Analysis of 2 Million Emails Reveals an Alarming Trend Taking Over Your Sales Reps’ Inbox

November 20, 2017 Vincent Jong

Email is one of the bigger mysteries of business. It’s one of the main means of communication for companies – every company has email. For sales reps, it is a key channel to get first appointments and share documentation or contracts. For many, email is essential to succeed. Yet managers typically have no clue what is going on in the inbox of their employees.

This article will shed some light on what goes on in a sales reps’ inbox. We have analyzed over 2 million emails from roughly 500 participating sales reps. The sales reps who participated are users of the Thrive for Email integration for Salesforce and mostly work in a business to business context. More info on how the research was conducted can be found at the end of this article.

Read on to find out what is actually happening in the sacred inbox of your employees.

Cutting through the Noise – Quick Stats:

On average, 146 emails go through the email account of a sales rep on any workday. (This includes incoming as well as outgoing emails). 

38% of these emails are incoming promotional emails or other announcements not related to customers (after any kind of spam filter).

That leaves around 90 emails per day where there is active engagement.

Of these emails, 35% are internal emails with colleagues. That means one-third of the time spent on email is dedicated to internal discussions.

In the internal conversations, the number of emails sent and received are in the same range, meaning that the sales rep is actively engaged in the conversation.

Sales reps emailsThe Blind Spot: New Leads

Based on the above we can conclude that 60% of all emails that go through the inbox are definitely not with customers. But which part is with customers?

Our data showed that out of the 90 emails per day where a sales rep actively engages, only 18% could be related to a lead or a contact in the CRM.

Combined with the internal emails, that accounts for 53% of the active communication.

This raised the question – what is the other half (or 47%) of the active communication about?

Naturally not every person a sales rep speaks to is a customer. But this is half of the active communication which cannot be related to a (potential) customer, across hundreds of sales reps.

Closer analysis showed that many of these conversations are actually with leads where the opportunity has not been identified yet. If an opportunity arises at a later stage, a contact usually gets added to the CRM. Until this happens though, the lead will not show up in any of the reports.

In addition, for all leads where no progress is made, future efforts rely solely on the sales rep, since no details have been entered into the CRM. Knowing that usually more than one encounter is required to come to a successful sale, this causes major leakage in your pipeline.

The challenge is therefore how to make sure that all leads are captured in your CRM. Companies are recommended to think of ways to solve this problem, like e.g. using the CRM integration of your lead provider or getting a third-party solution to handle this for you.  

Lessons Learned from 2 Million Emails

Lesson 1: The volume of emails that go through a sales reps’ inbox on a daily basis is high, and spam filters don’t necessarily help in filtering out what’s important.

Lesson 2: Too much time is spent on internal communication. It’s not just the fact that one-third of all emails are internal. Switching conversation and waiting for an answer from a colleague also heavily impacts your productivity.

Lesson 3: Half of a sales reps’ communication cannot be attributed to business activities, because contacts are not in the CRM. This creates a major blind spot for management.

This is just the tip of the iceberg on what we can say about sales interactions through email. Let us know below what questions you would like to have answered, and we’ll try to include it next time.

How this Analysis was Conducted

To come to these findings, 500 sales reps made their data available.

The sales reps are from SMBs up to 300 employees, and the dataset consisted of roughly 2 million emails.

For the analysis, the technology of Thrive for Email was used, which automatically categorizes contacts into colleagues and customers based on the information in the email. To get more insight into the part of the data set which could not be attributed, 50 sales reps received questions for clarification per email.

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