I’ll admit it. As a long time marketer, sometimes I thought I had all the answers to sales.

I used to think sales was easy and moving prospects through various stages of the sales cycle was a piece of cake. It wasn’t until I actually observed and participated in sales calls did I realize how much more there was to it. The process, the relationship(s), truly understanding the prospect and their needs, articulating the solutions of your organization and why it’s relevant to the prospects needs, and so much more.

It’s work and it’s not easy.

Unfortunately, I know a lot of great marketers who (still) think like I used to. Sorry fellow marketing peers, but it’s true. I challenge a lot of my marketing network on this all the time. I ask them, “when was the last time you made a sale?”

Most of the time I get laughs and “yeah right” type responses, but I’m totally serious. If you want to improve your marketing chops, and more importantly, be a true ally for your sales team, I’d highly suggest regularly participating in sales calls. Doing this will likely cause some discomfort and will certainly pull you out of your ‘safe’ cubicle, but I guarantee you’ll gain a new perspective on the role marketing plays in driving/supporting sales.

In saying this, here’s the top five things I’ve learned over the years by regularly participating in sales calls:

1. Cutting through the clutter

It may shock you to know that slick marketing copy you wrote last week – the copy that featured cool marketing jargon like “seamlessly scalable” or “cloud based, data driven” – means absolutely nothing to prospects. It might however hurt your organizations credibility.

Sometimes it’s easy to slam a bunch of vague buzzwords together, especially when staring at your laptop for 8 straight hours, but I’m here to tell you that saying those sweet marketing lines directly in front of a prospect won’t matter at all. Sales requires clear communication on the value your organization brings to the prospects organization.

2. Understanding real pain points

Generally speaking, as a marketer, you may understand your audience’s challenges and pain points. You might even have pretty good marketing collateral that does a good job positioning a solution for those pains. But good won’t cut it. It’s only once you get to learn the true challenges and the very real impact it has on your prospect can you properly frame a solution. Asking the right questions early on in the sales cycle is absolutely paramount to success in later sales stages.

3. Real sales cycle support and real alignment

It seems funny in retrospect, but I don’t know how I ever thought I was valuable to sales teams in terms of supporting active opportunities when I had never been part of one myself. Standing from the sidelines and somewhat blindly building a deck for sales means you probably can’t articulate EXACTLY how your amazing product/service can solve their challenge(s). Being part of a sales cycle (particularly long ones) gives you big and small insights that allow you to truly understand all the dynamics involved with pulling a deal across the line. These insights cannot and should not be underestimated. In addition, regularly participating in sales calls will drive a tighter alignment between marketing and sales, which is always a good thing. Both departments seeing and hearing the exact same conversations will do wonders for future campaigns and efforts.

4. Optics and reality

You may think you’re great (maybe you are). You may think your marketing campaign and messaging is great (I’m sure it is). You might even expect tons of industry respect for achieving “Super Cool Status” from an influential industry analyst (congrats). But unfortunately, if your work doesn’t resonate with your audience, well, the truth is the other stuff doesn’t matter. The right message isn’t always the best or slickest. More importantly, the right message doesn’t outright secure a deal, no matter how good it may be. While important, it supports the ability to continue conversations as sales continues to build a viable solution for the challenges of the prospect.

5. Arm your sales reps

While most would agree marketing owns more of the sales cycle today than it has in the past, in no way does it diminish the critical role sales plays in winning an opportunity. That said, it’s my firm belief that it’s marketing’s job to completely understand the industry, market, landscape and sales cycle to properly build messaging and collateral to support sales.

Marketing needs to properly arm sales folks with the right tools. All the tools that might be required at some point in the sales cycle. It’s sales job to decide when and how to use the tools.