The internet has radically changed the nature of the sales cycle. Traditionally, the B2B sales funnel was straightforward and looked like this:
Today, it is more convoluted, like this:
As this diagram shows, today’s sales funnel is full of questions, research, and answers. Endless comparisons are made from reviews that are written and repeatedly shared. Social media invites open discussion about a company’s strengths and weaknesses. Essential tools – the website, email marketing, and special events – are no longer important to only one phase of the cycle. Instead, they must stretch across the entire sales process.
To make this more complicated, leads no longer fall through a simple funnel to the sale; now, they must be constantly engaged through a twisting, turning process that doesn’t necessarily even promise a sale at the end. Potential customers must be encouraged to progress from awareness to research to consideration to purchase. As a result, marketers must get smarter.
Here are three ways to keep up with the evolution of the sales funnel:
Transitioning from a lead generation to a demand generation mindset can be a difficult move for B2B marketers. While it seems promising to collect as many leads as possible, then push them to sale, it is more beneficial today to place an emphasis on demand generation. Cultivating this demand for your product begins with raising awareness and developing a community of interest around your industry — more specifically, around the problem you can solve. As customers build and explore the demand you create within the sales funnel, the end result will be sales.
No longer can marketers focus on engaging the customer in the “interest” and “desire” categories of the old sales funnel. Today, it is necessary to connect with prospects before they even enter the cycle. To capture interest and remain desirable up until the point of sale, it is imperative that marketers find unique ways to get consumers’ attention throughout the selling process. Companies must interact with customers on social media, have active conversations, or offer helpful, industry-related blog content, to give a few examples.
Today’s marketers have endless forms of data available to help them understand the customer’s experience. It is crucial that they use this analysis to their advantage, exploring when a customer feels the least engaged and finding ways to fix it. Use the data to determine which social media platforms work best for your consumer base; develop a robust CRM by studying clicks, responses, leads, and deals. This information is key to developing an informed strategic plan that combats today’s complicated sales funnel.