The False Promise of Sales Automation and the Misconception of Personalization

The sales automation space has taken off like a rocket in the last 2 years. Sales reps now have the ability to reach more leads with more message more frequently, becoming more productive than ever.

Technology has enabled them to crawl and scrape the web for relevant information on prospects, dial their numbers, launch sales campaigns and set up meetings in their calendars all with the click of a button. What used to take days now only takes minutes.

But have we gone too far?

Have we become too reliant on automation?

The False Promise of Sales Automation

Before the PersistIQs, Datanyzes and InsideSales.coms of the world, every sales letter, email and pitch was personalized because the rep had to write out each individual communication by hand or talk to one individual at a time. But modern selling has changed everything. It replaced the need for human work, and, consequently, the human element was lost in the process.

We’ve been given the promise of effectiveness and efficiency, but is that really what we’re getting?
If you’re in the B2B space selling to tech savvy individuals, recipients can spot automation a mile away.

Here’s an example:

giveaways of automation in cold sales emails

The dead giveaways that you’re using automation are:

  • The email was sent from [email protected] via another server
  • The email contained missing variables
  • The presence of HTML format
  • The address and opt out link.

This example is one of the worst cold emails I’ve seen. The reality is that any of these single mistakes alone is enough to relegate you to the trash bin without a second thought.

Even if you’re using the best outbound sales technology available in the modern sales stack, technology that removes these giveaways, your automated email can still be easily spotted. Companies like PersistIQ are only part of the equation, providing you with email infrastructure that eliminates the outward signs of automation. Sure, it may be fully customized with {{first_name}} and {{company}} appropriately filled in. However, there’s one problem that remains:

It’s not truly personalized.


Customization is NOT Personalization

The technology itself doesn’t make it a good cold email. The technology gets you halfway there by stripping away the outward signs of automation and giving you the ability to customize emails in bulk before sending. As I mentioned, it’s only half of the equation. The other half is adding the human element, which cannot be automated by computers. It can only be done by you. Technology does not allow you to truly personalize.

Here’s an example:

customized cold email

This email doesn’t violate any of the egregious errors from the first example, but you can still tell it’s an automated email, right?


The giveaway is in the content of message itself. It looks like a one-to-one conversation but it doesn’t feel like one. There’s nothing in that email that actually connects me with the sender. It’s a straight appeal to logic, but doesn’t leverage any other psychological triggers to build trust and rapport or indicate that this rep actually took some time and care to take a deeper look into PersistIQ or me personally.

Here’s the test. Can you simply swap out the basic variables, such as “Brandon” and “PersistIQ” with any other name and company, and still send the email? If the answer is yes, then it’s my contention that this is still a bad cold email. It’s customized, but it’s not truly personalized.

We all know how to use variables, but only a few of us know how to customize variables in a highly personalized way.

Here’s what I mean.

By definition, to “customize” means “to modify something to suit a particular task”(New Oxford American Dictionary, 2016). That’s what we’re doing when we use these standard variables.

By definition, to “personalize” means “to cause something to be concerned with personalities or feelings rather than with general abstract means” (New Oxford American Dictionary, 2016). This is the hard part, but when you get this right, you’ll start to enjoy more opens, replies and meetings!

Here’s an example of a customized and highly personalized email:

personalized cold email

Let’s break down what makes this email an effective and highly personalized cold email.

First is the subject line. NYC, Denver and San Mateo are the 3 places that I’ve lived in the last 5 years, but I know the sales rep didn’t find that information from the standard LinkedIn research. For the short period I lived in Denver I was telecommuting, and therefore my work history doesn’t reflect residency in Denver. This rep did his research.

Second, the opening paragraph shows even more research. I’m left wondering “how did he know we recently hired more support and sales reps?” Next, he mentions my most recent blog post, connects the dots, then makes an accurate assumption that appeals to the ego. “Why yes Mr. Sales Rep, we are geared up for success.”

In the second paragraph, he references a quote from a happy customer, which goes to show even more research beyond a quick glance at our website.

Moving to the bulleted list, he brings up a previous company one of our founders worked at, something I didn’t even know until 4 months on the job. In the last bullet, he even mentions the direct impact of his solution on a specific PersistIQ sales team member.

Then, to top it all off, he mentions our podcast initiative, something we haven’t even begun publicly promoting yet. The only public reference to our podcast was from a guest we interviewed who tweeted his excitement for the launch.

Well done.

This passes the test. If you simply swap out the basic variables, the email will not apply to another person at a different company. It would make absolutely no sense.

For this to apply to another company, you would have to swap out entire sentences at a time. You would have to spend more than 5 minutes minutes browsing social profiles of the prospect and other members of the company. You would then have to make some smart assumptions, connect the dots and show genuine interest. All of which cannot be automated.


How to Scale Personalization AND Customization in Sales

Taking the extra time to personalize comes at the cost of other opportunities. Whether you’re buying lists, scraping data, outsourcing your lead generation, you’re paying with either money or time.

You’re probably looking at that cold email example thinking “There’s no way that I can do that much research and spend that much time on every lead I’m prospecting using my current system.” I’d say you’re probably right. I’d also say you probably need a better system.

Writing a cold email with that much personalization takes time, but it pay off handsomely in results. You can expect to replies to increase 500% or more.

So rather than asking yourself “Should I be sending highly personalized emails?” to “How can I set up a system to send highly personalized emails without spending too much extra time?”

That’s what we’re going to cover on the blog next week. We’re going to dive into a step-by-step process for personalizing emails. We’re going to tell you some of our favorite and most effective tools. And we’ll finish up with some personalization hacks that will give the perception of personalization without having to do any extra research or add any extra variables. Stay tuned!

UPDATE: Part 2 is live: A 5-Step Formula for Sending Highly Personalized Sales Emails at Scale

Stay tuned for more of the latest in outbound sales best practices and methods.

This post was brought to you by PersistIQ.  Our software empowers salespeople to easily convert prospects into a qualified pipeline and create personalized outbound campaigns at scale.  See how PersistIQ can help you make your own sales efforts more effective today.

Try PersistIQ Today!

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