The Outbound Audit: Making Your Cold Email Campaigns Resonate with Prospects Who Already Have a Vendor

“I’m already working with someone on this.”

We see variations of this reply all the time, because in the B2B world, no matter how interesting or evolved your offer is, someone else out there is solving the same problem.

Most cold emails pretend that’s not the case. Whether it’s intentional or not, outbound campaigns are usually written with the underlying assumption that the prospect doesn’t know how to fix their problem.

Experience has taught us that sometimes it’s better to assume the opposite.

Here’s an example from one of our clients — code name: Gimbels — who was targeting marketers and others responsible for gifting at tech companies. We started with the message below:

Between the strong credibility Gimbels has (which we’re keeping confidential — we’re not total cotton-headed ninny mugginses) and the acknowledgement of how much gifting adds to the prospect’s workload, this message performed well.

The campaign ended with a 0.55% lead rate and a 6.57% reply rate.

But when we tweaked it to assume the prospect might have a vendor for gifting, the lead rate more than tripled. 

Here’s the revised email:

Why It’s Better

Disarming Objections

This version wastes no time bringing up the possibility of an existing vendor. It takes away what would otherwise be an easy excuse to delete the email and explains why it’s still worth reading.

Importantly, it uses uncertain language when speaking about vendors (“you likely have a vendor you lean on…”), so it doesn’t exclude prospects who aren’t working with one.

More Focus on the Prospect

The first email spent a lot of time talking about Gimbels — the specifics of what they do, who they’ve helped, and the Preferred Gift feature that Buddy could easily tell the prospect about when they schedule a call.

The revised message introduces who Gimbels is in simple terms (we curate, produce, and distribute custom gifts for companies like [COMPANY]”) and then shifts the focus.

By acknowledging a potential partner, Buddy conveys an understanding of the prospect’s position and what they’re responsible for — giving the message an empathetic quality that encourages engagement.

Even the offer avoids the “we/I” language of the first email (“I’d be happy to share…”) and instead keeps the prospect’s perspective in mind (“are you open to exploring,”“would it be helpful,”“if you’d like to see”).


This version goes out of its way to take pressure off the prospect.

Starting with I fully realize you likely have a vendor you lean on…” instead of jumping right into a pitch puts the prospect at ease by signaling that the sender isn’t expecting an immediate sale.

The pitch is still there, but it’s infused with a genuine desire to make the prospect’s life easier (“would it be helpful if…,” “Happy to help.”).

The flexible call to action also alleviates the usual pressure of outbound. Prospects aren’t locked into a call if they respond, which indicates respect for the prospect’s time/preferences and eliminates potential hesitation.

Incentive to Engage

Whereas the first message from Gimbels asked for a call to share some examples, this message invites the recipient to claim a free gift. 

Our clients don’t always have something of value they can offer up in the call to action, but incentives like this — gifts, free audits, lunch/coffee if the prospect is local — can be a great way to guarantee more engagement.

And since we don’t drop the names of any Gimbels clients in this message, their gift is a chance to show their expertise directly rather than relying on social proof to build credibility.

The Takeaway

Our revised campaign for Gimbels ended with a 1.96% lead rate and an 8.66% reply rate.

Part of that improvement in performance was driven by a more prospect-centric message and an incentivized CTA, but by far the biggest change was the acknowledgement of current vendors and the offer to explore Gimbels without an immediate commitment.

Calling attention to the fact that a prospect has other options in your cold email campaigns is honest and empathetic, but it can also help shift the prospect’s expectations — reducing resistance, fostering curiosity, and making them more likely to engage.

Need An Honest Outbound Partner?

Our outbound email campaigns are informed by years of experience building sales pipelines for companies with a desire for steady growth. Schedule a call with us to find out how we can help you win more clients.