Industrial Marketing Can’t Succeed Without Sales


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I can assure you this is not another post about sales and marketing alignment. Plenty has been written on that topic already.

I am sure you’ve read many articles about today’s industrial buyers completing most of their decision making long before they ever contact anyone in sales. Various statistics show how Sales is not involved until the final procurement stage, thus making a strong case for using content in inbound industrial marketing to bridge the gap.

I read an article where recent Forrester research found that 75% of the buying cycle is completed before sales is engaged.

Then there’s the SiriusDecisions-approved version: 67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.

Here’s another one from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) stating that a Corporate Executive Board study of more than 1,400 B2B customers found that those customers completed, on average, nearly 60% of a typical purchasing decision—researching solutions, ranking options, setting requirements, benchmarking pricing, and so on—before even having a conversation with a supplier.

One would think all Sales does these days is wait for customers to call them, email RFQs and then wait for the big deals to close. Nothing is further from the truth than that, at least not in my world of industrial and manufacturing marketing.

I am not the only one who sees it that way. Megan Heuer, Vice President and Group Director, Data-Driven Marketing, at SiriusDecisions in her myth-busting blog post, “Three Myths of the “67 Percent” sets the record straight about the so-called lack of involvement of Sales.

My take on this is based on what I see on the ground with my manufacturing and industrial clients.

  • Yes, it is true that the bulk of the research is done online these days. That doesn’t mean Sales has nothing do in the early stages. They are on the front line and much more in tune with customers’ wants and needs than are marketers. They are the ones who hear the “voice of the customer” first. Such insights are very helpful to Marketing in creating content that is more relevant and adjusting scoring rules for converting Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) into Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). It also means that the sales team needs to be better prepared when they do get in front of customers. The old notion of “Buyer Beware” has been turned on its head to “Seller Beware” because today’s customers are better informed thanks to the Internet and digital marketing. (See my post, “SAL is the Glue that Binds Sales and Marketing in Lead Generation” for definitions of MQL, SQL and SAL).
  • In complex industrial sales where the strongest emotion is risk aversion, trust that comes from strong personal relationships provides the level of comfort necessary to select one vendor’s solution over the others. It is a myth that there are no emotions involved in industrial sales. Emotions do drive industrial buying decisions and are then backfilled with logic. Often, who you know trumps what you know. To use Joe Pulizzi’s football analogy, “If content marketing were a football field, inbound marketing would get you to the 35-yard line. Definitely critical, but hard to score from that distance.” You need your Sales team to take you from the 35 yard line into the end zone if you want to score and get more wins. (See my post, “Content Marketing Must Go Beyond Inbound Marketing in Industrial Sales”).

I really don’t see how industrial marketing can succeed without the active participation of Sales. Do you?


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