When working to align sales and marketing teams, lead communication alignment is often forgotten. As consumers, we know that being over-emailed can reduce our willingness to buy, but how can we as businesses ensure we're not over-emailing our leads? How can we ensure we're not interrupting sales conversations with marketing emails?

By establishing an agreement between your marketing and sales teams around how you manage email communications, you can feel a little more comfortable clicking the "Send" button on any email you draft. But before we get started, we need to categorize the types of emails each department sends on a daily basis:

  1. [Marketing] Automated Emails: These automated emails are only triggered when a contact meets a set of parameters that you've put in place. In HubSpot, we use the workflows tool to set up the rules that define who is enrolled and the actions that are triggered once they're enrolled. Our primary goals with these emails are to nurture leads from one action to the next and to attempt to convince a lead to want to engage further.

    Example: You've created a workflow that sends out four emails over the course of a month after someone fills out a form to download a content offer.
  2. [Marketing] Mass Email Sends: These are the emails you draft and send once to a select segment of your contacts.

    Example: You're promoting an event or a new product and are sending out an individual scheduled email to a segment of your contacts database all at once.
  3. [Sales] One-to-One Emails: These emails are drafted by one sales rep and sent to one individual lead. The goal of any sales email is to build rapport with the lead and nurture that person to the point that he or she feels confident becoming a customer.

    Example: A sales rep sends an email to a lead that directly answers questions he or she might have.

    These conversations are intended to be highly personalized and strategic, but interruption from a marketing email could delay progress or prevent a sale.

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Above is a visual representation of how you can conceptualize the two timelines of emails that your leads might experience after becoming a contact in HubSpot. To determine when each of these three types of emails are sent, it is beneficial for both teams to agree upon one of the following three approaches to sending emails.

Option 1: Cease All Marketing Emails After the Handoff

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In most nurturing procedures, there's a point when a lead has shown enough engagement to be sent directly to a sales rep. With this option, all automated and mass marketing emails are stopped after a lead is handed off. This is the most strict of the three options, but it guarantees that no marketing emails will be sent while a sales rep is communicating with a lead. To uphold this procedure, you'll need complete two tasks:

  1. Create a universal suppression list. This list will be the mechanism you put in place to ensure all leads that are handed off to sales are excluded from marketing communications. It should be built to only include contacts that have been handed off to sales. This list typically includes the following parameters: 
    Screen Shot 2019-05-20 at 10.40.36 PM
    However, if you're not using the Lifecycle stage property, you'll need to add parameters to your list that would call upon the property you use to label whether or not a contact is being worked with by sales.

    With this list, you'll need to include it within every email workflow you build in HubSpot as a suppression list. This will ensure no contact receives an automated email after he or she has been handed off to your sales team. This list should also be included in every mass email send and in the Don’t send to section. 
    Screen_Shot_2019-05-20_at_11_05_55_PMAccess Your Lists in HubSpot
  2. Develop sales service-level agreements and playbooks. This system can only work if you can put full trust in your sales team’s nurturing abilities. Defining service-level agreements that specify the speed of follow-up and the amount of follow-up by sales reps can ensure your leads are receiving the communication required to give them confidence in making a purchasing decision.

    Enabling your sales team with the right tools is just as important. By providing content, blog posts, and documents for each of your sales reps to use, you are giving them the materials they need to add value to their conversations. With a well-stocked library of email templates and snippets, you can also rest assured that your sales team is able to write thorough emails without losing valuable time. Designing sequences can empower your sales team to manage lead follow-up efficiently without sacrificing the quality of their engagements and the time they spend with more active leads. And creating documentation around what is expected of your salespeople using playbooks can give them a more strategic guide for how to nurture leads. 

Option 2: Allow Only Mass Emails After Handoff

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This option allows you to gain value from your marketing team's and sales team’s efforts. Your sales team will be able to send one-to-one emails alongside the individual promotions your marketing team will be producing. For example, if your marketing team is hosting an event to engage with leads, those invites can still be sent to leads that are currently being worked with by sales. This system will require the following two tasks to be completed:

  1. Implement a sales notification system. Although leads still won't receive automated emails from a workflow after they've been handed off, there's still a chance that a mass marketing email send could impact the progress of a sensitive sale. For this reason, proper notice should be given to the sales team before each mass email send. This internal email to your sales team should include the content of the mass email, the send date and time, and potential answers to some expected questions. With this notice, the sales rep can be prepared to respond to questions about the email and has the opportunity to alert the marketing team of important leads to suppress.

    If a sales rep responds and expresses that there are a handful of individual leads who should not be receiving the upcoming email, the marketer can easily exclude those contacts in the Recipients section of any HubSpot mass email. Here's how:
  2. Create a universal suppression list. This list is built the same way we would in Option 1 (including all leads handed off to sales). However, in this method of sending, we're only using the list in the suppression section of workflows and not in any of our mass email sends. 

Option 3: Allow Marketing and Sales Emails After Handoff

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This last option is not the recommended method. This approach doesn't suppress any marketing emails after the leads are handed off to sales.

Because automated emails are often triggered by the date and time of a recipient's behavior, the send dates of the emails within the workflow are often unpredictable. If there's not a mechanism in place to suppress the leads who are working with sales (like in Option 1 and Option 2), it's highly likely that a contact could receive marketing and sales emails within the same day. 

If this is the system both teams have decided upon, it will be crucial for sales and marketing to be aligned in the messaging that's being delivered, the promotions that are included in the emails, and the overall voice and tone. The consistency, quality, and value of your email content will define the performance of the emails you send.

How Can I Help My Team Come to a Decision? 

This is a concept we talk about in great detail in our in-person Sales and Marketing Alignment course. These conversations can be quite divisive, as each team has its own levels of capacity and contribution that it's trying to manage.

What I've found is that regardless of which option you select, the overall outcome of putting a plan in place is that you'll be working toward creating an experience that is more likely to close customers. Centering your alignment meetings around shared goals (like customer acquisition) can ensure you'll have more productive conversations around the buying experience that you're designing for your leads. 

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Originally published May 28, 2019 9:00:00 AM, updated May 28 2019