Time and time again I keep on hearing that the sales funnel is obsolete. Here’s the thing. It never worked from the start.
In every old school sales playbook, in nearly every CRM, and on every sales floor across Corporate America, the traditional sales funnel reigns supreme. When most sales managers log in to their dashboard they typically see something like this:
And not surprising, the number 2 problem I often hear from sales managers (after not enough leads) is inaccurate forecasting.
It’s really quite simple why this is a problem.
It assumes people live in a vacuum.
Think about the last time you bought anything, whether it’s something complex like a car, or a blender from Amazon. Did you really view the product on Amazon and just go and buy it? Hell no, you went out and did research on your own. You read reviews, asked around if anyone had used a vendor and then you came back and made a decision.
Do you really think their journey starts with your marketing or sales teams? Of course not, and when it does, the traditional funnel makes a big assumption…
It assumes that people enter from the top
People have often done a lot of research before contacting you, or even agreeing to respond to a voicemail, email or social media message. By the time they respond they may be at the closing stage. Or at least, they appear to be, but that can be deceiving without a proper qualification criteria.
It assumes there are no other decision makers
I can’t believe that more thought isn’t put into the fact that in complex B2B products there is never a single decision maker involved in the process. Sure the CEO may be the one signing the checks, but he’s going to have his advisors (technical, HR, admin etc) who all have the power to kill the deal. The traditional funnel doesn’t capture this crucial but extremely crucial dynamic in every deal.
For example, a common stage in a deal cycle is “Needs Assessment” but whose needs is this assessing? Is it the technical teams? The finance team? Or the end user? The simple funnel model doesn’t capture this.
Is it any wonder that sales forecasting usually misses the mark?
Content is rocket fuel
Whether you like it or not, prospects are going to do their own research. And unlike in the past where the best sales team won based on questioning and tactics, it really comes down to the organization that provides the most relevant content to close the sale.
In the age of information, really understanding your buyer personas allows sales and marketing to really push the right buttons and give buyers the confidence to go with the right vendor.
The good news is that when done right, content can shorten sales cycles dramatically by empowering customers to choose you as a vendor. The bad news is that most companies get this terribly wrong, and find their sales cycle is dramatically longer.
As I’ve talked about in the past, outbound marketing is still important and when armed with content, things can get really interesting.
What do you feel is the best sales funnel for 2016?