Sales Development Suppression Problems

Once your sales development program starts to gain traction, you’ll eventually find yourself with a number of data problems — one of which is suppression.  When you’re dealing with hundreds (or thousands) of net new prospects each month, how do you ensure that your team doesn’t accidentally email a current customer or existing opportunity?

Turns out, there are a few ways to address the problem.  But first, you need to recognize that you have a problem worth solving.

Why Suppression Matters

Email suppression matters for sales development mostly because you don’t want to look like an idiot.  And this is coming from someone that has made just about every email marketing mistake in the book.

If you’re running sales development like a pro, some aspects of your outreach process will be automated.  And you best be sure that your robots are operating with good data, otherwise an existing customer or hot prospect is going to get a rogue “can we have a chat?” email and you’re going to get egg on your face.

The Addresses That Should Be In Your Suppression File

Your sales development email suppression file should include the following:

  • Your existing customers
  • Your former customers
  • Active Opportunities
  • Closed Opportunities less than 3 months old
  • Assigned leads less than 6 months old
  • Your competitors — we had a goof here with a client recently.  Ugh.
  • Your personal contacts

Note that this is for your cold sales outreach — you’ll obviously want to dig into former customers and old leads for your dumpster diving efforts, your process will just be completely different.  In short, you want to safeguard against an instance in which someone that you should know receives a cold intro email.

Suppress By Email Domain or Email Address?

For many organizations, suppressing by email address is probably OK.  If you’re selling to small businesses, you’ll probably have one user per account and that use might be the buyer, the user, and the decisionmaker all wrapped up in one.  So as long as you’ve suppressed, you’re unlikely to run into any other users.  You could also just scrub out all domains just to be safe, it is just MUCH easier to suppress by email address.

The issue becomes more problematic with companies that have a more complex sales cycle.  For example, your enterprise  sales process might require that you sell into multiple departments at multiple levels to get the deal done.

So suppressing enterprise sales development program by user email addresses probably isn’t your answer — just because you’ve suppressed, you still might accidentally ping her manager or her direct report   Or you might actually want to have conversations with Jill and Bill.  So suppressing all addresses doesn’t really solve the problem either.

See?  It is a bit of a problem.  Here is how we’re solving it.

First, You Must Decide

First, decide if you need to suppress by domain or email address:

If you’re selling to SMB with a self-serve or short/simple sales cycle, email address is probably fine.

If you’re selling to enterprise or selling multi-seat licenses, you probably want to suppress by email address and flag by domain — eg just because you have one client at P&G, you probably don’t want to suppress all email addresses.

Option 1 — Easy Sales Development Suppression

In most instances, a simple spreadsheet will suffice.  Include all domains and/or email addresses that you want to suppress in a single column, write a COUNTIF() function to lookup prospect addresses/domains against the suppression list, sort anything that comes back greater than 0, and you’re done.

It isn’t automated, it isn’t dynamic, but it gets the job done.

Option 2 — Better Sales Development Suppression

Most marketing automation tools support email address suppression — meaning you can dump everyone that you want to suppress into a single list and then have all segments exclude this segment from any email sends.  If you’re using an email app that syncs with your CRM, you should also be able to dynamically poll for email addresses associated with Closed Won or Open opportunities.

The problem is that domain suppression is often a preferred (or at least complementary) approach and I’ve yet to see marketing automation tool that supports email domain flagging or suppression.

Option 3 — Best Sales Development Suppression

We actually combine Option 1 and Option 2 to create Option 3.  We first scrub by domain in a Google Sheet, upload the file, and then use the suppression tools in our email app to do the rest.  Hacky but effective.

I’m pretty sure that you could build logic in Salesforce that looks at a flat file to flag any suppressed domains for review, sends automated email to manager for review before it goes into the sales queue.  We haven’t gotten there just yet but I think that this will ultimately solve our problem internally.

More broadly, suppression works best when you have dynamic customer data…which is admittedly challenging for small organizations.  However, if you can integrate your app (or you payments app) with your CRM or email tool, you should able to easily maintain a suppression file of all current and former paying customers.  Otherwise, you’ll need to refresh it on a semi-regular basis.

By the way — you should have this anyway for reasons more important than sales development email suppression.  It is awfully convenient to be able to pull a list of your customers for a one-off update email or some other type of marketing action or analysis.  I’ve learned to not be surprised anymore when one of our clients can’t easily provide us with a list of active customers.

So there you go — that’s almost 1000 words on email suppression for sales development teams.  It is a tiny detail but obviously one that we think is important.