Guest Post by Ardath Albee, CEO, Marketing Interactions, Inc.

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The rift between sales and marketing has been a discussion point since longer than I can remember. What strikes me as funny about that is the focus for both parties is the same > The Buyer.

I keep hoping that as buyers take more control over their buying processes it will serve as a slap to the head for both marketing and sales along the lines of a V-8 moment: Wow, we could’a worked together!

Here’s the deal: The buyer goes through a process to decide how they’ll solve a problem. Marketing works to address this, as does sales. They just come at it a bit differently. But, without both approaches woven together, an organization only has the ability to touch part of the process. And that’s leaving a big gaping hole for your competitors that “get it” to push you out of the buyer’s consideration.

Let’s look at the value chain for interactions across a traditional buying process:

Awareness/Status Quo

The buyer doesn’t recognize that there’s a problem worth solving. After all, whatever it is they’re doing is getting done, or else they don’t know they can or should be doing something they’re not.

This is where marketing comes in with “awareness” content that identifies and builds urgency around the problem. They must build the case for why the problem is a problem and what the costs or consequences are for not solving the problem and the opportunity made available once the problem is solved. Industry trends are also useful when building awareness. This stage calls for what and why content.

This is not a great place for a salesperson to spend their time. B2B prospects in this stage have no use for salespeople and salespeople have no priority to focus on them. This is, however an opportunity for salespeople to point marketers toward targeted accounts that they’d like to get involved in the dialogue.

As buyers complete more of their buying process without speaking to salespeople, it’s critical that your company’s ideas and expertise are stimulating dialogue. Otherwise it’s a very real possibility that your company will not be found or factored into the short list that’s so often compiled before the buyer allows for conversations with the salesperson. Sales cycles are lengthening and companies cannot afford to be absent from this early-stage span of the buying process.


The buyer has taken heed of the importance of the problem and is actively working to learn more about how to solve it. They are moving addressing the problem onto their priority list, searching out best practices and researching how other companies like theirs have handled the situation successfully.

These buyers are also looking for expertise as they create their short lists—before they talk to vendors. They’re also actively asking peers and colleagues for input and referrals to vendors they may consider. This is also one reason that both marketers and salespeople from B2B vendors should approach social media strategically.

Marketers need to be answering critical “how” questions during this buying stage. Some of them may include questions such as:

  • How do I get my users to adopt this new change/program/system?
  • How will I address the impact to X when I solve this problem?
  • How can I be sure that this solution will scale as my business grows?
  • How are other companies like mine solving this issue successfully?
  • How much expertise will I need in addition to my staff’s skill sets to fix the problem?

At the latter part of this stage is when they also start asking “who” questions to identify potential vendors; who can help me solve this problem? They will start selecting and eliminating vendors from their evaluation process and deciding which vendors they want to talk to. They will also be looking for all the information they need to build the business case.

While marketing provides much of the information they need, salespeople enter the conversation to help them put it all together as it applies to the buyer’s specific situation. The key point here is that both marketing and sales have a role to play. To do so separately and out of sync just reflects badly on their organization.


This is arguably the stage that is the most sales intensive. Buyers have put your company on their short list and are actively engaging with salespeople to evaluate whether or not their research matches up to what your solution actually will provide. Aside from use cases and ROI calculators and content salespeople need to support their conversations, marketers have a role to play when doubts arise, as well.

This is the “what if” stage and more common than you might think. If the “what if” stage isn’t dealt with well, no decision or losing the deal is the outcome. The “what if” stage is cause by questions that arise that haven’t previously been answered. These can include:

  • The late-to-the-game influencer who asks a question out of left field that can’t be ignored.
  • What if our users won’t adopt it?
  • What if the total cost of ownership is higher than you say?
  • What if you don’t deliver and it disrupts our business?
  • What if…?

What ifs can derail deals faster than you can snap your fingers. This is usually the cause of a seemingly “hot” buyer going silent. By identifying all of these “what ifs” and preparing content that answers them, marketing can provide content that can turn this situation around—whether through the salesperson or through a late-stage nurturing program.

There’s certainly a lot more to this, but the point I wanted to make is that both marketing and sales have a common focus and a unifying force that should pull them closer together, not keep them operating in silos that cause fragmented conversations. After all, the buying process is also a simulation of what it might be like to work with your company. Isn’t it time marketing and sales rallied around the common denominator of the buyer?

  • Cynthia Osmun

    This article’s content will be the outline from which I write the first proposal for my company. It has all the makings of greatness for my company and our first commercial deal. I’m excited to have this focus point to get started. Thank you, Rick!

    Cynthia Osmun
    Wave Energy Associates

  • Cynthia Osmun

    This article was sent to me in a LinkedIn forum through Rick Sass, so Ardath, thank you for the concise and thoughtful post!

    • Ardath Albee

      You’re welcome, Cynthia – I’m glad you found it useful 🙂