B2B Marketing


fresh experiences on marketing topics for the B2B enterprises and more

How to judge a lead-gen provider by its excuses

Being in the lead generation industry myself, I am curious what the competition is doing. Since „classical” sales methods don’t seem to work so effectively in the last few months, it seems that lead-gen activities are the last resort for some companies to stay alive. However, you should be very careful with selecting your lead-gen solutions provider, and keep in mind that not everything they present on paper can become reality.

Their job is to pass as many qualified prospects through the sales funnel, as fast as possible, to bring you more sales and a bigger income. When they cannot make it happen, there are some main reasons they will invoke. Here they are, not necessary in the order of importance, and some ways to figure them out:

  • Hard work in the ultimate thing in sales

They will tell you how many long and tiresome hours they’ve spent  to gather hundreds of contacts, and send them more or less compelling messages on your behalf. You should understand that what really makes a difference is that they only approach the right people in the first place, and try to cultivate a profitable relationship with them.

  • Leads are qualified in the 2.0 era

In the past, lead-gen providers were looking for leads in mailings, trade shows, advertising, networking or newsletters. In the 2.0 era, all these turned into blogs, videos, eBooks, free reports, press releases, RSS feeds or  email lists. Even the names sound more pretentious than in the past, the reality is the same: these are not leads. Most of the times, they are just inquiries from people who want something for free. Digging deeper into these sources, your provider may actually find a prospect. Who is neither a business referral, nor a lead.

  • Everything counts as a lead

Your lead-gen service provider may take pride in the number of e-mails or phine calls you receive. Still, some distinctions must be made. Inquiries are not leads. People who want to get something for free don’t represent leads. Leads are people who:

  1. Have a genuine business need that your product/service can fulfil
  2. Have a budget
  3. Are really interested in talking directly to you about your products and services to see how you can help them
  4. Match the ideal client profile

Leaving philosophy and terminology aside, the best possible leads are the ones you receive through a referral. When this happens, it means thay you already benefit from an amount of credibility and trust, and chances are that you will get a new client – more than 50% of the times, as I’ve noticed.

Filed under: b2b marketing, b2b sales, Business-to-Business, General, how to, Lead Generation, Marketing Results, Marketing vs Sales, objectives, , , , , , ,

Do you find it more and more difficult to sell? Than STOP doing it! You only need to help your customers buy…

Marketing systems that generate guaranteed sales results (II)

I hear more and more people complaining how difficult it is to sell. I stopped and wandered, why is it so difficult for us to sell, me included? Because I do not know how to sell, I know very well how to buy, and I can easily spot how everyone else around me is buying; it is seldom that I see a closed sale in which the customer was sold, and more than often when it’s so clear that the customer actually bought.

I even went through sales processes and trainings, in the hope that this would make me a good sales person… but most of them solve some small problems, and some of them were good in guiding me to identify how customers buy. Somewhere along these lines, I understood that the best sales people never really sell, most of them help the customers buy. There are many steps to this process and we will approach them one by one to better understand that is the role of marketing in encouraging customers to buy.

One of the first steps in this process is identifying how your customers buy today. How else will you be able to help them buy?

In b2c that’s easier; you can have research studies, questionnaires, customer profiling and all sorts of tools, based on cold fact data. So you can map out this buyer behavior. How about in b2b?  Well, as usual, you are on no man’s land. You can of course go through the same process as in B2C, and that will work, but it time and effort consuming, and the results are not guaranteed to be objective to your purpose. As I already accustomed you in this blog, I will take a step further and dare to throw in an alternative process, or shortcut to identifying buyer behavior.  

First of all ASK! Yes, ask your customers and your potential customers. Use some of the questions below or make up your own questions, but always ask them. Do not try to put in any of your own opinions; even if you have a best intention, even if you come from the same field as they are in right now, even if you are a customer yourself for similar services, ask them, do not answer this only by yourself.

What’s their motivation to buy?

Do they have a strong reason to buy your product or service? This could be a legal or 3rd party enforced, it could be salving a critical problem or improving dramatically some part of the business, it could be a certain market shift or competition increase, the need to perform savings or improve operations and many more. Please make sure that the buying reason is stated in terms of specific requirements, activities, problems etc and not general terms.

Who is the decision maker in the buying process?

Whom within the customer organization has the decision making power; who signs the contract? This is the person that buys, not anybody ales. If he buys from you or if he buys from someone within his own organization that you actually sold too… well that should provide you with some food for thought.

Who influences the purchase?

Who advises the decision maker, who approves the purchase before it gets to be signed, who provides the information for the decision making, who has more power to advice or influence? This is usually either specific hierarchy within a certain business function, or the advisory group to the decision maker.

What’s the criteria for selecting from different alternatives?

Is it the brand, the references and background, the skills or the direct endorsements and social networking the bases of your customer’s criteria for selecting a provider?

Is there actually a process for purchase?

Many times you’ll get an excuse that your offer did not got through to the purchase process. Well, as I said, that’s merely an excuse. Somewhere along the decision making chain someone did not wanted to buy. Find out this and help that person buy in your offerings. Purchase processes are good corporate excuses for the smart sales people that don’t take no for an answer.

When and where are they buying?

You can expand on this point as much as you want. Usually customers buy everywhere, from a social gathering to a billboard when walking by the street, they buy. So it’s a matter of being present where they are. If you did your segmentation correctly you already know where your customers are. Are you there yet? And I don’t just mean with advertising, but actually being there, getting involved in their association, supporting their efforts for a new government ruling in their sector and many, many more ways in which you can get involved to be present and be seen, so that you can be easily reached.

How do you stand from the crowd?

I already mentioned that if you are where your competition is, you are waisting your time. We’ll discuss some more on this point in the next post on positioning and differentiation, but for now it has to be clear, you have to be where no one else has gone before to have a winning long-term strategy. If you are where your competition is, the battle is on price and with that game, you and your competition will be buried alive… there’s no winners in this game.

Is it easy for your customers to know and reach you in the first place?

Some companies make it very difficult for their clients to reach them. Are you everywhere where your customer might be looking for services and products that you provide? Not where you think they are looking.. .this is the catch… where they are actually looking. Do you know where your customer is looking? Did you asked?


This is a simple list of question that will give you a lot to work on in understanding how your customer is actually buying. Be their purchase advisor, recommend something better if you truly think it’s just and you’ll get more business opportunities recommended after this than if you sold an account that you know you cannot execute at your best. 

Find out what your customer is willing to buy and help him buy that… eventually from you.

There’s much theory around this, but I am sticking to this simplified model of understanding how customers buy. It served many companies well so far. Let me know how it helped you.

Filed under: Best Practices, Marketing Results, Marketing Tactics, Marketing vs Sales, , , , ,

How do you design marketing systems that generate guaranteed sales results? (I)

I remember why I choose this profession: some day, early in my career I realized that no matter what you do (be it business or personal), you’ll still have to market it J; sales people will argue that no matter what you do, you still have to sell it but I’m sticking to my revelation. Ever since I got into it, there’s one thing that made me stop from running with the “crowd” and looking harder into a companies’ marketing strategy: what is the ultimate goal, where are all these people running to?

In the business world, everyone is running to get sales… and more sales. Which is fare and just, ’cause this is why companies are founded after all. So marketing needs to be aligned as a strategy to produce and encourage sales. Even in investing in branding or any other long-term marketing programs, it’s still sales that will get the final result after all, so why not just have sales as your main goal in a marketing program, when, especially for b2b, this is guaranteed to be the only real and objective measure of success for your marketing programs. You’ll  ask but what about the rest of the marketing results, aren’t they objective and realistic… well, hate to disappoint you, but the rest will be just justifications of why you need to have a marketing team J… you actually need sales results to survive and grow into a market. All marketing results should fall into producing more sales then.

So how do you design marketing systems that generate guaranteed sales results? This is actually very simple: first of all, if you haven’t done that already setup an objective for your company, usually a financial objective; or derive a financial objective from your main company goals. If you haven’t set-up objectives so far stay put for one of the future posts. After this, make sure that this number (the financial objective) translates into a realistic sales target.  How do you insure this? Well, ask your people, especially your sales people. Don’t ask them if they can achieve it, but rather what do they need to achieve this sales target. Their replies will give you your main marketing goals, since most of them will fall into:

  1. “We’ll need better client retention” which translates into marketing goal: put a loyalty program/system in place
  2. “We’ll need new client acquisitions” of [x] which translates into marketing goal: lead generation of [y]
  3. “We’ll need o tackle [this] market” which translates into marketing goal: build awareness into [this] market
  4. “We’ll need to launch a new product or service feature” which translates into marketing goal: new product launch
  5. “We’ve got no clue on how to get to this sales target at this point” (this is rare, but you might get this answer from your sales team) which translates into marketing goal: analize the market, develop a positioning on the market and research for new prospects base, lead generation etc.
  6. And many more… (you can leave any other sales dilemma in the comments field if it’s not above and I’ll try to translate it into a marketing goal)

When you’ve done this with your sales team you take their answers to your marketing team and translate them into goals and then into your main marketing objectives (check out the future post on setting marketing objectives). This is a very simple and easily achievable exercise that you can go through with your team.

Next step is insuring that the scope of the marketing projects does not exceed your sales needs. Many marketers are mesmerized by the “art of marketing” and forget it serves the business, as any other function, so they will expand the scope of the marketing project to include cool and often expansive tools when they could achieve more with less. This happens especially with branding and marketing research projects in b2b.

We’ll step into setting marketing objectives into the next post.


Some other good posts on related topics:  7 Strategies To Building Sales-Marketing Alignment

Filed under: Marketing Accountability, Marketing Planning, Marketing Results, Marketing vs Sales, , , , , ,

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April 2020