6 Critical Lessons You Need to Learn From Your Sales Team

Lindsay Kolowich Cox
Lindsay Kolowich Cox

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shared-loveAligning your sales and marketing teams means more than just signing a service level agreement (SLA). While SLAs are a great way to get both teams to collaborate on paper, alignment in practice happens when marketers and sales reps proactively seek to understand each other’s goals, activities, metrics, and obstacles.

It can be easy to get wrapped up in your own world and your own team, but Sales and Marketing have a lot to teach each other that will make everyone better at their jobs. If you want to get better at yours, here are the six things you should know about your company's sales process.

What You Should Know About Your Company’s Sales Process

1) What Constitutes an MQL At Your Company

Think of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) as the diamonds in the rough. They're the leads that are most likely to turn into customers, a judgment based on their activity before converting. Distinguishing between MQLs and other leads helps your sales reps prioritize "better" leads and, ultimately, win more deals.

Every company has a different set of requirements for what constitutes an MQL, and everyone on your marketing team should know what those requirements are. It will help you gear your content, forms, and landing pages toward attracting and more easily identifying MQLs so you can get more of them into the sales funnel. Plus, marketing team goals are often based on the number of MQLs generated each month, so your success might depend on it!

2) How the Sales Team Works Leads

Potential for tension between your sales and marketing teams often comes from miscommunications about lead handoff. How does the sales team get notified of a new lead? How long does it take them to start working that lead, and why? What causes sales reps to disqualify a lead?

Eliminate the mystery by learning the process sales reps at your company go through from the moment a lead enters their lead queue until they either disqualify it or it becomes an open opportunity. 

3) How Marketing Activities Support Each Stage in the Buying Process

The reason you do anything in marketing -- write blog posts, send emails, tweet cool insights, host events -- is to guide prospects through different stages in the buying process. (And to continue educating and delighting them once they become a paying customer, of course!) Each marketing activity should clearly support and have specific goals related to a certain stage in the buying process.

For example, even though your blogging efforts are mostly top-of-the-funnel (TOFU), they can also help your sales team close deals, if positioned properly. By writing posts that answer common prospect questions and objections, you could help support your TOFU goals, while also helping someone become a more qualified opportunity or maybe even become a customer. Knowing the effect of your activities is incredibly important for you -- it helps you better prioritize what to do when you have a million things on your plate.

4) What Common Customer Objections Are

Customer objections refer to the pushback sales reps get from prospects, like "I'm not ready to buy," or "I don't think your product will solve my problems." They aren't rejections, they're just requests for more information -- which makes them a gold mine for marketing content. One of your main goals as a marketer is to create targeted content that answers your potential customer’s questions and needs. What better place to find out what those questions and needs are than to see what prospects are saying to your sales team?

Many sales teams keep a document of common customer objections, used to train new hires on how to respond to the most frequent questions and concerns prospects have. Ask your sales team if they have a list of common customer objections. Take a look and think about what marketing content you could create to preemptively answer these questions.

For example, let’s say your company sells lawn care products, and one common customer objection your sales reps hear is that your products are too expensive. What educational content can your marketing team create to help your sales team respond in a way that positions your company positively? Take advantage of this feedback. Perhaps you could write blog post about the return of investing in lawn care early, or an ebook called “Lawn Care on a Budget," or a downloadable “Lawn Care Starter’s Kit” checklist for people just starting to care for their lawns who are unsure where to spend their money.

Make your sales team look good by creating educational content they can show their prospects in the face of these objections.

5) What Sales Knows About the Competition

Sales reps get this question all the time: "Why should I buy from you rather than (name of competition)?" And trained reps know exactly how to answer. They know the competition's strengths and weaknesses compared with their own company's strengths and weaknesses, and they're prepared to have informed conversations with prospects on why their own company is better. They also have a good understanding of the competition's products, pricing models, target audience, mission statements, and marketing strategy.

Although marketers don't get asked every day why their company is better than the competition, you should know just as much about the competition as the sales team does. It's important to gain an understanding of your competitors and lightly monitor their online activity so you can avoid missed opportunities and figure out where your own marketing team is underperforming. The sales team might have the main points written down somewhere, so start by asking them to share those materials or meet with you to explain their competitive talking points.

(HubSpot customers: You can also monitor competitor activity in your own portal by clicking on "Reports" at the top of the page, then "Competitors." Also, if you need help navigating the report, check out this guide.)

6) How Reps Use Marketing Content During Sales Meetings

Your marketing team might produce great content, but is it the right content that will help your sales team educate prospects on topics that will lead to won deals at the end of the day? To ensure the content you produce is helpful for sales efforts, you should have a solid understanding of how sales reps at your company use marketing content during their calls and meetings with prospects.

Which blog posts do the sales reps have bookmarked to answer prospects' frequently asked questions? Which e-books do they refer to most often?

You'll also want to find out which of your downloadable marketing offers have been yielding the best sales conversations. From a sales rep's point of view, the best marketing offers a) generate quality leads and b) spark great sales conversations with the people who downloaded them. Reps often find that some types of content help spark conversations with prospects on the phone. To get an idea of the content prospects found most engaging and helpful during meetings, ask the sales team which offers they found easiest to engage with prospects.

What else can marketers learn from their sales teams? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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