I've seen it much too often: sales reps not aligned with product, and marketing teams selling the less important features and mediocre benefits of a product.
It's not that these sales reps aren't good at their jobs. It's just that there is a lack of communication among the departments in their company.
If you feel your company might have a misfire somewhere that is hurting your sales numbers, then perhaps its time to become a mole inside your company.
Not only is this fun - you get to play secret agent at work - but also you're going to help your entire company in the long run. And even if your company isn't seriously out of alignment, you'll be surprised at how well this works for your sales career.
Going Undercover - How to Start
The reason to be secretive and "mole like" isn't to be sneaky or deceptive. At the end of the day, you're still on the same team. The real purpose of keeping these tactics on the down-low is so that you don't rub other people the wrong way. It's one of those situations where if you're too direct about your intentions, you might get pushback or flat-out rejections.
If you randomly sit down at a meeting of another department and say, "I want to know what you guys are up to," it may look like you're there because you think they're not doing their jobs. Egos may get damaged, and you could cause more harm than good. So, be gentle in your approach.
The first thing you're going to want to do is ping your marketing, product, and support teams, and find out if it's OK with them if you sit in on a few of their meetings. Be clear that the purpose is your own sales development and improvement. You may also want to add that you'll be in the background and that you won't interfere or cause meetings to go over time.
It's important that you attend meetings where team strategy is discussed, and try to avoid the "Monday morning scrum." Chances are, the quick 15-minute touch-base meetings won't lend themselves to the depth of insights you can take away from longer meetings.
Now, I know this is tough because you would rather be spending time selling, but these few meetings may shed some light on key insights that will help you sell better. Here's what to look for from each team to improve your sales numbers:
Your marketing team is your closest ally. Theoretically, sales and marketing should be joined at the hip. Marketing is the team providing you with leads so you should really be sharing the same brain. But... In reality, this symbiosis is rarely perfect. Now's your chance to make it better.
What Is Marketing's Main Message?
Is marketing's main message similar to what you're telling people on the phone? If it's not, then you have a messaging consistency issue. This is actually a big problem.
Prospects who hear about one thing but then get a sales pitch on another generally have a harder time converting. It's important that what the prospects see in advertisement copy and website copy match what you're saying on the phone. Otherwise, confusion and concern will have them thinking they're researching the wrong product, and all other kinds of negative emotions will set in.
It's important that both teams have the same message in mind when marketing and selling. If there is a discrepancy on what the messaging should be, then a serious strategy meeting needs to be called; and, yes, you might have to blow your cover.
Has Marketing Run Surveys or Collected any Customer Data?
This is the gold that marketing teams hoard for themselves. And it's not that they don't want to share. They just forget it can be useful for everyone else. If you get the chance to dig through this data, you might find some gems like these:
- "We ran a survey last month and 9 out of 10 customers said they like the product because of this, that, and the other."
- "Most people are really interested in the fact that we do this (or love this feature)."
- "No one cares about this feature because Google already has a free _____."
All these facts become ammo for you on the phone. You can use them to quickly generate interest in your prospect instead of rattling off that stale pitch that hasn't seemed to work well lately.
Who Is Marketing Targeting in the First Place?
Find out what personas they're targeting. Get all the details: age, gender, role/title, company type. It may seem so obvious that you would never dream of asking this question, but it's a must. You have to make sure everyone is on the same page. What if it's you that's not?
What is in Marketing's Future?
What new marketing campaigns and initiatives are being planned for upcoming quarters? Knowing the answer to this question will help you understand any new features, messaging, or surprises that are coming down the pipe that your team probably isn't aware of yet.
Product / Engineering
What is the product/engineering team working on? More importantly, why are they working on it? What about all the features that customers complain about - are they fixing those bugs?
Your job isn't to be overly nosey or pushy with the product team. But getting inside intel will help you down the line. If you find out there is no plan to build the features that are keeping you from selling more, it might be a good time to start an important conversation with key people.
A lot of times there are good reasons certain features aren't being built. But at the same time, it is the job of sales to push on certain features that might really make the brand a shining star. Sales is on the front lines with prospective customers and knows what the market wants. Engineers rarely talk to customers ☺.
Additionally, the product/engineering team will want to hear some of your battle stories from being on the phone. Knowing what prospects want from the product can help them build and design better features in the future.
The real beauty of talking to the product creators is they're usually WAY too busy to talk to ANYONE. Knowing the reasons they built the product a certain way often comes from some hypothesis and research done at some time. Usually, that was augmented by customer interviews and other product development research.
This type of information can be priceless when selling on the phone. There is a chance that some of the language circulating in those development notes and insights from customers will strike a chord with your prospects on the phone.
Spending time with your support team can really be a gold mine. All you will hear are problems and pain points.
A lot of these issues will be concerns of your prospects. Knowing them ahead of time will give you a chance to perfect the way you address them on the phone. Better yet, you'll learn how they can be solved by listening to your support reps.
You'll become super knowledgeable about the product, and your prospects will pick up on that. Nothing is worse than talking to a sales rep who doesn't know much about the product he or she is selling.
So, learn a lot from the support team, but do be careful here. Don't let the overwhelming number of problems and pains bring you down. It can be easy to feel like the product is just too unreliable or problematic to sell. The truth is that all products have their issues. Chances are, all support rooms around the globe sound somewhat dismal.
Just remember, there are plenty of terrible products that have gone really far, and some are still killing it. Your job is to highlight and sell the good parts of your product.
Spying in the Field
You can take your clandestine skills outside meeting rooms and apply them in other places.
Listen in on why people like/love the product. Use that language to sell. Save those tweets and shares.
Let's start with how to do this kind of spying on Twitter.
1. Log in to your company's Twitter account and enter its Twitter handle in the search field:
2. Select Tweets from the More options menu:
3. Start scrolling through all the tweets that mention your company's Twitter handle. You'll probably see a lot of tweets referencing your blog content. But buried in this list will be little gems like this:
Here's someone who has something to say about your product. It might be a good idea to have a conversation with this person to learn why they like the product. Their response will have language that will most likely resonate with future prospects you engage with.
You can take your social media spying further and spy on your competitors. You can find out what people love and hate about your competitors' products and use that as ammo during sales calls.
Bonus Tip: Survey Your Customers!
After closing deals, try to make it a department-wide initiative to follow up with new customers and ask why they decided to do business with your company. Usually, you'll find that some of the reasons are surprising. Your marketing department may even decide to update their value proposition based on some of the reasons.
Also, you'll learn the golden language your customers use to describe the key point that led to their buying decision. You can use that same language when you're selling to customers.
Setting up a simple survey after a customer signs up can help you get great insights and language that describes the real value your prospects see in the product you're trying to sell.
The Main Takeaway
You really can't assume that everyone at your company is on the same page. In fact, that's rarely the case. You should take it upon yourself to go undercover to learn what the current level of company consciousness is. In doing so, you'll be a hero and you'll be helping the entire organization get ahead!
And, yes, all of this is really about intel - knowing as much as possible about your company, your product, your customers, and your future prospects. By stepping into each team's shoes, you will basically have every angle covered. Phone calls will be easier, objections will be blocked with ease, and sales will roll in.
Never assume management has everything dialed. Especially in startups, it's common to have a rough ride to the top. And don't point fingers or blame people for misalignment. Instead, dive for the ball. Find out what really resonates with your prospects, and share your findings with the entire team. By doing this, you'll single-handedly change the culture in your office ☺.
About the Author: Alan Reyes is a marketing associate at Judicious, Inc.
About the Author