Escaping b-to-b's black hole

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There's a crisis facing b-to-b companies that's driven by a growing disconnect between their marketing and sales organizations. This dysfunctional relationship often consumes costs, time and resources the same way that matter, light and energy are sucked into a black hole.

How bad is the marketing-sales disconnect, and what can management do about it? In 2001 I decided to answer these questions and began interviewing what ended up to be more than 250 b-to-b executives. What I discovered, unfortunately, was that most people underestimate the impact of misalignment.

I also found companies that were fixing the problem once and for all and creating a synchronized marketing and sales ecosystem through two new process models that are based upon the following principles:

n The way a company markets and sells its solutions must be subservient to the way its customers buy.

n In order to effectively sell solutions, marketing and sales organizations must institutionalize a detailed understanding of their customer's business needs and all the different ways their solutions deliver value.

Implementing the first model involves redesigning the marketing and selling process from the customer's perspective through a technique I call "process synchronization." This creates a single, integrated marketing and selling continuum that's designed around, and aligned with, the specific steps that customers actually go through to buy things.

Implementing the second model requires an integrated content and communications strategy that aligns the branding, lead generation and selling activities so that they are consistent and delivered in a single voice. This new communications model is built around a best practice I call "value mapping" that helps marketing and sales professionals develop more complete and relevant value propositions. Value maps become the DNA for everything marketing and salespeople do so that a clearer understanding of customer needs is institutionalized throughout the enterprise.

Managing marketing and sales content without value-maping is like building products without any quality control on the components. We wouldn't tolerate this in manufacturing; why should marketing and sales be any different?

It's time for CSOs and CMOs to embrace some proven quality management principles and adopt some of the new ideas in these models. It's the only way for them to fix the marketing-sales disconnect and turn the way they go to market into a sustainable competitive advantage.

Bob Schmonsees is author of "Escaping the Black Hole" (Thompson Publishing and American Marketing Association). He can be reached at [email protected]

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