How can marketing and sales work together? Darren Mitchell, Sales Leader and host of the Exceptional Sales Leader Podcast, joins Mike Maynard to discuss sales enablement and how sales and marketing teams can work together to provide true value to prospects throughout the buyer journey.

Darren shares the career journey that led him to become a sales leader, he explains what sales enablement means and shares his thoughts on why current team structures may negatively impact buyer experience.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

About Darren

Darren Mitchell is an expert in sales with a successful career in corporate sales, sales management, people leadership, people development and leadership coaching. Darren now works with sales leaders and their teams to create and implement sales leadership plans that deliver outstanding sales and revenue results.

Time Stamps

[00:55.5] – Darren shares how his career started

[03:50.3] – What is sales enablement? Darren explains.

[06:41.8] – How can marketing and sales work together?

[14:17.5] – What role should tools play in the sales process?

[23:06.5] – Darren shares the advice he would give to a young person starting their career.

[25:17.2] – Darren’s contact details.


“I think sometimes people look at tools like the be all and end all and they forget that people by from people.” Darren Mitchel, Sales Leader.

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Transcript: Interview with Darren Mitchell – Sales Leader

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Darren Mitchell

Mike: Thanks for listening to Marketing B2B Tech, the podcast from Napier, where you can find out what really works in B2B marketing today.

Welcome to Marketing B2B Technology, the podcast from Napier. Today we’re doing something different. We’ve got a salesperson rather than a marketer. We’ve got Darren Mitchell; Darren has worked for over 20 years in B2B sales. He now helps salespeople do a better job with B2B. And he’s also the host of the Exceptional Leader Podcast. Welcome to the podcast, Darren.

Darren: Thanks for having me, Mike. Great to Great to be here.

Mike: Yeah, it’s great to have you on. And I mean, as you’re a salesperson, I think, you know, one of the first things we need to understand is tell us a little bit about your career. And I’m particularly interested, you know why ultimately, you chose to help salespeople rather than staying in sales yourself?

Darren: It’s a great question. And rather than bore you with the massive background that I’ve got, I did start out as an engineer in the construction industry. And I had no intentions of being in sales at all. But things happened in Australia back in the late 80s, early 90s, where there was a recession that Australia had to have and Paul Keating was the then Prime Minister, I worked for organisations that went broke and found myself in telecommunications, and I was working with some salespeople in the B2B space as a post sales customer service or customer success manager as you probably refer to them today. And I saw, I saw salespeople driving nice cars, wearing nice suits, playing better golf, having long lunches, and I thought you might have a piece of that didn’t even know that world existed. So long story short, got myself into a position where I did that spend probably, what was it probably six, seven years in that particular space and then found I had a pension for development, I really wanted to work with salespeople and help them enhance their, I guess, their potential. And so I jumped up into a sales leadership role and never really looked back. So I still liked the art of sales. I can empathise with salespeople. But I actually love the development. And so what I do today, I work with sales teams and sales leaders to help them become exceptional what they do. And I found that I could have a bigger impact and a wider impact by working with salespeople rather than being in sales directly myself.

Mike: That’s great. You wanted to you know, help people develop. And I know one of the things that you tried to do is usual podcast. And actually, you were kind enough to have me as a guest.

Darren: I was and it was a fantastic conversation. And I backed it up with your one of the prize people on my LinkedIn posts on the weekend, because I did talk about the importance of surrounding yourself with exceptional people. And whether you’re in marketing, whether you’re in sales, or in business, or just in life, it’s really important to do that. And I love talking to great people from all different walks of life, because there’s so many lessons that we can learn. And that’s one thing actually that, you know, when you think about the reach that we can have as an individual and the influence, we can have been able to talk to people like you on the other side of the world that four or five years ago, probably wouldn’t have even contemplated knowing you. But you come into the environment, all of a sudden, we’re having conversations like this, which is which is fantastic. So just it’s an opportunity to spread the word.

Mike: Absolutely. I agree. I think you know, the ability to do this across the world is amazing. And, you know, one of the reasons I really want to talk to you is, you know, you’re one of these people who really understand sales enablement. And I think this is an interesting topic, because it kind of is an overlap between sales and marketing. Often, the marketing teams are asked to help with sales enablement. So I mean, maybe before we delve into what to do and how to help sales teams, perhaps you could start off with with an explanation from your point of view is what’s meant by sales enablement.

Darren: I like to keep things pretty simple, my way. And it comes from an experience that all departments within an organisation that can have an impact on a customer need to work together. Now that means the processes the policies, the frameworks, the systems, whether that be CRM systems, but also over the top of that any selling methodology or go to market strategy needs to be aligned. And from a sales leadership point of view, enabling sales people to be working in their zone of genius means we’ve got to be providing coaching, mentoring, feedback. But at a macro level, it’s a case of having all people that touch and have responsibility for a customer actually doing something radical and working according to the same hymn sheet, which unfortunately, in a lot of organisations simply doesn’t happen because we’re pointing the finger at each other. So a lot of people talk about sales enablement, being the system or the isolation of a CRM or the marketing campaign as very easy then to blame others for not getting good quality leads or not having a robust system or our CRM is not being updated, etc, etc. It’s excuse afternoon excuse after excuse. Now, at the end of the day, we are there to serve a customer. And in everything we do in order to do that more effectively should be considered to be a sales enablement ecosystem.

Mike: I love that. I love that very broad definition of sales enablement. I mean, I think in some companies, it’s actually seen quite negatively. I mean, you hear it called the PowerPoint department sometimes. I mean, presume you think that’s unfair, totally

Darren: unfair. But it’s also symptomatic, I think of, of history and how organisations have been set up. If you think about any organisation that is well successful, or at least sustainable. They all have sales at the forefront of what they do, right? So any organisation and your business will be no different, right? The only way that you can survive and thrive is through selling your services and selling your ideas and bringing people on board. It’s the way we do that. And so it’s very easy in and too many organisations, unfortunately, play that blame game, where they think well, we are the sales department. So we are there to actually close deals, marketing say, Well, we’re there to make sure that we get the inflowing leads, which are the marketing qualified leads that we then hand over to sales. And if sales, don’t close them in sales is at fault, because our leads are fantastic. And so this can create lots of internal bickering. And this is why I keep saying that the sales enablement ecosystem needs to be, we need to be on the same page, because everybody has responsibility for the end customer.

Mike: That’s fascinating. You’ve talked a lot about departments working together, but a lot of companies, you know, the way they implement sales is to create a sales enablement department. Yeah. I mean, do you think that’s a good idea? Or do you think other departments should simply have a strategy of working together, the

Darren: danger we’ve got with organisations and the bigger the organisation gets, the more you’re going to have different departments, and you’ll have people that are running those departments that perhaps have their own. And I’ll say this, respectfully, their own agendas, or their own methodology based on previous experience or their thought process. So I’m not necessarily in the camp of having a separate sales enablement arm, as long as we’re unless that sales enablement arm works hand in hand with all the other departments who touch the customer. So that the customer gets a consistent and high quality, what I call exceptional experience, every time they’re interacting with our organisation. The problem we’ve got with a lot of companies is you bring in a marketing department, or a sales relevant team, or a finance team, that all have some sort of interfacing relationship with a customer, but they don’t talk to each other internally. So you can have two people talking to the same customer and have two completely different messages. So the biggest challenge is to have organisations and this comes down to the leadership of the organisation to say, Hey, why do we exist? We exist first and foremost, to provide a service to a customer, and help that customer on their buying journey, not the sales process, the buying journey, to how do we do this in a way that creates an experience with that customer that says, You know what, in the case of Napier, we don’t want to go anywhere else. Because Napier no matter who we talk with within his business, we get the same message. And they make us feel like the most valued customer that they have. That is what sells and ultimately is because everybody’s on the same page, not pointing the finger to each other.

Mike: And I love that because you talk about that customer journey. So you’re talking about the times that you know, maybe the customer is looking at marketing content, doing self directed research, as well as the time that they’re interacting with sales, right?

Darren: Absolutely. And if you think about customers today, and the amount of information that’s available to customers, let’s be really, really clear here. Customers are often doing research before they even pick up the phone or have any sort of interaction with you. And in many cases, they’ve already made a decision based on what that research tells them as to whether you’re going to be the company that would like to do business with. So Long gone are the days where salespeople go out, carry the bag and do a great PowerPoint presentation and talk about all the whats and wherefores of how good we are as a company. Because you’re your customer already knows this. So we can’t go in in there and do that. What we need to do is understand what is the customer’s buying journey and a mate of mine who does a lot of work in his area, a guy called Sam shaper, talks about the influence buying journey. So where is your customer in their buying cycle? And how can we fit into that rather than push them into our sales process. That is sales enablement. And it’s at its core, and it means that you’re more likely to provide a solution that fits in with what the customer is actually looking for. And then it becomes a little bit easier to sell because it’s no longer the manipulation and close at all costs. It’s now working with the customer where their buying cycle is and providing true value which by the way, can actually start to build loyalty and long term relationships.

Mike: That’s a great point. I think we’ve really addressed the philosophy of sales enablement, I’d like to dig down into perhaps a real practical things that people can do. And I think one of the issues I’ve seen is often sales teams, you know, they asked for sales enablement, support from a marketing department, and marketing don’t really know what’s required. So what from your point of view, you know, understanding sales, does the sales team need to be more effective? And I think you said earlier, the phrase I really love is, you know, make it easier to close that. So yeah.

Darren: So my view, and this is just my view, it is not the marketing paraphernalia. It is not the product specifications. And it might not even be our process, our internal procurement process or our onboarding process. It’s really everything geared around, what do we know about the customer? Who is our ideal customer? What do they look like? Where do they hang out? What are their challenges, because at the end of the day, and I’ll keep prophesizing this until my last breath, sales at its core, is problem solving. And if we as salespeople as an organisation, as sales enablement teams, as marketing teams can understand the problem that the customer is facing, or the industry in which the customer operates is facing. And then if we can build systems and possible solutions that deal specifically with that problem, then sales enablement becomes easier. And so when you then have the sales team, sales enablement, teams, marketing teams, or any other departments that are now working as part of that ecosystem, you’re now all geared around focusing on Well, what is the problem that this customer is experiencing? And can we as an organisation, put something in place that can be a solution to that problem? Now, the other thing, of course, is important is does the customer actually want to or need to solve that problem? Because if they don’t, there’s no point having a conversation, because that’ll just be convincing, persuasion, manipulation? And that’s the sales close from a perspective of what the sales need. They need a better understanding, first and foremost as to what are the core problems that the customer they’re dealing with is facing? And can we, as an organisation solve that? If that’s the case, then we can work with marketing to say, right based on your need, and the marketing team presumably will have a bigger visibility of the marketplace, the trends and all that sort of stuff, access to case studies, white papers, what can you bring us that will be valuable to a customer to know that perhaps there’s an organisation on the other side of the world who has experienced exactly the same problem, but they had this solution. And we can then provide that to that customer, it may be giving us a better opportunity to have that conversation versus the competitor, who is probably just leading in with their own product or their own solution. And so I don’t necessarily think it’s a lot of detailed processes, procedures, databases, and things like that. It comes down to a philosophy as to what the problem is we’re trying to solve. And can we, as an internal group of departments work together on the solution is to that problem when that happens, and I don’t assume this to be too generalised or too much of a cliche. But Sal should become easy when that happens, because the natural consequence will be the customer is likely to want to do a transaction with us. That’s really interesting.

Mike: I mean, we see a lot of sales enablement, initiatives that are run as this kind of separate initiative. But it sounds like from your point of view, sales enablement really is all about collaboration between different departments sharing knowledge, sharing expertise, rather than necessarily someone coming in and defining what the enablement that is required, correct.

Darren: Now, there may be people out there that will disagree with me, and that is perfectly fine. They’ll they’ll have their own opinions. So I don’t necessarily agree with I guess the philosophy that sells a name is a thing, or sales enablement is a modality or sales enablement is a department. Sales Enablement is a philosophy of collaboration that is all geared around the view that we have a customer should be exactly the same, irrespective of which department we sit with our organisation. If that’s the case, then the interaction and experience the customer gets is going to be so far better than any other of our competitors. It is not funny at all differentiate ourselves quicker than anything else.

Mike: I love that. I mean, presumably you’re also not a big fan of the focus on tools. I mean, a lot of sales enablement initiatives are focused around self enablement tools.

Darren: Well, we need tools, right? So we need tools that can improve our productivity and our efficiency. So I’ve worked in organisations where we’ve had Siebel, we’ve had Salesforce, we’ve had different sales methodologies. The problem with most organisations is the people who look at those sometimes they look at those as almost like the elixir that is going to solve all the problems. The tools need to be an enabler, and they can actually be a multiplier, but they’re not the be all and end all. We need to have the understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing. Are we on the same page and then we start thinking about, well, what are the right tools that we need in order to enhance and improve and maintain a level of exceptional service to the customers so They get a great experience. It is not the sales methodology, it is not that the sales enablement tool or the CRM or whatever the case, whatever tool you want to throw at us. And so I like tools, so don’t get me wrong. But I think sometimes sometimes people look at the tools as being the be all and end all. And I should get the fact that people buy from people.

Mike: I love that I’m gonna go and delve into something you mentioned before, which is always a bone of contention leads. And it seems to me that leads are either brilliant if you’re a marketer, or terrible if you’re a salesperson. So from your point of view with your sales knowledge, what a marketers doing wrong. I mean, how can marketers do a better job of providing leads that are more helpful, more useful to the sales team?

Darren: Again, my experience, this is only my viewpoint based on that experience. I think in working with teams, I think there’s a lot of organisations a disconnect, still between marketing and sales, and whether we like it or not, because they’re not working closer together, there is a tendency to point the finger so sales will say, marketing giving us leads marketing is saying we’re giving you some really high quality leads based on the criteria that we’ve been set, based on what you guys said was your ideal customer, and sales assign? Well, they’re crap, but then marketing saying, well hang on a second, these are perfect, you guys don’t have a great sales methodology. Or maybe they’re questioning the technique of the salesperson. So the first thing we need to do is forget about the blame game and start working together. And my view is, if I was building a company from from scratch, from today, I had sales and marketing that actually be in the same department working hand in hand with each other. And that also be both accountable for the delivery to that customer. Now, whether that means putting KPIs or putting bonuses or commissions wherever the case might be, and removing the opportunity to blame each other for the lack of performance of their individual KPIs. So one of the things that we do know, and we’ve talked about this on the podcast that we deal with you we talk about the marketing qualified leads, and when that happens, it then gets thrown over to the sales teams to do the qualifying or the discovery calls, and they then turn into the sales qualified leads, right? Then that turns into the sales qualified opportunities. And if there’s a bit of a disconnect, or the salesperson doesn’t follow the right technique, or doesn’t ask the right questions, or he’s not curious enough, then they’ll come back. And it almost like as a defensive mechanism myself that lead was just rubbish shouldn’t have gone out there in the first place. It had nothing to do with the lead, it had something to do with the way the salesperson actually engaged with that lead. So the short answer to a very long winded response to that question, Mike, is, we need to get sales and marketing to work more closely together. And instead of looking more internally, out to the customer, start looking at the customer back internally, and putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer. And again, coming back and saying, What is the problem we’re trying to solve? And how can we now build the criteria so that when when marketing, we’re actually using the language, we’re talking about the problem, and we’re trying to build some sort of, I guess, impetus for those potential customers to want to take some form of action. And that’s not necessarily going to be a soul in the first instance, but at least there’s a level of interest there, that we can actually have a conversation to see whether there’s a fit between what they have as a problem, and what we might have as a solution. So get into work together. And if that means singular KPIs or shared KPIs and shared accountability, bit of a radical thought, but you know what, there’s too many organisations that are still rolling out the old sales plans and the old marketing plans, and it’s probably time for a bit of a upheaval, I reckon.

Mike: I think that’s fascinating. And a lot of organisations are quite a long way away from tying ultimately, the amount you sell to, you know, the marketing metrics, but we see it beginning to come in, I mean, more and more, we’re seeing marketing teams being judged, and particularly where there’s the opportunity for online sales, obviously, then, that’s where marketing really gets very close to sales. So I think he made some great points there.

Darren: Well, the other thing that I would I would probably add to that is, and it’s a little bit radical, but I’m all for people actually going into comments, or doing water loans or doing a three months are common. So a salesperson doing three months of common in marketing and a marketing person doing sales are common for three months as well, if nothing else, but to get an appreciation as to what’s happening at the coalface because a will give a different perspective, not only of the business, but also the processes and some of the challenges they experience. It might also give them a better appreciation of each other’s roles, which will bring them closer together and the longer I

Mike: I love it. I’m not sure many companies will be rushing to implement it, but I think that’s a great idea. I’m interested. You know, we’ve talked about sales enablement. We’ve mentioned some of the issues that we’ve both seen in organisations where sales and ama isn’t really deployed particularly well. I mean, how do you see that changing over the next few years? Do you see more of a focus on sales enablement and that whole customer journey? or do you see the situation staying much of is?

Darren: Well, here’s what I’ll say that industry and and things are evolving. And organisations that don’t evolve with the times, they’re gonna find themselves wondering what’s happened because they’re going to have their competitors go past them at a rate of knots now, whether it’s AI and integrating AI and everything we’re doing, whether it’s integrating a structural approach and an ecosystem that actually has more of a customer centric focus, you just have to look at history. And history is often one of the best teachers as to what could happen. There’s blockbuster, there’s Kodak and I was listening to a podcast the other day, and really delving into the story of Kodak that they really worked their butts off to try and protect what was their photographic business, having already invented and had the technology for digital photography, but they chose to keep it under wraps, because it would have actually destroyed what they thought was their great business. So I think organisations that are going to thrive into the future, I’d also like to think that the customers are going to demand a lot more from organisations. And if organisations can’t flex their style, and change their structures to better support a more customer centric approach, then customers will tell them, you either do this or we’re moving because we can no longer afford to be in the old way of doing things, we’ve got multiple different silos, talking to the same customer, and potentially giving a different message now, and customers will not have that patience. And if you think about the amount of information that’s available to us right now, and how much more educated buyers are, it’s going to demand that organisations change. And the ones that don’t, are the ones that will be doing podcasts and about two, three years time thinking about, you know, what, they have the opportunity, but they chose not to, because they were hanging on to what they were considering to be the status quo, and then normal form of business. So, watch, watch what’s going to happen in the next couple of years.

Mike: I think that’s amazing. So a great, very compelling, warning, Dario, don’t be Kodak.

Darren: Don’t be Kodak. And look, there are there are companies across multiple industries now that are potentially holding on to old technology that they need to embrace. And they need to they need to remove, I guess, the level of self importance thinking that they are the be all and end all to their industry. Because here’s the other thing that people need to understand. And this is a message for anybody that’s got a product or a service, your customers don’t want your product, and they’re not interested in your product or your service. So don’t focus on it don’t lead with it lead with what is the problem. And so again, if customers are made more and more educated, and if companies can recognise, you might have the best service that’s ever been created, you might have the greatest product with the greatest features. But who cares? If the customer doesn’t have a problem, that’s going to be solid boil solution. So don’t focus on your product.

Mike: Great advice. We’d like to finish with a couple of standard questions. This might be a bit interesting, because you’re not from a marketing background from sales. But you know, I’m gonna have to ask these. So the first question I’m going to ask is, if you are talking to a young person about start their career, would you advise them to go to marketing or sales?

Darren: It’s a really good question. Now I’m a little bit biassed, because I went into sales because I chose sales because I thought, long lunches, nice cars, good suits, play a bit of golf, things like that. Now what I know about careers in sales and working with marketing teams, I would say both. In fact, if a person had patience, I would say you know what, dip your toe into both. Because you might find you’ve got some strengths and capabilities in an area that will lead to a more longer term career. Now, if that doesn’t happen, at least you’ve now got experience, which by the way, will now create a more rounded business person, which will be more attractive to the marketplace. So I’m not going to be saying buyers go into sales or go into marketing. Try both.

Mike: That’s great advice. I love that. And now here’s a chance for you from sales. And I think as marketers, we always perceive that sales want to give us advice. So as a salesperson, if you could give advice to someone in marketing, what would be that best bit of marketing advice that that you could give

Darren: the best bit of marketing advice, take your eyes off your own world and put it on the market that you’re there to serve. And the key word is there to serve, right. And so if you can do that, and you do that with a servant’s heart, you’ll get lots of opportunities because you’ll be providing value, which might at the time seem intangible or not direct in terms of response. But I guarantee if you treat customers in a way that serves them and adds value to them, they will have this unconscious desire to why reciprocate at some point they might come back directly to you. Or it might come back indirectly but it will come because there’s an energy transfer. So I’ll give the same advice to salespeople by the way, in terms of how they approach it. Don’t make it about you. It is all about servitude, and if you can do that, people will become interested in you. But it starts with you being interested in them.

Mike: Awesome. That’s fantastic. What a great way to end down. I really appreciate your time. I mean, if there are people listening to the podcast that need some help levelling up their sales enablement programmes, or just want some more information on sales, what’s the best way to contact you?

Darren: Probably the best way, Mike is just going into LinkedIn. So if you look up Darren Mitchell in LinkedIn, or sales leadership coach, I’ll come up in LinkedIn. And all my contact details are there. So that’s probably the best best way. LinkedIn is the platform because that’s where all the cool people are hanging out.

Mike: Absolutely, it’s, it’s becoming the new email. I think with the amount of messages it’s it’s definitely getting stronger, stronger. Love it. Darren, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate you know all your advice and all your insight. So thanks very much for being a guest on marketing B2B technology. Thanks,

Darren: Mike. Greatly appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Mike: Thanks so much for listening to marketing B2B Tech. We hope you enjoyed the episode. And if you did, please make sure you subscribe on iTunes, or on your favourite podcast application. If you’d like to know more, please visit our website at Napier B2B dot com or contact me directly on LinkedIn.