The sales funnel is dead. Long live the funnel.
Using the old sales funnel model to inform your marketing will inevitably produce a strategy that doesn’t provide your customers with what they need to whip out their wallets. And if you’re not providing that, what’s the point?
The simple sales funnel has been replaced by a more complex, and more realistic model of the B2B buyer journey that caters to the new generation of B2B buyers – and when used properly, it can be extremely effective.
What’s wrong with the old sales funnel?
The original sales funnel was simple, easy-to-understand, and impactful, which may explain why it stuck around for so long. There were also several iterations of the classic so although you may not be immediately familiar with the below model, it forms the basis from which most others stemmed. The old sales funnel was split into four stages:
- Awareness: Our business has a problem, we need to find a solution.
- Interest: These products might solve the problem.
- Decision: This particular product is the best option.
- Action: We are going to purchase this product.
The problem with this model is that it oversimplifies the B2B buyer decision, which typically involves 6 to 10 decision makers and hours of in-depth research.
When following this sales funnel model, salespeople may reach out too early without the information the buyer will need. The old way emphasised hard-selling and engaging buyers on your terms, however the way forward is to provide information and decision-making tools, then letting the buyer progress at their own pace.
The reality of B2B buying
When it comes to B2B buying, there are usually a greater number of decision makers involved in large purchases, as well as several additional stakeholders. There may also be countless product options to choose from, several pushy salespeople to contend with, and an endless sea of information to consider. Plus the business’s requirements are often very niche and stringent.
Processing all this information, and keeping fellow decision makers happy makes B2B buying hugely challenging. In fact, 77 percent of B2B buyers said their last purchase was very complex or difficult (Gartner).
The new B2B buying model
Gartner’s research into the B2B buying process revealed that generally it’s made up of six jobs that a buyer must complete before making a decision. These aren’t necessarily completed in sequential order though – buyers loop back to each step, or even complete all of them simultaneously.
Rather than just ‘selling’, the key to effective B2B marketing and sales is to make each of the jobs easier for buyers by enabling them to make decisions:
The Updated Sales Funnel For B2B Buyers
- Problem identification. “We need to do something.”
- Solution exploration. “What’s out there to solve our problem?”
- Requirements building. “What exactly do we need the purchase to do?”
- Supplier selection. “Does this do what we want it to do?”
- Validation. “We think we know the right answer, but we need to be sure.”
- Consensus creation. “We need to get everyone on board.”
Gartner also found that information is the key to making decisions easier for buyers. In fact, customers that were provided with in-depth, quality information said they are three times more likely to make a high value purchase that they’re happy with.
To that end, your marketing strategy needs to consider every question buyers may have as they progress through these steps – then attempt to answer them one-by-one with smart, tailored content.
Having a clear understanding of the following will help you provide the necessary information for your prospects and clients:
- The problems and pain points that may lead a buyer to your product.
- Competing solutions – and why a buyer should choose yours over the rest.
- What your customer’s requirements may be and how your product or service meets them.
- How you can validate and strengthen a customer’s positive opinions of your products – think testimonials, case studies, referrals, and FAQs.
- What your buyers may need to create a consensus about your product or service with stakeholders and other decision makers.
The B2B buying process is complex and difficult, but the steps in this modified sales funnel should give you some framework to work through. If you have any questions, get in touch with the Pounce team.