Stop Using Marketing Automation for Your Sales Outreach

Don't Use Marketing Automation for Sales

Want to make a bad first impression? Or worse, no impression at all? Use marketing automation to send your first sales email.

Why? You’d think it would be no problem. Marketing automation starts with a big list, fills names into an email template, and fires off the emails.

The first step of sales development starts the same way: pick, fill, send. So why not just give it to your marketing automation tool to do? Instead of having the email come from one of your marketing accounts, just use the email address of the right rep.

What could go wrong?

Apparently, something does. Published data on sales emails from actual people report open rates that in the 20 to 50 percent range, while marketing emails usually garner 10 to 20 percent open rates. Admittedly, this data is hard to pin down, but the consensus is that traditional sales development emails outperform marketing emails.


Here are four things that go wrong when your marketing automation system tries to do sales development.

1. Your Marketing Automation Message Will Go Unread as a Promotion

Emails that don’t get read, don’t work. And, for a simple technical reason, marketing automation emails get read less, because the receiving email systems detect they didn’t come from a real person.

When marketing automation sends your email, it doesn’t come from your regular email system, which means the “from” address won’t look like a personal email. For example, in Google-power email systems, instead of just saying “” your email will say something like “ via”

The deadly fingerprint of your spam engine

The deadly fingerprint of your spam engine

As a result, this will get your email relegated to the Promotions tab (at companies that use Google Apps) or some similar spammy folder.

The Promotions tab is not where you want to be.

The Promotions tab is not where you want to be

Even humans are learning to tell the difference. The extra domain names usually look very geeky, as they are part of the plumbing that’s not really supposed to be seen by humans. Others are outright ads for your marketing automation vendor.

All of this drives your response rate way down. Worse, when your leads see your rep’s name in the promotions folder, they associate the name with spam, not a person reaching out to make direct contact.

2. You’ll Lose Leads That Are Miscategorized

Sales development reps prevent dumb mistakes that marketing automation won’t catch. Missing or just plain wrong lead data can easily trick your marketing automation system into using the wrong name, the wrong gender, the wrong message, or all three.

For example, real reps don’t send emails to universities talking about “clients” instead of “students,” or to a real estate firm about “salespeople” instead of “agents.”

Sending the wrong message is often worse than not sending one at all. Getting jargon wrong proves that, regardless of what you say your value proposition is, you don’t get your prospect’s business – let alone how to make it better.

3. Your Mistakes Get Much, Much Worse

When your marketing automation system makes a mistake using the address of a real person, a bad situation gets worse. Check out these “Oops” emails.

Not only does the company have to apologize, the apology requires fessing up that your good friend Joe is sometimes not Joe, but a marketing bot.

When bad emails happen to good reps.

When bad emails happen to good reps

Everyone’s credibility – your team, your rep, your firm’s ability to execute – takes a bath when this happens.

4. The Real Value of Sales Development. It’s About More Than Open Rates

Marketing is about one-to-many communication. Sales is about one-to-one communication. If you’re using a one-to-many tool, you haven’t really crossed over into sales yet.

Sales development adds value to leads. Sure, one sentence or personalization can increase open rates. And adding more data to your lead profile increases the value of all future contacts — whether marketing or sales — with that prospect.

But more importantly, sales development is the bridge from broadcasting to starting a conversation, from one professional to another. Both machines and people can tell the difference between a person and a blast. If your lead thinks your rep is a machine, there’s no way to establish a relationship or start a conversation.

When you attach your rep’s name to a one-to-many communication, you dull the blade that gives sales its edge.

Let Marketing be Marketing

But when a lead is ready for sales, let sales development get the conversation – and hopefully, the relationship – started.

Editor’s Note: Guest post by Chris van Löben Sels, Senior Director New Market Strategy at Veeva Systems.

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    • This is perfect advice for new startups. Using Marketing automation to sell is a big no no! Use something like Yesware or Streak and create snippets or templates to send through your Gmail — always works for me.

    • You can always buy a dedicated smtp from your marketing automation provider (check Datacrush or Silverpop), you can use your own domain and you solve point 1.

    • @Chris Smith
      ( 0 POINTS )
      6 years ago

      So GOOD! Chris loved this read, thanks for publishing. That is why I use SalesLoft Cadence

    • You forgot reason number 5: You’re violating the TOS of many marketing automation tools when used this way.

    • I would have to respectfully disagree with this post. Many businesses have scaled fast with marketing automation and the right content strategy around cold emails. It’s all about the content and getting the right message in front of the person you are trying to get engaged. I think a mixture of your strategy and marketing automation will give you the best results.

    • This post was spot on. Really appreciated the point on marketing being one to many vs sales being one to one.

    • Perhaps it depends how the sell is approached? Marketing automation certainly help – tools like GetResponse marketing automation also have email, so I guess that’s the right way to try the strategy? I guess that when it comes to cold emails they tend to be directed mostly at the wrong people, so before hitting the send button it’s wise to do some research and prepare the right content.

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