If You Want Better B2B Sales Prospecting, Learn the 30-3-30 Rule

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The 30-3-30 rule of email prospecting for sales

Sales prospecting emails have just one goal: to get a positive actionable response. This could be a confirmation of a phone call, a demo or a visit or even an introduction to another colleague.

Here are the milestones you’ll need to get there.

The 3-second milestone

Notice people’s inbox-reading patterns – or even your own. People scan from top to bottom, not left to right. What does that mean?

People don’t read your email subjects. They scan vertically through their inboxes for hooks. They’re looking for words that arrest their vertical movement and hook them into a left-to-right reading pattern.

Essentially, you’re looking to break a pattern. And what have you got?

3 seconds.

That’s the span of time you’ve got before the scroll position moves, vanishing your email.

You’ve heard email marketing gurus saying that subject lines are important. Now you know why – way we scan emails discourages email opens. Your prospects are reading emails much like lifeguards in the Miami beach spot trouble in the waters amidst an ocean of beachgoers.

Your prospects’ eyes look for familiar names. Yours isn’t. Then they look for words in subject lines that hook them. That’s why, for a while, we all wrote our prospect’s names on the subject lines hoping they noticed it. That’s done to death now.

What you instead need to put in there: words that perk up curiosity or create fear of missing out (FOMO). Can you plant curiosity or FOMO within 3 seconds? That’s your subject-line challenge!


Sample this: PipeCandy recently helped a customer get 90 percent open rates for a chat SDK product used for support (as niche as it can get). But 90 percent? How?

Here’s their original subject line: Has your app gotten chatty lately?

Here’s how PipeCandy rewrote it: Skynet vs. Yelp – Whose support is better?

Of course, they don’t endorse Skynet. It’s just a placeholder there.

Let’s say the email is being sent to the mobile product manager at Yelp. He may or may not know Skynet. But the fact that someone’s comparing her support with that of Skynet gets her attention. The “vs.” creates curiosity. The “better” part of the question creates a fear of missing out – on knowing why Skynet’s support might have something better to it that Yelp needs to know, and perhaps follow.

This is just one example.

While they cannot reveal customer-specific details, here’s them dogfooding their own ideas and the results from that.


At PipeCandy, they run a service called Concierge where they ideate for campaigns and execute them through their tool. They’ve used it for around 20 customers now – on average, that means about 1,000 emails go out every day. At an aggregate level, the open rates are over 80% across 3 semi-automated follow-ups.

The distillable learning from these campaigns is that the subject line you write has to be readable and understandable in under 3 seconds and should plant a sense of curiosity and / or a fear of missing out.

A word on the open rates: their experience is based on campaigns run out of Gmail and tools like Sendy, but we’d extrapolate the underlying principles to other email providers as well.

Now, onto the second milestone, shall we?

The 3-minute milestone

Now that you have created a sense of curiosity & a fear of missing out, it’s time to feed those emotions.

Subject lines are not tricks: they’re teasers of what’s coming. If you disconnect your subject line from your email’s content, your prospects disconnect from your brand for the foreseeable future.

You’re making a promise to say something valuable. Your prospects are willing to commit 3 minutes to your email. Now’s the time to fulfil that promise.

What not to do:

1. Don’t dive into self-congratulation.

Your company having 5000 employees and few of them just opening a satellite office in the moon aren’t the reasons why your prospect gave you her 3 minutes. If you absolutely must, reserve self-congratulations for the PS part of your email.

2. Don’t congratulate or fake-flatter your prospect.

Stop opening your emails with congratulatory notes on how your prospect is the real-world IronMan. He isn’t so low on self-esteem that he craves attention from a stranger who sends unsolicited emails. Be genuine and get to the point.

3. Don’t say everything that has to be said about your product or service in a bulleted list.

Now for the 30.

The goal of your email is to get a 30-minute meeting. So leave something to do in those 30 minutes. Don’t pack your demo (GIF files in an email that demonstrates your product? Noooo!) or say everything good about your product in that email.

All you need to do is to say one thing (or maybe two things) that reaffirm the fear of missing out or satiate the curiosity. That’s all there is to a prospecting email!

We’ll illustrate this quickly with an example. It’s a real email PipeCandy sent for a customer of theirs; it’s suitably modified for public consumption.

Hey James,

I see that you’re the product manager for search at Etsy. Am I right?

At 20 million SKUs, you must be getting a lot of search-driven engagement, right? And, I am sure a good percentage of them would turn into buyers if you make them the right product recommendations based on search. But I don’t see such a feature on your app. The guys at Skynet (I bet you know them and probably envy also) had poor search conversions too.

Our thingamajig (note: whatever your thing is called) helps them meaningfully recommend products users by watching gazillion data points, in unreasonably short time (Note: This is the curiosity satiation part or one where you reaffirm the fear of missing out). Are you guys at this efficiency at Yelp?

I see that you use NotSoMagicThingy for your app and it doesn’t scale to this level of precision with recommendations…

…and so goes the email and a request for a demo, and so on. You get the drift.

Now, we know some of you have been scratching your head on how to meaningfully personalise emails. To ascertain that James is indeed the product manager at Etsy, you’d need to rely on public services like LinkedIn or buy enterprise firmographic data from various data providers. Also, you need to comb through their website to see if they have search-based recommendations and how many SKUs they are selling. To find James’ email id, you might need to use another service.

And you need to jump between the App Store and the publisher’s website to find the company behind the app.

Not easy. This stuff alone is worth another post. But we’d say that you can do all of this completely automatically. Tools like Infer, 6Sense and PipeCandy are good at piecing together information from multiple sources and delivering insights for you.

With such tools, you can personalise your emails with data and yet send emails to hundreds of recipients.

To return to the 3-minute milestone, this is something PipeCandy figured out by sending over half a million emails in 4 years in their previous startup ContractIQ, where they introduced startups to app-dev agencies. If you notice the respondents, the timestamp for an open, and the time of receipt of the responses that happen within 10 minutes, 80 percent of them have been responded to within 3 minutes.

So it’s safe to say that you have to plan for your email to be read and responded to within 3 minutes.

Go ahead and try this. It’s as simple as 30, 3 and 30!

Happy prospecting!

Source: Tech in Asia

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