Every Marketer Should Do a Stint in Sales (aka Coin-Operated is Not a Pejorative Term)


I’ve had the good fortune of participating in the SAP Fellowship program, where I’m on loan from SAP Experiential Marketing to a Sales team for 6 months (now extended to 12 months due to popular demand). The objective of this Fellowship program is to give employees continuous learning experiences that energize them, sensitize them to the demands of other roles and fuel new, broader career paths. Well, it’s a gem that every SAP employee should take advantage of. In this blog, I’ll focus on one scenario for the benefit of my Marketing colleagues: EVERY MARKETER SHOULD DO A STINT IN SALES. You’ll never market the same way again. Marketers must embrace and embody this era of customer engagement. It’s a major factor in digital transformation in industries from Retail to Utilities to Aerospace and Defense. According to Peppers & Roberts Group, 81% of companies with strong customer experience competencies outperform their competition.

As a Sales executive, your success relies upon intimate familiarity with customers – specifically, the business challenges faced by your accounts, so the “no-B.S.” barometer is finely tuned and highly accurate.

Yes, the need for greater Sales/Marketing alignment IS already top of mind at SAP. My Fellowship in SAP Hybris Sales happens to align with the Vision 2020 6C Transformation Program that SAP Marketing is building in 2017, and one of it’s competencies, “Sales Alignment and Enablement.” I heartily concur that this a key capability Marketers should have (did I say the KEY capability?…but I’m biased…)

 Here’s three practical lessons that come from my deep immersion into the mindset of my host SAP Hybris Sales team during my Fellowship:

  • “Coin-Operated” is a great thing to be; it’s not a pejorative term. It’s about working with ROI top-of- mind
  • Do you REALLY understand our products? In Sales, you do, you must.
  • Customers are people, not personas. They’re people, doing their job, solving a problem, in need of your help.
  1. “Coin-Operated” is a great thing to be; it’s not a pejorative term. It’s about working with ROI top-of- mind

A funny early interaction with my SAP Hybris sales team at a QBR went like this: I said something about not having to opportunity to interact with Sales during my years at SAP – that the Sales teams were said to be too “coin-operated” (defined as: focused on closing deals at the expense of all other human interaction). They laughed and said, “Well yeah, we are – we have to be. We have to focus every minute on things that progress towards closing a deal.” It’s an ROI mentality. Six months into my Fellowship, I have two post-it notes plastered on my desk: “It’s not about creating assets, it’s about generating leads” and “Execute flawlessly”. My go-to-market content is now a) laser – focused on speaking to customer concerns, b) quickly consumable and c) built with clear CTA (calls to action). Back to my “Flawless execution” post-it note: I marvel at the level of detailed sales strategy that goes into every forecast and the execution of every SAP deal (the who/what/when of every customer interaction; who’s at the table; outstanding objections and how to respond; compelling event to lead to deal closure and more.) Enterprise B2B selling is a science and an art. I’m learning from the masters. I have so much respect for my Sales AEs, VPs, SVP, GVPs. Their time is precious. They close the deals that pay our salaries. My B.S.- meter is very high now and I only spend time on things that have a clear ROI. Duh.

  1. Do you REALLY understand our products? In Sales, you must.

SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA, SAP Fiori, SAP Hybris Marketing Cloud…we know the value proposition, the customer targets, right? More likely, we understand audiences, as we now go to market by LoB and sell personas solutions to resolve pain points. But in sales, assembling a set of products that can be implemented given the customer’s legacy systems, privacy and regulatory constraints and our roadmaps requires a talent for organizing a VAT team and partners that requires a level of dexterity I think few marketers appreciate. Does SAP Hybris Commerce run on S/4HANA? Are all 8 modules of SAP Hybris Marketing (on prem) needed by the customer given their existing marketing software landscape? How do we compare with the competition, feature by feature (Adobe, Salesforce, Marketo…)? There are so many people in North America on the SAP Hybris team who must come together to assemble, price and close a deal – it’s quite remarkable. Frankly, I was blind to most of this complexity. But, after this Fellowship. you can be assured I will never read a solution brief and walk away thinking I’m conversant on the product until I’ve gone three levels deeper to understand functionality, compatibility and implementation practicalities that customers care about.

  1. Customers are people, not personas. They’re people, doing their job, solving a problem, in need of your help.

 A truly rewarding part of the Sales process is building relationships with customers, becoming allies to get deals done and building on that success to grow the relationship over time. Through the sales process, the AE and their “customer champion” forge a bond to conceive of a project, get buy-in from their management teams (the products and services, pricing, timing) and sign the paper. Once the deal is done, they’ve come through the fire together, and, in ideal situations have a lasting bond.  Customers are not abstract personas, they are guys and gals doing their job, tasked with bringing an improved customer experience to their customers (in the case of SAP Hybris). Especially with recent mandates for digital transformation, our customer contacts are often asked to implement a “CXO vision project” which lacks a clear path forward. One recent SAP Hybris customer was very appreciative of the guidance he got from his AE (my teammate). He said in the project kick-off meeting, “I didn’t expect in a million years to be sitting here with SAP, but you caused us to think differently and you turned us around & encouraged us to go big.”  – VP, Products, NA Regulated Industries customer. Ya think that guy appreciates his SAP team and will praise us when he gets promoted?  Yes, enterprise/B2B sales can be a tough business, but I’ve observed that “putting the customer at the center of everything we do” is more than a slogan. We all should walk in the customer’s shoes. In SAP Hybris alone, we’ve got hundreds of success stories. Knowing these stories and using them as sales tools is critical. Success stories are the most coveted sales tool we have. When prospects are deciding, they want to know who else has done this before and the outcome.

So, how do you, Mr./Ms. SAP Marketer, gain your own insights about a sales-driven-customer-first mentality?

  1. RUN, don’t walk, to participate in the SAP Fellowship program
  2. Ask yourself every time you take on a task: Am I creating an asset, completing a process, OR, taking an action that will generate a lead in the near/medium term? If you’re doing busywork, push back.
  3. Pick an area of interest (a product, an industry) and read our customer success stories with an ear tuned to the customer concerns, products purchased and the benefits realized. There are lots of internal-only Jam pages where Sales execs share wins and sales strategies.
  4. Monitor/engage in the SAP Marketing 6C 2020 Initiatives coming in 2017 on the Sales Alignment capability.

Happy aligning!


Gail Moody – Byrd is currently Center of Excellence Lead, Digital Governance, at SAP, where she advises 25 social media teams globally on strategy, structure and performance. She earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA in Economics from Spelman College. Gail was named AdAge Top Digital Marketer in 2013 and 2014 a FierceCMO Woman to Watch in B2B Marketing in 2014. The views expressed here are Gail’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of her employer.

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