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How to build sales cadences

The life of a B2B sales rep is a busy one.

You have 100s of people to contact, follow up with, nurture and provide content to. And you have to do all this on a variety of channels, every single day.

It’s a lot to keep up with and a lot to remember.

Plus prospects need time to be warmed up. Some might not be open to talking straight away. Some might need more information. Some might not even know they have a problem. And what about those people who don’t trust sales reps, full-stop?

What does all this add up to?

It means that reps often have to contact the same prospect a number of times before they secure the meeting.

This is why a lot of sales teams use a cadence to guide them through the process. Cadences keep SDRs on track and remind them who to contact and when, with what information and on what channel.

At Cognism, our sales reps all use the same cadence. One that has been tried, tested and optimised to be effective for our particular focus.

This cadence was built by Andrew Thomas, top enterprise SDR at Cognism.

We sat down with him to pick his brains on all things sales cadences - and most importantly, how to build an effective one.

Why have a cadence? | Cadence example | Personalising a cadence | Testing | How to build a cadence step by step | Advice

Just keep reading to find out more! 👀

“A good system shortens the road to a goal”

No, we didn’t come up with that quote ourselves… in fact, those are the words of author Orison Swett Marden, but it does fit this purpose rather well.

Because that’s exactly what a cadence helps outbound sales reps to do. It provides structure, a process and most importantly, organisation.

All of which helps them to keep the momentum going when contacting and nurturing prospects through the sales funnel.

What exactly is a cadence?

It’s a plan; it’s a sequence of communications sent over a mix of channels; and it’s a method for salespeople to follow to stay in touch with their prospects.

Andrew shares why he finds cadences so vital for organisation:

“It would be nigh-on impossible to keep track of where your prospects are in the process or when to speak to them without a cadence.”

“We’re reaching out to so many people from so many different accounts. Each time I add people from an account into a cadence, there could be 10 people, and I’m running 50 accounts at a time.”

“So I could be trying to keep up conversations with as many as 500 people.”

“So without a cadence, it would be hard to know who I was meant to be talking to, when to call them, when to email them, when to send them a LinkedIn message and so on.”

What does a sales cadence look like?

One thing to keep in mind here is that one size doesn’t fit all.

Different products and services mean different customer personas which require different approaches.

It’s about putting yourself in your prospects’ shoes and working out what will work best to attract their attention.

For example, when Andrew first started as a Cognism SDR, he felt the recommended cadence was far too long.

It was designed with multiple touchpoints over a series of 35 business days.

Andrew explains:

“After 35 working days, at least in my experience, you have virtually zero chance of speaking to someone.”

“So I changed it so it was over 17-18 days instead.”

“The trick is to make sure you’re staying in touch with prospects fairly regularly, but not so regularly that you start to annoy them.”

“I also think a multitouch approach is the right way forward. If I’ve called someone, maybe left a voicemail, connected with them on LinkedIn and sent them an email - they’re going to know who Andrew Thomas from Cognism is.”

Andrew then goes on to walk us through the cadence as he would follow it. It goes a little like this:

Cognism Sales Cadence

Day 1

“Day 1 is LinkedIn, call and email, which would be from cold. My messaging would be along the lines of:

“I can see you’re a sales/marketing leader with (x) years experience (I do this to add a bit of personalisation).”

“Typically I speak to sales leaders like yourself who share that their reps complain of not having the contact information that they need - I just wanted to see if that resonated with you?”

He will then explain a little about Cognism and leave a soft call to action at the end, such as:

“Would it be a bad idea for me to send over some information so you can learn more?”

Day 3

The cadence then skips a day, allowing the prospect some space. It picks up again on Day 3 which leads with a call, followed by an email.

This email would likely contain a case study from a previous client that’s similar to the prospect being contacted.

Day 5

Again, the cadence leaves some breathing room on Day 4, before contacting the prospect on Day 5 (bear in mind there’s no contacting over weekends, so if Day 4 falls on a Friday, Day 5 would be the Monday.)

“This time, our email contains a screenshot of our platform. We base the screenshot off of that company's ICP industry.”

“So say for example I’m contacting someone working for a company in financial services. I would run a search on our platform and take a screenshot to show them we’ve got 100,000 contacts in that vertical.”

“I tend to get quite a lot of response doing that.”

Day 5 is also the beginning of what Andrew considers to be the ‘sweet spot’ of this cadence; he tends to find that he gets the most response during the 5-10 day mark.

If the prospects haven’t already replied to Andrew requesting a meeting by this stage, the cadence moves onto Day 7 which includes another phone call and an email.

Day 7

The email sent on this day tends to focus on Cognism’s Diamond Data®.

For example, Andrew will do some research on the prospects' clients and find a contact for them using Cognism. The idea is to demonstrate how the platform can provide prospects with human-verified phone numbers.

He will then pose the question:

“Would it help your team if we could manually verify numbers for you?”

Day 10

The cadence takes a slightly longer break this time - from Day 7 up to Day 10. Andrew also makes a slight change in his content at this point too.

One of the important things to remember as an SDR is that showing your personality helps to humanise you.

In addition, being creative in your approach shows that you’ve put thought and care into your process, helping you to stand out in a sea of noise.

It’s valuable for your prospects to know that you’re not an automated system and you care about getting their attention.

This then allows your prospects to let down their guard a bit, and connect with you on a more genuine level.

Andrew is all too aware of the need to do something a bit different and creative, so he decided to add a playlist into his cadence.

“I personally love music, so I’ve made a playlist on Spotify which I screenshot. Each of the song titles spells out something like:

“Help increase sales coming into the business, bad idea to learn more, (and include their first name at the end)?”

Andrew reveals he has had some positive replies to this email, some saying:

“Alright, that was quite a funny outreach. I’ll take a meeting.”

Day 12 & 15 

On Day 12 Andrew only sends a LinkedIn message; it’s simply nudging prospects to see if they’d received his other communications. Similarly, Day 15 is just a quick phone call.

By this point, Andrew feels it's unlikely he’s going to get a response - if all his other attempts to reach his prospects have gone unanswered.

So he takes a chance…

Day 18

On the final day of the cadence, Day 18, Andrew sends a final email. Again, injecting a little of his personality and humour into it.

Andrew is getting married in August of this year, so he includes this message at the end of his email:

“Help a salesman pay for his wedding!”

“At this stage, it’s a bit of a Hail Mary. You don’t get many replies, but sometimes you do.”

If after this email there’s still no bite, Andrew considers the prospect a lost cause. So no further outreach efforts are made.

Now, we know what you’re thinking. That seems like a lot of communication?!

Well, yes and no.

Andrew reveals that most of the times he calls people, they don’t answer the phone.

“I’m maybe only having between 5 and 10 conversations per day, but I’d probably dial about 50 times.”

And most people certainly don’t open every email in their inbox, so some of them go unseen too.

The method in the madness here is to just have one or two of the outreach efforts reach the prospect; as long as the cadence provides enough value and intrigue, they’ll decide to book a meeting.

Personalising your cadence for the customer persona

Andrew has two versions of this cadence depending on the type of person he’s sending it to, e.g. if they’re from a marketing or sales background then they receive a different cadence from the other.

Ryan Reisert, Cognism’s resident sales expert, believes this personalisation could ideally go further.

He tells us he has made an observation about the way sales cadences are built in the current market:

“The way cadences are generated today are trying to reverse-engineer inbound.”

“Prospects didn’t opt into a cadence, but you contact them with different forms of communication; calls, emails and social media touches - but rarely are people reachable on all three.”

“This leads to a lot of wasted effort because up to 60% of your comms don’t reach your prospect.”

“I think there needs to be an additional validation step first.”

Ryan’s argument is that before you add a prospect into a cadence, you need to validate the channels they’re active on.

Where did you manage to reach them before? What channels are they responsive on?

Once you have this knowledge, you can figure out a workflow that helps you to maximise your potential for reaching them.

He adds:

“There’s a time and a place for combo prospecting, but once you have an activated channel then this is the one you should use.”

“I’ve received calls from companies with products or services I’d be interested in, but then the only follow-up information I get is via email.”

“I personally prefer the phone because it forces me to concentrate on the information in the moment, rather than it sitting in my inbox, waiting for me to get to it.”

“But they never follow up with me again over the phone, so nothing happens.”

Ryan’s point here is simply to say: once you’ve identified a channel where your prospect is active and responding to you, then you should focus on that channel.

Personalise your follow-ups and try to learn what methods of communication your prospect likes.

Andrew counters this argument by saying:

“Until you know what channel your prospect likes, then you can’t make any assumptions about how they like to be communicated with.”

“This is why I prefer a multitouch approach. I’m contacting people cold, I don’t know yet if they prefer phone, email or social. So I try all three.”

Test, test, experiment and guess what? Test some more!

The journey doesn’t just stop once you’ve implemented a cadence.

Andrew reveals how management is always reviewing the performance metrics and experimenting with new ways to improve and keep things feeling fresh.

“We always do A/B testing on emails. For example, we might come up with different content for Day 5 and test it against the original copy.”

“Outreach has a tool that lets you see certain metrics such as how many people have opened your email, how many people have replied to your email etc.”

“After 2 or 3 months, management reviews the data. If they find something that works better, then we update the cadence.”

“There’s never really a stale moment.”

A/B testing in this way isn’t really possible for cold calling, but the Cognism SDR team is often involved in training sessions where they can listen to calls that have gone well, or not so well… and learn from the results.

How to build an effective sales cadence

There are various things you need to consider before creating your own sales cadence.

Step 1: Who’s your ideal customer profile?

This means figuring out important details like:

  • What industry do they work in
  • What size of company do they work for?
  • Who are their clients?
  • What time zone are they in?
  • What are the pain points they experience?

Andrew highlighted in our conversation that as SDRs go, he feels pretty lucky as Cognism has a varied customer base and he can be pretty agnostic in his approach.

But the more niche your product or service is, then the more niche your persona is likely to be. This will influence how you build your cadence.

Step 2: Which channels are you using?

Use the information you’ve learned in your customer persona research to decide on which channels are the most appropriate for your prospects.

In addition, consider the industry you’re in. What are your competitors doing? Which channels have the most noise, and which offer more opportunity for your message to be received?

Step 3: How many times will you attempt contact?

This is a fine balancing act. Too many contact attempts and your prospect might become fed up, opt-out of emails, block your number, or tell you not to contact them again.

Too few, and you might miss the opportunity to catch their attention and secure the meeting.

This number will also depend on which channels you decide to focus on and your customer persona.

Step 4: The time gap between each attempt

As mentioned earlier on in this blog post, Andrew designed his cadence to allow for day-long gaps between most of his communication attempts - sometimes 2 days. He did this to try to avoid annoying prospects.

This also makes it possible to have more people in your cadence at a time; this way, you’re not having to contact each of them daily, and so your workload is spread out.

Just because this 24-48 hour gap works for Andrew’s cadence doesn’t mean it’ll be the correct period for you and your organisation.

Our advice is to experiment and test this gap to find the sweet spot.

Step 5: How long will your cadence go on for?

This step should be easy, in theory. If you know how many attempts you’re going to make to contact your prospect, and the gaps you want between them, then you can work out your cadence duration.

Alternatively, if you want to ensure it lasts a specific length of time, or is limited to a time frame (2 weeks for example), then you could reverse-engineer your process.

If you feel your cadence ends up being too long, like Andrew felt about the original cadence when it lasted 35 days, you can test a shorter alternative.

Step 6: What are you going to say?

This is ultimately the most important part of sales cadences.

As Andrew did with his screenshots and playlists, you need to find a way to show off your creativity and personality in your outreach.

Consider the following:

  • What messaging will resonate with your prospect?
  • What word choice shows off your personality?
  • What value can you provide?
  • What methods will make you stand out from the crowd?

Andrew urges anyone building a cadence to try to find a way of doing things differently:

“The main thing is being creative. Loads of people build generic cadences. Just click, send and with no context, no value. You have to personalise it.”

“We’re all human and we all want something a bit fun.”

Step 7: Test and optimise

Depending on what software you’re using, or the channels you’ve chosen to communicate on, the access to performance metrics may differ.

But keeping track of how your cadence is performing will help you to make decisions on how to improve it.

For example, is there a particular moment when your responses die off? You may need to shorten your cadence length.

Or have you received a large number of opt-outs on an email? You may need to review the content, or consider how long it’s been since you last contacted this list. It could be an issue of too short a gap between emails.

Is there a specific time of day that your prospects tend to answer the phone? Block out this time in your diary to contact them, or swap around the order of your touchpoints to suit this behaviour.

You may also be able to get qualitative data by asking your prospects for feedback.

Step 8: Your follow up routine

Okay, so you’ve decided on your cadence. You’ve run through all the calls, emails or social media touchpoints. But no bite.

Maybe it was a targeting issue and your prospect wasn’t the ideal fit. Or maybe it was just bad timing.

You could cut your losses and move on to another list, or you could revisit this prospect further down the line to see if anything has changed.

Andrew says:

“If a prospect tells me they’re not interested right now, then I might set a reminder for 6 months’ time to reach out to them again and see if their circumstances have changed.”

Trust the process

Andrew is a firm believer in using cadences. He has first-hand experience of an effective cadence in action, and urges others to trust them.

“Be diligent with the steps and trust that the cadence you built will work. I reckon 80-90% of people skip steps, especially emails.”

“People often ask me:”

“What are you doing differently with emails?”

“Because I get a lot of my success from email. The reality is, I’m not doing anything differently… I’m just doing the emails. I don’t skip any steps.”

Following through with all the steps is important. So is editing and iterating on your cadence. Review it periodically to keep it fresh and creative. Let the data and metrics guide you as you make changes.

Andrew gave us his final thoughts on building cadences:

“No two cadences should be exactly alike - what works for one industry and one business will likely not have the same effect for another. My top tips are to experiment and think outside the box.”

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