The B2B Sales Funnel Is Dead — and Here’s the Proof

The B2B Sales Funnel Is Dead — and Here's the Proof

Editor’s Note: this post was originally featured on the Salesforce blog in April of 2015.

You heard me: the B2B sales and marketing funnel is dead, and by now, I think we all know it.

The Traditional B2B Sales Funnel

However, if this comes as a surprise to you, then hopefully the rest of this post will be very enlightening. (And if this isn’t a surprise, I’d be interested in reading your thoughts in the comments!) Here are the two key assumptions that the traditional B2B funnel makes:

  • It assumes everyone has a linear path from top to bottom.
  • It assumes there is only one person in that journey.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”0GCVO” via=”yes” ]”The #B2Bsales & #marketing funnel is dead,” says @sangramvajre. “What killed it?”[/ctt]

Now, let’s examine the causes of the B2B sales funnel’s death…

Fallacy One: Leads progress linearly from the top to the bottom of the funnel.

Imagine you’re purchasing a product as simple as swag for your company’s employees. Do you just visit one website and wait for someone to call and pitch you their value prop? Do you suddenly stop looking for options or engaging on other channels like social media, referrals from friends, or review sites to find out more about it? The answer is no. We all have different approaches to getting information and it’s never a linear path. In fact, it’s a convoluted path that crosses a number of channels, time zones, geographical locations, and web properties. We are gathering all of the information that is readily available and then making informed decisions. Here’s the proof:

Consumers gather information on their terms using the channels they prefer. They can also leapfrog the buyer’s journey from start to finish because of many variables like urgency, price point, or an immediate business problem they are trying to address. Buyers don’t take a linear path — they take a “critical” path that drives their decision-making process.

[ctt template=”1″ link=”Ar5Ra” via=”yes” ]@siriusdecisions says 70% of the #B2B buyer’s journey is done before connecting with a sales rep.[/ctt]

Fallacy Two: There is only one person involved in the buyer’s journey.

Think back to the last time you bought a product for your company that was over, let’s say, $1000. Was it something solely you thought about, made a decision on, and ordered on a company credit card before you alone started using it?

The chances of that happening are zero to none unless you’re the CEO of a startup company with very few employees. The reality is that the B2B decision-making process for buying products or using services is done through collaboration. The bigger the company or the more expensive the product, the greater the number of people involved in the decision-making process. Here’s the proof:

[ctt template=”1″ link=”eq1I5″ via=”yes” ]The average B2B deal has 8+ decision makers, a 43% increase from 3 years ago, according to @IDC.[/ctt]

In short, the traditional funnel view that involves focusing all of your marketing and sales efforts on one person — who may or may not be the decision-maker — could be futile. The chances of winning a deal suddenly depend on the sheer will of a single person trying to get your message in front of all the right decision-makers at the right time and in the right format. That’s a lot to ask from that one person to help you close a deal in your target company.

So, what’s the solution?

Account-based marketing. More and more companies have figured out the art and science of lead generation and are learning how to find the companies that fit their “best” target profiles. The problem is not identifying just the companies or the contacts, but proactively getting your message in front of all of the decision-makers and influencers — and on their terms, too. This can be a game changer, and it’s exactly the kind of capability offered by account-based marketing (ABM). ABM allows you to reach all of the contacts within an account — not just a single lead — on all the channels that they actively use during the buying process. This includes mobile, social, video, display, direct mail, and so on.

Just like that, you’ve addressed both of the flaws in the funnel, from the non-linear progression of the buyer’s journey to single lead-based marketing.