The Reply Rate Fallacy

Why “Reply Rate” isn’t everything

David Berardi
3 min readDec 8, 2020


Inherent in any Business Development organization — for teams of 5 and 500 alike — is the need to measure top of funnel metrics. Open rates, dials, emails sent and reply rate are all crucial leading indicators that measure both individual rep performance and overall team performance. In today’s world, the average email reply rate hovers somewhere around 1%. Put simply — for every 100 emails a rep sends, they can expect about 1 reply.

One would think maximizing a metric like “Email Reply Rates” would be the cure to all sales team woes. Pipelines would be full, quotas would be met, and the team would be flourishing. But what do these metrics really tell us?

Replies are (literally) half of the battle

Suppose a rep had a 100% reply rate. Amazing! They are able to prospect, and every single person they email replies.

Now what?

Many sales organizations put such a heavy emphasis on getting a “reply”, that they equate reply rates of emails or sequences with success. In reality, only about 50% of replies lead to an actual meeting booked.

While most companies focus on objection handling via Cold Calls, they often leave reps to fend for themselves as it relates to diving into nitty gritty email responses and turning replies into actual meetings. Establishing a database of “best practices” for handling certain objections is crucial.

Replies are not always good

Another fallacy in solely looking to “maximize” reply rates is the fact that replies are not always good. If you google “Cold Email Reply Rates”, you’ll find a plethora of articles touting the “secret sauce” for a 48% reply rate sequence.

What if a rep is seeing a high reply rate because their messaging is so frequent and bothersome that the prospects have no choice but to scream “STOP”.

“Spray and Pray” is simply not viable in the days of high touch, digital communication. So what can you do?

Things to try

If you find yourself with solid reply rates but aren’t seeing them convert into meetings, there are a few things you can do.

First, take a look at who you’re targeting. If you are casting too wide of a net, you may get a handful of replies, but they all might say this isn’t relevant to their job description. If you’re targeting too narrow, you may find yourself in the same boat. Find a small mix of relevant stakeholders who would take interest in your product.

Next, examine your cadence. You can have the best content in the world, but too many or too frequent touch points will lead to a surge in negative replies and burned bridges. A solid cadence will mix in Linkedin, Emails and Cold Calls, creating cadences with anywhere from 8–12 touch points in a 30 day span. It’s also recommended to frontload touchpoints into the first 10 days, and allow a little more breathing room as the sequence goes on.

If your cadence isn’t the issue, take a look at your content. If you are targeting the right people and using a proper cadence, your subject line or copy could be the issue.

According to a SalesLoft study of ~2,000,000 emails, subject lines with 1–4 words are the highest performing. After 6 words, reply rates begin to drop off.

As it relates to copy, keep the body of your email concise, and SOMEWHAT personalized. The same SalesLoft study shows that personalizing 20% of your email will increase reply rates. Past 20%, there is not much difference. Most companies tend to personalize the first 10% and last 10% of an email (greetings, intro line and sign-off).

Put it in Practice

On the surface, Reply Rates are a snapshot of successful outreach, but may not give you the whole picture. Remember to dig into what is happening with those replies, and track KPIS that are one step deeping, such as Reply Rate → Meeting Set %. Always try to keep your prospect list targeted, your cadences properly spaced, and your messaging fresh, and you will be on your way to meetings galore!



David Berardi

David is the Business Development Team Lead at Rhino, a fast growing startup based out of NYC.