Build an Outbound Sales Process: Craft Killer Sales Email Messaging

Article author
Eric Zrinsky

Build an Outbound Sales Process: Craft Killer Sales Email Messaging

Setting the Scene

Setting the Scene

Today, there are a number of tools and technologies that exist to help you become a more efficient and effective salesperson. These tools, however, do little to help you craft the right messaging to paint your product or service in the right light. This is still largely a manual, hands-on activity that requires careful planning and consideration.

Despite the fact that there are, to date, no technologies to create an effective email message automatically, there are a number of tried and true methods, structures, and best practices for doing this more effectively.

In his article “How To Write Killer Sales Emails… At Scale,” Jacco van der Kooij of Winning by Design outlines the Research, Reference, Reward, and Request method—a means of creating winning email messages. We can apply this methodology to our outbound sales process and leverage the tools in the Apollo platform to make sure that we deliver personalized and relevant email messages at scale.

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The RRRR Method

As we mentioned above, the RRRR method focuses on 4 primary functions:

  • Research
  • Reference
  • Reward
  • Request

Each of these component pieces will help you to craft a personalized, relevant email message for your customer segments. In his article, van der Kooij is quick to point out that you cannot “sell over email.”

This is absolutely vital to remember.

Email is just one facet of a multi-touch outreach campaign; however, it is something that you need to get right if you want to get your foot in the door. Let’s take a look at the first stage of customer outreach—Research.

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Do Your Research!

Most businesses receive multiple emails each day from contacts who attempt to gain their business. It is no longer a simple matter of personalizing your outreach with a recipient’s name or company name. Outreach emails also need to be relevant. That means that you need to do your due diligence in trying to find as much information about each contact before you reach out to them.

LinkedIn and the Apollo database both provide a lot of great information about contacts, but it may be worthwhile for you to dig a little deeper. Search the web for any recent publications that the contact may have. Find out what their alma matter is and what role they currently have. This information helps you to craft a strong opening line and shows your recipient that you have done some research so that your outreach doesn’t feel entirely cold.

Once you have completed your research, don’t forget to fill in your Product Market Fit Canvas. Conducting this analysis will provide you with the context and purpose you need to write poignant messages that resonate with your target personas.

  A B
Who: Company SMB Startups YC Startups in Current batch
Who: Titles Founders Founders
  • Need more opportunties
  • Hard to build outbound system from scratch
  • Generates as much revenue as possible pre-demo, but hard to set up
  • All in One
  • 200M Contact Database
  • Emailing Engine
  • All in One sales platform for generating opportunities with 200M contacts
  • Emailing Engine
Value Prop
  • Build a best-practice outbound engine in minutes
  • Build a best-practice outbound engine in minutes
  • Generate hundreds of qualifeid sales meetings
  • Generate hundreds of qualified sales meetings and hit their Demo Day goals
Proof Points 5,000 SMB startups like XYZ do ABC Hundreds of other YC startups like XYZ do ABC
Know Your Prospects

Remember, the more specific and targeted your research is, the better chance you have of establishing a rapport with your prospects.

When you do this at scale, you’ll need a place to store all of this information as it relates to specific contacts. This will make it easier for you to reference in your emails. Apollo allows you to store contact-specific research directly in a custom field that’s available on each contact’s profile.


You can create custom fields to store research for Accounts in Apollo:


Custom Fields And You

For more information about creating custom fields to store your research, check out the "Create Custom Contact Fields” and Create Custom Account Fields" articles.

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Determine Appropriate References

References help to demonstrate to your email recipient that you understand what their pain points are and that you’ve worked with other customers who had the same set of problems or needs. You may be able to draw these conclusions by analyzing the details your research provides. For example, from the information available about a company’s technology stack or a contact’s vertical or role at an organization.

In some ways, the references you make are related to your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and the problems that they need to solve. These companies are the ones who have benefited most from your product. If you need a refresher about what an ICP is and how to assemble it, check out this infographic:


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Describe The Reward

This is your opportunity to further entice your email recipient and build credibility with them. Is there a resource that you can share with them from your company’s blog that gets to the heart of their pain points? Even better, are there any thought leadership materials that you created yourself that you can link to? Anything you can provide that indicates you are a worthwhile connection and that your organization is a trusted leader can help you to initiate that all-important first meeting.

Forget the Attachments

Remember to link to any resources you provide—attachments in first-contact emails can trigger SPAM blocking. For more information about avoid SPAM filters, check out the “Avoid SPAM Filters” article.

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Formulate Your Request

A well-formed call-to-action is a great way to close out your email. Without this, a recipient has no idea what you want from them or why you’ve contacted them in the first place. Even if you’ve crafted an email that is well-researched with amazing references and a great reward, the conversation stops here without a Request. Keep in mind what we mentioned earlier—you aren’t going to close a sale through email. Your request should be focused on setting up a call or meeting with the recipient.

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Put It All Together

Remember, the goal of using the RRRR Method in outreach campaigns is to create a formula for crafting relevant and personalized email messages at scale. The people you are reaching out to are just as busy as you are—they don’t have time and won’t read something that doesn’t immediately grab their attention or apply to them.

Subject lines are vitally important to grab a potential customer’s attention right away. In fact, 35% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone and 69% of email recipients report email as spam based solely on the subject line. In the example below, we’ve used 3 of the 4 components to create our subject line, Research, Reference, and Request.


This subject matter makes a clear reference to the content of the email—“Salesforce/Adoption issues.” It also includes a strong call-to-action for the recipient—”Talk on Friday?” If the person who receives this email is a Salesforce user who has had difficulty adopting the platform at their organization, this should at least pique their interest enough to get them to open the email.

Keep it Tight. Keep it Focused.

This tried and tested tactic only works if you stay true to the company segments you have built out in your Product Market Fit Canvas. The Reference in your subject line absolutely should match the painpoints for the specific contacts who open it. In the case of our example above, we may have a killer subject line, but if we send a message with the same subject line to non-Salesforce users, we’re fighting a losing battle.

Next, let’s take a look at how to craft the body of the message. The image below shows a breakdown of how each component should inform the contents of your email.

RRR Components

Here’s how we applied each of those recommendations to the body copy of our own email message:

RRR Email

Let’s analyze each individual component. We address the recipient by name; Jennifer. You can easily accomplish this at scale in Apollo with Basic Snippets. Then, we transition to the Research portion of the body copy.

Your Linkedin profile shows that you led the Salesforce Implementation at Acme.

Here, we’ve established that we know who we are talking to and what function or responsibilities they hold at their company.

Next, we move on to the Reference portion of the body copy:

Your peer at ______ experienced the exact same challenge. I wanted to share a link that shows how he 
solved the Salesforce Integration that resulted in increased adoption and made their reps 
more productive.

In this part of the body copy, we have likened the pain points experienced by the recipient to a company that they might be familiar with. Additionally, we’ve provided some details around how they addressed these pain points and turned them into a positive. This helps to create rapport with our recipients and demonstrates that they aren’t the only person or business.

Finally, we move on to the Request portion of the body copy:

Jennifer, is this relevant for you?

Here, our call-to-action comes in the form of a question. We’ve asked something specifically of our recipient in the hope that she will respond. In this instance, an affirmative answer is just as valuable as a negative one. This is because it allows us to continue the conversation, either specifically with Jennifer or we can follow up again to ask if there is someone else that we should talk to instead. If Jennifer does respond after a few follow-up emails, we may want to shift our focus to someone else in the organization if this account is a strong match for our Product Market Fit Canvas.

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Use Apollo To Create An Outreach Campaign and Follow Up With Your Prospects

Apollo Example

Remember, an outreach campaign requires multiple touches and interactions. In an average outreach campaign, we would recommend you follow up with someone between at least 2 and 5 times. The email that we dissected in the section above is an example of an introductory email, but you may need to send follow-up emails, schedule calls, and participate in other tasks before you can close a deal.

Teach Me To Email

For more examples of email templates that you can use, check out the “Sample Outbound Email Templates” article.

Apollo Sequences allow you to create outreach campaigns at scale. In the Build an Outbound Sales Process: Target Real Buyers article, we found real people to reach out to and saved them to a list. We can use that list along with the email messaging we worked on in this article to create an Apollo sequence.


A typical outreach campaign may take many different forms. Below, we have outlined 3 potential options for you to consider when you structure your campaign/sequence. Each of these consists of 2-4 email steps.

Option A

This option starts with a well-crafted introductory email. It also includes 3 additional emails with a “Just following up” email message.

These types of email campaigns are relatively low touch and may not result in as much success.

Option B

This option is a bit more time-consuming as it requires you to follow up with more contact-specific information. You’ll start your outreach with a well-crafted introductory email, but each subsequent follow-up should utilize new talking points, different problems, solutions, value propositions, impacts, and proof points. The table below shows an example of what this might look like:

  General (A.1.1) Email 2 (A.1.2) Email 3 (A.1.3) Email 4 (A.1.4)
Who: Company YC Startups in Current Batch YC Startups in Current Batch YC Startups in Current Batch YC Startups in Current Batch
Who: Titles Founders Founders Founders Founders
Problem Generate as much revenue as possible before Demo day HArd to find leads at scale for outbounding HArd to set up outbound systems from scratch Access to good databases are expensive, sometimes more than $20,000 per year
Solution All in one outbound sales platform for generating opportunities with 200 million contacts and an email engine 200 million contact database with emails All-in-one system cthat combines data with email automation best practices Turnkey soltuion with unlimited leads for a small flat rate fee
Value Prop Build best-practice outbound engine in minutes Set more meetings by 5x the number of people you can reach out to Save time and get better results Save money

Option C

This technique is a hybrid approach of Options A and B and is the most extensive of all 3 options. Apollo generally recommends using Option C. An example might look like this:

  1. Value Prop 1 (new thread)
  2. "Just following up" (reply to the thread)
  3. Value Prop 2 (new thread)
  4. "Just following up" (reply to the thread)
  5. Value Prop 3 (new thread)
  6. "Just following up" (reply to the thread)

In this instance, the initial email follows a similar structure to Option A and B and lays out your initial value proposition. The second email in the campaign is a reply to the initial email and follows the “Just following up” email structure. The third email starts a brand new thread and lays out a new set of problems, solutions, and value propositions. Email 4 is a follow-up to the third email thread. Email 5 starts a brand new thread and provides yet another set of problems, solutions, and value propositions. Finally, email 6 concludes with a “Just following up” response to email 5. If at this point, the contact still has not engaged with you, they likely aren’t going to. Our own testing at Apollo has shown that these follow-up emails can be vital to your success. They may even lead you to book 4 times the amount of meetings you might otherwise book.

Resources! Resources! Resources!

For additional resources about crafting effective outbound emails, you should check out “8 Effective Sales Prospecting Email Templates That People Will Want to Open” on HubSpot’s Blog and “101 Sales Email Templates You Can Use to Close More Deals” on the Cirrus Insight blog.

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Practical Exercise

Practical Exercise

Finish filling out your Product Market Fit Canvas with the relevant details for Problem, Solution, Value Prop, Impact/Benefit, and Proof Points. You can use a combination of information from your ICP research as well as the information in your company’s business plan to fill it out. This will give you a leg up when you begin to perform individualized research for your potential contacts. If you get stuck, revisit the Do Your Research! section for a quick refresher.

Once you’ve completed that research, create contact and account custom fields to store it in Apollo.

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Next Steps

Next Steps

Once you’ve finished filling out your Product Market Fit Canvas and you’ve built and deployed an Outbound Sales Process of your own, you should stay focused on your goal metrics and continuously revise and iterate on your process. Head over to the "Build an Outbound Sales Process: Analytics" article to get started.

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