In B2B marketing and sales, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.

At Christmas, if B2B companies had a wish list, I suspect it would sound like this:

I want . . .

  1. My company’s product to be the best of its kind on the market.
  2. My product to get rave reviews from industry experts.
  3. My company’s marketing department to know its stuff and follow best practices.
  4. To find prospective buyers that are perfectly matched to our typical buyer by industry, company size, and annual sales.
  5. Our marketing to generate XX highly qualified leads.
  6. Those leads to be nurtured through marketing efforts until they are sales ready.
  7. My sales staff to be second to none.
  8. To close every deal.

Unfortunately, even if a company is capable of achieving items one through seven, number eight can never happen. Why? Because even if a B2B company can control everything it does perfectly, it cannot control its buyers.

Ardath Albee, in her recent Marketing Interactions blog “Is Marketing a Numbers Game?”, states that she gets frustrated when sales people say that sales is a numbers game. If the prospects are fully qualified, sales and marketing should examine what they are doing and find a way to close more.

I respect her opinion very much. But after being in both sales then marketing for many years, I have to go with the numbers. She is right about the importance of generating high-quality leads. But both sales and marketing live in the real world where, instead of a Santa Claus, there are dozens of issues over which they have no control.

The issues can be many:

  • Another company has a more well-known brand
  • A pending merger
  • Industry or economic downturn
  • The decision-maker is getting ready to leave the company
  • The contact has a personal associate at a competitor’s company
  • An edict from a superior to make another choice

There’s another possibility that was clearly pointed out in Adam Needles’ Marketing Profs blog, “Understanding How and Why B2B ‘Buyers Are Liars’ … and What This Means for Demand Generation,”

He describes how, as the contact with a prospective buyer grows and B2B marketers offer more content while asking for more company info, some B2B buyers start to fudge the accuracy of how they answer those questions. In fact, he recommends that B2B marketers don’t put qualifying questions on content offers for that very reason.

He also brings up the point that I noted earlier when he says, “Your prospective, individual buyer is not the sole decision-maker at his/her organization.”

Regardless of how well the relationship is moving forward, there is still no guarantee it will culminate in a sale. In the real world, the possibilities of losing the sale are endless, even with well-qualified buyers.

Relying on numbers alone may not be smart. But, ultimately, one must use the numbers built from past performance (cost-per-lead, closing ratios, cost-per-sale) as the metrics to guide all marketing and sales activities.

For B2B marketers, relying on the numbers is safer than relying on Santa.

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