Optimizing B2B Marketing and Sales Processes Helps CEOs Drive More Profitable Growth
by Sergio Balegno

Ever since marketing and sales emerged as separate business disciplines in the mid-twentieth century, a gap has existed between the two for many companies.

Spend a day inside most business-to-business organizations and you’ll find that marketing is often frustrated by sales’ inability to capitalize on the opportunities they create, while salespeople believe that marketing is wasting their time with unlikely leads.

Look closer and you’ll find that serious money is being spent every quarter to generate leads with no viable process in place to continuously qualify, track and nurture relationships until they are ready to buy – which can take months or even years in a complex sales-cycle. Unfortunately, once these leads have fallen through these cracks in the marketing-sales process, the investment to generate them has been lost.

Successfully transforming a culture of disparate marketing and sales activities into a cohesive marketing-sales process starts at the top.

So, what can a CEO do to close this costly gap and drive more profitable growth?

Start by optimizing marketing and sales processes.

It’s a basic business truth – improving processes improves productivity. Ever since Henry Ford conceived and constructed the first assembly line (a grand manufacturing process improvement of historic proportions), companies have continually worked on operational processes like manufacturing and accounting to improve productivity and profitability. Yet these same companies often neglect to apply this proven principle to marketing and sales.

Given that marketing and sales are the lifeblood of business growth today, it is surprising that more companies haven’t implemented the type of process-based approach that has been producing dramatic results for many industry-leaders.

But effectively implementing this new approach will require you to think about marketing and sales differently – as a seamless business development process. And it will require an end-to-end process optimization that transforms diverse marketing and sales activities into a clear and cohesive business development pipeline, driven by technology you may already have or can easily implement for optimal productivity.

Define the stages of a sequential marketing-sales pipeline.

A process-based approach begins by defining the fundamental stages of a sequential marketing-sales pipeline. This pipeline should give you an uncomplicated end-to-end view of the entire marketing and sales process.

The sequential pipeline will encourage marketing and sales to work together in understanding where each opportunity is in the pipeline and who has responsibility for advancing it to the next stage. A useful guideline is for marketing to own the process from marketing communications until a qualified opportunity is identified, and for sales to own the process from the hand-off of a qualified opportunity through the sales conversion.

Define the rules required to advance from one stage to the next.

An effective pipeline process has clearly defined rules for each stage.

Examples:

  • Standards to be met for communicating the brand.

  • Markets to be targeted for generating leads.

  • Characteristics and categories of qualified prospects.

  • Timeframes and requirements for identifying sales opportunities.

  • Procedures for converting sales opportunities into customers.

Define pipeline tracking, forecasting and reporting requirements.

A well defined pipeline process will enable management to better track opportunities, forecast revenue and report on results.

CEOs are encouraged to use the pipeline process as a dashboard for measuring marketing and sales productivity improvements that translate into increased revenue, reduced selling costs and more profitable growth.


Sergio Balegno is a B2B marketing process and solutions architect. He is Managing Partner of Ascend2 LLC, a marketing consulting and technology services firm focused on optimizing and automating new business development processes. For more information visit www.Ascend2.com or call Sergio at 800-762-1595 ext 701.

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Copyright 2007 by Sergio Balegno. All rights reserved.

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