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Why Your Cold Outreach to Biotechs is Failing… And How to Fix It

When it comes to cold outreach in the B2B context, one thing is certain: Email is still the dominant channel.

Sales professionals at research and manufacturing providers spend hours crafting cold outreach emails to biopharma companies, only to have them go unopened. Why?

Here's a look at what you'll find in the article:

Quantity over quality

When we analyzed a dozen examples of cold outreach we receive from vendors hoping to sell into our organization, we noticed four consistent problems:

  1. Obvious artificial personalization
  2. Messaging centered on the product being offered
  3. Lack of understanding of our business objectives
  4. Typos and other quality issues

We’ve written before about tactics for prospecting into biopharma companies, but this article dives into a four-step cold outreach strategy that our team uses to break through the noise and engage overwhelmed stakeholders.

Why cold email outreach is harder than ever

Thanks for nothing, MarTech.

It’s never been easier to send a marketing message to a large audience and take advantage of personalization features designed to trick readers into thinking they’re reading a message that was written specifically for them.

In response, buyers have become more savvy and have evolved an ability to distinguish “personalized” marketing emails from genuine, personalized outreach.

Delete, delete, delete

As a result of ever-increasing “personalized outreach,” buyers now have an itchy trigger finger, and their first instict when receiving a message from an unknown sender is to hit the delete button.

Stefanie Kuhner, an executive in the procurement department from Bristol Myers Squibb, told us that every week she is slated to attend 60+ meetings and receive more than 100 unsolicited marketing messages.

But despite this, business leaders still want to hear from vendors and partners who can impact business outcomes that matter.

How to break through the noise

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, here is the lesson we have learned: We get rewarded when parts of our prospecting workflow don’t scale.

We love technology that helps us collect, identify and package sales intelligence. But when it comes to the last step - performing the outreach - we ‘go old school’ and write personalized outreach.

No matter how good MarTech becomes at seeking scale at the expense of authenticity, nothing can replace a hand-crafted message that is truly personalized because it was written by one human for another human.

Here is the four-step cold outreach strategy that we use to increase response rates from our prospects:

  1. Uncover and select a relevant sales signal
  2. Immediately deliver value that relates to your service offering
  3. Act as a Trusted Advisor
  4. Offer actionable guidance

Let’s put these four steps into action

Here are two fictitious characters:

  1. Mila, Director of Business Development at DTX, a digital therapeutics company selling DCT solutions.
  2. Lorenzo, Inside Sales at BestCDMO, a biologics-focused CDMO services.

In this example, Mila and Lorenzo are prospecting for new biotechs that would be a strong fit for their solutions and services.

We’re going to break down an initial cold-outreach email written using the four-step strategy, part by part.

Step 1: Uncover and select a relevant sales signal

Mila and Lorenzo check out relevant, industry specific sources like NIH project reporter abstracts.

In the image below we see that Mustang Bio, a Massachusetts based biotech, published an upcoming Phase I study signal as a result of being awarded an SBIR grant.

An image of NIH search results for Mustang Bio

“Proposed is an open-label interventional, non-randomized adoptive T-cell immunotherapy study to broaden the understanding [of] the impact of MB-106 in blood, bone marrow, and other sites of disease measured by cytokine level post-infusion.”

Bonus point 1: Timing is critical

The reason this is a great sales signal is because (at the time of writing) the study hasn't started yet, and there's still time to get involved.

If you aren't paying attention to timing in your outreach, you risk being ignored because the train has already left the station.

Bonus point 2: Other sales signal sources

Other relevant sources include job posts, patent updates, and conference abstracts.

Step 2: Immediately deliver value that relates to your service offering

Most cold outreach your prospect receives immediately talks about the product or service being offered. Seldom does the message reflect a nuanced understanding of a problem the recipient is trying to solve.

The important part of step 2 is to “immediately deliver value.” The fact that the value you are delivering is related to your problem space is important, but secondary to the idea that we want to give something to our prospect that helps them do their job without asking for anything in return.

In our example, Mila (DCT Solutions) says:

“How are cytokine levels being measured post-infusion?”

And Lorenzo (CDMO Services) says:

“How are you planning to scale up cell therapy manufacturing after you understand the impact of MB-106?”

Step 3: Act as a Trusted Advisor

Your prospect does not need another sales professional in their inbox prescribing a solution pre-diagnosis.

To avoid coming across as ignorant of their needs, employ the Trusted Advisor approach.

This means leveraging your industry specific experience and expertise to help the prospect anticipate and overcome future possible hurdles.

Mila (DCT Solutions) then says:

“Many emerging biotechs, like Mustang Bio, find it challenging to enable early detection of cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and neurotoxicity due to a lack of the right technologies.”

And Lorenzo (CDMO Services) then says:

“For these types of treatments, the safety and consistency of the cell culture medium is vital, yet challenges around maintaining minimal scale up time remain common across biotechs of your size.”

Step 4: Offer actionable guidance

Oftentimes, the support offered in prospecting emails serves the sender more than the recipient.

To stand out from the pack, offer guidance that is actionable.

Best practices include:

  • PDF attachments with personalized comments addressing your prospect
  • Custom videos of you walking your prospect through content
  • Links to third-party content that educates your prospect on their challenges

Furthering our example, Mila (DCT Solutions) says:

“I’ve attached a one-pager that outlines what early stage biotechs should look for in solution providers. The comment I’ve included on page 3 should be particularly helpful to your team at this stage.”

Lorenzo (CDMO Services) says:

“Below is a link to a video I created for you to not only put a face to my name, but also understand where to find insightful resources on our blog that outline considerations for a long term manufacturing partnership, from scale up to commercialization.”

Writing a Subject Line that converts

A recent study by optinmonster showed that 33% of email recipients choose to engage with an email based on subject line alone, so crafting a compelling subject line is worth some effort.

The report went on to say that including the recipient’s name and/or their company name in a subject line increases open rates by 21%.

And remember, using emoji’s in subject lines increased by 7000% in 2022 alone and is quickly becoming accepted in professional contexts.

But more importantly, take advantage of the work you’ve already done when crafting your email and include a reference to the advice you’re sharing that is incredibly specific to the recipient.

Now let’s look at the final product

Here is Mila’s (DCT Solutions) final outreach:

Subject: Scaling MB-106 might be harder than you think - do you have the right tech in place? 🔬

Hi [Mustang Bio Stakeholder],

Congratulations on the recent SBIR grant! It’s exciting to see another cell therapy study entering the clinic.

How are cytokine levels being measured post-infusion? Many emerging biotechs, like Mustang Bio, find it challenging to account for early detection of cytokine release syndrome (CRS) and neurotoxicity due to a lack of the right technologies.

I’ve attached a one-pager that outlines what early stage biotechs should look for in solution providers. The comment I’ve included on page 3 should be particularly helpful to your team at this stage.

Optimistically,

Mila

And here is Lorenzo’s (CDMO Services) final outreach:

Subject: [NAME], here’s an idea for Mustang Bio to help minimize scale up times 🏭

Hi [Mustang Bio Stakeholder],

Congratulations on the recent SBIR grant! It’s exciting to see another cell therapy study entering the clinic.

How are you planning to monitor GLP/GMP throughout the study to understand the safety, efficacy, and tolerability data to effectively plan for scale up? For these types of treatments, the safety and consistency of the cell culture medium is vital, yet challenges around maintaining minimal scale up time remain common across biotechs of your size.

Below is a link to a video I created for you to not only put a face to my name, but also understand where to find insightful resources on our blog that outline considerations for a long term manufacturing partnership, from scale up to commercialization.

Kind Regards,

Lorenzo

Conclusion

Truly personalized outreach is time-consuming and difficult, but it is extremely potent when you pair personal outreach with AI-driven sales intelligence.

And when you can automate the collection of sales signals, it frees up time to invest in truly-personalized outreach. 

Here's why it all matters:

When you take the time to craft thoughtful, authentic and personalized outreach, you immediately differentiate yourself from the dozens of other reps vying for the attention of the same decision makers.

Savvy buyers can see through inauthentic outreach, despite all the tricks that marketers have up their sleeves.

How do you feel about our approach? Do you already do something similar?

Share your thoughts below.


Are you considering investing in a sales intelligence platform?

Let us show you how Zymewire can help you craft personalized, authentic outreach without digging through NIH abstracts, clinicaltrials.gov or endless google searches.

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