The Agoge Sequence (Fully Explained)

Picture the sales floor of a big company – the endless rows of perfectly aligned desks, a room overflowing with the chatter of a million phone calls going on at once. Imagine the air thick with the voices of sales representatives coercing people into trying the product/service. Sounds stressful, right?  Well, gone are the days of insistent salespeople guzzling dull information about their product/service down prospects’ throats. There are now many other ways of reaching your most high-priority prospects and connecting them with your offering. Today, we’ll be discussing the Agoge sequence and how it can help you with your outreach. Let’s dive right in.

Article by Philip Ilic,
B2B Growth Specialist.

What is the Agoge Sequence?

The Agoge sequence is a method of outbound outreach that is now widely used by sales teams across the world. It uses a formula-based approach to increase conversion, using simple, straightforward principles and tactics. The Agoge sequence was theorized and created by Sam Nelson, who is now considered as one of the top inspirational sales coaches of the century. He is a global guru of outbound prospecting. Sam is an SDR (Sales Development Representative) over at Outreach, a company with over 4000 current clients. Sam knows pretty much all there is to know about outreach, and the best method he has found is the Agoge sequence. Sounds promising!

Why was the Agoge sequence created?

The Agoge sequence was designed to help sales teams get in front of high-quality prospects. It is specifically for high-priority prospects and it is a framework for getting the most of personalization in the right place and at the right time and then milking it as much as possible. When Sam Nelson introduced the Agoge sequence to the Outreach sales team, they quickly found the need to open up a specific team which they called the “Agoge team”. The idea came from Sparta, in Greece. They would section off their military into the Agoge and then all of the tenure employers. The Agoge was made of all of the new recruits, who would all train together in one team. Sam took that same structure and brought it to Outreach, creating what he would go on to call the Agoge team. The Agoge sequence started doing extremely well within Sam’s team at Outreach. Fast forward to now, and Sam is giving talks and presentations all over the world, discussing the crazy reply rates that people can get when implementing the Agoge sequence.

Getting amazing reply rates with the Agoge sequence

Why are there low reply rates later on in the sequence? In this graphic, we can see that as we go further down the sequence, it gets harder and harder to get a reply. In other words, the more actions you perform within the sequence, the less likely you are of getting a reply. That’s because you’re catering to people that are less and less interested as you go down the sequence. Those who answer your very first email were the most interested – those who answer your second maybe ignored your first, or weren’t excited enough to act on it immediately. The further you go, the harder it is to get a good reply rate, so take into consideration that in the bottom rows, a lot of the people will have already responded.

How to build an Agoge sequence

How many times should you contact a prospect before giving up?

The Agoge sequence, which is an outreach method developed by Sam Nelson, advises contact your prospects approximately 15 times before giving up. This is what an Agoge sequence looks like overall. As you might be able to tell, there are different types of outreach methods within the follow-up sequence. There are exactly:
  • 7 emails,
  • 2 LinkedIn actions,
  • and 6 calls.
At the very beginning, the Agoge sequence entails a lot of personalization. For some reason, showing that an email was written by a human and not a robot or some kind of AI makes a huge difference in reply rates. People will be so much more likely to open your email or even reply to it if they have reason to believe you wrote it specifically for them. That’s why personalization is an important part of the Agoge sequence. If that doesn’t work, you can then try a few phone calls as well as a LinkedIn follow. Then, you’ll be able to send off some automated follow-up emails using platforms such as Woodpecker for example. Platforms like Woodpecker allow you to send off automated templates whilst still feeling personalized, not robotic. Actually, the Agoge sequence follows a pattern. It goes through different stages, which correspond to:
  • Personalization
  • Break
  • Template automation
  • Urgency
  • End

How to start implementing the Agoge sequence?

Step 1: Prioritize different accounts

Figure out all of the departments that you sell into, which you put into different columns, then make a list of all of the titles that you might prospect into in all of these columns. Put them in the order of most to least important. You could even color code which titles you want to prioritize the most.

Step 2: Prioritize prospects within each different accounts

Now would be a good time to assign each respective job title to their own department, arranging them from high priority to low and even no priority.
What are the 3 types of leads? 
  • Hot, or high priority
  • Warm, or low priority
  • Cold, or no priority
High priority: prospects that are able to generate immediate opportunity Lower priority: prospects that might generate opportunity in the future No priority: prospects that don’t have an immediate need for your offering This should look something like the following table.

A few tips for successful Agoge Sequence implementation

Don’t add extras: links, images, attachments, or videos

Do cold emails go into spam?  Only if you’re using a lot of capitals, a lot of emojis, inaccurate sender information, if there is no physical address on your email template, if you don’t have permission, or if you’re using too many images.
Especially when you are first starting out with implementing the Agoge sequence, try and stay away from including links, images, attachments, or videos. Why? Because it can hurt outbound deliverability. It’s different according to your company and what it offers, but it’s important to not do this right at the very beginning. It doesn’t actually help how effective your messaging is. Your messaging might be great but it might be performing poorly because links or images are bothering spam filters in your recipients’ inboxes.

Make an entrance at the very beginning – personalization is key

The Triple Touch strategy

You might have heard of the “Triple Touch” strategy before. Getting people’s attention is tough – it often takes quite a few tries and a hell of a lot of personalization to coerce prospects into talking to you. The triple touch strategy uses 3 different methods to get a hold of prospects: LinkedIn, email, and call.

The importance of personalization

What is extremely important to this process though is how personalized you make all of these touches. The more attention you give at the very beginning of the Agoge sequence, the more effective your sequence will be throughout. I suggest you invest time and energy, in the beginning, to make every contact as personalized as you can, and I promise it will payout in the end. There are different ways you can do this. You should put most of your time into the very first email of the sequence. This is effective because the research and effort you’ll be putting into this first email will pay dividends throughout the sequence. Personalize once – benefit ten times! The initial manual email is what you should personalize fully. I talked about this in another article on follow-up emails, so I won’t go into too much detail, but the structure of your email should look something like this:
  • Subject
  • Personalization
  • Body
  • Ask
When Sam Nelson first published about the Agoge sequence, it was actually quite controversial because he was advocating for the same thing sales trainers were advising people not to do. Nowadays, sales reps have generally got on board with the need to personalize, because they have seen the benefits. This follow-up sequence-structure works really well, without that much time invested into it.

Why the reply follow-up is important

The majority of the power of a sequence lies within the first email and the associated reply emails. A great first email means everything else will work proportionately better. The structure of the first three emails is designed to show the prospect or recipient that you tailored this email to them and their needs. This is what you should focus on. You’re also going to try and give yourself as much help as you can to make sure that the personalization you worked so hard on is seen by your prospects. How? By replying to the email. The best way to give the personalization a chance to be seen is by hitting “reply” instead of writing a new email. The Agoge sequence includes two instances of the reply email – two more opportunities for your prospect to see how much effort you put into the personalization. This could look like something as simple as: “any thoughts?” Sending these reply emails gives a chance for that really great first email to be seen. What is crazy is that there’s often a better reply rate with the follow-up reply email than with the actual initial email itself.

The bottom line

I reckon you can probably break down the Agoge sequence into four really actionable takeaways.
  1. Take however much time you need to really work on your sequences. Work out an Agoge playbook, and then stick to the same structure.
  2. Tailor the first email in the sequence as much as you possibly can, then use reply emails for the next two. Personalization is key, and making the most of that existing personalization is how you can utilize your time and effort.
  3. Use automation with platforms like Woodpecker to send out the next emails.
  4. Don’t harass, or insist. Consistency is key, but when it’s time to stop, do actually stop.
As I mentioned earlier, I have a really in-depth article if you want to see real examples of a cold email outreach sequence, strongly inspired by the Agoge sequence. I use this all the time as a marketing expert and let me tell you, it gets amazing results for my clients. By the way, I also have a Youtube channel with so many articles about email marketing and outreach. Here are some which I feel like you might enjoy: Where To Get Emails For Cold Emailing Best Cold Email Software 2021 Cold Email Tutorial For Beginners (Step By Step Guide) Best Cold Email Automation Tool How to Write A Cold Email Campaign Which Gets a TON of Sales Meetings How To Automate Cold Email Campaigns

Useful Resources & Tutorials

The Best Follow-Up Email Sequence – a great follow up read after this article. 3 Battle Tested Strategies For Cold Email – An Article that goes into detail about the main strategies we have for Cold Email Success How To Get Clients (Without Upwork) -In this article i break down how to get clients by creating your own demand generation systems. Which LinkedIn Ads Objectives – Explained (2021) – in this 13-minute video, I cover how to properly use the right LinkedIn ads objectives to your advantage
Philip Ilic

Philip Ilic

B2B Growth Specialist

Phil helps B2B SaaS companies with growth marketing and is a deep specialist in Linkedin advertising and paid social more generally (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn). He runs a paid social agency called Superlumen.co and is the founder of B2Bhero.co.

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