Once a salesman, always a salesman, right? Yes, unless your years of sales experience in the retail, finance and tech industries leads you directly to a unique internal opportunity to lead a marketing channel—despite having no prior experience. If you had told me ten years ago that I’d be sitting today as the Head of Call Marketing for Modernize, an online service that acts as a matchmaker between homeowners and contractors, I would have scoffed. But that’s exactly what happened. And it turns out, all that sales experience wasn’t such a bad asset to have in a marketing position—although it did throw me some unexpected curve balls too. Here’s what I learned in my first month on the job.
Expectation Versus Reality: Learning the Ropes as a Marketing Manager
The line between marketing and sales is blurry at best. Still, I expected my time in the sales arena would give me some unique insights into our marketing approach. In fact, I hoped my transition would break down barriers that existed between the two departments and allow for more fluid communication and collaboration.
In particular, I thought my sales experience would come in handy to help us create more robust marketing partners—after all, in all my years handling vendors, I’d come to intimately understand the challenges they faced. In my naivety, I expected the “full speed ahead” approach I used with my sales clients to translate seamlessly to the marketing world. Boy was I wrong. I quickly learned that my marketing role required much more finesse, especially when it came to our metrics. I would focus my attention to improving margins or lead quality and I would hurt volume and revenue; I would focus on lead revenue and hurt conversion rates. I’d end up running in circles, playing whack-a-mole with our metrics. As soon as one number was whipped into shape, another issue would pop up in a different spot. I was exhausting our resources with my single-minded tactics.
I soon realized I’d been given a pretty tall order—one with some unexpected challenges in store. I’d been in sales for a long time, but I had no concept of what it takes to run a call center in support of a marketing program. Attrition rates, scripting, campaign configuration, dialing software, agent-level profitability — it was a huge learning curve. As it turned out, vendor relationships were just one piece of a much larger puzzle — our issues had to do with aligning call center operations and marketing objectives, and providing the call center with quality lists. Upon this realization, my focus shifted to include multiple objectives, and I stopped chasing my tail and got down to the business of running a marketing call center.
It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn: Why My Sales Mentality Paid Off in the End
A career salesperson knows better than to sit on a lead. My one-track approach may not have worked the best for my marketing team, but the increased responsiveness that came with that mentality did make a difference. Our vendors appreciated our new “get it done now” tack and expressed gratitude that we were able to react to their needs quickly, adjusting our priorities as new information became available.
And communication between the two departments did improve overall. Both teams now feel more empowered to reach out to one another to schedule meetings or on an ad-hoc basis to solve business problems and create joint strategy. Additionally, because I’m intimately familiar with the challenges our sales team faces, any feedback we give our in-house call center is met with a lot less resistance. They no longer feel threatened or called out when I bring new ideas to the table—they understand that we’re working to support our marketing team and vice versa.
Do As I Say, Not As I Did: Key Takeaways from My First Month on the Job
Hindsight is always 20/20, of course—and while I couldn’t have predicted every difference in my transition to a marketing role, I do think I wasted time worrying about my ability to do the job. In a well-organized company, the goals of the marketing and sales teams are synonymous—their aims differ only in their approach.
I shouldn’t have doubted myself. I understand the business, and I understand how to drive high-intent, profitable homeowners to our clients at the best margins for our organization. In my eagerness to do well, I blew my own limitations all out of proportion. Likewise, my prior relationships with vendors was never a problem. It was easy to stay unbiased, since my first loyalty was always our brand.
My sales experience definitely made for a quick crash course in marketing, but it also positioned me to knit together a more collaborative approach across teams—and hit several objectives at once. If that doesn’t make for better call marketing, I don’t know what does!