From The Editor | September 22, 2020

The Best Content Marketing Can't Outperform Bad Sales Follow-up

Abby Sorensen July 2017 Headshot

By Abby Sorensen, Chief Editor

executive boxing defeated


Here’s an email sent from a B2B marketer to a B2B sales rep:

“Just checking in to see if you’ve been in touch with that important person from the ideal prospect company that our marketing spent tons of time and money getting to engage with our carefully crafted, thoughtfully distributed, highly targeted content. Any update? Is there anything else you need from marketing?”

Somewhere in the world, a version of this email is sent every three seconds (that might be a dramatic estimate, but you – B2B marketer you – get the point).

This email means a marketer is trying to be a team player. Instead of tossing leads over the cubicle wall to the sales team – never to worry about those leads again – marketing is taking the time to see what’s happening with those leads. They are cheering on the sales team, offering additional marketing support when needed. They want to see their hard work spent uncovering those leads convert to RFPs and demos and contracts and revenue.

And here’s the email response the B2B sales rep sends back to that B2B marketer:

“I’ve reached out to that contact, and he hasn’t responded.”

C’mon, really? As a marketer, what are you supposed to do now? You’re not a sales manager. It’s not your place to ask when that rep “reached out.” Or what the message was. Or how many times the outreach happened. And there aren’t any notes logged in your CRM, of course, because sales reps are far too busy to log notes in CRM.

When a sales rep sends that response, it means that lead is a lost cause, and you – B2B marketer you – should go back to engaging other ideal prospects with your content. Right?

Wrong. Do you want the budget to continue investing in the kind of content creation and syndication required to be a successful B2B marketer today? If so, it’s time for you – B2B marketer you – to put your gloves on and step in the ring to battle it out against bad sales follow-up.

The Many Forms Of Bad Sales Follow-up

There’s always more to the story than the email saying, “I’ve reached out to that contact, and he hasn’t responded.” There are many ways sales follow-up falls short.

Not following up at all.

Some sales reps would rather not work content-generated leads in the early or middle stages of a buyer’s journey. After all, it’s easier (and more lucrative) to work leads at the bottom of the funnel (such as RFP requests or meetings at trade shows). Another reason sales reps don’t follow up is because they don’t know how. Maybe you – B2B marketer you – see a spreadsheet of incredibly valuable data packed on good leads. A sales rep might look at that very same spreadsheet and instead see rows and columns of incomprehensible information.

Not following up enough.

One email or one voice mail won’t help a prospect through a buyer’s journey. Even if it’s the single best email ever crafted by a B2B sales rep, it still won’t be a magic bullet to shortcut the sales cycle. Research shows that 49 percent of tech buying committee members never talk to a vendor while making a purchase decision, and that’s not limited to the tech world. Sales reps aren’t incentivized to be patient; they’re incentivized to close business now. That’s why they’d prefer net-new leads that engage right away, and it’s why marketers need to remind them of the value of leads already in your funnel.

And remember, an average of 6.8 “leads” are involved in a typical B2B buying group (according to research from Gartner). Your sales team needs to do enough follow-up with all of those people.

Following up with the wrong message.

Your sales team might be sending follow-up messages like these:

  • “Thanks for downloading our white paper on topic ABC. Are you free for a call to discuss how we can help you with ABC?”
  • “Just checking in to see if you had a chance to look at my message from last week.”
  • “Can you please help me understand if I'm reaching out to the right person? I wanted to follow up on topic ABC that you recently read about in our white paper.”

Follow-up messages should focus on helping your customer, not selling your customer. It’s hard for sales reps to be anything but sales-y. But your sales team needs to learn what prospects value and how to support them throughout the buyer’s journey.

Following up the same way with every lead.

Every single buyer’s journey is different. This is true even if your buyers are in the same industry buying the same products and services. Yes, there is a time and place for marketing automation/lead nurturing. But your sales team needs to do market research, tailor follow-up messages, and deliver content that earns a continued conversation based on each unique buyer’s journey.

Your sales reps need to market your marketing. You – B2B marketer you – need to show them exactly how to do this. There are three steps you can take today to start battling bad sales follow-up.

  1. Ask sales managers to show you the process they have in place for sales follow-up. Document it and see where marketing can plug in to help with templates and messaging.
  2. Find out who your top-performing sales reps are and what they do differently. Chances are, your best sales reps are also doing the best follow-up on leads. Share examples with the rest of the team.
  3. Create a regular meeting convention where the sales and marketing teams can review the status of current, closed, and lost leads. From here, you can identify trends to see what follow-up is working and what isn’t.

The best content marketing strategy in the world won’t lead to more revenue unless your sales follow-up is existent, effective, and consistent. And the best B2B marketers will take it upon themselves to ensure that their sales team is making the most of their leads.