Even though marketing and salespeople should work towards a common goal, more often than not, both parties disregard their colleagues and forfeit the opportunity to learn from each other.
For those of us who are trying to keep an open mind, I give you 4 lessons that B2B marketers can learn from salespeople. Because we are not so different after all.
* Bear in mind that these are only my subjective impressions, so use them with a healthy dose of critical thinking.
1. Channel the spirit of Sun Tzu - Be crafty
Many salespeople consider themselves Spartan warriors, ninjas, or disciples of the art of war. Though we can go without the bravado, there are many lessons to learn from this warrior mindset and the employment of maneuvering tactics.
A headfirst attack rarely yields success. That is why salespeople tend to be cunning and reach their high priority prospects in indirect ways. Like getting to a C-level executive through an old coworker or through one of his social clubs.
As a marketer, you too should consider the potential utility of finding a creative path to reach your target audience. “Classical” paid digital marketing (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) make up a significant portion of contemporary marketing activities.
They have many obvious strengths, but they are also crowded and therefore pricy and not always effective for B2B marketing objectives. Alternatively, there are many "growth hacks" to game the system or to circumvent it all together, but they can only be deployed successfully and continuously by a marketer that embraces the warrior tactician frame of mind.
2. Realize that It's not about you - Be client-centric
It's a lesson that every salesperson learns early on and learns it in the most brutal way possible: There is only one topic that interests the client - Himself. You can talk about your product solely in the context of its usefulness to the client and every digression is rewarded with a painful rejection.
It’s far from a deep insight, but it is easy to forget when you are constantly immersed with all the awesome features of your product and you infrequently experience direct and harsh feedback.
So, with every crafted message, please keep in mind that nobody is interested in you or in your product. Fortunately, they are interested in themselves, and therefore hopefully, intrigued by the solution you can provide them.
3. Keep on keeping on - Be persistent
Salespeople are taught that to make a sale they need to make an average of 5 follow-up calls, and top performers are distinguished by their perseverance. It doesn't mean that as a marketer, you need to senselessly plow ahead to get results, but this is a testament to the great importance of a multi-touch approach and retargeting campaigns.
In addition, salespeople frequently follow up with prospects that declined their offers in the past, and depending on your particular situation, maybe you too could benefit from structuring campaigns aimed specifically at reigniting cold leads or even lost deals.
4. Keep in mind the bottom line - Be comprehensively committed
Another lesson most salespeople learn the hard way is that you haven’t made the sale until you receive the money, because so many things can go wrong even after you finish the job.
This lesson is doubly as important for marketers. You have built an awesome funnel with great touchpoints and beautiful messaging. You measure it with several KPIs and reach an impressive number of “marketing qualified leads”, but how does that affect the bottom line?
For many, this is a sore subject and a trigger for mutual finger-pointing with the sales department. Even if your leads are objectively qualified and even if the salespeople are honestly doing their job, a lot can go wrong. It is surprising how much sales and marketing alignment is hard to get right.
Therefore, managing the marketing and sales divisions as one business unit is gaining popularity. Even if your organization is not managed this way, it really won't hurt to reach out and cross the divide all by yourself.
I hope all of these lessons seem obvious to you, but as is usually the case, even a reminder of things we already knew can change our behavior for the better.