How to Create a Sales Cadence: A Step-by-step Guide

How to Create a Sales Cadence: A Step-by-step Guide

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Selling doesn’t have to be hard, not when you use a sales cadence.

Moving SaaS products and advanced technical solutions has a reputation for being difficult, but the best in the business hit their numbers because they have a system.

Success, after all, is a process.

In this guide, we’ll take you step-by-step on how to create a sales cadence. By the end, you’ll have a complete set of instructions on how to build your own process to win more customers.

What is a sales cadence?

A sales cadence is a scheduled sequence of activities salespeople use to close a sale. Also known as touchpoints, these activities are the points at which a salesperson engages with a prospect through different channels to move them into the pipeline. The channels a salesperson might use include any combination of email, social media, and phone.

For better or worse, no two sales cadences are alike. While there are basic guidelines to follow for optimal results – as we’ll lay out here – when to enact certain touchpoints and what channels to use will depend on your ideal customer profile (ICP).

Additionally, individual cadences may each have a different goal in mind.

For example, one might be to get a meeting with a prospect. Another might be used to drive leads to a webinar. Given the long and complicated cycle involved in B2B and enterprise sales, sales cadences can be used to achieve different outcomes that eventually lead to a final sale.

What does a sales cadence look like?

The details and timing of a sales cadence will depend on your ICP and the solution you’re selling. But to give you an idea of how a sales cadence might look, let’s use an example.

Here is a basic outline of a sales cadence one of our teams uses.

It has 11 touchpoints carried out over the span of 21 days and uses a variety of channels to maintain consistent contact.

Note how it evenly spaces out follow-ups every few days and breaks up email sequences with phone calls. This method of outreach ensures persistence without overusing a channel. It also doesn’t overcommit at the first touchpoint. Instead, it looks to provide value for the entire length of the cadence.

It’s rare you’ll win a sale or even schedule a meeting on the first touch. Following up is therefore is essential to getting noticed in a prospect’s crowded inbox.

But it’s also important you’re giving them something in each follow-up that helps alleviate the pain point you researched ahead of time.

Unless you’ve received a clear “no” – or curt “unsubscribe” – the sales cadence will continue until its final touchpoint. The final email or LinkedIn message will notify the prospect you’re leaving them alone, and that perhaps you’ll circle back at a later time.

From there the prospect can be entered into a drip email campaign of steady but much less frequent content, or removed from your outreach altogether.

Ideally, though, they will have agreed to a meeting and be well on their way to implementing your solution to their problems.

How to create a sales cadence

Now that we’ve seen a framework of a sales cadence, let’s break down how to create your own step by step.

Step 1: Set a goal

The foundation of your cadence and outreach for a specific campaign must be built with a goal in mind. Every touchpoint is a step toward an objective you hope to achieve.

Keep in mind that while the ultimate goal is to increase revenue, not every sales cadence is a direct means to that end.

Of course, converting leads into customers is why we’re here. However, individual cadences are often used as stages in the larger process of closing a sale.

For example, one goal might be to invite attendees to a marketing webinar and present a study that’s relevant to their interests. Another may be a dinner or networking event where your sales team has a chance to start a conversation face-to-face.

To illustrate a sales cadence with a defined goal, we’ll share a successful example from another one of our teams.

This sales cadence has the clear objective of inviting prospects to lunch where they’ll sit down for a conversation with a director from the company.

For context, they provide some information in the emails about what their solution is but aren’t pushing for a sale. Instead, the cadence builds each touchpoint toward the goal of getting the prospect to attend the lunch.

Also, note how the cadence begins as two separate email threads with slightly different copy. This is a good way to A/B test and benchmark emails to determine which ones are driving engagement.

Step 2: Identify your ICP

If establishing a goal answers the question of why the second step to creating a sales cadence answers the question of who.

By this point, you probably have a good idea of who your customer is.

However, to build a successful sales cadence you need to dig a little deeper and use psychology. You need to understand how they behave, where they spend their time, and what their responsibilities are.

To help, make a list of the most important information.

  • What is their title
  • How many people work on their team / in their department / or at their company
  • What industry do they work in
  • Where are they located

In addition to filling out your ICP with the above, we also recommend some extra research into a prospect’s online profile. This little bit of research will help you personalize the messaging of your cadence and increase the chances of a response. LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for this task that will help you not only better understand your ICP but reach them as well.

This leads us to the question of how to approach your ICP.

Find the right channels

A part of identifying your ICP that will have the most value for your sales cadence is knowing how and where to communicate with a prospect.

Ideally, your sales cadence will employ a mix of email, phone, and social. But effectively reaching a prospect will favor one channel over another at just the right time and place.

A C-level exec may not even see your email in their inbox (especially if it’s not optimized for mobile). However, they may be available on the phone after lunch for you to follow up. If you’ve connected and interacted with them on LinkedIn that’s yet another touchpoint for them to see and remember your name.

As we demonstrated in the outline of the cadence above, alternating touchpoints through the different channels where your ICP is most available will generate the best results.

Step 3: Organize the touchpoints

With your goal and ICP in mind, it’s time to lay out your plan of attack.

To start, ask yourself: how often will I conduct outreach, and when?

Determine the length of your cadence

In a best-case scenario, your sales cadence will begin and end on the first touch. Unfortunately, though, you won’t always benefit from a best-case scenario. Selling takes time and patience.

Generally speaking, the average sales cadence will run somewhere between 2 to 4 weeks. Sometimes longer, but rarely shorter. For the sake of being thorough, we recommend a cadence that runs between 4-5 weeks.

In the end, the length of your cadence will be determined by the goal you set for it. As we said, creating a sales cadence starts from the ground up.

This leads us to our next question.

How many touchpoints does a sales cadence need?

A touchpoint (also known as a touch), is any activity where you engage a prospect. This could be through any of the channels mentioned before. Just as well, a step within a cadence can contain multiple touchpoints, such as sending an invite to connect with a prospect before sending an email.

There is no hard or fast rule to the number of touchpoints it takes to close a sale. An enterprise sales cycle, for example, can go on for months. What you’re selling and to who makes all the difference.

At Sellerate, our teams average about 12-15 touchpoints across all sales cadences, with a mix of email and LinkedIn messaging. We usually see a minimum of 8 touchpoints via email. These numbers change slightly according to the goal of each cadence, but it’s a general standard we hold our SDRs to.

Answering the question of how many touches a cadence needs to generate a response, much less close a sale, is harder to answer. To make things easy, let’s ask: how many touchpoints does it take to schedule a meeting?

The Top Performance in Sales Prospecting report by RAIN Group – a center for sales research – found it took an average number of 8 touches to get a meeting with a new prospect. For top performers, that number fell to 5.

Again, your mileage may vary, but the data still gives you a good minimum number of touchpoints to work with.

Schedule the touchpoints

Once you’ve decided on a suitable number of touchpoints you’ll then need to schedule them.

Here we’ll give you two ways to schedule: our personal, time-tested formula and another inspired by influencer and Head of Outbound Sales at Mailshake, Jed Mahrle. We’ve found success with both and recommend A/B testing cadences to see which works best for your team.

First, let’s look at an example of how many of our teams schedule their cadences into steps.

As you can see, this cadence starts with the first few steps just a day or two apart. In the beginning, we recommend waiting a day between follow-ups to remain consistent without annoying the prospect.

Continue this pattern of steps every other day until about the 5th step. From there you can begin to wait 4-5 days before reaching out again. This way you give the prospect enough space but not so much that they turn cold.

If the prospect hasn’t responded by your final touch, send them a “Dear John” or “breakup” message thanking them for their patience and announcing your temporary departure from their inbox.

Now let’s look at the cadence inspired by Jed Mahrle’s method of messaging in “clusters” of three.

This cadence follows a rhythm that repeats itself for three cycles.

The follow-ups per cycle (or cluster) are more frequent as well and each begins with a new thread. This creates a fresh impression every few days instead of 12 emails or messages within the same thread.

Jed’s original method proposes making each cluster about a relevant problem or pain point your prospect suffers from. Follow his advice or spread your value proposition across the length of the sales cadence as we illustrated in the first example.

The choice of cadence is yours and will depend on your unique product or solution.

Step 4: Create the content

Until now, we’ve laid out the structure of your sales cadence, addressing the why, the who, and the how. Let’s review how to answer the what.

Messaging is a critical piece of your cadence puzzle, but not as complicated as you might think. You know your solution better than anyone. Now it’s time to break it up into chunks that whet the appetite of your prospect for the full course meal on a discovery call.

But first, some of that research from Step 2 will come in handy.

To begin, your first message should be personalized; either to the individual prospect, their team, or the company. If you’re operating on LinkedIn as a channel, there’s no excuse not to spend 5 minutes skimming a prospect’s profile to personalize the opening line of your message.

From here, drop nuggets of your solution into a series of messages, with follow-ups in between. The key is to maintain a balance of offering value without putting too much into one message. Your prospects are busy people and have neither the time nor patience to read (or listen to) a long message.

Finally, creating templates for successful messaging goes without saying. Don’t forget to share them, though. We find much of our success comes from sharing best practices in messaging across all of our teams.

Step 5: Measure and optimize

The final step to creating a sales cadence is to measure it.

You can’t expect to find success without benchmarking what works against what doesn’t. To do that you’ll need a set of metrics to periodically measure the performance of your cadences and the salespeople using them.

Start by establishing some basic key performance indicators (KPIs) like the number of emails or LinkedIn invites sent. When met, KPIs give you a sample of work to assess and effectively gauge.

Next, review the metrics commonly associated with a sales cadence. These include:

  • Email open rate
  • Email response rate
  • Number of LinkedIn invites accepted
  • Call response rate
  • Number of positive responses
  • Number of meetings scheduled

The metrics you choose should drive you to the goal you set for each cadence. Use these metrics to optimize the touchpoints, channels, and messaging whenever you aren’t achieving your objectives.

Establishing regular appraisals will not only improve the quality of your cadences, but they’ll also enhance your sales strategy as a whole.

Final thoughts

Creating a sales cadence doesn’t have to be hard.

In fact, it should make your job of filling the pipeline with opportunities easier.

Starting with a goal and a deep understanding of your customer will inform the following steps in your cadence. The information you gather about who your customer is, and what they want will help streamline your workflow. The measurable body of data from this process will answer the question of how to improve future ones and ultimately drive more revenue.