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Pivoting: From Sales into Marketing

Winding Road Podcast Cover - Alexis Scott

The day-to-day of marketing and sales are different. Understanding these differences along with knowing your strengths is the key to making a successful pivot.



What happens when burn out starts to creep into your sales role? Should you stick with the grind or pivot into something new?

Alexis Scott was an experienced and successful salesperson. Eventually though, the grind became too much and she needed a change. But what kind of change? 

She contemplated moving into a recruiting role, maybe even marketing. She had seen a peer grow a marketing function at her company and the transformation was remarkable; she was in awe. 

It Always Come Back to Relationships - with Yourself and Others

When making a pivot, self-reflection is critical. Are there things you do in your free time that you enjoy? Are there certain aspects of your current role that you seem to thrive in, that give you energy versus draining you?

What are you curious about? What's something that seems interesting?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying to follow your passion. Personally, I think that's a bad idea and one that will likely leave you disappointed. 

What I am saying is to take an inventory of your strengths and identify how they could be career-agnostic. If you haven't done the Gallup StrengthsFinders evaluation, I would highly recommend it. (By the way, my top five strengths are Context, Individualization, Ideation, Learner, and Strategic). 

Once you've done that and you have found something that you find interesting, look around your network for people who work at companies who have the types of roles open that you want to pursue or find some time to interview someone you know that's doing the thing you want to pivot into. There are always aspects of new roles that you can't predict; get close to knowing what those are by talking with someone who is doing it now.

But, also realize that you won't know everything about a role or company before joining. There will always be surprises and the more you embrace that, the more successful your pivot will be.

It can also be helpful to find, follow, and connect with people who have been successful making the same pivot you want to make. For example, a past guest on my podcast, Chris Roche, made a similar pivot from sales into marketing and we talked about it during his interview. 


Staying in a Familiar Industry Helps

Regardless of the pivot you're making, keeping some things as familiar as possible will only increase your chances of being successful. If you try to pivot into a new type of role and into a new industry, the learning curve will be steep- maybe too steep.

Take the pressure off by pivoting within an industry you know - especially if you're transitioning from a sales role. Who knows and understands the customers better than someone in sales? This makes the transition into marketing much easier and actually gives you a distinct advantage. Most marketers don't know and understand the customers- as shocking and surprising as that it.

What's One of the Biggest Differences Between Sales and Marketing? 

Even if you know the industry and have a deep understanding of the customers, marketing is just different from sales. Sales is, for the most part, a very individualistic role (although this is changing and building better alignment between sales and marketing is what I help companies achieve as a Consultant at RainierDigital). 

Marketing, on the other hand, has a lot of moving parts. You have to rely on many different people to be successful (unless you're a marketing team of one - but even then you should be leaning on peers outside of your company; that's a topic for another time).

You're also managing a lot of different things - or at least have to know the basics of a lot of things - like SEO, content, advertising, email marketing, marketing automation, and on and on. 

One way of thinking about it, is that marketing is the quarterback of the company. When things go well, you get a lot of praise; when things go bad, you get a lot of the blame and you rely on a lot of other people to execute in order for things to work.

There are two areas of marketing that a lot of people overlook when they're considering a pivot into the discipline: internal buy-in and processes. 

Getting Internal Buy-In

This is where your sales experience will give you a leg up. Coming up with a marketing strategy is one thing, but before you can execute it, you typically have to get buy-in from others on the marketing team and leadership. Remember when I said there were a lot of people and moving parts involved with marketing? That means strategic decisions don't normally happen in a vacuum.

Another big difference between sales and marketing is the tech stack that's involved. Marketers love tools and platforms. In fact, as of 2022, there were 9,932 different martech solutions available. That's more than a lot, that's ridiculous. 

Most of that tech is not free. It will require buy-in from various parts of the business (leadership, finance) before a tool or platform can be purchased. Then, you have to get buy-in from the team to actually use it. 

Marketing is Very Process-Driven

Because you have so many moving parts and so many people involved, developing and relying on processes is key (as is documentation). 

Consistency and efficiency are what it's all about when building campaigns and delivering on marketing projects. Having established processes will make that a reality. Remember that massive martech landscape? You'll probably employ one or more tools to help you execute against your processes, the most important is a project management platform.

The sooner you can become familiar with more common project management platforms available, the better off you'll be. Some of the more common ones used right now include Asana (my favorite), ClickUp, and

Find Internal Mentors

If you've followed me for any length of time, you'll know I'm a big proponent of having mentors. This is probably the most important thing you can do for your career, whether you're pivoting or not. In fact, I recently reached out to someone who has built a successful marketing agency about becoming my mentor (they said yes, so all you have to do is ask). 

But, having an external mentor isn't enough, especially if you're making a pivot. Finding a mentor that's internal to your company can be just as beneficial. They'll know how the company operates, how to navigate then internal politics, as well as the expectations that may not be overtly obvious. 

There are some limitations to having an internal mentor, most commonly your comfort in being completely open about how things are going or some of the questions you may have; that's why its important to also have external mentors. Conversely, external mentors won't have the insight into your company like someone who also works there will have. 

Preparing for Your First 90 Days

Lastly, it's important to map out and set expectations around your first 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. Even if you weren't making a career pivot, there are going to be things you'll need to learn when joining a new company. Things like processes, who everyone is and what their roles are, how to get things done and where to go, new technology, and many other things. 

Here's how Alexis has approached her first 90 days in her new role at her new company:


Bonus Outake

The day I interviewed Alexis was tough. For one, it was a Monday and it's always tough to get back in the groove after the weekend. BUT, it's even more difficult when you were sick and in a cold medicine fog. I was definitely not at my best, but sometimes all we can do is laugh at ourselves. 


Are you looking for a job and feel like you need some guidance? I offer new way of coaching using asynchronous voice messaging. If you'd like to tap into my experience of being a former recruiter along with my deep understanding of marketing careers, consider my 6- week coaching program