Sales reps are busy (you know this). Lead generation, following up with prospects, updating contact info, setting up meetings, researching buyers, closing deals—it all takes time to do. A lot of time.
It’s no wonder, then, that sales reps are happily incorporating sales automation tools into their processes more and more. These tools drive efficiency, free up time, and even boost conversion rates. According to Instapage, 80% of marketing automation users see increased leads, and 77% see increased conversions.
However, using an automation tool effectively means developing a strategic and data-driven sales cadence.
But what is a sales cadence? How does it help? And what elements should every sales cadence contain? That’s exactly what this guide examines. We’re also going to look at some proven sales cadence frameworks and examples you can model your framework after.
What Is a Outbound Sales Cadence?
An outbound sales cadence (or prospecting cadence) is a sequence of communications or “touches” that salespeople can follow to develop relationships with buyers. They usually consist of various outreach methods (email, phone, social media, etc.) and span several days, weeks, or even months.
Your sales cadence is a critical part of the modern B2B sales process.
Think of a sales cadence like a cold outreach roadmap. A strategic sales cadence tells you when to reach out to leads and how to communicate with them. With it, there’s no more asking, “Should I follow up today or tomorrow?” And there’s no more wondering which communication method to use.
Like so many other aspects of sales, there’s no single cadence that’s a fit for every business or industry.
Bigger deals with a longer sales cycle, for instance, might call for a more stretched-out sales cadence. Conversely, products with a lower price point may benefit from a more rapid sales cadence.
That’s why it’s so essential to develop and tweak a sales cadence that’s right for you and your current outbound sales strategy.
Why Should You Use One?
Some sales reps are under the impression that a effective sales cadence is only suitable for large teams. And for smaller businesses, salespeople should simply “feel” their way through connecting with a buyer.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Instead, implementing and following an official, clearly defined sales cadence brings a variety of benefits for sales teams, both big and small.
Benefits for a sales rep like –
- Simplify – The most significant benefit of following a sales cadence is that you never lose track of where you’re at in the sales process. Most successful deals require eight touches, according to HubSpot. And when you’re playing it by ear with your follow-up messages, it’s easy to forget when you last reached out or what your previous email covered. There’s no question of what to say next or when to say it with a sales cadence. It’s a more straightforward, more efficient way of selling.
- Scale Without Spam – The “wing it” approach may work when you only have a handful of clients. But as business expands and you’re juggling a growing list of potential buyers, wires get crossed and opportunities for rapport building go overlooked. With a well-defined sales cadence, you can handle more clients, close more deals, and not have to worry about overwhelming buyers with too much communication.
- Track & Refine – The first step to building a foolproof sales process is tracking what works and what doesn’t. With a sales cadence, you can observe and analyze which stages you’re losing ground with buyers. And you can refine your process when you recognize new steps that are working well.
Essential Elements of a Successful Sales Cadence
As you can see, adopting and following a sales cadence is a great way to streamline your buyer outreach and lock in more wins. But what are the elements that make up a triumphant sales cadence?
Every sales cadence framework is made from a combination of outreach activities. These outreach activities are the individual social interactions you can have with a potential buyer. And as with the overall structure, the type of activity that resonates with your buyer most will vary.
Generally, there are seven different types of activities you can engage in.
- Video – Video messages sent to the buyer through email or via social media.
- Social – Text-based messages or other type of engagement through social media platforms.
- Email – Text-based messages sent to the buyer through email.
- Meeting – In-person meeting with the prospect.
- Call – Both phone calls and video calls are included here.
- Voicemail – Voice messages left for your prospects after a no pick-up.
- Text – SMS messages delivered to your buyer’s cell phone.
Remember to vary up your outreach activities. Not everyone will respond to an activity the same way. For example, an older executive from a more traditional company may gravitate to doing business over phone calls. A younger buyer from a startup, on the other hand, may be more receptive to text messages.
In the end, it depends on your audience. And refining which activities you use over time is essential for creating a successful sales cadence.
Plays are a series of activities that are grouped and completed one-after-another in quick succession. For example, a play might look like this:
Call > Voicemail > Email and mention the call
Think of a play like an activity combo. When the activities complement and build on each other, a play will be more effective at driving action and building rapport.
We’ll talk more about plays in just a bit.
Similar to how plays are a series of activities strung together, a cadence as a whole is a series of plays strung together.
It’s critical to understand that cadences have an effect greater than the sum of its parts. It’s the sequence that leads to results, not just the individual pieces.
For example, a prospective buyer will have more trust and rapport for you and your business at the end of the cadence than at the beginning. That means if you were to send the exact same email to buyers at the beginning and end of a cadence, they’d end up having vastly different results.
That’s why it’s so important to find a proven sales cadence framework and build on it for yourself.
A lot of reps misunderstand the end goal of an outreach sales cadence.
A sales cadence is not meant to bring buyers to the end of the sales cycle and close the deal. Instead, it’s supposed to be just the beginning. Sales cadences are designed to get you a meeting so you can start the actual selling process (like the Selling Made Simple Method).
An outreach sales cadence, then, is just the foot in the door. But it’s the foot in the door you need to start nudging your buyer to a “yes” decision.
The Two Plays
There are only two types of plays you need to build a booming cold outreach sales cadence—One-Step Plays and Multi-Step Plays.
What Is It: These plays are single activities of any type—phone calls, emails, text messages, or any other kind. So they’re more of a “nudge” than Multi-Step Plays.
When To Use It: One-Step Plays are critical for long-term accounts with a, particularly lengthy sales cycle. These are the buyers that take time to consider using your product. And this type of play prevents these more sensitive buyers from feeling overwhelmed or put off by your communication frequency.
This type of play drives more action, attention, and responses from buyers over a shorter period of time. That being said, a Multi-Step Play isn’t going to be suitable for every type of buyer. So don’t assume going this route is always the best option.
You can of course, build your own Multi-Step Plays over time. In fact, you’ll want to create your own Multi-Step Plays so they cater to your buyer and industry. But for now, you can use the three below as a basis for building your first successful sales cadence.
- Loop Back – Call > Wait 5-minutes > Call > Voicemail > Email referencing the voicemail
- Social – LinkedIn visit > Call > Voicemail referencing LinkedIn visit
- Content Share – Call > Voicemail to explain that you’ll send an email > Email content and refer back to your call
Starter Sales Cadence Frameworks
Before jumping into the sales cadence templates to get you started developing your own, let’s have a quick word on the scientific method.
The scientific method is the most widely recognized way of building empirical knowledge. It’s a system of observation, measurement, experimentation, and theory development.
The method involves:
- Stating a hypothesis (a guess about why something happens or why an event occurs).
- Testing that hypothesis in the real world.
- Refining your hypothesis using the results of your testing and comparing the results of further testing to your original results.
You should apply this method to the development of your sales cadences. You may land on a perfect combination of plays right out of the gate. Or you could find that a particular set of activities is causing potential buyers to drop out of your cycle. The key is to keep on testing and refining.
The sales cadence frameworks below are a solid foundation to build on. But the work will still fall to you to tweak and refine them so they align with your business industry. And if there is a play that’s not performing for you (no calls, low email open rate, zero meetings booked, etc.), then it’s up to you to remove it from your cadence or try something different.
That being said, here are the sales cadence frameworks that we’ve tested and seen great results from.
*Note: The plays in the sales cadence frameworks below are labeled as “OS” for One-Step Plays and “MS” for Multi-Step Plays.
1) Education Cadence
This sales cadence framework is perfect for buyers that don’t yet understand how your product will add value to their lives. It focuses heavily on providing plenty of educational resources that your buyer can use to learn more about what you’re offering.
- Day 1 – OS: Connect on LinkedIn
- Day 3 – OS: Email – Case study for a related business using your product
- Day 10 – OS: Email – Link to a “how-to” blog post that focuses on a common problem in their industry and how your product can help solve it
- Day 12 – MS: Call > Voicemail to explain that you’ll send an email > Email link to another case study and reference your call in the email
- Day 14 – OS: Email – Provide some hard data on the buyer’s problem that they might find useful
- Day 20 – OS: Email – Straight forward ask for a meeting
- Day 25 – MS: Call > Voicemail > Email asking for a meeting
2) Social Cadence
This sales cadence framework is perfect for targeting the social butterflies on your buyer list. It focuses primarily on making a connection through LinkedIn. However, you can also apply it to other social media platforms like Facebook or even Instagram.
- Day 1 – MS: Visit LinkedIn profile > Connection request
- Day 3 – OS: Comment on latest post and ask a thoughtful question
- Day 5 – MS: Call > Voicemail to explain that you’ll send an email > Email link to a relevant blog post and reference your call in the email
- Day 7 – OS: Email – Straight forward ask for a meeting
3) Stone Cold Cadence
This sales cadence framework is excellent for separating yourself from the noise of the market. It works best when the buyer is already familiar with your brand and product. But rather than understanding the value you offer, they think of you instead as a commodity.
- Day 1 – MS: Call > Wait 5 minutes > Call > Voicemail > Email referencing the voicemail
- Day 3 – MS: Call > Wait 5 minutes > Call > Voicemail > Email referencing the voicemail
- Day 4-10 – OS: Email – Each day send them a new “insight” about their industry, their business, or your product
- Day 16 – MS: Call > Wait 5 minutes > Call > Voicemail > Email referencing the voicemail
A Note on Response Rates
It’s worth mentioning that response rates tend to vary wildly when it comes to phone calls. Time of day, personal preference, type of business, day of the week, and more all heavily come into play.
As a result, it can be hard to give guidelines on how many calls should connect during your cadence. And that can make it challenging to know when to vary up your cadence.
However, the data is much clearer for email rates.
Use the guidelines below when refining your sales cadence emails.
- Over 60% open rate / 10% reply rate – Great! Don’t change anything, and keep pushing forward.
- >60% open rate / >5% reply rate – Your subject line is great, but you should test your email body copy.
- >25% open rate / >2.5% reply rate – Your subject line is poor, which is limiting the reply rate.
Sales Cadence Example
Let’s take a look at what a sales cadence may look like for your business and a general gist of what to say. We’re going to be using part of the Education Cadence as the template. That way, you can get a sense of what a social message, email, and voicemail sound like.
Day 1 – OS: Connect on LinkedIn
Hi [name], I saw that we’re both connected with [connection’s name]. Nice to “meet” you! I thought you might be interested in some of the work I’m doing with [connection’s name], and it’d be great to connect. Take care and looking forward to hearing from you!
Day 3 – OS: Email – Case study for a related business using your product
Hi [name], [your name] here from [your business]. We recently spoke on LinkedIn, and I wanted to say thanks for the connection! I also thought I’d quickly send over a case study from a similar client we recently helped solve [business problem]. I think you’re going to get a lot of value out of it.
Day 10 – OS: Email – Link to a “how-to” blog post that focuses on a common problem in their industry and how your product can help solve it
Hi [name], the other day I was reading about [problem you think/know the buyer has] in this great article we put out not too long ago and thought you might be interested in giving it a read. You can check it out at the link below.
Day 12 – MS: Call > Voicemail to explain that you’ll send an email > Email link to another case study and reference your call in the email
Hi [name], just thought I’d connect to tell you a little bit about another case study you might find useful. I’ll just shoot it over to your email. Be sure to give it a look and let me know what you think. Hope all is well on your end!
Hey [name], here’s that case study I promised I’d send over in my voicemail. I’d love to talk about it with you some more after you read it. If you have a minute, feel free to ring me back at xxx-xxx-xxx-xxx or just shoot me an email to set up a call. Hope you’re doing great.
Sales Cadence Tools
Building a strategic sales cadence framework for your business is crucial for filling your pipeline with enthusiastic buyers. But to really get the most out of your cadence, you’re going to want to utilize a sales cadence tool for implementation.
How a Sales Cadence Tool or Software Helps
While every sales cadence tool or software is going to vary in its features, most provide the following features.
- Streamline Your Prospecting Process – With no more questions about when to call, email, or even poke leads on social, you’ll eliminate all that wondering when to reach out (a real timewaster). And that means you can connect with more leads and potential buyers.
- Better Qualify Your Leads – Determining the “when” is only half the battle. There’s also the “who” that you have to consider. The right software or tool tells you which leads are ripe for taking the next step in the sales process.
- Automate Time-Consuming Tasks – These days, automating your work is more important than ever. A sales cadence tool can often compose and send customized emails from a template, message potential buyers online for you, and even dial their contact number with just a click. And all the time you save can quickly add up.
- Keep Track of What Works & What Doesn’t – Finally, a sales cadence tool lets you bring a scientific approach to the art of selling. Software like this lets you zoom out and observe which cadences buyers are responding to and which are driving them to your competitors.
Top Sales Cadence Tools
So, which sales cadence tools should you consider picking up? There are plenty out there to choose from. But below are some of the best in the industry.
- HubSpot – This CRM is great for organizations and has fantastic tracking, reporting, and support. Pricing can be an issue for some companies though.
- Pipedrive – Affordable and user-friendly, this customer relationship management (CRM) tool lets you build cadences. But unfortunately, its support leaves quite a bit to be desired at times.
- Outreach – A great tool for personalization, Outreach makes it easy to build customized cadences that appeal directly to your buyer. However, integration with some other tools (like Salesforce) can be problematic at times.
- Reply – This sales cadence tool is designed for cold email outreach. It has plenty of integrations (including LinkedIn and calendar integrations) and lots of ways to automate your processes.
- SalesLoft – Great for email and phone touches, SalesLoft offers helpful features like call recording, advanced analytics, plenty of integrations. It does have some functionality restrictions that reps may find frustrating.
Cadence for Confirming The Booking
Once you’ve developed an outreach flow that works, there’s one more cadence you’ll need to start using—the booking confirmation cadence.
Now, this may look like a lot of extra work upfront. After all, who wants to send two extra emails or touches before a call? Aren’t they already going to show anyway? But this cadence can actually save you a lot of time by weeding out the no-shows early. It’s also the attention-getter a forgetful buyer may need to actually show up, saving you tons of back and forth about rescheduling.
The 24-Hour Reminder Email
This email should include a complete agenda for the meeting while also linking to any relevant content or data the prospect may want on-hand during the meeting.
We’re looking forward to connecting with you tomorrow at 8 am GMT. Here is what we have agreed to discuss on our call –
- Point A
- Point B
- Point C
We also recently published a report that backs up some of the data points we’re going to look at. Here’s a link if you’d like to have it on hand –
If anything comes up in the meantime, please do not hesitate to let me know. I’m always here to help.
The 10min Courtesy Touch
Always default to a quick text if you have the proper contact info (more effective than email here). This touch is just enough to get their attention and make attendance much more likely.
Looking forward to our call in 10 minutes. I will call you on xxx-xxx-xxx-xxx. If anything comes up in the meantime, here’s my mobile number too xxx-xxx-xxx-xxx.
Some sales reps may be a bit hesitant about changing up their process. They may argue that selling is more art than science. And it’s true, there’s only so much that hard data and set-in-stone processes can do when it comes time to close the deal.
But a sales cadence isn’t so much a path you should never veer from. Instead, it’s a foundation for you to build on again and again. The more you refine and tweak it for your audience, the more successful it’s going to be. And the greater of a beneficial impact it’ll have on your response rates.
In the end, Daniel Disney (speaker/trainer/author-extraordinaire) may have put it best in an interview on The Salesman Podcast:
“I’ve worked and managed a lot of salespeople that are very resistant to utilizing things like cadences because they think they can do it themselves. They think they know everything. And trust me, for most people, having a bit of structure can have a hugely positive impact on your results.”