At its core, the business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing process should be pretty straightforward.
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 might do some (2) research to find people who could potentially buy your product. And you put together some (3) promotional material and sales aids to help you market it.
If you're like most companies, you then pump content into whatever media you can find in order to create awareness. And if you have sales reps, they start calling the people on your list, and following up leads from your media campaign, hoping to get(4) appointments with qualified buyers.
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.
Here's another view of the B2B Sales Process with more detail.
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.
On the marketing side, your promotions can be drowned out by the basic noise in the media. You could spend weeks preparing to exhibit at a trade show that no one attends. Your Web site could be ignored by your prospects. Your Webinars can go unattended. Your emails can be sent to the spam folder. Your PR can be uninteresting to editors. And your clicks can all be from tirekickers. And, in the meantime, time goes by, and nothing happens.
Any of these challenges can easily torpedo an otherwise sound strategy.
The first thing that happens, when nothing happens, is the finger-pointing begins. Sales blames Marketing for producing low-quality leads. And Marketing blames Sales for not being able to close them.
In an effort to move the ball forward, most companies will call a meeting, and try some brainstorming. People will come up with ideas, like "lead scoring" in order to quantify lead quality. Or they might turn to technology to manage the dozens of different marketing programs, and to gain some accountability. Sales might volunteer for some training. Or HR might do some team-building.
But another quarter goes by, and the needle hardly moves.
As hard as it is to accept, the problem is usually Management. In most cases, Management doesn't understand how B2B Marketing and Sales really work - even if they came from one group or the other.
Of course, it goes without saying that Marketing probably doesn't understand how Sales works. And Sales probably doesn't understand how Marketing works. But that only makes the problem worse.
The real issue is where they come together - way back up on the flow chart at the top of this page, at the intersection of (1), (2), (3) and (4). The fact is that Marketing and Sales, and technology for that matter, don't just magically come together to produce qualified leads.
They have to be integrated. The divide has to be bridged. And they have to really understand what the other one needs.
And that's where we come in: the Missing Link between Marketing and Sales.