Learning by Doing: My Sales Journey to a Marketing Career

During my onboarding period, some of the experienced reps warned us newbies that our prospects (usually marketing and sales leaders) could be really mean on the phone. They’re all busy with a lot of responsibility, and sometimes it’ll be difficult to get them to take a few minutes out of their day to hear a pitch. With that in mind, I was nervous for my first day on the phone.

Eight months, and thousands of cold calls later, I didn’t have anybody hang up on me or be rude to me. One CMO even told me that she never talks to sales reps, but my approach compelled her to at least listen to what I had to say. 

At the end of my onboarding, I made the switch to marketing from sales–for good. Here’s my journey into the marketing world. 

Product Messaging and Objection Handling 

Or, what countless cold calls taught me. 

To be a successful salesperson, you need to be entrenched in the messaging around your product or service offering. My sales team frequently connected with the product marketing team, allowing us to stay on top of new product developments and learn exactly how to pitch to our market.

When you’re accustomed to participating in product messaging exercises, I think it’s only natural that you become invested in the process (at least it was for me). 

I began talking with sales leadership and product marketers about how they make decisions about pricing and the stories around new product features. From those conversations, I knew that it was something that I wanted to do if I stayed in the tech space. I loved the thought of focusing on data while still being creative. After all, who doesn’t love a compelling story? 

Learning Through Customer Discovery

The initial meetings with prospective customers are generally used for discovery to understand their needs, wants, readiness for buying, and problems. The more conversations you have, the more you’ll realize that similar people in similar roles are having many of the same problems. As you take note of these trends, you think about how to proactively address these issues.

You’ll find that your content strives to answer customers’ questions. If they are already facing issues, they will see themselves reflected in your content, and your offering will be the potential solution to their problems. 

As an outbound sales rep, your objection-handling muscles need to be strong. People are more likely to tell you ‘no’ or rush you off the phone than they are to allow you to convince them to spend money. If they choose to listen, it’s an opportunity to ask them these five questions:

  1. How would our offering make your job easier? 
  2. What does your current set of tools or tech look like? 
  3. What will it mean for your career if the business sees success or improvement?
  4. What stakeholders need to be involved in this discussion?
  5. Do you have a budget for new tools or products? 

How I Began My Transition From Sales to Marketing 

I transitioned from sales to marketing at the same organization. I built a good rapport with the marketing team members through professional conversations and even offered to write guest posts from a sales perspective for the company blog. These actions led them to expand to a company-wide guest blogging program and opened the door for me to work on the team, rather than hiring a co-op student for that semester. 

Most of my projects stemmed from product marketing and content marketing. I helped develop new messaging, appeared in a couple of marketing videos, and scripted the next set of our educational sales snippet series. I also worked with the program manager to coordinate in-person events and source the promotional materials for the go-to-market team.

Eventually, I left the organization, but those experiences helped me land my first content marketing specialist role at a construction tech company. 

How to Bridge the Gap Between Sales and Marketing 

Spending time in sales before pursuing a career in marketing really opened my eyes to the disconnect between an organization’s sales and marketing departments. In my view, it’s imperative that these organizations function as a cohesive unit.

My time on the phones made me less afraid to ask questions of people, particularly people with more career seniority. For all future jobs, I’ve been keen to sit down with sales leadership and tenured reps, asking them about their process, how they’re currently talking to customers, and most of all, what content they feel would help them to stand out from the competition.

Now, I ask sales reps if they’re comfortable with me attending their meetings. It never ceases to amaze me how much inspiration for content comes from these practices. I usually find myself with a stunning amount of prospect and customer questions. That’s how I create my content production calendar.

Having an understanding of how messaging is constructed, why people are compelled to say ‘no’ to a business offering, and taking time to understand the prospect’s point of view have all contributed to how I show empathy through the content I create.

Of course, there are metrics that we’re beholden to, but for me, it’s not just about converting prospects to customers. I want people to trust the information that I’m providing them through the content. And even if they don’t buy right away, at least they know that someone sees them and has a solution to their problems.

Spending time as a sales representative ensured that I didn’t forget that there are real people on the other end of these business transactions. The experience you provide customers should improve their lives. If you’re not doing that, you shouldn’t be offering a product or service. It’s just that simple.

About the Author

Khadijah Plummer is a community content manager in tech. When she’s not at work, she can be found reading, trying new recipes, working on her podcast, studying interior design, and spending time with those closest to her. Follow her on Twitter @plmmrkhdjh.