Long, complex sales cycles are often misunderstood by marketing staff. Marketers at companies with lengthy sales processes, such as software and technology companies, typically focus exclusively at the very top of the sales funnel, mistakenly believing that their only job is to "generate more leads."

These misguided marketers happily create expensive advertising campaigns and execute programs designed to drive more people into the cycle. Then they simply tie a pretty ribbon around the leads they generate and toss them over the cubicle wall to the sales department.

This strategy is ineffective.

Savvy marketing professionals understand that sales and marketing must work together to move prospects through the sales pipeline. This is especially important in the complex sale, with long decision making cycles and multiple buyers that need to be influenced. The good news is that Web content drives people through and shortens the sales cycle for any product or service—especially complex ones that have many steps and take months or even years to complete.

First, understand your sales process in detail

All sales processes are definable, repeatable and understandable, and effective marketers use the Web to move people into and through the process. You need to get together with salespeople, sales management and product managers to understand exactly what happens in the sales cycle.

You should answer questions such as these: How do people initially find your company or product? When does the sales person first contact a potential buyer? When do they talk about your company's products? When do they offer a price quote?

Understanding the process in detail allows you to create a definable, repeatable and understandable process that Web content can influence.

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image of David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott is a marketing strategist, entrepreneur, and partner in the sonic branding studio Signature Tones. He is the author of 10 books, including The New Rules of Marketing and PR, now in its 6th edition, with 350,000+ copies sold in English and available in 29 languages.

Twitter: @dmscott

LinkedIn: David Meerman Scott