Want to Know What Sales Thinks? Just Ask.

January 4, 2014

I had a woman call me today from a SaaS company asking if I could help her with a problem with which she struggled.

The story isn’t new. We’ve all experienced it. Marketing was creating tools that sales never used.

That part wasn’t surprising. But the funny part (as in odd, not “ha ha”) came from how she was trying to solve the problem. She had analytics on what was being downloaded, by what sales person and when. She knew who the best sales people were and what content they used most. She knew what content hadn’t been touched (either by sales or marketing) for more than two years. She’d obviously looked at the data.

Today she was working on a survey to send out to the sales team to ask for feedback on what content they used during which part of the sales process and asked what I thought. I thought it was lengthy.

My first question (well, second, if you count me asking if they had personas) wasn’t about the survey, how they’ll look at the results, what they’ll do with them, or any such thing. It was a very simple question.

“Have you talked to the sales team?”

There was silence. And then a rash of reasons why she hadn’t. Are you kidding me? If you want to build a strong partnership between sales and marketing, here’s what you do. Ask the sales team what they think, what they need, and what tools they want – and then listen. Don’t tell them why it won’t work. Don’t tell them why it’s a bad idea. Don’t tell them you don’t have the budget. Listen to them and then figure out a way to make it happen.

If you think sales could make use of a tool they haven’t thought of, sit down and talk it through. Ask them how it might work into a person-to-person conversation. Ask how it could help with online communities. Ask how it might help with social selling.

It may feel like marketing is from Mars and sales is from Venus, but I’m thinking if we learn to ask the right questions and listen to the answers, we may be in for interplanetary communication soon.

About Carla Johnson


Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.

In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds -  Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. 

Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.