There has been a huge change in the behaviour of the B2B buyer over the last ten years or so. Previously, a buyer would have been taken out for lunch, to the golf course or cold-called by a salesperson. Today, professional buyers are conducting between 70-80% of their buying journey without ever making contact with a single salesperson.
With so many sources of information for product research, reviews and references, customers no longer need a salesperson until the final stages of the buying process. And, by then, it can be too late for a salesperson to influence their direction.
The shift has been dramatic and fast. When it comes to B2B sales, business leaders find themselves playing catch-up and having to adapt to a sales environment that looks vastly different from the traditional process that prevailed before.
And if they don’t adapt or aren’t open to adapting, they could lose out. I’ve met some sales leaders that don’t realise what’s happening to them. They are suffering from poor results but blame it on a slow market or on their team without realising the fundamental shift that’s going on. At the Enterprise level with its long sales cycles, the loss can be slow at first as customers see out their contracts but it will then be a rush as more nimble competitors become top-of-mind for buyers. The non-adaptors won’t even see the problem until it’s too late.
And then they’ll wonder what the hell went wrong.
It’s imperative that we make a major effort towards presenting ourselves as leaders in our field and influencing the buyer early on in their buying process and we must pay significant attention to the customer after they buy. Notice that I said ‘their’ process, as the customer is now much more in control of the process, rather than it being a sales-driven process – we now talk about the ‘customer journey’. Of course, this is where marketing comes in and having a strong B2B marketing function, closely integrated with sales, is critical to success.
The good news is that when this is implemented well, we will get well-qualified leads and have prospects that are warm towards a sales approach. They are likely to be positive about your company and your solution, therefore your ‘close’ rates and sales productivity should be much better.
So, what do the two sales processes look like – the traditional versus new approaches?
The traditional B2B sales process and funnel looks something like the diagram below, which I’m sure you recognise and have worked with some version of this.
It’s important to note the following key points when it comes to this model:
Many organisations I meet with are wholly down the path (or somewhere along it) to accommodating the new buying process and are trying to get themselves in front of buyers in the early stages of their research.
Here’s my view of what the ‘new’ sales/marketing funnel looks like.
There are some critical points of difference from the traditional model, as follows:
Running business the old way, along traditional sales lines, still conjures up images of the old sales boiler room, where sales leaders ‘drive’ their teams relentlessly to make targets and ‘push’ products to customers. This approach is just too one dimensional and blunt for today’s environment. Yes, we still need to be aggressive to make our targets but let’s be aggressive on driving the range of activities that assist customers to understand our value all the way along their buying journey.
Customer-centricity and CX (Customer Experience) are the buzzwords of the moment, and there’s a reason for this. The new sales/marketing funnel is a sign of the changing times and it works. The question is: are you a new adopter or yet to change?
Let me know in the comments below and let’s open this up for discussion.
If you’d like to learn more about the new sales/marketing funnel, get in touch with me at [email protected]. I’d be more than happy to have a short introductory discussion to run through the model in more detail and also assess where we might be able to support you.