Marketers underestimate the value of customer insights from sales teams. I’ve seen countless go to market strategies fail because the customer insight from the consulting or agency research was not vetted and integrated with feedback from one of the most valuable sources of customer data – sales people.

I had the rare opportunity to start in sales. I carried a bag. I was the ‘feet on the street’ for several CPG companies. That early experience taught me that not everything made by corporate headquarters is ready for consumers. I did a lot of work tailoring materials to either my retailer, my region or my customer base. Bootleg marketing.

And I’ve sat in countless strategy planning sessions in the ‘glass palace’ headquarters of multiple fortune 100 companies. We comb through really good customer research data. From behind the glass, to intercepts, to digital surveys, to looking at heat maps of eye tracking and brain waves. All GREAT data. Yet, if it is not balanced with ‘real world’ customer feedback from sales teams it will fall flat.

Think of it this way. Both marketing and sales identify customer pain points but at very different mind sets in the sales cycle.
  • Customer insights from marketing research is obtained when a consumer is not under the pressure of a sale. They are either thinking about buying a product or reflecting on a past purchase, interaction or experience.
  • Customer insights from sales teams is obtained when a consumer is under the pressure of a sale. Raw, in the moment and tangible.
Combine the two and you have magic. Suddenly messaging, copy and pricing strategies are clear. Have definitive impact. Are measureable. And importantly, brings marketing and sales together.

How do you achieve this nirvana state? Deploy a consistent two-pronged approach:
  1. Build a foundation of owned customer insight research. Use a combination of traditional and cutting edge technologies. To include:
    • Path to Purchase – this is foundational and a must have. You have to fundamentally understand the journey (that is never linear) that your customer goes on from awareness, consideration, preference, purchase and loyalty (ACPPL). Consumers demand. Shoppers buy. This research will identify the critical customer pain points of your category and product. And will also pin point the critical touch points and channels that make or break a sale.
    • Define & Claim an Archetype– behind the glass, one on one interviews that get to the emotional purchase drivers. This is critical. We all buy on emotion. Always. The issue is our rational mind can never tell you what the emotion was that drove the purchase. This is essential to getting messaging right. And should identify your archetype of which to build all messaging and branding from. 
    • Segmentation – customer data is not the issue, it’s the amount of data we all have. You have to get good at being able to segment the data in meaningful ways. That requires combining the quantitative data (HH income, basket size, frequency) with qualitative data (demographic and psychographic). It’s the RFM methodology (Recency, Frequency and Monetary) on steroids. And in most cases, one of the RFM pillars needs to be replaced in your business based on your unique psychographic (attitudes, aspirations, and other psychological criteria) data sets. You really want to know your TAM (Total Addressable Market)… and leave behind those that just simply won’t be your consumer.
    • Digital – digital gives you the ability to get a larger sample size to deliver quantitative metrics. It’s the proof for your qualitative research.
    •  Eye tracking – great for ecommerce and heavy educational purchases. Enables your design and copy writing teams to get really good at being simple. High scan value is the goal. With easy drill downs, if and when, a customer wants more information.
  2. Curate and integrate sales customer insight.
    • Talk to them – In person. Don’t be scared. Sales people don’t bite. In fact, sales is one of the most passionate advocates for customers.
    • Go on sales calls – get out in the field, on the phones and in the customer service & support center. You will hear things that are tangible customer pain points. I will never forget my days working with Walmart and the ‘eat what you cook’ quarterly bus rides. Displays don’t always look, set up or sell as great as in the pristine ‘mock store’ at headquarters. Especially when executed in a store that gets +23,000 customers per week.
    • Surveys… if you ask the right questions. I look at surveys as your sales customer insights qualitative phase. Your quantitative phase is talking and getting out with the teams.
    • Inform and collaborate early and often – most importantly, bring the sales team along in key research milestones. We can all relate to the customer experience. Unveiling anything never works. And you will receive valuable feedback that will avoid execution pitfalls.
The customer is always right. And my advice as a marketer is that you remember you serve two masters (customers):

  1. Your consumer
  2. Your sales team