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3 Things Marketing Can Learn from Sales: A Marketing VP’s Week as an ADR

Jul 05th, 2017


It’s no secret that the relationship between marketing and sales isn’t always perfect. Alignment between the two departments can be a challenge, yet the success of both teams is so deeply intertwined with the other. How many times have you heard some variation of this conversation?

 “Why aren’t you getting more from the leads we’re providing?”

 “Well, the leads you’re providing aren’t qualified!”

To help foster a better relationship between sales and marketing, I decided to spend a week in a salesperson’s shoes — an account development rep (ADR) to be exact. Account development (also referred to as business development or sales development, depending on your company’s vernacular) is one of the toughest roles in an organization. I knew that gaining a deeper understanding of the challenges they face would help me refine my team’s work by focusing on programs that are more suitable for down-funnel processes.  

As I expected when I started, this was not an easy week. Working the phones, spending hours every day in our CRM system, and learning a new process on the fly was a challenge. In the end, I learned more than I could have imagined about our sales and marketing processes, including areas where we had opportunities for improvement, all while gaining empathy for the ADRs my team supports.

Putting the ‘person’ in ‘persona’ 

Going into this exercise, one of my main goals was to come away with a better understanding of the customers and prospects our ADR team speaks with every day. As marketers, we do hours of research to develop target personas so our messaging aligns with their challenges. But these idealized versions of end users and buyers don’t always represent the real people on the other end of the phone.

As a marketer, it’s convenient to focus on metrics rather than people. However, behind every qualified lead is a person with unique challenges. It’s easy to lose sight of this when developing content, messaging, and programs. This work isn’t for us, it’s for the end user. They want to know how we can help them achieve their business goals. Not how they can help me achieve my lead goals. As marketers, we are often so far removed from the customer that we sometimes forget that.

Lesson Learned: Persona-based content is a great starting point, but you must take a more personal approach as you transition from marketing awareness to lead qualification. Don’t expect an ADR to deliver a persona-based message when the end user doesn’t fit the ideal persona. Flexibility is key— but it comes with time, enablement, and a willingness to pivot as the conversation evolves.

Don’t leave buyers out in the cold (calls)

“Hi, my name is Mark and I’m calling from Brainshark. How are you today?” Click. This was one of many disheartening responses I received over the course of that week. It’s hard to be interesting in 5 seconds.

I’ve sat through various sales training sessions over the years and before calling I researched the best approaches to maximize phone and email connects. Should I start with the problem? Or mention that they attended a webinar? Or simply introduce myself and ask for just a few minutes of their time? 

We often expect that if an end user engaged with us, they will be dying to talk to us. The reality is that they are busy and don’t always believe that our solution magically meets their needs. Very few of our prospects pick up the phone, and when they do it’s an interruption of their day.

Lesson Learned: ADRs have a difficult job to do. It’s hard to continuously make calls when the vast majority of the time no one picks up the phone. Then when they finally get a connection, they are interrupting someone, so they have an even tougher challenge to get the conversation started. We need to have empathy for their challenges and listen when they tell us what’s working (and what’s not).

Always challenge the status quo

This was easily one of the most actionable pieces of insight I came away with. I realized that our current Salesforce process wasn’t as ADR-friendly as it could be. It was cumbersome to use the research tools, update fields across leads, contacts, and account records, and to find campaign materials. Prepping for calls took more time than I expected, and I found myself taking notes with a pen and paper next to my laptop.

Technology should be an enabler, not a limiter. As I went through my leads, I noted areas that could be improved and summarized my findings for our executives. This feedback led to immediate changes to Salesforce  and fast-tracked the purchase of an ADR productivity tool.

Lesson Learned: Systems get stale over time and it’s important to view established processes and technology with fresh eyes. Cross-functional review can provide new ideas and I’m already thinking of ways to have others spend a day in a marketer’s shoes to help us innovate.

Overall Takeaways

Overall, the best lesson I learned from this experience was to have a greater sense of empathy for our sales peers. The more sales and marketing can learn from each other and understand problems from each other’s point of view, the more effective we will be as a team.

So marketers, here’s my call to action for you – whether you choose to put on the sales hat and ‘smile and dial’ is up to you. But take a step back and consider what it’s like to walk around in your sales reps’ shoes. I promise you, you’ll be a better marketer for it.

For more tips on improving sales content, check out 5 Ways Marketers Can Solve the Sales Content Problem.