Sales and Marketing Harmony
by Maureen Blandford


Branding doesn't work in business to business.

When Bill Gates made his historic first sale to IBM, he didn’t have a product, much less a carefully constructed brand identity. Gosh, he didn’t even have a brochure. Legend has it that he mapped out some of his solution on a napkin.  So how did win that gig with so little stuff? He convinced IBM that he could alleviate their pain while providing competitive advantage.

Contrast Mr. Gates’ experience with  the high-profile dot.bombs. Huge advertising budgets. High gloss images. Little substance. Less business acumen. Out go the lights.

I’ve asked numerous B2B executives from around the world in a wide variety of industries the following question: What would happen to your sales efforts if your business stopped producing any new marketing materials – for six months – maybe a year?

I get the same answer every time. “Probably nothing.” 

Hmmm …

Every year, B2B companies with a direct sales force spend tons of money on marketing / communications (MarCom) programs that are rarely effective in delivering back to the bottom line. Why do these programs have so little impact? And why do sales organizations continue to hammer marketing organizations for these types of tools when consultative selling relies primarily on the art of great questioning?

Corner office executives, and their teams, don’t absorb standard marketing materials.  These same executives, however, will take the time (as private consumers) to read a brochure for a hot new car, go to a website to vet out vacation spots or check their portfolio. But for strategic business purchase decisions (the big dollar stuff), they typically do not read brochures, watch videos or peruse websites. It’s not a part of their decision-making process for strategic purchases.

Here’s how the business executive strategic purchase decision-making process works: At the beginning of the decision-making process, a B2B prospect could have roughly three to seven potential vendors on the radar screen.  At this point in the process, a prospect devotes very little in-depth attention to any one vendor.

As the prospect moves along the decision-making process, and narrows the field of contenders, the prospect devotes incrementally more time to understanding a vendor’s offer.  So at the beginning of the process, prospects pay little attention to vendors. At the end, however, prospects and their teams spend countless hours reviewing proposals, talking to referrals, meeting with the vendor representatives and their teams.

As a vendor moves  through the sales process, the prospect wants increasingly more customized information tailored to his/her pain. Not packaged marketing materials.  As any good sales person knows, it’s all about the prospect.

Yet, at the very point in the process where the Executive prospect is the least willing to pay attention (upfront), is exactly the point where sales organizations ask MarCom to flood the marketplace and the sales-force with reams of information about offers, products and services.  Add to that conundrum the fact that most MarCom communiqués drone on about features, functions and benefits…rather than concise points targeting prospect pain.  “Blah, blah, blah” is what the prospect absorbs.

What Does Work?

While visual image is important, it isn’t everything. Whether you’re big or small, if you’re selling to the corner office, your first priority is to get your sales people in the door to execute the true “consultative sales call.”

How can your communications materials help? First, define why you solve your target market’s pain better than anyone else. Be concise. How you solve pain and improve competitive power for your prospects is what they want to know.

Hammer it home with clear and simple messages. Consistency and simplicity are powerful weapons for your sales force, and much easier on your budget, as well.

Note to sales organizations: If you’ve embraced Consultative Selling (and if you haven’t, you should), your ability to win deals is based on your reps’ ability to uncover and quantify pain. You will not win if you have your reps out there explaining why your solution is better than the rest. You want your folks questioning and listening.

Note to marketing organizations: Understand the consultative selling process. Help to support that in every way that you can. Yes there are tangible marketing & sales support materials that can be beneficial to the process, but supporting consultative selling is a different game than supporting Dog & Pony Show selling.

We can’t all be Bill Gates and Microsoft. But remember that there are companies every day succeeding without name recognition – and they’re succeeding through the strength, passion, and commitment of their people.

I’m doggedly determined to help B2Bs with a direct sales force understand that in B2B it’s people, and how they perform in the sales and delivery processes that have the greatest impact on current and future customers. Not Branding.

Here's more to make my case:

Read: Sales and Marketing Harmony for Profitable Growth

Listen: An interview with Business Week


The Author

Maureen Blandford

Branding Doesn't Work in Business to Business

Maureen Blandford is a native Chicagoan, working out of Dayton, OH, swimming upstream against the powerful Madison Avenue Branding current. Her world is B2B. As CEO of the MindTime® Group, Maureen Blandford helps her clients break through ineffective marketing strategies to develop tactics that work. Blandford combines her practical expertise with her ground breaking methodologies to alert B2B decision makers to reallocate marketing dollars to a consultative selling motion.

For additional information visit .

Many more articles in Sales & Marketing in The CEO Refresher Archives

Copyright 2008 by
Maureen Blandford. All rights reserved.

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