In the past five years, as the internet explosion spilled over from technology hobbyists into full use by the general public, and finally adoption by the business world, it added velocity to a trend that I would argue was already underway – the death of sales.
Sounds ominous (and a bit like a play starring Dustin Hoffman) but it’s true. The traditional sales approach is dead.
As a career sales rep and process wonk who for many years has practiced and studied both sales and marketing processes, I have analyzed my fair share of process models. For many decades, the conventional thinking in this area focused on affecting or acting on the customer, “selling them,” “generating demand,” ” qualifying them,” etc.
Your buyers have rendered this approach irrelevant. The consumer is now in charge of both the initiation and pace of the sales and marketing processes. No room in this post to argue that fact, so if you’re struggling with it, just take a leap of faith and read on.
Organizations that understand this new buyer-driven reality can capitalize on the new model and thrive, but not with the same old funnel.
You have to abandon the traditional sales funnel (generate leads, qualify opportunity, propose, close) and adopt one that manages the new reality.
The ways in which authors and analysts are depicting the traditional sales and marketing funnel model is also changing (finally). I ran across one particular funnel that really impressed me. I think it is dead-on.
Ardath Albee, an emarketing expert and author you should check out immediately, has conceived a funnel that truly addresses today’s sales and marketing realities. I have included an image of it in this post.
You’ll first notice that it is a horizontal funnel. This is brilliant way to visually depict that the process is not one of seller throwing buyer into a hopper to be squeezed and refined as if by gravity into a sale, but one of myriad, opt-in choices that the prospective buyer must be attracted to in the marketplace. It fully acknowledges that content and value attract buyers.
The model then goes on to show a largely buyer-driven process (acknowledging that business buyers rarely act alone but rather in committees or teams). Only then do we see some traditional selling tenants kick in, and even they are more collaborative in nature.
You should definitely check this model out. Here is a link to Ardath’s blog entry for more information.
By the way, Ardath also wrote a book called “eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale” which explains her philosophy on creating the unique and nurturing content that will attract your buyers to the front end of this funnel. I’m currently reading it and will post more on this topic in later posts.