How to Use Smart Sales Automation to Increase Customer Engagement

By Parth Thaker

I read a terrifying stat that up to 63 percent of a sales rep’s time is spent on non-selling activities, like updating records in their CRMs. Couple that with needing 7-13 touchpoints before a prospect becomes a sales qualified lead, and there simply isn’t enough time in the day for reps to do everything needed to hit their quota with human touch alone.

Enter sales automation, which helps reps scale their efforts by sending out hundreds of scheduled messages while all that activity is being logged into the CRM automatically. This has been a godsend for today’s tools-inundated, time-crunched sales professional but, sometimes, it can negatively impact your customer’s experience.

We’ve all been frustrated by receiving an automated email that was clearly more appropriate for a person in a different job function. You don’t like fielding misdirected communications – and neither does your customer.

The good news is, there are real ways to balance one-on-one personalization with sales automation. Here are some insights to consider.

Personalization at Scale Starts with Process

Just know that every email you send  competes with about 125 other business emails per day in your prospects’ inboxes. It’s the reason most outreach campaigns experience open rates lower than 30 percent and reply rates around 5 percent. But, instead of fixing the root problem of low engagement, we typically just add more leads to our campaigns in hopes the numbers will work out in the end.

It’s not to say batch-and-blast doesn’t work, but you’re often hurting your brand and the prospect or customer relationship more than you’re helping it. Instead, really spend time thinking about your audience segment first, then the messaging and technology second.

Start with Audience Segmentation

When refining your audiences, consider the following:

  1. Industry
  2. Employee size
  3. Revenue
  4. Territory
  5. Function
  6. Role
  7. Technology used
  8. Predictive lead score

Going through the exercise of identifying an ideal customer profile for each sales team is invaluable. I highly recommend using TOPO’s ICP framework to get started.

First, you want to identify the right companies (accounts) to target, segmented based on your sales team structure, size as revenue, company size, and/or territory.

Then, break out outbound tracks deeper by function: such as sales, customer success, marketing…you get the picture. And, finally, separate your audience by decision makers and doers.

These data points can help you with overall email/message theme and can be added as possible personalization tags. When thinking about your next sales outreach campaign it’s important to weigh the merits of using automation versus adding a completely manual touch. Let’s explore some help guidelines.

Choose Your Sales Automation Level Based on Annual Contract Value (ACV)

As much as we’d love to hand-write letters and fully customized emails for every single prospect, there simply isn’t enough time in the day. Instead, I use a rubric to help determine the level of personalization and time investment based on the ACV.

TemplatedA boilerplate message based on your persona0 percent additional customization, just applying a template– SMB outbound – General inbound– Lower ACV
Semi-customFollow the structure of a template message, but customize the context and offer~20 percent customization of a template– Midmarket (inbound, outbound)– Mid-level ACV
CustomHighly targeted, customized messages written for one person or account75-100 percent customized– Higher Midmarket, Enterprise– High ACV

Now that we have nailed down the campaign audience and framework, it’s time to start working through the draft messaging.

Tips to Increase Engagement with Your Outbound Campaigns

1. The first touch should always be personalized.

Whether you’re running a fully automated campaign to SMBs or a custom-tailored approach to enterprise, it’s very important your first message is individually personalized.

The secret is to take the data inputs when establishing an ideal customer profile and add them as custom variables in your sales template copy. For highly personalized campaigns, these can act as placeholders you fill in with deeper research on the prospect.

2. Add social touches (but go long).

As mentioned, it takes 7-13+ touches before a lead becomes sales qualified, so it’s likely you won’t get there with email alone. Vary your touchpoints across multiple mediums, including phone calls and social media.

That said, it almost never fares well to directly sell over LinkedIn or Twitter. Instead, keep these tips in mind:

Keep your LinkedIn Connection requests short and casual.

Your only goal is to have your prospect add you to their network. This does two things: 1) puts a face to a name and 2) often reminds the prospect to follow up with your emails.

If you’ve never had a chat with the person, take advantage of the one-click add via mobile and skip the intro.

If you’ve had a great phone, email, or in-person conversation, briefly reference it in your invite, but resist any urge to sell.

On Twitter, a simple retweet or like of any content your prospect has written goes a long way.

Authors often spend hours crafting posts, and they appreciate those who help them get the word out.

3. Experiment with adding rich media.

Many people forget that emails are rendered in HTML – just like a Web page. Yet the vast majority of emails are text based and start to all look the same.

Sure, text-only emails sometimes convert just fine, but it’s important to test adding rich media, which can help skyrocket engagement and meeting RSVP rates.

*actual response from a prospect.

4. Use a conversational tone.

In sales, you’re trying to start a conversation and establish a genuine connection rather than speak technically – so write like you talk. There’s a reason newspapers write at the level of 5th grade comprehension; it’s easy to understand. So, next time you draft an email, cut the jargon (especially when writing to someone outside of tech bubbles like New York and San Francisco).

5. Have one goal and CTA per email.

It’s easy to overcomplicate your email message. Your company may have multiple product lines or service offerings, and all are valuable – but those are better revealed during phone or in-person conversations.

Your email, instead, should be hyper-focused and have simple goals:

Subject line: The only goal here is to get someone to open the message.

Body copy: Keep it to one simple action. Do you want the prospect to reply, click on a resource link, or book a meeting?

Having multiple goals for your email can confuse the reader and dilute your message. Make sure to home in on one major point – one ask. Not only will it be easier to test, but you should see your goal conversion increase because the next step is clear.

6. Vary your send times.

Data can be a very powerful ally when used correctly. However, blanket benchmarks should sometimes be taken with a grain of salt. If everyone reads the same report that reveals the best times to send an email are in the early-morning hours on Tuesday and Thursday, guess what happens? Every rep starts scheduling their emails for that time – and it becomes a lot less effective.

There are amazing new technologies being developed that identify the best time to send emails based on peak activity from the individual prospect’s inbox. So, instead of adding a blanket time for everyone in your sales campaign/sequence, they will be sent based on the individual’s taste, which we’ve seen provide a huge lift in open rates.

Balance Technology with the Human Touch

To quote Daniel Pink,“To sell is human.” Remember to keep your buyer at the forefront and make sure each outreach is thoughtful, helpful, and aimed at building a relationship. Let technology take care of the heavy lifting of sending out hundreds of emails and tracking everything in your CRM, but the messaging should be authentically yours.

Join me at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Chicago on June 18 and 19 as I discuss these tips and reveal other in-depth insights on how to increase engagement with your prospects and customers.

Parth Thaker is director of sales at Mixmax with a proven track record of driving revenue growth and profitability at multinational companies like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Indeed. He possesses an obsessive focus on cultivating long-term client relationships and providing “in-the-trenches” mentorship. Specializing in working cross-functionally to motivate, collaborate, and bridge gaps between product development, operations, and marketing departments to impact overall year-over-year sales success.

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