It’s common to see the label ‘sales & marketing’. Suffixed with ‘executive’, ‘department’, etc etc. Lots of folks read the ‘&’ and see a close connection, so close as to be practically an inch away from ‘the same’. True, both overlap in many ways.
But there are points where marketing and sales diverge: often the same points where they complement each other. Over the course of five years in B2B sales, I observed how they can interact as separate entities in a B2B environment.
The overbrand: company identity vs. product branding
One of the first things I learned in a B2B solutions provider was to recommend brands that fit the customer’s budget. But at times, even small companies could be convinced to invest in costly solutions normally used by much larger ones. What persuaded them was the concept of what I represented: a reputable problem-solver behind a portfolio of successful projects.
If the sales are expected to be the product experts, it is up to the marketers to project the company’s image – promoting the merchant, not the goods. Companies are brands in their own right and can and should be marketed that way. If yours deals in a bunch of individual product brands, don’t fixate on those.
Take the focus away from them, and onto you. You want to be known by your own brand – an ‘overbrand’ if you will – and what it represents for your customers. Like computer manufacturers who use parts from the same suppliers. There are a lot more folks who know those products’ brands than folks who know your company’s. Build on that.
When a lead isn’t a lead
A lead is a potential buyer with the means and the inclination, or need, to do business with you. A marketer telling salespeople to touch base with customers who aren’t even customers yet – no expressed interest, no contact information, even, in some cases, no prior contact – isn’t handing off leads.
That’s a whole different ball game called cold calling. Your salespeople shouldn’t need you for that; that’s what directories are for.
Respondents to your email blasts, roadshow marketing, and so on should be the ones given priority treatment. They have answered your invitation; it would not do to leave them on the doorstep while you post out another.
One customer can have many faces
Too often, the people we deal with in companies that buy from us aren’t the only button-pushers in the decision-making process. Worse, they may not even be the right button-pushers. While it’s primarily the job of the sales reps to identify these folks, marketers have a part to play too.
Knowing who to target is but the first step. It’s necessary for marketers to personify these contacts and personalize their messaging to get a better response from each category. You don’t harp on network load efficiency to a finance or procurement manager.
This has the dual effect of building trust by showing your customers you know where they’re coming from, and helping your salespeople influence future transactions (which also promotes integration between both teams). It’s never enough to win deals by price point alone – knowing your audience is key to long-term business.
Stay in sync
Lastly, the most basic and pertinent of all. It won’t do to have marketers communicating one thing to customers and salespeople another – they have to stay on the same frequency. This is especially relevant in companies where the latter have direct, day-to-day contact with customers.
Not to mention if there is negative publicity involved – you don’t want conflicting, infirm responses when word spreads and other customers start asking their sales reps ‘hey, just what happened there?’.
Ultimately, marketing and sales are flip sides of the same coin; both contribute to the same strategic aim. While definitions may differ between companies, alignment between the two functions will lead to a better customer engagement experience and enhanced returns.
B2Bento welcomes Chester Teck – the author of this piece – to its writing team. Chester comes with several years of experience in B2B sales. We look forward to far too less often-voiced perspectives from him to balance all the marketing-talk on B2Bento.