Why are 90% of B2B sales and marketing teams out of sync? To find out, I suggest we revisit the classic Abbott and Costello Who’s on First skit to get sales and marketing in the right mindset.

Who’s on First – Yes. I Mean the Fellow’s Name.

At its core, building a B2B sales pipeline is as fundamental as target, message, offer and follow-up. However each step in the demand generation process is complex and highly dependent upon understanding the buying process and the served-market. Also, while most B2B marketers believe they know the answers to the questions above, when the responses are played back to the sales team there are lots of eye rolls, sighs and outbursts.

Step One for sales and marketing is to sit down and agree on the served-market. Note that the end product of this discussion should not result in statements such as:

  • We sell to everyone
  • We sell to the Global 2000
  • We sell to financial services companies
  • We sell to English speaking countries

The result of this exercise should result in definitive statements that are actionable. For example:

  • The target market is companies with annual revenues between $500M to $5B
  • The targeted industry is commercial banking as defined by NAIC codes:
    • 6021 – National Commercial Banks
    • 6022 – State Commercial Banks
    • 6029 – Commercial Banks, not elsewhere classified
    • 6081 – Branches and Agencies of Foreign Banks
  • There are 1,100 commercial banks in the segment and the names, addresses, industry, assets and other relevant information has been documented for each one

What’s on Second – No. What is on Second Base.

Step Two is for the sales team to brief the marketing team on who – from the customer’s point of view – is involved in the purchase decision. Specifically, this requires:

  • The functions are identified (IT, Sales, Marketing, HR, Finance, etc.)
  • The titles are documented (C-level, VP’s, director’s, managers and individual contributor’s)
  • Keywords are then developed for each title (analytics, information, architect, BI, SaaS, cloud computing, etc.)

An audit of the internal suspect and prospect database needs to be conducted to determine how many contacts exist which meet the above criteria. This number is then documented. Finally, an action plan is created to pinpoint exactly how the necessary contacts will be obtained.

I Don’t Know is on Third. We’re Not Talking About Him.

Step Three is that marketing focuses on the end goal – a qualified sales opportunity that is entered into the sales forecast with a weighted value of 10% – 20%.

Marketing has to resist the temptation to create a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) definition based on “scoring”. Scoring is complex, and the vast majority of B2B companies implemented it in a flawed manner. Scoring is NOT simply based on behavior, i.e., a HOT MQL exists because someone downloaded multiple digital assets. If the web visitor is not in the served-market, and in the right function with the right title, they should not be categorized as an MQL.

In order for marketing to be integrated into the sales process, the MQL definition has to be reverse-engineered from the sales person’s perspective. This is necessary for a successful hand-off and a high probability of becoming a qualified sales opportunity.

The good news is that the work in steps one and two become the foundation for documenting what a real, valid and productive MQL is.

Make Sure Sales & Marketing Know Who’s on First

The best way for marketing to be truly integrated with sales is to stack the deck—focus all outbound efforts against a database that only contains potential MQLs. In the early days there is usually no need for lead scoring because:

  1. All responses to outbound programs are, by definition, MQLs
  2. The MQL lead flow is most likely very manageable at 5-10 per rep per week – unless the outbound lead generation programs are not thought of from a waterfall perspective against a calendar framework

When lead scoring is deployed, it’s important to make sure the criteria in steps one and two outweigh the sum of any behavior scores so that the chaff does not enter the sales funnel. Behavioral and social activity is important when applied to the served-market. Follow these guidelines to successfully integrate marketing with sales.

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