The 16% gap between B2B sales and marketing communications

Mike Nicholson

According to the literature out of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, in B2B industries, 95% of people are not in-market for what you are selling in any given week, but they might be next month, next quarter, or next year.

So it follows that your marketing communications (brand) should be talking to those people in order to build awareness, familiarity, and trust, so that those people think of you when they are in-market with a brief and a budget.

However, brand new research from the B2B Institute has suggested that there is a huge problem.

🙋🏻‍♀️ - Meet Patricia Prospect.

Patricia is one of the 95% of people who isn’t in-market for what you sell this week, so she's not interested in talking to sales about a meeting.

Patricia needs to see marketing communications, not direct sales communications. The more times you can capture some of Patricia's attention with your marketing communications, the more chance you have of building awareness and familiarity with who you are, what you do, who you do it with, how you do it, and why Patricia might one day care.

Marketing communications to Patricia when she is out of market builds mental availability, so that when she is in-market for what you sell, she thinks of you, and considers you as a potential partner to help her solve her problem.

It is typically the marketing department that's responsible for building awareness, familiarity, and trust, and moving Patricia from cold to warm, so it is clearly ideal that your marketing communications talk to the same people that your sales team hope to talk to one day.

However, last week The B2B Institute released some worrying statistics, having studied 7,056 B2B companies, across 5 industries. They found that the overlap between who marketing speaks to, and who sales speaks to, is just 16% (it should be 100%).

So while marketing are talking to Patricia, and moving her from cold to warm, sales are talking to Colin Cold, somebody completely different, who hasn’t been communicated to, and who isn’t familiar with you.

🙋🏻‍♂️ - Meet Colin Cold.

He hasn't heard any of your marketing communications, so is relatively unfamiliar with you and your company, yet your sales team are still chasing him to meet.

The implications should be clear by now - if marketing warm people up, but sales don’t speak to them, instead speaking to somebody who hasn’t been warmed up, the job of sales is much harder and the job of marketing is frustrating.

Critically, the revenue generating engine of the company is severely hampered.

Possible solutions to consider?

‣ Align sales and marketing functions under one leader, either the CEO or a CRO, as one commercial team, and have a set of shared goals. Have sales and marketing people sat together and working together on communicating with your target audience.

‣ Identify your target-market at the industry, company, and people level, and use that as your single point of truth, so that both sales and marketing are talking to the same people.

‣ Make sure that your sales and marketing people are following, connecting, and engaging with ‘their people and companies’ on LinkedIn, and building relationships with those not currently in-market consistently.

‣ People pay more attention to the personable content by other people than they do to the content by brands, so having your senior commercial team active, and telling stories on sites like LinkedIn, is a huge competitive advantage.

‣ Train and support your senior client-facing executives to be consistently visible on platforms like LinkedIn, telling stories in the newsfeed that will resonate with the 95% of people who are no currently in-market for what you sell.

‣ Adopt an Account-Based Marketing/Selling approach to your target market.



You might identify 1,000 companies that you would really like to call clients, and within those 1,000 companies there will be a group of people with some influence over future buying decisions - these people collectively are know as a Buying Group.

According to Gartner research, a B2B Buying Group ranges in size from 6 to 10 people, so for this example, let's say it's 6 people in each Buying Group across 1,000 companies, so there are 6,000 people to communicate with.

In some industries, such as media for example, those people in the Buying Group could be split across two different companies - the client direct, and the media agency for instance.

So your target market is:

‣ 1,000 companies
‣ 6,000 people

These target companies are then split among your commercial team, staffed with marketers and sellers, and the decisions of what to say, to whom, and when, can be reached as a joined-up team.

Saving these 6,000 people in your CRM, in the sales persons instance of LinkedIn Sales Navigator, allows sales and marketing to have one plan on how to communicate to the same people.

Six Sells offer bespoke training, consulting or done-for-you services that can help you fix this serious alignment issue.

email for more information, and Karen or Mike will get back to you right away.