Business Reporter – Management – Optimising email with artificial intelligence


Lesley Ronaldson at Gong explains how AI can level up your email personalisation


An astonishing 97 percent. That’s how many sellers are unsatisfied with their current response rates. 


The traditional sales logic that encourages a “spray and pray” approach to outreach is ineffective today. To succeed in the struggle for a prospect’s attention in an inbox filled with competing products and solutions, personalisation is a must. In fact, effective personalisation has the highest impact on a salesperson’s response rates. And it pays off in the long term, too. Research from McKinsey shows that organisations that excel in personalising their cold emails generate 40% more revenue than those that do not.


This is crucial in today’s climate. In 2023, company insolvencies reached a 30-year high. At the same time, 80% of companies have missed at least one sales forecast since 2022. Businesses are clearly under immense pressure to win and retain more customers.


In these circumstances, it’s easy to give in to the temptation to cut corners with generic mass emailing. But simply put, businesses cannot afford to hold onto outdated and ineffective outreach. Especially when 70% of companies are raising their revenue projections for the year ahead. 


It’s time to swap out volume for precision. But how can businesses send fewer – but more impactful – cold emails and maintain a healthy bottom line for their organisation?


This is not to say that all sellers neglect personalisation – on the contrary, data suggests they spend up to 12 hours each week customising their messages. But at the same time, 91% of buyers don’t feel the emails they receive are personalised. 


The disconnect is therefore twofold: first is the challenge of scaling a hyper-personalised approach to the required level, and second is making sure the personalisation is effective in the first place.


Effective personalisation

One effective way to add personalisation is as simple as adding a personal touch with individual-based emails, or using a prospect’s LinkedIn account or biography to find a common interest or unique connection. 


When there are no common interests to break the ice in a cold email, there are other opportunities to personalise. One way is by demonstrating an intimate understanding of a prospect’s business by nodding to recent company news, press releases or blogs. This can help a salesperson craft emails that showcase their understanding of the prospect’s current landscape. In our experience, this is usually the most effective for engaging executive buyers, potentially tripling the likelihood of a reply from senior decision-makers.


Alternatively, there is also industry-based personalisation if a salesperson is targeting specific verticals. Including specific examples or case studies that resonate with a prospect’s industry or pain points, can increase the likelihood of a positive response. 


Finally, sales teams can increase conversion through activity-based outreach. By tailoring emails based on intent signals – such as the buyer downloading a specific eBook from the website or attending a webinar on a certain topic – sales reps can become the experts that the buyer needs along their journey. 


How AI can help

Advances in technology like generative AI have made it possible to create highly engaging and personalised emails with ease. Generative AI models trained on industry-specific data can be particularly powerful in this instance. With their ability to understand context, these proprietary models can help sales teams prioritise deals and automatically produce call highlights, action items, and outcomes. 


It can surface insights from previous touchpoints with a prospect to identify potential sales objections, opportunities to upsell, or recommendations that successfully guide the process to completion. In addition, it can also help discern who are the right people to target within an organisation in the first place. This ensures that outreach is both targeted and personalised effectively.


This can also work with warm emails. For example, with its understanding of previous interactions and context, an AI tool could surface insights like the prospect mentioning their excitement about an upcoming trip, or their interest in a specific sport. Details like this add extra personalisation while saving the salesperson time in having to search their previous notes for such insights.


A new age of engagement

When every lead counts and business growth is on the line, the idea of sending fewer emails to prospects may sound daunting or even counterintuitive. However, successful customer outreach is evolving. Not having the right technology to navigate this change is hitting companies where it hurts – in the wallet. Getting personalisation right can reduce acquisition costs by as much as 50%, while at the same time increasing the efficiency of marketing spend by 10% to 30%


Effective personalisation is clearly one of the most successful ways of converting cold emails into warm ones, and warm prospects into buyers. And luckily, today’s technology can allow businesses to personalise their outreach to the level their buyers wish to see, and at a scale that supports broader business growth.


The age of bulk emails is coming to an end. And good riddance.  



Lesley Ronaldson is EMEA Vice President at Gong


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