Why Asking Sales What They Need from Marketing is a Bad Idea

A cardinal sin of a marketer is to ask the sales team what they need to be competitive. The response to that question elicits a range of requests, often unrelated to the realities of the market.

Recently, two independent reports confirmed for me a trend I’ve been seeing for years: that sellers have far less control over how products are sold than they believe, and it’s buyers that are increasingly making up their minds before contacting a supplier.

MarketingSherpa published a B2B Marketing Benchmark Survey that reported that B2B sales cycles are getting shorter.

B2B Sales Cycles Getting Shorter

The MarketingSherpa survey correlated lower deal prices to shorter sales cycles, but I believe something more significant is happening.

The Corporate Executive Board published a study reporting that…

Buyers are not contacting suppliers until they are, on average, 57% of the way through their purchase process —meaning they have already determined their needs, completed due diligence, and have even begun to do some comparison shopping.”

Given this market dynamic, asking the sales team what they need would be a foolish exercise and a waste of company resources. In the end, the sales team would get what they asked for, but not get what they need to be competitive.

Customer engagement starts well before first contact with a salesperson and they are much further along in their purchase decision. Whether the prospect makes contact or not will largely be determined by the information provided to the buyer, the company’s reputation, and market visibility. The marketing team, therefore, plays a decisive role in helping prospects with needs determination and due diligence.

Update: Additional insight from Beth Negus Viveiros over at Chief Marketer

“Recent Corporate Executive Board research shows that B2B customers may look at up to 10 sources of information about potential purchases prior talking to a vendor. Many of these sources are typically not supplier related. In a survey of 1,900 B2B customers, word of mouth was cited by 72% of respondents, while 62% cited non-supplier blogs and 47% cited trade journals.”

Jim Semick

Jim Semick

Jim Semick is co-founder of ProductPlan, a leading provider of cloud-based roadmap software for product and marketing teams. For more than 15 years he has helped launch new products now generating hundreds of millions in revenue. He was part of the founding team at AppFolio, a vertical SaaS company. Prior to AppFolio, Jim validated and created version 1.0 product requirements for GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting (acquired by Citrix). Jim is a frequent speaker on product management and the process of discovering successful business models. He contributes at www.productplan.com/blog. Follow Jim on Twitter at @JimSemick.


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