Making the jump from sales to marketing

When Catarina Hoch talks about her first career, she still speaks about it with passion.

After moving to London from Brazil six years ago, she started at Operatix, a UK-based lead generation provider for software companies, as a sales development representative (SDR) covering the German market. 

The only problem? Cold calling wasn’t a natural fit despite her passion for selling.

However, once her English improved, she moved to the United Kingdom as a native German speaker—her background in digital marketing came in handy. Catarina transitioned into a marketing manager role and bagged a promotion to VP, Global Marketing within five years. And she’s never looked back.

We sat down with Catarina to find out how she transitioned from sales to marketing on her terms. Plus, some of her best advice for revenue leaders.

Prefer to listen to the full podcast? Sit back, grab a beverage, and check it out here!

Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Making the move across the divide—the shift from sales to marketing

Switching from sales to marketing came with a steep learning curve.

“As an SDR, you are often task-oriented. Whereas with marketing roles, you need to be switched on to the trends and always learning, evolving, and understanding what’s going on in the market,” Catarina says.

“Something that worked six months ago, may not work anymore. And you need to try different things to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s like a science. Lots of trial and error,” she explains.

Plus, she had to learn B2B martech while building up the marketing department from ground zero at the same time. By the end of the first year, she had a fully functioning HubSpot CRM running—making it easier for the team to nurture leads and manage its marketing activities efficiently.

Her secret sauce?

“Every year, I focus on executing one big project and figure out the priorities around it,” says Catarina.

“In my second year, I focused on developing and executing a content strategy. The third year, customer events. The fourth year, we focused on running events for our prospects. But my biggest achievement was relaunching the website at the onset of the pandemic (more on that below),” she continues.

Catarina is always the first one to admit that sales is as critical as marketing.

“The sales team often knows more about the pain points of the customers, because they speak to the prospects day in, day out. But marketing facilitates sales,” says Catarina.

“I still listen to sales calls because you need to hear what the market is saying. That’s doubly important.”

We all agree with her, right?

Going with your gut—the impact of a revamped website

Operatix’s previous website took some handling.

“We were spending a lot of money on fixes to the old website. Tweaks upon tweaks. When I looked at the budget I had spent through the year on tweaks, I realized we almost spent the cost of a new website. So, I thought we might as well do a new one,” says Catarina.

To get executive buy-in, she presented a presentation to show the return on investment (ROI) of setting up a new website.

“I put together a business case. Looked into the industry standards around the typical average between a visitor to a lead. Plus, we knew our conversion rate in terms of MQL leads to close. We only had to close two or three leads to justify the investment in the website,” Catarina explains.

In the end, her gamble worked out. And Catarina overachieved her goals, despite, in her words, ‘the big risk’ considering the time when all this was happening—during the sustained stress and continual uncertainty of the pandemic.

“We changed the back end, design, messaging, and content. Since then, we’ve doubled our inbound leads. And doubled our contribution to revenue,” says Catarina. 

Her two biggest takeaways

Sometimes, sales reps transitioning to marketing are iffy about taking on the challenge of a new career. But Catarina knows all about that. Here are her two top tips for marketers making the jump from sales.

The first is to not lose the revenue mindset - which comes naturally as a salesperson but can be somewhat removed once you’re more focused on the top of the funnel.

“The earlier we as marketers understand that we’re there to generate revenue and help the sales team, the faster we can be successful and prove the value of marketing. Many people or companies still see marketing as a cost centre. For me, being managed by a CEO with a sales mind was good because he made sure we kept sales top of mind,” Catarina explains.

Her next tip? Follow your gut! Marketing is both arts and science. We have tools, data, and benchmarking now to help us with the “science” part, but don’t completely ignore the “arts” which can come from your intuition.

“For example, I knew we had to change the website. Then I found a way to prove the ROI for that project to communicate it with my CEO. Don’t let your gut feeling go dormant.” 

For the full interview, tune in to The First 100 Days by UserGems.

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