7 Reasons Your B2B Sales and Marketing Organizations Are Underperforming


Brian Carroll, executive director of applied research for MECLABS, shares how to avoid seven common B2B sales and marketing mistakes.

In manufacturing, producing more and more output from the same amount of raw material results in a stronger bottom line. The yield of salable products from raw materials is one way manufacturers measure performance and efficiency.

The acceptable ranges of yield vary by industry and product. Generally speaking though, anything below 90 percent isn’t good, while numbers in the single digits typically cause companies to tear their facilities apart to figure out what’s wrong with them.

In B2B sales and marketing, however, a 5-10 percent yield on raw material — the amount of raw leads pumped into sales funnels — is acceptable. In fact, anything in the double digits is often a cause for celebration.

If you want to increase your yield — and have real reason to celebrate — address these seven common mistakes:

1. Failing to Deliver a Clear Value Proposition

Here’s the question that marketers must answer: Why should customers buy from you, rather than your competitors? At the expansion stage, most companies haven’t clearly defined their value proposition. Ultimately, that prevents sales teams from conveying true value to the ideal customer profile, which can kill potentially fruitful leads or mistakenly qualify others who don’t truly align with the company’s capability. That’s why you must iron out your value proposition (check out this article if you want to do it right: Marketing Optimization: 4 Steps to discovering your value proposition and boosting conversions). Next, make sure that your sales and marketing teams are conveying it. If you do that, it will not only help your messaging, it will also increase the likelihood that prospects will continue to pass through your funnel.

2. Not Understanding Your Customer

Most marketers embrace a ready-aim-fire approach to generating, qualifying, and scoring leads. Instead, it should be: target, focus, and execute. In other words, target only your ideal customer profile (the right people at the right companies), focus on their shared traits and attributes, and execute the right tactics to generate the right leads. If you don’t understand who your ideal customers are and what matters to them — favoring relevancy and quality over quantity— you won’t deliver the kind of raw material (high-quality leads) that can be efficiently produced into viable products (opportunities and sales).

3. Focusing on Activity, Rather than Results

Salespeople don’t need more leads. They need more qualified opportunities. Unfortunately, most marketers focus on lead generation programs that produce large numbers of leads, but they don’t qualify them. In fact, 61 percent of B2B marketing organizations admit they send leads directly to sales, according to the MarketingSherpa 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report. Sending every lead to sales will certainly create plenty of activity, but it will also produce less yield. Quality is far more important than quantity. Higher quality leads allow sales teams to optimize their time, creating a much healthier pipeline.

4. Lack of Sales and Marketing Alignment

The biggest question that marketers need to answer is what exactly the words “qualified lead” mean in the minds of their sales counterparts. To do that, sales and marketing need to collaborate to develop a Universal Lead Definition. Without one, about 80 percent of marketing generated leads are either lost, ignored, or discarded because the sales team doesn’t believe they’re worth pursuing (for more on finding out how to create a universal lead definition, check out: Five Steps to Help Create Your Universal Lead Definition).

5. Not Huddling Between Plays

Even if marketing and sales have successfully overcome each of the missteps listed above, this mistake can screw everything up. Imagine what would happen if a football team huddled once before the game started, but never again after that. It wouldn’t win many games, would it? So why do marketing and sales get together before launching a lead generation campaign, but never meet again to share feedback and make course corrections?

Marketing teams should be asking three key questions after delivering leads to sales:

  1. What can we be doing to help you sell?
  2. What are the things we should start doing that we haven’t done in the past?
  3. What are the things we should stop doing that add no value?

6. Lacking Process and Documentation

All too often, companies try to fix sales pipelines by looking at the end of the process. In reality, most problems begin at the start of the marketing pipeline. Regardless of where breakdowns occur, companies need to adopt a quality control process that’s similar to manufacturing, documenting each step to acquire a clearer understanding of what can be fixed.

Ultimately, if 90 percent of your product (i.e., leads) is defective or doesn’t contribute to revenue, then you need to go back and understand what’s causing that to happen.

7. Eliminating Prospects Too Quickly

At its core, lead generation is really about identifying the right people at the right companies, initiating memorable conversations with them, and nurturing those prospects from early interest to consideration.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen that way. Instead, marketers ask prospects to marry them on the first date and that’s a big mistake. If a prospect isn’t ready to buy right now and marketers eliminate him from their database because of that, they might be missing out on a big opportunity. The goal should be to build meaningful relationships that foster a healthier, more relevant funnel — both in the short and long term.

This is a guest post from Brian Carroll, executive director of applied research for MECLABS, and author of the bestselling B2B marketing book Lead Generation for the Complex Sale.