In many companies, sales and marketing teams do not communicate well. If that’s the case in your company, it’s unfortunate, because marketing can learn a lot from sales.

So may we suggest you pull up a chair next to a salesperson, offer to buy lunch, and listen to what they have to say — much in the way they listen to customers all day. Because ultimately, a marketer’s customer is their sales team. And what you learn from sales can help you produce more effective marketing content and campaigns that drive awareness, demand, and engagement.

1. Learn more about your target audience
No one is closer to customers than salespeople. They are on the phone or in meetings or exchanging e-mails with customers every single day, whereas some marketers have never met a customer. Salespeople have insight into the minds of customers that many marketers can only dream of having.

Salespeople can help you better define your target audience for marketing campaigns. They deal not with a single customer type or persona, but in fact meet many variations of customers, particularly when engaged in a complex sales process for industrial products or services.

On the customer side of a complex sale there might be solution champions, influencers, recommenders, users, deciders, and purchasers. Each of these could be a different person, and the salesperson gets to know them all.

Salespeople can offer you insight into customers’ backgrounds, daily habits, challenges, problem-solving approaches, and information sources. They know how and when to approach customers. In addition, salespeople know the ‘language’ of their customers — the specific words they use to describe their challenges, goals, objections, and more.

If you, as marketer, had command of this information, you would be able to craft much more targeted messages and effective marketing campaigns.

2. Learn more about competitors
Salespeople often hear information from customers and prospects about your competitors. What’s good about them, what’s not so good. For example, you may learn about competitor strengths you must counter, as well as weaknesses you might be able to exploit. The kind of information you won’t glean from a competitor’s Web site, and the kind of information that can help you position your company better in the market.

3. Learn who to approach for testimonials and case studies
At some point, almost every potential customer asks who else is using your products or services. That’s when your sales team pulls out the case studies and testimonials. Salespeople are your best route to customers who might be willing to provide video testimonials or to serve as case study candidates. They know who is most satisfied, approachable, and willing to talk. And then you can turn around and give back to sales the types of content they want and need.

4. Learn what is important to your sales team
Salespeople have targets and are often measured by a few simple metrics: new contacts, pipeline, and sales. In the end, it all comes down to performance for salespeople and that’s what matters most to them. To grab the attention of your sales team, you need to understand what is important to them and show how you can help them achieve their objectives. This will make your communications with your salespeople more effective as they’ll see that you recognize their goals.

5. Learn to have a better relationship with sales
If you take the time to listen to your sales team, to learn what they know about customers and the market, to discover the messages that work well for them and the content they want as sales tools, then you as a marketer will be able to meet the needs of your customer — your sales team. You will work better together and go after the market as a team that is greater than the sum of its parts.

As an industrial marketer, what have you learned from your sales team that has made your communications to clients and prospects more effective? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
 

7 comments

  1. I don’t agree with learning about the customer via sales. In my experience it is the marketeer’s job to learn about the customer and translate their requirements into products and services. Too often, input from sales only addresses the latest enquiry or last order lost and does not reflect a pareto approach to customer satisfaction in exchange for a good profit margin.

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  2. The marketeer does need to hear from the customer, true. But all to often the sales team is left entirely out of the process. A salesperson once said: “It’s my job to sell a product at what the market will bear. It’s the manufacturers job to deliver it at a profit.” The customer will vocalize an opinion/thought but it also passes through his own personal filters. Both inputs are needed. And so are the thoughts of the developer/engineer of the products.

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  3. I couldn’t agree more with the author. Over the years, I have been most effective – and made my clients more money – by getting to know the sales force. Not only do they tell me what is really happening out in the field, but they tell me things that they won’t say to those working directly for the company. In that my job is to help get them leads, the relationship works both ways.

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  4. I very much agree and have found that a strong relationship with the sales team in a business does help enhance the marketing effort. Equally, listening to the guys who work on the shop floor, who actually make the products, is just as beneficial. Everyone has a view and having a silo mentality means that you can overlook valuable insights into product features and benefits, that could well give you that extra edge in your campaigns.

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  5. I agree with the author, but also think that project managers or someone who works with the customer on a regular basis knows a lot. As a marketer and a sales person I, realized that people in general don’t know the value of information. What seems standard is a gold nugget for someone else.

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