Should Sales be a part of Community?

I’m struggling more and more with the idea and purpose of brand communities. To be more specific, product-centric communities for B2B tech.

I’m defining community broadly - not just the forum or user group events. This is anywhere where users are engaging with and about the brand. This can include social media, 3rd party forums like Reddit, Stackoverflow, Github, Slack, etc.

Here’s my rub.

I believe a community manager’s role is to take these engagers and do two things:

  1. Where possible, create a safe space with direction as to what a user should/shouldn’t do, so that they have the best possible experience
  2. Steward those that are interested into developing a positive relationship with the brand. This can be through networking, ambassador programs, personalized experiences and invites, and even just attention

Yet, most of the interactions I see in these digital channels are all about product activation.

  • Users engage either to get “unstuck” in the shortest time possible by engaging with actual users. * Users join for social proof - to see that there is activity and possibly to see others like them
  • Users join to learn
  • Users join as a placeholder - they expect to engage in the near future, but aren’t yet ready

Sales is responsible for converting users into customers. To do so, they have to understand user needs and help them realize value as quickly as possible. Sales is the most incentivized to use their time to engage with possible customers, not every user.

Community teams typically want more company engagement within Community rather than doing all the community-building on their own; yet, there is a clear concern by many (although I think it’s lessening) about having Sales present in the community.

I don’t know the right answer here. I feel strongly that Sales can add a lot of value, and extra helping hands, in these environments. They can (and do) respond faster typically, and have access to more resources.

At the same time, by engaging directly, they may inadvertently reduce the public discourse that occurs, and the ability for community members to support each other. This may reduce engagement and have other downstream effects.

There could also be a middle ground, where a Community channel is carved out just for practitioners. But I think we’re all seeing that it’s pretty hard to tell users where to have conversations, unless we’re only talking about gated communities.

I don’t know. What do y’all think? Should we embrace Sales in community or should it be off-limits? Are there other concerns not listed? Would more participants allow community pros to focus more on programs and architecture/member journey?


Two big thoughts here:

  • An inbound sales-style motion :100:% could be a helpful addition to a product/brand community, especially if salesy discussions are kept mostly to email/DMs and qualified properly. People are coming to the community to engage with others around the brand or product, so to me this makes a ton of sense.
  • A community is an excellent source of market and buyer intelligence, meaning there’s a ton f to learn from the community or other parts of the company. In my mind this boils down to empathy: if sales, marketing, and product want to get a clearer picture of what it is to walk in a prospect or customer’s shoes, engaging with the community is a strong place to do so.
1 Like

I’m coming back to this later with thoughts.

In the meantime, I posted on Twitter and LinkedIn to gather ideas.

CleanShot 2023-05-31 at 14.58.48@2x


I think for starters, they can get to know the humans behind the emails in their CRM. I receive sales emails or am thrown into nurture campaigns just because I subscribe to certain product newsletters or have joined their communities at some point.

It’s a shame because I’m not a prospect at all; instead, I just want to stay updated on the product capabilities because I am passionate about the space and run a community of my own. At the very least, salespeople should know this and try and build relationships with folks like me who can potentially build awareness about whatever they’re selling (some salespeople do this well primarily because they’re being more mindful about their outreach).

I’ve even experienced thoughtful and mindless outreach from the same company at the same time – a sign of misalignment between teams.

Companies that are serious about building “communities” need to build better relationships with their audiences. Salespeople too need to understand the needs and workflows of their audiences and respect their priorities and preferences. Some more thoughts here.

1 Like

I think most things are just about being balanced. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer - just what works for your community. I think your concerns about reducing public discourse are valid, but my gut tells me that would likely only happen if you over-do it. I think if sales is being conscious and respectful in the environment, then I see no issue. I think I would want to see them engage in ways that are not sales-specific, so it feels like they are members of the community instead of always popping in for one specific purpose, but I think there’s also a good value proposition for the person being dedicated to solving one specific problem.


Some of the most knowledgable members of the support community I manage have been (or became) sales engineers so I certainly wouldn’t want a blanket ban on sales getting involved in it.

But like people have already mentioned, they need to understand that they need to be respectful and engage with the community on it’s own terms. They need to understand what works and what doesn’t, because the hard sell and the standard sales playbook turns people off in my experience.

And as already mentioned just getting salesfolk to hang out and listen to what customers are saying about their issues and needs can be incredibly useful. They also need to understand as well is that it’s a more of long game and that if you build the communities trust over time, by being part of the community they’ll get a lot more value, there’s no quick sell here.

I think part of our jobs as community managers is to help internal staff get how to engage with a community, setting a good example and evangelising about the right way of doing things. And also pushing back when people are suggesting stuff that just wont work or be actively damaging.

1 Like

Rachel “pie” Perkins built multiple brand/product communities during her career and shared this doc explaining how internal stakeholders should think about and participate in the community. It’s a great primer for setting expectations with Sales and other team members.


yoink Thanks for that, that’s an awesome little document.

1 Like