For B2B Sales and Marketing, Defense Does Not Win Championships

In B2B sales and marketing, a good sales team isn’t good enough. You need good marketing to win.

It’s almost football season and there’s an adage any pigskin fan is guaranteed to hear at least once this fall: defense wins championships. It might be true in sports, but when the legendary head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant uttered this phrase some 40-odd years ago, he surely didn’t have B2B sales and marketing in mind.

As an industrial marketing agency, we’ve seen it all. To this day, one of the most perplexing formations we see — time and time again — is the reliance on sales as “marketing.” The belief is that a good internal sales team can build awareness in the field, generate leads, and engage existing customers to drive repeat purchases. And it’s commonplace at industrial companies to have these two unique disciplines combined into a single department under the leadership of a singular head of sales and marketing.

It’s time, once and for all, to call it like it is. Internal sales is merely defense, and not the same as integrated, outbound and inbound, persistent, strategic marketing communications. That’s offense, in our book, and it deserves a focus of its own.

By continuing to combine the two departments into one, we perpetuate the belief that mere defense is enough to grow an industrial business and adequately serve its customers. After working with more than 200 B2B clients in the last 12 years, we can confidently say that for B2B sales and marketing, defense does not win championships.

Here’s why.

Sales and Marketing Serve Different Functions

Plain and simple, sales and marketing require different personalities, skills, and years of experience to master. How many of us go to college for both sales and marketing? How many professionals work their way up the corporate ladder in both fields?

In reality, you’re typically either a sales guy or marketing gal because each job requires distinct areas of expertise. Sales must focus on current deals in the pipeline and what it will take for them to close — it’s a short-term game. Marketing must look long term at the competitive landscape and devise a strategy for creating and perpetuating sales opportunities.

So why do we roll these two fields into one under a “Vice President of Sales and Marketing?” Even at the VP level, it’s rare to find a talent who adequately understands both disciplines. More often than not, we see sales gals given the keys to marketing, or marketing guys put in charge of sales as an afterthought because of cost cutting or personnel losses. Naturally, one side suffers.

Digital Changed the B2B Sales and Marketing Dynamic

With modern buying cycles, 57% of purchasing decisions are made via online research before a prospect even contacts a salesperson. Further, a recent stat from a Google study pointed out that B2B buyers now have more than 12 “micro moments” of interaction with your brand before purchase. In other words, they’re halfway through the buyer’s journey before your sales team even takes the field.

What we typically see when sales and marketing are combined into a single department is that the focus is placed on sales. It’s easier to understand for most B2B executives and, admittedly, it’s a requirement (like wood for a fire) whereas marketing can be seen as kindling or lighter fluid.

But without an offense in today’s digital landscape, you’re nowhere to be found as buyers begin their journey online. And no, maintaining a website and social-media presence isn’t enough these days. If you’re not spending time and money on content creation, email marketing, SEO, online advertising, industrial directories, and other forms of integrated and automated B2B marketing — all with a focus on discoverability, communications, and lead generation — you’re nowhere near playing pro ball. You might not even be in the game.

Healthy Tension Drives Sales and Marketing

There’s a reason why every football team in the world has both an offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator: They’re different sides of the ball. When combined, the departments can’t hold each other accountable and results suffer. That’s why every current CRM solution or marketing automation platform has scoring mechanisms that uniquely differentiate “marketing qualified leads” and “sales qualified leads.” Somewhere in the middle of the two functions teeters a delicate balance: marketing must deliver to sales qualified opportunities and sales must turn those targeted leads into revenue.

Sales teams should push marketing to deliver better and better leads (not just more and more). Marketing, in turn, should be watching the end results of those leads to ensure their hard work has bottom-line value. And sure, there should be debate. Without some healthy push and pull, leads and close rates become navel gazing, rather than means of assessing effectiveness and enforcing accountability.

Improving Your B2B Sales and Marketing

Gone are the days of the one-platoon system where gridiron legends played both ways. It’s time to ask which side fits you best and which department within your company requires new focus. And then to give each discipline the organizational priority it deserves.

Regardless of how you approach offense and defense in your B2B sales and marketing, you might appreciate our free eBook, “SCORE MORE: How to Create a Winning Marketing Game Plan” (where the football analogies continue). Whether you’re a sales guy, marketing gal, or both, this eBook will guide you through offseason marketing exercises, provide you with a blueprint for developing a marketing plan of your own, and give you a handy dandy scorecard for tracking the metrics that will indicate how your team is performing.

Good luck out there this season.


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