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4 Reasons Your B2B Marketing Plan is Missing Its Sales Targets (and How to Fix It)

“It’s the second half of the year already. Has your marketing team hit all your sales goals so far?
If the answer is “no,” don’t worry, you’re not the only business facing this common challenge.
For many B2B companies, corporate sales goals are becoming more aggressive and getting harder and harder to hit.
Martin Lines, the Vice President of Beverages Category Marketing at Nestlé Professional North America says, “We are constantly challenged – as a sales organization, as a marketing organization and as a leadership team – to continuously raise the bar and exceed sales and business goals.”
So, what prevents marketing and sales teams from hitting their numbers at the beginning of the year? Here are the top four reasons I hear about most. Plus, some tips on what you can do right now to improve lead generation, quickly convert sales and finish the year off right.

1. Marketing and Sales Misalignment

Many companies still operate with a separation of marketing and sales. The marketing team generates a large quantity of leads. It then passes those leads on to the sales team, which is expected to convert the leads into customers.
What we’re hearing from clients? It’s not working.
The truth is, 92% of organizations have below-average conversion rates within the funnel due to marketing and sales friction (Source).
Marketing complains that the sales team isn’t converting the leads they’re passing through the pipeline. Sales insists that the leads aren’t viable or able to be converted.
This is a classic case of marketing and sales misalignment.

59% of marketers say they provide salespeople with their best-quality leads, while salespeople rank marketing-sourced leads last (Source).

What Can You Do Right Now?

Schedule an immediate integration session with your marketing and sales teams to align on goals. Marketing needs to understand sales, sales needs to understand marketing, and we all need to understand our customers.
B2B marketers need to focus on capturing leads with the highest opportunity to convert in the sales funnel. You can do this through tactics such as advanced targeting and target audience validation.
By concentrating on lead quality rather than quantity, it will make it faster and easier for sales to convert those leads into customers. This is especially important when you’re trying to make up for a slow first half of the year.
When the marketing and sales teams work cohesively, you can identify opportunities, increase quality lead generation and close sales much faster.

2. Market Changes

Another reason companies fall short of first-half sales goals is an unforeseen change in the market. Disrupting factors can include anything from technology advances and buyer expectations to supply chain efficiency and pricing. Whatever the case may be, market variations can negatively impact your business, so you should always take them into consideration.
Barry Campbell, Vice President of North American Marketing, shares an example of a market change that impacted the Aquatherm business. “We’ve seen the prices of competing products drop, putting ours at a competitive disadvantage until we could properly adjust our prices.”
Distributors and wholesalers are often on the front lines of market change in B2B industries. Since they meet with customers on a regular basis, distributors and wholesalers are often first to identify a change in the market. This means they can be some of your biggest allies and an extremely valuable sales resource.

What Can You Do Right Now?

Tap into front-line knowledge from distributors and wholesalers. They are often the first to recognize a problem in the market.
Since 70% of purchasing decisions are made to solve a specific problem (Source), it’s important to identify what problem your prospects face as soon as possible.
Activities like stakeholder interviews, customer surveys, competitor overviews and your own analytics can also help you understand the unmet needs of prospects. Plus, they’ll help you determine which products or services you should be promoting to fill that gap.
When the market changes, it’s more important than ever to deliver value-based marketing messages to jump-start leads and sales.

3. Conversion Barriers

Here’s a disturbing fact: 79% of all marketing leads are never converted to sales (Source). That failure to convert leads is a huge reason many companies fail to hit sales targets in the first-half.
Oftentimes a failure to convert is due to an overcomplicated sales process. That is especially true for B2B companies which often have complex sales cycles and multiple decision makers. But there’s hope. Because suppliers that make buying easy are 62% more likely to win a sale (Source).
 Another hurdle? Sometimes the marketing and sales teams just don’t put enough focus on prospects’ needs. Believe it or not, a staggering 65% of customers disappear simply because of indifference (Source).

What Can You Do Right Now?

Identify what information prospects need to convert. Then guide your prospects through every step of the buyer journey. After all, prospects are looking for direction. In fact, 95% of buyers choose a vendor that provides content to navigate each stage of the buying process (Source).
But don’t think that just one blog post or whitepaper will do. 82% of customers view five or more content pieces that address their issues from the winning vendor before making a purchase (Source). Plus, addressing three to four buyer problems correlates with the highest likelihood of advancing the prospect further down the sales pipeline (Source).
It’s important to deliver marketing messages that provide relevant information, address pain points and guide prospects through the buyer journey. By removing barriers, you can accelerate longer B2B sales cycles and convert leads faster.

4. Losing a Big Customer

 Sometimes it’s unforeseeable and unavoidable – sometimes it’s not. Either way, losing an important customer can have a big impact on sales.
The problem here is often twofold.
First, many companies focus all of their energy on maintaining their current customers. So, if they unexpectedly lose a large client, they have no leads in their pipeline. This is a huge risk. Since B2B sales cycles often last several months (or even longer), it may take significant time to find a new customer to fill original sales goals.
Second, the problem is sometimes the reverse. B2B companies focus so much effort on lead generation that they neglect nurturing and growing existing customers. This is demonstrated by the fact that just 29% of B2B clients are considered fully engaged (Source).

What Can You Do Right Now?

Create a balanced marketing plan that focuses on lead generation, conversion and customer growth.
Make sure your plan continuously feeds quality leads into the top of the sales funnel. This way, you can more quickly move prospects through the sales pipeline and convert them into customers.
Bill Dominick, Regional Sales Manager at The Lubrizol Corporation, says “We lost a customer that was a significant portion of our region’s sales. What we learned was that we needed to be actively identifying customers that were ready to partner with us.”
Make sure you also have customer growth and retention programs in place. After all, the average mid-sized B2B company receives 30% of its revenue from existing customers (Source).
Additionally, existing customers may offer growth opportunities through up-selling and cross-selling. That’s because the likelihood of selling to an existing customer is 60% to 70%, compared to 5% to 20% for a new one (Source).
Lubrizol’s Bill Dominick, also believes that approaching retention of customers the same way marketers always have isn’t enough. He says, “Successful businesses need to aggressively protect and defend current business.”

Putting It All Together

 Whether your company is facing marketing and sales misalignment, market changes, conversion barriers, a big customer loss or something altogether different, it’s not too late to get back on track.
In fact, AMG develops personalized plans that help B2B companies quickly convert high-value leads into customers. We rapidly drive prospects through the sales pipeline to final purchase by demonstrating the value of doing business with your company.
For help getting started, check out our 90-Day Conversion Program.

Kip Botirius, President

Guides B2B and B2C clients, big and small, to improve marketing results. Kip also cultivates meaningful relationships and a positive agency culture with his pleasant personality.

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