Are you suffering from funnel vision? If you’re involved in sales for a B2B company, you probably are. But you may not even know it. Funnel vision is a common condition among sales organizations that focus more on adhering to linear sales processes than to enabling a customer’s buying journey. Sound familiar?
Many business-to-business organizations rely on a traditional sales-conversion funnel to manage sales. It’s what you’ve probably always used. And, for a long time, it was a great way to move your customers along the path to purchase.
The funnel worked because it mimicked and facilitated the customer’s buying journey—from awareness to interest to evaluation to decision-making to purchase. But the customer journey isn’t linear anymore. The sales process can’t be, either.
Think about how people buy cell phones these days. They conduct research online. They ask friends for their opinions. They read reviews. They talk to in-store sales reps, or chat with online agents. They compare prices, features and trade-in deals. They may change their minds half a dozen times. When they’re ready to buy, a salesperson at a local retailer rings them up, applies a discount, activates the phone, and transfers all data and apps in the blink of an eye. Marketing, sales and service all delivered in one fell swoop.
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The customer journey isn’t linear anymore. The sales process can’t be, either.
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The remarkable thing about this experience is that it is so unremarkable. This is what we've come to expect in recent years when we shop for everything from cars to gym memberships. Easy-to-access information. Convenience. Personalized attention. Satisfying online experiences that lead to in-person purchases. And vice versa.
Business consumers are no different. They want the same seamless and relevant experiences they enjoy when shopping in their personal lives. Companies that sell to businesses know this. Accenture research has shown that 72% of B2B execs believe their customers want tailored, relevant solutions. Despite this acknowledgment, many B2B companies still aren’t giving their B2B customers the B2C experiences they crave.
It’s not that B2B leaders don’t see Customer Experience as a strategic priority; 90% of them do. The problem is that many legacy B2B companies just aren’t set up to sell in a B2C world. In my conversations with business leaders, it’s clear that for a lot of them, their reliance on the traditional sales funnel is getting in the way of sales. In our always-on world—where customers are inundated with information and have the freedom to pop into and out of the sales process whenever, wherever and as often as they want—that funnel is failing. Their funnel vision is causing them to lose sight of their customers.
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Of B2B leaders see Customer Experience as a strategic priority.
Of B2B executives believe their customers want tailored, relevant solutions.
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The simple truth is business customers today don’t care about silos between marketing, sales and service – they want to interact with companies on their terms, and in their channel of choice. Companies that want to capture their interest, revenue and loyalty need to meet them on these terms.
When I talk to clients, I offer multiple recommendations:
- Organize around the customer, not internal organizations. Meet the needs of today’s non-stop customers through an integrated, end-to-end process across marketing, sales and service. Establishing shared accountability for customer experiences is key, and breaking down traditional, siloed work flows is necessary.
- Make the most of your customers’ time. Define interactions that satisfy customer demands for convenience and information—everything from providing education on a product or service, to facilitating a smooth sales/onboarding process, to delivering seamless post-sales service. In designing these new interactions, anticipate questions customers might have and create proactive, positive, and relevant cross-functional experiences that would boost interest, sales and retention.
- Get your data house in order. Deploy cross-functional data platforms to capture feedback and share customer insights across touch points—from call centers and social media networks to sales and post-sales service channels. Understanding customer preferences and behaviors across the full cycle should help companies to identify and pursue the highest-value customers and opportunities, and tailor actions for distinct customer segments.
I know the changes I’m suggesting aren’t easy. Silos were originally created for a reason. And the barriers between them have strengthened over time. But future revenue growth calls for change, and it requires overcoming funnel vision.
We should view the failure of the traditional sales funnel as a positive development. It’s forcing clients to up their game, compete in new ways, and focus on their customers again. And in the end, it’s a win-win: customers get what they want, and companies generate revenue growth.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Will you miss the old sales funnel when it’s gone? Or will you, like many of my clients, wonder why you didn’t get rid of it sooner?