Sales Hacker - The Largest Community for Modern Sales Professionals. Taking you up and to the right.
Up and to the right.
Join the Smartest Community of
166K+ Modern Sales Professionals
Enter Your Email to Get Weekly Sales Insights!

Stop Using Marketing Automation for Your Sales Outreach

Don't Use Marketing Automation for Sales
Sales Operations

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.

Chris is the Sr. Director, New Market Strategy at Veeva Systems. Chris is the former Director of Marketing and Business Development at Selligy, where they're building the next generation of sales development tools, helping teams triple their velocity by eliminating all of the manual bookkeeping of sales development. Chris helps get the word out, and helps get the word back from their pioneering sales development users.