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Translating Marketing Speak for Salespeople


Through my work advocating for sales and marketing alignment, I have found that one of the many problems that causes misalignment between the two groups is the lack of a common language. Both groups are saying the same thing and don't even realize it.

Too often companies put marketing on a pedestal and create an environment where they feel they are superior to salespeople. I don't advocate for getting rid of marketing speak because I think it serves a purpose to help marketers communicate efficiently.

However, with the need for sales and marketing to be more aligned than ever before to win deals, salespeople need to better understand what their marketing colleagues are talking about and how it can help them sell more and sell more efficiently.

What do I mean by translating marketing speak to sales? If you have ever been in a joint sales and marketing meeting you have probably noticed the effects of "lost in translation.” Marketing says "Is this scalable?” Sales says "Is this ready to roll out to everyone?" Marketing says "Let's focus on easy opportunities." Sales says "Let's go after low-hanging fruit."

If I had a translation dictionary, I think it would look something like this:

The reason behind this difference in language really is about audience. Sales and marketing typically have a different target. It’s similar to the different skill sets used by a good conversationalist versus a good public speaker. There is also a difference in the objective sales and marketing is trying to achieve.

Usually marketers are trying to sell ideas, concepts, or visions, while salespeople are trying to sell a product or service. You would never want a salesperson to say something like “Customer, I think we have a significant value proposition in our product because it uniquely addresses the concerns of decision-makers similar to you in this addressable target market.” However, this terminology is completely normal and appropriate for a marketer to use as we discuss our sales strategy.

In addition, good salespeople know that they must adjust their language to fit their customers. If you sell in healthcare, there is a language. If you sell in tech, there is a language. If you sell in construction, there is a language. Every industry has a language that is unique to it and good salespeople know how to tailor their message using that unique vocabulary.

What organizational leaders need to do is create a common agreed upon language when sales and marketing work together so that everyone is clear about what we are talking about. This will avoid confusion during the hand-off between sales and marketing and also enable better accountability. What is a sales-qualified lead (SQL)? What is a value proposition? What are customer segments? Words matter.

If you have ever been in a joint sales and marketing meeting you have probably noticed the effects of 'lost in translation.'”

Jeff Davis | Founder, jd2 Consulting Group

Learn More

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.



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