From The Editor | September 30, 2020

From The Editor: What A Marketer Learned From Sales Meetings

Abby Sorensen July 2017 Headshot

By Abby Sorensen, Chief Editor

Aerial View of Business Meeting


In "Marketers Are From Mars, Sales Reps Are From Venus,” I outline some amusing stereotypes about the people who make up both sides of the B2B commercial coin.

I consider myself a “marketer” (albeit in air quotes because I’m really more of a writer, but that’s not the point). And as a “marketer,” I am fortunate to have a good relationship with our sales team.

Those stereotypes I wrote about – sales reps are overconfident, territorial, lazy, etc. – aren’t the case for my sales team. My sales colleagues are hard-working, personable, collaborative, and know their markets inside and out. One of our sales leaders is a fellow St. Louis Cardinals fan, several of them frequently ask about my dog Rosalita, and one always offers to bring me back a Diet Coke from his daily lunch run (and for that, Casey, I am truly grateful, especially for the caffeine delivery last Thursday).

Personal affinity aside, how I really got to know our sales team was pretty simple: I started going to their meetings.

I was an invited, willing, and welcome participant at these meetings. I realize that might not apply to all marketers wanting to crash the next sales party. But I’ve learned so much in the past eight months during roughly 125-ish hours in sales meetings (give or take a few hours). I’m not saying you need to commit three or four hours per week to extra meetings. But I am saying almost any marketer would benefit from regularly attending sales meetings.

Do Marketers Really Need Sales Meeting?

You might be thinking, “I don’t have time for another meeting.” None of us do, so you’ll need to get over that. Bring your laptop – you can multitask.

Or you might be thinking, “I have nothing of value to add to a sales meeting.” That might be true, but only for now. The point isn’t to participate. It’s to listen and learn.

And you might be thinking, “Those sales meetings have nothing to do with my job.” That’s where you’d be wrong. Please, please keep reading.

As an editor who writes about marketing best practices, I’m well aware of the dysfunction that often exists between sales and marketing teams. I know of marketers who have no communication whatsoever with their sales team. I know of sales teams who realized (after budgets are allocated) that marketing targeted the wrong types of prospects. But I didn’t start going to sales meetings assuming I had it all figured out. We needed to get better alignment, and that’s exactly what these meetings started to do.

125 Hours Of Meetings Later …

Our marketing efforts are now perfectly, magically aligned with what our sales team needs! I’m kidding, of course. There’s no such thing. But we are much more closely aligned.

For example, I’ve learned:

  • The “what should we write about” question has a lot of great answers from the sales team. I’ve published close to 50 articles on marketing best practices, and many of the topics have come from members of our sales team. Yes, your customers are a great source of inspiration for new content ideas. But remember your sales team spends all day getting to know those customers, so don’t discount their opinions.
  • Sales reps are marketers, even if they don’t get credit for it. Every time they contact a new prospect, prepare for a call, or send a follow-up email, they are “doing marketing.” And they’re “doing marketing” on top of the million other things they are responsible for. Marketers need to help shoulder some of that burden. Even simple tasks like pitching in to write an email draft or preparing summaries to make sharing content on social channels easier can go a long way.
  • It’s never safe to assume, but it’s always OK to ask for clarification. Apply this to every single interaction you have with sales, and you’ll be better aligned. For example, my sales team has a new business target in 2020, just like every other sales team in the world. I had assumed “new” means “a customer who hasn’t previously worked with us.” Actually, new means “hasn’t worked with us in the last 12 months.” That changed how I built my target list for new business marketing efforts.
  • Alignment takes time. Sitting in one meeting and then sending one email won’t change habits. For example, getting sales to share content isn’t a one-time project. Initially, sure you’ll have to share details and instructions and the reason behind it. But it’ll take a regular drumbeat of reminders to get your sales team to the point where it becomes second nature. You’ll need to show them wins and evidence that it’s working.
  • Just because content/collateral exists doesn’t mean it’s being used. It’s marketing’s responsibility to make sure the sales team knows where the material is stored, how to use it, and when to use it. Sending a spreadsheet, or a link to a shared folder, or setting up a content management platform doesn’t help your sales team, it just gives them one more thing to do. If a system works perfectly for marketing, don’t assume it’ll work perfectly for sales. Your sales team is already busy logging data in Salesforce, sending out contracts, coordinating invoices, and so much more – they don’t need another system to slow them down.

There's no software suite, no system, no process, and certainly no number of meetings that will give your sales and marketing team 100 percent perfect alignment. But with time, the more the sales team sees you, the more they'll start to "get" marketing. And the more time marketers spend with sales, the more they’ll start to “get” how their frontline colleagues help prospects navigate the buyer’s journey. If you’re a marketer who hasn’t attended a sales meeting lately, then it might be time to cozy up to a conference room table and see what you can learn.