid-April. As email volume drastically increased, open and reply rates declined significantly (see the chart below).

Open Rates Sales Emails COVID


Reply Rates Sales Email Spam COVID

When Less Is More

We examined the email habits of 30,000 sales reps. The graph below shows the relationship between how many contacts reps added to multi-channel communication workflows (at Salesloft we call them cadences) at a time and how many total email replies they received during that period.

Want to get this level of data on your team’s communications? See Salesloft in action.

sales email

We found that the number of replies a rep received increased as they increased the number of new contacts added to cadences, but only up to a point. After that mark, we noticed not only diminished returns, but NEGATIVE returns, plus more work for the seller. 

For instance, if a rep adds 100 contacts to a cadence each day, they need to execute about 500 actions a day! Not only is that a lot of work, it isn’t necessary. When reps add people to cadences in batches larger than 120, we expect them to receive fewer email replies than if they had added only 20 people

Avoid Spam With the “Goldilocks Zone”

When sellers increase the number of contacts they’re engaging with at a time, the quality of their work decreases. Why? Because they’re likely sending less personalized, irrelevant, or canned content (what looks like spam), resulting in fewer email replies. That’s why we coach reps to stay in the “Goldilocks Zone” when it comes to adding new contacts to their cadence each day. This zone ranges anywhere from 20-80 contacts because not all businesses and customer journeys are alike. 

For instance, companies with longer sales cycles typically have high-value deals with complex customers. Reps selling these products have fewer prospects and must use more personalized touches because every account matters. These sellers will want to stay towards the lower end of the zone. 

On the flip side, emerging markets typically have faster deal cycles with a larger pool of accounts. When it comes to adding contacts to a cadence, it makes sense for reps at these companies to lean toward the high end of the zone in order to make volume-oriented plays.

Regardless of where you stand, here’s the key takeaway: with everyone else spamming, this is your golden opportunity to stand apart. Rather than trying to reach more people, be more targeted and personalized in your emails. Not only will you connect with more customers, but you can invest all the time you’re saving into becoming a better seller.

Want more guidance on how to connect with prospects? Check out our guide, Email Prospecting: 3 Data-Influenced Best Practices.

Email Prospecting 3 Data Influenced Best Practices


Email volume, Salesloft app data, Q1 2020