At its core, the business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing process should be pretty straightforward.
As you can see in the diagram on the right, assuming that you have a product or service to sell, you start by (1) identifying a potential market, and setting a revenue goal.
You then (2) do research to find the names and phone numbers of people who could potentially buy your product. And you (3) put some sales aids together to help you tell your product's story.
Typically, you then (4) start calling the people on your list until you find someone who expresses interest. If you find someone who's interested, you (5) uncover their needs and build value, you (6) propose your product as the solution, you handle any objections that come up, and if they're ready to buy, you (7) ask for the order. And hopefully they close.
Unfortunately, as they say, there's many a slip between the lip and the cup. Sometimes the cash register doesn't ring.
For starters, many salespeople have a tough time making that initial cold call. They may have difficulty getting good contact information. Or they may have trouble identifying potential buyers. They may not be able to get past gatekeepers or voice mail. They may have an ineffective pitch. They may not be able to overcome objections or find an application. Or maybe they're just afraid of rejection.
Any of these challenges can easily torpedo an otherwise sound strategy.
The first thing that most sales teams do when their "direct sales" strategy doesn't work is they'll ask for warmer leads, where the introduction isn't so strained. For example, they'll ask to exhibit at a trade show because "that's where the buyers are," and because selling isn't viewed as so out of place. And, of course, there are no gatekeepers there either. And that's fine, as long as a few decision makers actually show up. But what do you do for the other 51 weeks of the year?
In that case they'll ask Marketing to blast out an email, publish content, do some SEO, advertise, spend some money on PPC, try to fill up a Webinar, or subscribe to a lead service. Because, supposedly, at least the people who respond, click or attend have an interest.
What most companies find, though, is that while you may get some responses, before you know it your marketing budget has eaten up all your margin. And you still haven't closed anything.
As appealing as it sounds, asking Marketing to generate "warm leads" usually doesn't work. Think about it:
When you ask Marketing to do lead generation, usually what you end up with are bad leads, lower margins, lower close rates and often failure. Along with an expensive marketing bust, disgruntled salespeople, and unhappy investors.
The problem, of course, isn't that marketing itself is bad. We use it to support our clients' Lead Generation programs all the time. It's just that in B2B, marketing alone isn't particularly good at getting you in the door with a busy decision maker who has other priorities besides listening to your sales pitch, or who may not know he needs your product.
To be sure, if you're willing to spend an enormous amount of money, marketing can get people's attention. And it can even stimulate interest. But unless you want to be commoditized - that is, unless you want to be forced to compete primarily on the basis of price - you're still going to have to pick up the phone and make the first move.
And that's where we come in: the Missing Link between Marketing and Sales.