For Instil, Automation Casts a Wider Net — But Personalization Reels In the Stronger Catch

With a flood of incoming sales emails going straight to the trash, salespeople are relying on a personal touch to achieve bigger wins.

Written by Tyler Holmes
Published on Feb. 07, 2022
For Instil, Automation Casts a Wider Net — But Personalization Reels In the Stronger Catch
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Catching the attention of a new sales prospect is no easy task, and maintaining that attention is even more difficult. A poorly timed phone call with no researched plan? Click. An impersonal email copy-and-pasted straight from a template? Delete.

But rethinking impersonal methods on how to get in front of a potential new client can be a game changer to a salesperson’s success rate.

Just ask Brittany Wardlow. She’s the head of business development at Instil and has played a key role in restructuring the nonprofit platform’s more traditional approach to the sales process. The goal? To build meaningful, long-term connections by amplifying a nuanced personal touch with strategic automation resources. The challenge? Deepening customer relationships while driving product adoption across the market without heading straight to the trash folder.

“With so much impertinent noise in a prospect’s inbox, generic messaging — no matter how well-written — is just asking to be buried and ignored,” Wardlow explained. “Specificity, personalization and differentiation are critical.”

After all, a key component of the sales experience is truly connecting with a client to solve their biggest issues. And while an algorithm or auto-generated emails might help cast a wide net, it’s not going to reel many opportunities back that last. That’s why Built In Los Angeles caught up with Wardlow to discuss how her team is embracing personalization in a newly automated world, and the skills every good salesperson should always have in their arsenal.


Brittany Wardlow
Head of Business Development • Instil


What have your most successful prospecting strategies been over the last few months?

The product we sell is built to help nonprofits form meaningful personal connections with their supporters. It would only make sense that we take the same approach when it comes to our sales strategy. Building from the ground up in the nonprofit space, we quickly learned that our target prospects couldn’t easily be found through traditional prospecting tools. In turn, we went with a platform that is specialized to our market since our buyer is so specific. Having the ability to filter a targeted list of organizations with accurate contact information more than justified the investment.

Being a lean sales team has some major perks, a big one being that we aren’t restricted by territories. Traditionally, sellers are confined to an account list and those accounts remain relatively static. At Instil, we can cast a wide net, then refine our targets on a second iteration.

Creating space for feedback from the team is invaluable. Some of our most fruitful account lists have been built after team meetings where we discuss what’s resonating with the market. Our sales development reps deserve a shoutout!

The magic in prospecting happens when you have a mix of the right target list, a balance of personal and automated outreach, a CRM that can provide insights to refine the process, and the right team infusing their unique personalities to our sales outreach.


How much of a role should email automation play in a sales rep’s prospecting process, and what are the potential side effects of an overreliance on automated email?

With so many email automation tools available to sellers, it’s clear there’s an inherent value. But in a remote environment, I believe there is an overreliance on automation. It’s easy to argue, “No one is answering their phones, so let’s throw this prospect in an automated sequence and see who bites.” Prospects know what’s happening. Their inboxes are full of easily dismissed, generic emails.

We use customizable templates on our first touch as a way of streamlining our outreach, and from there we automate the follow-up. We budget a couple of minutes per email for personalization, a gesture to our prospects that we’ve done some homework and won’t waste their time. Our goal is to build meaningful, long-term relationships, so it is important to invest that time to show your prospect you understand their needs.

We track results judiciously, refining and pivoting as we go. Leveraging our CRM as much as we can for easily automated tasks and A/B testing is a top priority. Don’t get me wrong — automation has its place. I love a good sequence and I’m always leveraging automated reminders in our CRM, but balance is key. Where I’ve experienced email automation falling flat is when it’s used as the primary tool of choice, and without nuance or strategy. On the other hand, I’ve found success when leveraging automation deliberately with follow up and nurture steps.


Wardlow’s Sales Pitch Tips

  1. Bring your whole self to work
  2. Personalize your outreach
  3. Utilize a combination of all your resources — not just one
  4. Don’t be afraid to cold call (with a loose script)


As automated email campaigns lose their potency, what skills should successful reps brush up on to continue to thrive?

As sellers, we are here to build trust with our prospects, deepen relationships over time and drive product adoption in the market. Success in sales comes from bringing your whole self to work. Having a personal touch in your outreach will get you noticed by prospects.

What’s more, an outreach strategy that balances calls, emails, social media, CRM reports and marketing alignment will deliver results more comprehensively than relying on any one component too heavily.

Finally, I dig into cold calling because it’s how our team books most of our meetings — yes, even through the pandemic with remote prospects. If you’ve primarily relied on email outreach in the past, it might feel daunting to pick up the phone. Cold calling requires preparation.

Build a playbook with call scripts, answers to common objections, customer stories and product knowledge. Script templates should serve as a framework and a way to learn: Tweak it to make it your own. If a seller understands the market, the value proposition of the solution, the personas they are calling and is equipped with ways to pivot the conversation to something meaningful, they will find success. It’s a practiced skill built over time.



Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Photography provided by associated companies and Shutterstock.

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