The Death of the Sales Funnel: A New Reality for Sales Organizations

30 October 2015


We’ve been hearing for years now about how sales motions are becoming more complex, personalized and completely dictated by the customer. A new study by CSO Insights highlights this further by sharing that rising customer expectations combined with a complex and constantly changing selling world are driving the need for sales organizations to evolve their sales processes and enablement to a dynamic, strategic, and customer-centered approach. It’s time to accept that buyers hold the power now and that this empowerment is only going to grow as accessibility to information increases. Historically, B2B companies have been slower to react to changing customer preferences, but the impact of this new paradigm is significant and organizations that don’t change will get left behind.

The New Reality

The days of the linear sales funnel where everyone enters the sales process at the top of the funnel and follows a similar buying experience are gone for most B2B industries and quickly dissipating for the rest. In today’s information age, buyers have access to more information and tools than ever before. In just a couple of clicks, buyers can now find how other companies have solved similar problems, get recommendations on what vendors might be able to help them, compare products/services, get relevant reviews and even receive pricing. In most cases, they can do all of this easily without having to talk to a single sales rep.

A recent study by CEB shows that on average, B2B buyers are 57% through their buying journey before ever engaging with a sales rep. More and more buyers are taking to this online self-serve approach because it’s more efficient to troubleshoot their own problems and needs, get answers to their buying questions, and most importantly form opinions in a non-biased way.

The effects of this behavior change is that buyers now seem to “enter” the sales pipeline at various points in the buying process. Some buyers might engage sellers at the beginning of their search because they read an article that linked to the seller’s solution and downloaded some gated content. Other buyers will have done more research and already made product/service comparisons with the different solution providers before engaging sellers. There is even other buyers that have already picked their preferred vendor through research and reviews and is connecting with sellers for the first time to negotiate pricing. To make things more complex, how buyers enter the sales pipeline might not be indicative of where they are at in their buyer journey. Just because a buyer requested pricing information on a vendor’s website doesn’t mean they are in the negotiation phase of their buying journey. Conversely, a buyer that downloads a whitepaper might be further down the pipe than their action indicates.

The new sales funnel is not a funnel at all. It is a complex web of individual buyer paths intersecting at the various sales and marketing touch points.

Death of the Sales Funnel

This obviously has serious implications for sales organizations. Some leading questions facing sales management are:

  • How do you create the flexibility in your processes to support personalized buyer journeys
  • How do you enable sales teams to engage buyers appropriately based on where they are at in their buying process
  • What role should marketing play in nurturing buyers through their individual journey

These are just some of the questions sales organizations will need to answer in order to continue to grow revenue moving forward. Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where we will dive into these implications and discuss what teams must do to successfully adapt to this new selling environment.

For more information about aligning your sales teams and processes to the buyer journey, download this?deep-dive on The Anatomy of World-Class Sales.

About the Author

Jared Dodson is a Manager at Lenati, a marketing and sales strategy consultancy, where he co-leads the Sales Performance Practice. Jared helps businesses develop sales strategies and implement process, enablement and analytics that drive improved sales revenue, productivity and overall performance. Jared has led sales initiatives with high growth startups as well as Fortune 500 companies including Johnson Controls, T-Mobile and Microsoft.

About the Author

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