The Fundamentals of Business‐to‐Business Sales and Marketing

Richard E. Buehrer (University of Toledo, Ohio, USA)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 1 December 2004

1211

Keywords

Citation

Buehrer, R.E. (2004), "The Fundamentals of Business‐to‐Business Sales and Marketing", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 19 No. 7, pp. 496-497. https://doi.org/10.1108/08858620410564436

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


The environment of business‐to‐business (B2B) sales is changing. The preface states that the traditional business‐to‐business, face‐to‐face selling approach has been in decline. Purchasing decisions in B2B firms frequently requires input from many different sources often in different locations. Coupled with time pressures, purchasing professionals are more frequently turning to alternative product information sources, such as the Internet. Traditional face‐to‐face selling is being replaced with a new integrated sales coverage method that incorporates the best practices of direct/database marketing and field sales into a new B2B communication mix that will improve an organization's sales and marketing productivity.

According to author John M, Coe, there is no disagreement among sales professionals that, “it's tough to sell today.” Coe specifically addresses nine reasons for this conclusion. Starting with the fact that customers are obtaining the information they need from sources other than their salesperson to the fact that competition has multiplied and now include alternative solutions that require stronger value propositions to compete. Other reasons for the difficulties facing sales professionals include:

  • a falling call rate;

  • increasing communication clutter;

  • changing sales cycle;

  • increases in decision makers and influencers; and

  • more channels which reduce customer knowledge and feedback.

To combat the changing sales environment Coe proposes a “new sales coverage model.” This new model, discussed throughout the 11 chapters, would mix other forms of communication (the four primary communication media are e‐mail, postal mail, telephone, and sales call) along with sales calls to form a more productive combination that achieves the dichotomous goals of “sell more” and “sell for less.”

Coe's book can be viewed as having three distinct parts. Part one, chapters two through five, discuss various issues from sales productivity to customer profiling and targeting, three levels of segmentation and brand awareness. Chapter two discusses sales productivity; the four phases of the customer life cycle; the positives/negatives of direct marketing media (direct mail, e‐mail, telemarketing,); other media (public relations, advertising, trade shows, and seminars), CRM and ends with guidelines for developing the ideal blend of contact media. Chapter three discusses the importance of understanding/profiling the market and developing target markets. It is only by fully understanding their customer that a firm can effectively determine the target market that represents their best change of sales success. Chapter four discusses the critical role that segmentation plays and gives three definitions of segmentation (macro, micro, one‐to‐one); then he further discusses micro approaches to segmentation, demographic, sales cycle, behavioral, competitive, analytical, need‐based, and customer. Additionally, he introduces the idea that firms must be more discerning in their definition of a “lead”. He suggests that potential customers should be grouped into the following four categories:

  1. 1.

    Suspect.

  2. 2.

    Inquiry.

  3. 3.

    Prospect.

  4. 4.

    Qualified prospect.

This is strategy is more fully discussed in chapter six. Finally, chapter five looks at the need for balance between the quality and the quantity of inquiry, regardless of the medium chosen, in building brand awareness.

The second part, chapters six through eight, discusses the basic issue of defining and converting leads, up selling and cross selling. Chapter six suggests that no two people will define the term “lead” in exactly the same way. This lack of common understanding is a major reason why marketing communications people and salespeople often have a hard time communicating. Having a commonly accepted understanding of basic sales terms coupled with a well defined and well thought out lead development system is fundamental if an organization is going to increase its productivity. Chapter seven discusses the significance of converting leads to sales and states that this is the most important goal of the new coverage model. This goal requires a “team effort” between marketing communication, sales, and channel members. Salespeople will have to provide better feedback to marketing if any improvements are to be achieved. Finally, chapter eight discusses the concepts of up‐selling/cross selling and creating customer loyalty.

Part three, chapters nine through 11, takes a look at campaign planning and execution, budgeting, the need for accurate customer data and how to measure your results. Chapter nine communicates the idea that today's close linkage between marketing communications and sales requires careful campaign planning and states that direct marketing leads the planning process. This chapter also looks at the role that budgeting, testing, and flowcharting play in developing a successful campaign. Chapter ten discusses the need for accurate customer data and how to build a successful customer database. Finally, chapter 11: discusses – how to measure your results so you can sell it (the new sales coverage model) to management.

This book stresses that the keys to sales success in today's marketplace must be shared between salespeople, sales management and those individuals responsible for the organizations marketing communications. The traditional secrets to success, hire the best people, train them, motivate them, organize them and fire them quickly if they do not perform, although still highly important, are no longer enough to secure sales success. If selling organizations are to succeed in today's marketplace they must integrate their organization's sales efforts with its marketing communications program by revamping and updating their market sales strategy.

My initial intention when I first picked up this book was to use it as the primary text for my undergraduate business‐to‐business marketing course. Although this book has some similarities to a traditional, undergraduate college level business‐to‐business text, it appears to be targeted at the business‐to‐business professional who is fully engaged in his/her firm's sales and marketing activities. This book could be very useful to both sales and marketing professionals interested in integrating their firm's sales and marketing communications efforts. However, it lacks the necessary breadth and depth to be effective as an undergraduate or graduate level text. Moreover, as a trade text, it offers no associated pedagogical aids.

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