Steps in the B2B Marketing and Sales Process


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In a typical business-to-business scenario, responses you generate and people you have contact with will flow through the marketing system and at different times during the end-to-end process will fall into the following categories:

  1. Database Build – Contact names you have added to your database who have not responded to a promotional offer. You collect these names for remarketing purposes because they match the prospect criteria. Your mission is to turn them into raw inquiries.
  2. Raw Inquiry – Any person/company that responds to one of your marketing promotions, from any source, whether qualified or not. Your mission is to turn raw inquires into suspects or qualified leads.
  3. Suspect – An inquiry that has passed your initial screening and is deemed to have some potential to become a customer. Your mission is to turn suspects into qualified leads.
  4. Qualified Lead – A lead that has gone through a more in-depth qualification process, either by filling out a Web lead form or by being asked a series of questions by a sales development rep. At this point, the lead may be classified as a hot prospect (one ready to make a decision), a warm prospect (one with the capacity to become a hot prospect), a suspect, or a dead lead.
  5. Inactive Lead – This is a person who will not buy now, but who you deem to have potential for the future. You should enter these leads into your database system and continue to remarket to them until they become suspects or qualified leads.
  6. Dead Lead – This lead has no chance of becoming a customer. But be careful in assigning leads to the dead file. So-called dead leads can often be resurrected and become purchasers. In fact, some companies assign new salespeople to work the dead lead file, often with surprising success. You should also put your competitors in the dead lead file so that you can exclude them from future marketing efforts.
  7. Opportunity – An opportunity is a lead that has been qualified and is being worked in an active sales cycle, with a potential dollar amount assigned. Best practice is to only let sales reps classify a lead as an opportunity.
  8. Customer – If you have done your job properly, a fair percentage of raw inquiries have been worked through the system and have become customers. Now your job is to get them to buy more products or services.
  9. Repeat Customer – The lifeblood of any business. Most companies devote too few resources to increasing revenues from existing customers, even though the cost to bring in an additional dollar of revenue from an existing client is far less than the cost of generating a dollar from a new customer.

At Fusion Marketing Partners, we get a great deal of satisfaction from helping companies establish an effective marketing and sales process – what we call “creating an unstoppable marketing and sales machine.” My next blog post will talk about how you can use conversion ratios to maximize performance at each step of the marketing and sales process.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Christopher Ryan
Christopher Ryan is CEO of Fusion Marketing Partners, a B2B marketing consulting firm and interim/fractional CMO. He blogs at Great B2B Marketing and you can follow him at Google+. Chris has 25 years of marketing, technology, and senior management experience. As a marketing executive and services provider, Chris has created and executed numerous programs that build market awareness, drive lead generation and increase revenue.


  1. This is a great blog post, Chris. Many think that generating leads is a “mission impossible”… You say that most companies devote too few resources to the repeat customer. I agree. Repeat customers are the golden opportunity to generate testimonials and good PR that will create more qualified leads. Our “mission” here is far from impossible! Thanks Chris.

  2. Great post! More companies need to be aware about being “careful in assigning leads to the dead file”. In my past experience, I’ve seen companies waste a perfectly good lead, because of one successful salesperson’s opinion to take them off the "list”. In some cases, it was merely the lead wanting a personal connection to someone which they didn’t have with the previous salesperson. It had nothing to do with the salesperson’s actual skills and experience of presenting the product. I look forward to reading more about these topics.


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