Google+ The Marketing Survivalist: Can a Salesperson Be a Good Marketer?

Can a Salesperson Be a Good Marketer?

Yes! Unlike some of my fellow marketing professionals, I think a background in sales is a stellar base on which to build a marketing career. Maybe it's because that's how I got to where I am, but I've also seen it work for others. With the proper guidance, a salesperson can make a great marketer.

If you have a marketing post to fill and are thinking of moving one of your salespeople into the role, here are some suggestions for the types of roles that fit well and what you can do to help prepare them.

Demand Creation – This may be the best fit for a salesperson since this role is so close to the world they are familiar with. Salespeople have a natural sense of urgency that is unfortunately often lacking in marketing professionals. They understand the connection between marketing and sales and how marketing drives sales performance. They are comfortable being judged by the numbers so they more readily accept performance plans based on results. Finally, their natural competitiveness may make them eager to show other marketers how it’s supposed to be done.

If the salesperson needs to work in a group, you may need to provide careful coaching so that the sense of urgency, competitiveness and other “sales traits” don’t drive the rest of the marketing team batty. There are usually a few “coachable moments” as salespeople accustom themselves to the world of marketing. Stay close and be available as a sounding board.

I would also invest in a Marketingprofs or Marketing Sherpa subscription so that the salesperson has ready access to the latest marketing ideas. Watching the webinars as a team can promote camaraderie between the new marketer and the rest of the team. It also ensures that it gets done.

Product Marketing – Also an excellent role since the salesperson readily understands how the collateral and messages get used in the field. They probably have a good understanding of what materials still need to be created. And, if they’ve gone through a decent sales training program, they should have a decent grasp of selling benefits and not features.

This was the role I first moved into when I left sales. I had a marketing degree but no practical marketing experience. The biggest challenge I had was getting a true grasp of the responsibilities of a competent professional product marketer. There was a lot more to the job than just creating whatever brochure sales wanted.

To help prepare a salesperson for a role in product marketing, I highly recommend sending them to a Pragmatic Marketing course.

Product Management – I moved fairly rapidly from Product Marketing to Product Management. The line between the roles varies from company to company but Product Managers usually drive the future direction of the product and may be responsible for the P&L for the product line. In my case, I also managed the Product Marketers so having filled that role helped prep me for Product Management.

The challenge for salespeople moving into a Product Management role where they are going to drive the future direction of the product is learning to balance the different drivers on product direction.

To a salesperson in the field, the most important driver is adding the features that can help them close the latest sale. Product Managers have to balance the requirements based on which features are required by the highest number of future customers in the agreed upon target market. Then they need to balance that against features that are required for current customer satisfaction. Sometimes this means they will need to disappoint their former teammates in sales.

Once again, the courses from Pragmatic Marketing can be extremely beneficial for new Product Managers.

There are, of course, other roles in marketing like website development, public relations, analyst relations and branding. These roles are further removed from sales and not usually attractive to someone who was originally drawn to the world of sales. For example, I can’t imagine any salesperson actually wanting to be part of a branding project. These folks are a breed unto themselves.

All the best!

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  1. Anonymous06:01

    I agree that a salesman could make a good marketer. I would be leary of putting one in a Demand Creation or Lead Generation position though. That generally requires a different mindset than the average hunter. It is more like a patient tending of crops. Grooming and cultivating until harvest time. Great backgrounds for this position are Hospitality and Customer service.

    But adding a salesman to the marketing team can create a philisophical alignment of both worlds. It would be far easier for marketing to treat sales as a customer, when having a former customer on the team.

    Great Post Melissa.

    Mark Smith

  2. Mark, you make a great comment and point out something that a lot of people seem to forget. You've got to teach salespeople how to "nurture" leads if you expect them to be responsible for demand creation.

    On the other hand, salespeople should be taught the discipline of nurturing leads even if they remain in a sales role. That way, they understand what marketing is doing and they don't insist on keeping leads that should be nurtured.



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