Sales prospecting is tough (especially when you’re working from home, amirite?) But in uncertain times, data and processes are more important than ever. Success is never luck.
This post will reveal the success rate and risks when sales reps try to guess email addresses.
There are a handful of components of cold email prospecting, and each one is absolutely necessary to be successful.
It’s hard enough to write an eye-catching message. Sending that email at a time when the prospect will read it, and respond to it – that’s really hard, too. Not to mention there’s a significant time commitment in identifying the person you want to email and mapping out their organization.
Let’s look at all of different forces that need to be working in your favor before you turn that cold lead into a prospect:
- Time: Researching prospects takes time. Determining which accounts to target and which prospects at that account can take hours.
- Good content: Your message can make or break an email campaign. Long emails get skipped over, and short ones aren’t compelling enough to grab the prospect’s attention. One good sentence can make a prospecting email, while one bad one can send your email straight to the trash.
- Timing: You might have the right product for the right prospect, but if they’re overworked when they get your email you’re probably not going to get a response. Or maybe they love your product and email but just spent the last of their budget. Your message has to hit their inbox at the right time to get noticed.
- Accurate contact information: There’s one last step for individuals who have inadequate sales intelligence and want to send a cold email: guessing their prospect’s email address.
Those in sales and marketing without real sales intelligence need something else to be successful, too: Luck.
Wrong. The truth is that guessing emails is becoming harder than ever and it’s not nearly as easy as successful as anyone thinks.
How lucky do you have to be? We did a test to find out:
- We randomly selected 2,700 email addresses from the DiscoverOrg database, verified by our research team and SMTP email verification.
- We examined the most common email formula for each associated company, then removed the email addresses, leaving only the associated names.
- We then created an email guess for each name. (Essentially, we were mimicking what SDRs, account executives, and marketing professionals do when have only a name and a company.)
- We re-tested the emails we guessed for validity.
Guess what we found?
Only 62.4% of the guesses resulted in valid email addresses.
That’s right. Even if you changed all of common names with nicknames – the Daves to David and the Jens to Jennifer – the accuracy rate is only about 66%. If this is your strategy, you’re going to need more than a little bit o’ luck.
At first, I didn’t believe the results. However, after inspection of all of the instances where the guessed email came back invalid, I realized that there’s a number of practices occurring at companies around the world making it hard to guess emails.
Get the free ebook: The Superhero Life of Your Prospecting Email
Why are emails more difficult to guess than we think? We learned from this experiment that there are several reasons:
1. Large companies have several email formulas
Some employees that have been at Apple a long time have the formula [email protected] More recently, employees have been getting assigned [email protected] Those hired in between sometimes received addresses like [email protected]
2. Brands and subsidiaries create complications
How much would you bet on getting it right the first time?
3. Subdomains are becoming more popular in email addresses
We’re seeing increased usage of subdomains in email addresses. A few of the emails we missed were incorrect only because the individuals did not actually use [email protected] (which was the most common formula) but instead used a variation with a subdomain, like [email protected]
4. Some companies use multiple email domains for different roles
Sometimes employees in different departments use different domains to protect domain reputation. Marketers and salespeople may have different domains to ensure that their cold outreach does not tarnish the reputation of their primary domain. At DiscoverOrg, we have some employees using discoverorg.com and others using mail.discoverorg.io.
5. Nicknames are very common
Let’s say you’re prospecting to Jonathan Harrison at Acme Corp. The good news is that you know Acme Corp uses [email protected]
Or maybe [email protected] Prospects with names that have short forms create headaches for sales and marketing professionals abound. How about Jennifer? I actually personally know a Jen, Jenn, Jenny, and Jeni – all with given name Jennifer.
6. Middle initials and middle names
Who feels like making 26 guesses? We’ve found that many professionals use their middle initials in their email addresses, especially at large companies. Our researchers at DiscoverOrg have tools that automatically check all 26 variations of an email – probably not something you want your top sales and marketing professionals doing. We also found individuals who have their full middle name before the “at sign” in their emails.
Good luck guessing middle names.
7. Duplicate names
In my previous job, my email was derek (dot) smith (at) mlb.com. Very guessable.
But guess what happened halfway through my tenure? They hired another Derek Smith. All of a sudden, he was dsmith (at) mlb (dot) com. We also had two people named Eric Diaz. One was Eric (dot) Diaz (at) mlb.com, and the other was Eric (dot) Diaz2 (at) mlb.com. We found large companies often use this technique, including Apple.
8. Foreign Names
In some cultures, that which we consider a last name is actually the individual’s first name. In others, special characters like umlauts or accents complicate email addresses. Some individuals in Latin America use two last names.
How confident are you that you’ll guess the email for María Camila De Los Santos Marquez on the first try?
9. Secretive email formulas
What if you’re prospecting to AT&T? Good luck. Some of their employees use initials and an arbitrary four numbers as their email addresses: I would probably be something like ds1346 (at) att (dot) com. You’re not going to try 10,000 email addresses to send one email.
The impact of guessing email addresses: Bounce
It’s pretty clear that there are quite a few hurdles out there in guessing emails. I see three main reasons why playing these guessing games will come back to bite you:
Let’s say that you do have infinite time to waste, a massive database of commonly used email formats, 10 years of experience, and a ton of luck working in your favor … there’s another problem with that plan.
1. You can’t send an inordinate amount of emails that bounce. It hurts your domain reputation, which results in your emails going into your prospects’ spam folders.
2.) Worse, you may get outright blocked.
Companies with bounce rates over 5% are usually in hot water, in the deliverability world.
How can you bring bounces under 5%, when your guesses are wrong 37% of the time?
3.) Worse yet, many spam traps are planted with the name and formula for a departed or fictional employee. Every guess you make for a prospect with an unconfirmed employment status, you’re rolling the dice that you might be emailing a spam trap.
Check out our ebook, What the @#$% Happened to Email Deliverability?
Here’s my advice: Stop guessing emails. No one is that lucky. Rely on your sales intelligence provider to give you accurate and reliable contact information on your prospects. It will save you time, and you can avoid some very costly pitfalls.
A lot of data providers offer “confidence levels” or likelihoods that a specific email is good. They’re just peddling their own guesses. Anybody can pass along their best guess at an email. Real sales intelligence gives you accurate, actionable data that won’t result in a bounce of your carefully crafted prospecting message.
With great data, you don’t need luck to get your prospecting message read.