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You need to separate sales from marketing. Sales is a conversation, marketing is a broadcast. Marketing gets the phone to ring, sales takes the call and closes the deal.

For B2B sales resembles project management: the goal is not to convince everyone to buy your product or service but to diagnose their needs and only engage with firms that will benefit.

For larger deals you "sell with your ears" as much as you talk.

I find Neil Rackham's "Spin Selling" very useful. Peter Cohan's "Great Demo" embeds a lot of discovery advice and suggests that a good demo is really a conversation driven by mutual curiosity about customer needs and software capabilities.

For B2B customer development interviews (those early market discovery conversations) I have a short book you may find helpful. See https://www.skmurphy.com/blog/2020/01/30/40-tips-for-b2b-cus... (there is also a link at the bottom for a PDF version).

Two final books I would suggest, while not exactly sales books, are "The Innovator's DNA" by Clayton Christensen and "The Right It (Pretotype It)" by Alberto Savoia. They cover a number of techniques for finding the right problem to solve and determining if your solution is a good fit for customer needs. I mention them because it's not uncommon for a startup to have a product problem that manifests as a sales problem.

Great summary on sales and marketing but neither is a monolith.

Sales can best be distinguished by indirect sales and direct sales.

Direct sales is where you go out and find clients.

Indirect sales is where you go out and find partners to bring you clients.

You don’t buy Coca Cola from Coca Cola. You rarely by HP from HP.

Companies tend to be more successful when they find ways to grow using “channels”.

This is a good summary of finding your path toward channel sales:


This is a good kit to start a channel sales program:


Has anyone had success doing B2B SaaS sales using cloud marketplaces like AWS marketplace, GCP marketplace, Azure, etc.? I wonder if that qualifies as "channel sales".

IMO, they are failing to be good distribution channels overall, but as currently done, can be a nice vehicle for early POC/trialing phases.

Good distribution channels solve three aspects:

- Logistics: Technical delivery - pretty good, as it's cloud as usual, with the bonus of solving how to run on the customer's side of the trust boundary (vs. normal centralized saas), + pricing features like app-defined utility fees

- Marketing: Cloud marketplaces fail to do demand gen (low-traffic search, no promotional campaigns, ...), as opposed to engaged partners who will

- Sales: Trialing is better than an on-prem thing but they harm success by not having a person involved nor allowing you to know who your users are, so overall, hurt closing. They are good-ish on solving procurement/invoicing

So again, pretty bad as an overall distribution channel, but for handling the paid POCs of a sales/marketing pipeline defined elsewhere, they can be nice.

Long-term, I think these can be massive, but they're currently immature/underinvested/etc. Ex: hw fee + 20-30% sw fees for such a poor distribution channel is quite unattractive for most serious b2b partners (distribution partners normally take 5-15% and do much more work, not ~50% for so little), so looks like a symptom of PM fiefdom politics vs senior leadership investing in these to be big. They could take Stripe's 1-3% payments fees, add 5% hands-off reseller fee, opt-in for special programs for another 5%, and poof, multiple $B businesses.

I did a bit with instances of an Open Source deep learning server of mine, for three years+ now. Made up to 1.5k/month, lower now but it's on my plate to revive it. It's provided side money to our service/ software business.

Keep in mind there's a 30% cut from AWS, plus if you're in the EU, you need a tier like payoneer to channel your revenues back into the EU.

I think any third party taking a margin off your sale to help facilitate the transaction constitutes a channel.

Stripe isn't a channel though. The third party in question needs to actually do some work to bring you traffic / leads, not just do the mechanics of processing the transaction.

> You need to separate sales from marketing. Sales is a conversation, marketing is a broadcast.

Close, but not quite.

Marketing is the brand, the image, points of differentiation, etc. It's the message.

Advertising is the broadcast. It's how the message is communicated. It's the medium.

Marketing + advertising = prospects and leads.

Sales is the last mile. It takes the results of marketing + advertising (i.e., leads and prospects) and guides those to closing.

Contrary to myth, successful sales is about listening, not talking.

Sales is

> Contrary to myth, successful sales is about listening, not talking.

I've been in pre-sales for about 8 years now. From the vendor and reseller side. Mostly on the technical side (SE) but I also know the process side of the account executive (AE) very well at this point.

Yes, you need to listen. But you'll never sell anything if you can't articulate a destination, lay out the path and showcase to the customer how what you're representing will benefit them more-so than the products you're trying to displace or something new that will bring with it a myriad of gains for said customer. If a customer is always telling me what they need from me then I'm not providing any value. And, honestly, it's very rare to find a customer who's ahead of a good sales team. We have full access to PMs, internal business units and access to far more insight to our bits and pieces than any reseller or customer. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying customers can't be experts. But I'm here to know and bring things to the plate that they just can't.

Understanding your customer is often times more valuable than listening to them outright. I've found paths for the customer that has helped them avoid making mistakes, saved them money or improved their operations through paths they hadn't considered or didn't know existed. Good sales teams work hard across the board through strong technical positioning as well as strategic deal creations.

There are sales teams that rinse and repeat for every interaction and then there are sales teams that are looking to help their customers, trying to find where the wins are for the prospect. I've walked away from deals by telling a customer we weren't a fit for them. Sales gets a bad rap, but there are some of us out there that walk into every conversation not with the only intent of closing quota, but trying to make a positive impact.

> Understanding your customer is often times more valuable than listening to them outright.

Listen is a big word, one has to take all meanings into account.

> Yes, you need to listen. But you'll never sell anything if you can't articulate a destination, lay out the path and showcase to the customer how what you're representing will benefit them more-so than the products you're trying to displace or something new that will bring with it a myriad of gains for said customer. IYes, you need to listen. But you'll never sell anything if you can't articulate a destination, lay out the path and showcase to the customer how what you're representing will benefit them more-so than the products you're trying to displace or something new that will bring with it a myriad of gains for said customer.

But you don't know where the customer is trying to go...you don't know their pain...you don't know their priorities...

Without listening.

I realize this. Which is exactly why I said that "Yes, you need to listen". The parent comment responded to implied that was the only way.

If you don't listen you can't do what I stated above. And if you can't do what I stated above then you're not going to be able to help the customer and, ultimately, not be all that successful in sales.

Case in point... I had a customer years ago about to spend roughly a million dollars on a remote site upgrade architecture we had been jointly working on for about 6 months. In the background I was tracking a new product that would make their initiative cheaper and had both better ROI and performance specs due to refreshed hardware.

I made sure to present this, get all the information in front of the customer, engage in discussions using our PM and derive a strategic deal that would save them money over the three year term for buying a new product early.

They didn't do it. My counterpart appreciated the option even though it would have slipped their project by 2 months. Him and I are still friends even though I've moved on since then, but the moral of the story is he still brings that up because, in hindsight, he said he should have trusted our proposal. They spent more, got less and had to upgrade earlier due to unforeseen circumstances. Part of it was bad luck, the other part was a cognizant decision he made against the sales team better judgement.

I listened. I knew the customer very well, in fact. But I had knowledge and experience with the products that outstripped his for navigating this situation. That's how a good sales team operates.

I wasn't disagreeing. Simply trying to summarize.

That definition is very—let’s say—unique. In my 7+ years of marketing I have never met anyone or read anything that put advertising outside of marketing. It’s even in the academic “4P” definition of marketing (“Promotion”).

The funny thing is that in most consumer faced products advertising is generally outsourced to a media agency that does all the work: both creative and media buying (say TV ads, press).

Obviously for software and B2B it is a bit different, because budgets are often smaller and there is more pressure for A/B testing if there is any Return on Investment.

For me "promotion" is more like "price strategy", but they put the word into the 4P since it fits nice.

Marketing is the message.

Advertising is how that's communicated.

Using a billboard or a TV advert is not marketing.

Of course, marketing needs to be advertized. Else you'd just be sitting around a confernce table all day. Sooner of later the (marketing) message will need to be...advertised.

And yes, the medium can be the message. But a magazine advertisement is not a brand style guide. Tradeshow swag is not a tag line.

It not a question of placement - inside or out - it's simple proven definitions.

You’re welcome to dream up your own definitions, but then don’t patronize others: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising

Note the opening five words:

"Advertising is a marketing communication..."

Your tone is unnecessary and off-target. The above quote from line one is exactly what I said.

You don't just wake up, roll out of bed, and advertise. Well, you can but waste a ton of money. In any case, that message needs to be crafted. That's marketing. Advertising is how you disseminate that "plan."

Logo - marketing, not advertising.

Style guide - marketing, not advertising.

Positioning of the brand - marketing, not advertising.

And so on.

Marketing is the plan. How you wish take and place your brand / product to market. Advertising is the communication of that to thd market. Advertising is what happens when the meeting ends and its time to engage the market.

Marketing = what we have to say and who we wish to say it to.

Advertising = Got it. Let's see what tools we have to best make that happen.

No dreams. That is how it happens.

Folks are getting bound up in shallow semantics in this whole thread and are missing the nuance in your distinctions.

It's not shallow semantics when what they're saying does not reflect the way these terms are used by many (most?) professional marketers.

Putting advertising outside of marketing is not a nuance.

Advertising is part of marketing.

I never said otherwise. What I did was distinguish it's definition. That is, just because you are spending momey on advertising does not mean your are properly marketing. That is, one P does not a Four P's "cycle" make. Full stop.

Futhermore, of course marketers will say they control everything (i.e., including advertising). Now let's go ask an advertising agency if they agree. Let's go ask a promotions agency if they agree.

I'm speaking about the process and activities; devoid of typical biz structures and models that manifest those. It's a fool's errand to discuss the latter without first understanding the the basics, the foundation. The fact this thread is off target proves that point precisely.

They're reading what they want to read and have failed to substantiate their position otherwise. One link to Wikipedia? Which only confirmed that was said.

It's simple. It's called Advertising for a reason. The outputs are called Advertisements for a reason. Whether that's within Marketing's "power grab" or not is not really relevant.

A conversation involves both listening and talking. Good sales people know that they have to "diagnose before they can prescribe" which means they must elicit symptoms and confirm need and fit with product capabilities. Really good sales people recommend other products when theirs is not a good fit. As the deal size goes up you do much more listening than talking.

Many firms that don't advertise--or do very little advertising--and are still able to generate leads, that's why it's normally included in marketing as one of many channels.

Effective marketing people also talk and listen to customers.

Sales is also graded by level of "touch". For example, selling IT services contracts is very high touch. Signing a deal could involve weeks of written correspondence (RFI, RFP), in-person pitching, contract negotiation, etc. Low touch could be fully automated with simple, non-negotiable pricing. There are lots of levels in between.

Weeks. I wish.


My first job ever I befriended one of the senior sales guys at an after work drinking event. We built software that integrated into and with a range of embedded devices of which many were medical. He was one of the guys that worked closely with our EMEA customers who were notoriously slow to sign.

Three years later he drove in to the office lot with a brand new Porsche 911 which was a portion of his commission for closing the deal after something insane like 33 months.

He was happy to have that deal done.

I’m two years into brokering a deal between a client and two blue-chip behemoths. It has been endless cycles of documentation, specification, certification, auditing, horse-trading, rescoping, consulting, wargaming, ratifying, and many of the faces have changed over the last two years.

It’ll be a big deal for all of them, but just getting everything in place for them to all agree and sign is just insane - my longest sales process before this was maybe 4 months, 400 hours - this has easily eaten tens of thousands of man hours so far.

One thing I’ve observed is that the deal almost becomes secondary - by this point, there’s an entire self-sustaining bureaucracy around the deal, many of the deliverables the deal specified are already in place and money has changed hands, hires have been made, everything has essentially happened as though the deal has gone ahead - yet I’m spending this afternoon rejigging information security roles and responsibilities to make the interfaces more on parity with the security team of one of the blue chips, because until the contract is signed, the deal isn’t done, and all parties are just merrily swimming out into deeper waters together, growing technical and operational dependencies around each other with no legal agreement. At this point, the businesses are just getting on with stuff as though the deal is done, the counsels are screaming because nobody is interested in moving the boring paperwork forwards, and I’m charging by the hour. Buys a lot of popcorn.

Sales is weird.

Edit: just realised we might be talking about the same healthcare customers.

I’m not in sales at all, but learning SPIN works great to make a case for something in a structured way. It’s like a funnel to bring people into agreement with my viewpoint.

> diagnose their needs and only engage with firms that will benefit.

I have done technical sales-like engagements and this is the number one pattern I see from relationships that went well. The customer determined, for whatever reason (rightly so) that I could solve their problems. So they opened up and explained what the problems really are. If you can't get this, you can't help someone.

Came to say exactly this. As a first time entrepreneur its important to learn how to spread ideas. Sales comes after.

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