Great companies are built on the backs of great products, and great products are built on the backs of customers. Great marketers know this, but not every salesperson does.

Selling well requires two skills: empathy and persistence. Customers don’t like salespeople for two reasons: salespeople don’t understand their problems, and in the words of Mike Troiano, AKA the godfather of brand, “they don’t fucking listen.”

According to Mike, the most important thing marketing does is enhance the productivity of sales. And there’s no better or more direct way to do that than to empower the sales team with the tools and context needed to solve a customer’s problems.

We’re both big fans of Simon Sinek, and his idea of “start with why” has, I think, always been fundamental to the way I approach marketing and communication. With a salesperson, what that’s about is giving them the tools to understand, okay, what are the challenges that our customers are dealing with? Then give them a set of discovery questions that enable them to surface those challenges. Help them to walk the customer through the negative consequences of those technical challenges, and paint a picture for them of positive business outcomes that would come from a better way. Once you’ve done that, then you can start to define, okay, what are the technical requirements required to realize that rosy picture?

Mike shared one of his favorite quotes from French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

In other words, if you want to change someone’s behavior, you have to change how they feel, not just how they think.

There are few ways to be effective in business that don’t involve influencing the behavior of other people. Good marketers are students of human response. Same with great product people and salespeople. A product is a response to a customer need.

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