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SaaS CMOs Need to Understand the SDR Role to Aid Sales and Marketing Alignment

Reading “The Sales Development Playbook” and attending meetings of the Enterprise Sales Forum were eye-opening to say the least.

To say that sales and marketing have a love-hate relationship is probably to overstate it at most SaaS companies. But it’s probably not a stretch to say that most don’t deeply appreciate the other, nor do they fully understand the work that the other does to make revenue happen. As with many things in life, there aren’t any shortcuts to such understanding. You need to have a curious mind and do the work.

One of the ways we recommend content creators better understand sales is to listen to sales as they happen. Actually sit in on sales calls as sales development reps and account executives do the work of qualifying leads, exploring requirements and driving to the close. The idiom, “before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes,” fits well here. But beyond forming an opinion, marketing has to help sales to succeed, and this is where success happens – or doesn’t. On the phone, a Zoom conference and in-person, the SDRs and AEs are fielding the questions, doing demos and handling objections – all great fodder for the content calendar. And as it turns out, this also is a great place for marketing leaders to understand the business of sales and how sales management most needs marketing’s help.

In addition to auditing the sales process itself, it’s just as valuable to build an understanding of modern sales management. Many marketing people have little to no idea what their counterparts in sales management do, and uninformed opinions tend to feed an adversarial environment when the chips are down, just when you need the team to know and respect each other the most. So how can you start to understand the modern sales organization?

Marketers should read books aimed at selling and sales management. One of my favorites is Mark Wayshak’s “Game Plan Selling,” a book aimed at the hunters in a sales organization. Many organizations selling low- to mid-priced SaaS products model their process on these techniques. The book is quite easy to read and even though it’s aimed squarely at the quota-carrying rep, I think most people in the SaaS marketing game will find things they can use. 

Another book I recommend SaaS marketing people read is “The Sales Development Playbook,” by Trish Bertuzzi. This one should dispel any doubt that marketing people have about the accountability within modern sales teams. If your sales counterpart is running the SDR crew according to these or similar principles, then they are more than capable of matching you metric-for-metric! Importantly, you’ll learn how SDRs are managed and motivated and gain insights into how you can drive results with and for this team. I read this book as an audiobook on Audible, which comes with a PDF of the many exhibits and charts.

Another way to get into the mind of the SDR is to hang out where they go to sharpen the saw. I’ve attended a few meetings recently of the Enterprise Sales Forum, an after-work networking and skills workshop collaborative that runs events in 9 cities (five in the US, two in Canada, plus London and Singapore). I’ve been very impressed by the people who attend these events. They are thoughtful, earnest, seeking and extremely personable. And there have been more than a few things that give me hope for the future. One panelist at my first event was asked what book he recommends all SDRs read. His response? “The Elements of Style,” written by Strunk & White. His reason? “Good writing is the most important skill a business person can have.” As a lover of great writing, I nearly swooned. At another meeting discussing best practices to break through the resistance of CxOs to sales calls, one rep suggested handwritten notes and personalized gifts (like a small plant), to underscore one’s interest in connecting on a meaningful level.

I’ve met dozens of people at ESF events, and they are an interesting and engaging crew – these events are great place to learn about sales and salespeople. What I’ve come away with is that many sales people, especially at the entry level and in their early careers, are thinking hard about what it takes to be successful and are very observant and trainable. And they can be a great source of insight for you.

Hopefully these suggestions help you gain insight into what it’s like to sell and how your organization can better support and work with the sales team. Have any other suggestions? Please add them to the comments below.

Want to talk about driving sales results at your firm?  Click to book a meeting or email me at I’d be happy to share additional insights and help if I can.

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