Your old sales funnel has gone. If you want to stay in the game it’s time to change, or you’ll find yourself going the way of the dodo... Constant change is one certainty, here are three more; 1. B2B business buyers don’t buy like they used to, 2. your competition doesn’t compete like it used to and 3. your salespeople can’t sell like they used to. The internet has liberated information and we are now in the age of the self educating buyer. This has shifted control to the buyer and fundamentally changed the way we purchase.
The Sales Funnel vs. the Purchase Funnel Concept
To really get a handle on how things have changed it’s worth going back to 1898 when a guy called St Elmo Lewis developed a model for purchasing behaviour called the ‘AIDA’ system, the acronym for 4 buying stages - Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. Lewis suggested we start by creating awareness of a need, then move to a state of interest in the product or service, if the service meets our need we desire it and when we’ve assured ourselves that it meets our need we take action in the form of a purchase. ...and happy days. As sellers we call the ‘purchase’ funnel the ‘sales’ funnel as our aim is to map our selling and marketing activity in line with this process to encourage buyers through the funnel to buy our product or service. So our sales activity, measurement and target is to drive our client toward a sale.
The Old Sales Funnel - The good ol’ days
In the ages pre internet, pre smartphone, the sales funnel and flow of information was controlled by the salesperson or Business Development Manager (BDM). Her goal was to guide the prospect through a solution selling process toward a sales, trickling out information and controlling the process - the game was to ‘sell’ to the prospect.
The New Sales Funnel
Fast forward to 2015, the age of the internet, interconnectivity and the liberation of information. The game has changed, information is freely available and the purchase process for business buyers has fundamentally changed. It’s now all about providing information and education to nurture the prospect to choosing us over the competition. The salesperson is no longer in control of the funnel, she’s been relegated to the bottom of the funnel because the buying process for the most part is driven by self-serve, help-yourself research. Because they look for information themselves and do their our own research, buyers are now about 57% of the way through the buying process before they even wish to speak to your sales people. This begs the question, how do we nurture these self educating buyers through the sales funnel to a point where they are ready to speak to us face to face?
Mind the gap
In the age of the self educating buyer we need to find a way of bridging the gap between the point a prospect finds out about us and the point they wish to talk to our sales people. This means getting them through the awareness (A) and interest (I) stages and toward the bottom of the funnel - the desire (D) and action (A) phases (where they wish to talk to us).
Filling the gap
We need to change our mindset from from a ‘selling’ mentality to a ‘helping’ mentality. We need to create helpful content - helpful information in the form of blogs, ebooks, videos, webinars and a host of other vehicles that will assist our self educating prospects, and encourage them to stick with us and choose us over the competition. Effectively, we want to nurture business buyers right the way down the new sales funnel.
The new world order (or new funnel order)
In the new world order, or as I call it the new funnel order of things, we need to help the self educating buyer in order to build a relationship with our firm so that we become their top of preference. Have you calibrated your sales funnel thinking? Are you helping not selling?