The Sales Funnel is Dead

14 Apr The Sales Funnel is Dead

We’ve all heard it before.

It’s a numbers game! You just have to keep at it! You should be making at least 50 calls a day and scheduling 10 appointments a week! Gotta keep filling that funnel…..Ugh!

The problem with this type of sales strategy is that it assumes that if you make enough calls, talk to enough people and go to enough networking events that everything will magically fall into place and your numbers will go through the roof.  The sales funnel actually supports a mindset that is already become obsolete with the best sales professionals.

Think about it.  If only it was as easy as “filling a funnel” and having sales fall through the other end, you can make 200 calls and you will hit your quota.  But here’s a better question. If you’re going to make 200 calls a day,who are those calls to? And what are you actually saying? Just pounding phone lines and telling the company story isn’t selling.  Or better yet, when you get the check (the bottom of the funnel?) what about implementation or customer service?  Are customer’s buying that as well (why do most sales processes just end at “close” or “implement” — especially when that’s where the buyer’s work gets started!)

Now don’t us wrong, having a good prospecting plan is likely a key ingredient to a successful sales career — but so are a LOT of other things. In today’s business climate, with shrinking budgets and more scrutiny over purchases, what you need is a personal selling approach that relies less on the law of averages and more on helping the customer make the most of every contact you have with them.  The key is to have a complete understanding the entire customer experience and “synchronize” to that buyer throughout—they’re the boss when it comes to the “sales funnel” not you.

We believe that your success isn’t so much tied to  your sales process as it it to the buyer’s buying process.  Or better yet, most salespeople we talk with (and also help) are moving past the buyers buying process to the customers problem solving process .   The key is to truly understand the customer’s decision-making criteria and help them get what they need along their buying or problem-solving cycle. That will result in a sales process that builds trust and respect, and allows you to become a trusted advisor—that’s the magic recipe for success.

Seven years ago, we asked in business article; “Is the sales funnel dead?”
— well today, we can officially declare it so.

Don’t beleieve us?  We dare you to put yourself in your buyer’s shoes.  Or better yet, think about the last time YOU bought something.  Remember the earliest stages of need definition?  Remember how you progressed throughout the search and selection process?  Did that experience end after you wrote the check?  We’re sure it continued on into full integration of the product or service into your daily life.

So, here’s a quck  break down of buying behavior. It’s a “simple” view that falls into 9 distinct phases. We’re outlining it below starting from the beginning to the end in order to allow you to think through the key question; “How do I navigate the buying process?”.  Answering this question is the start of becoming more customer-centric.

The Questions that Buyers Ask, Don’t Neatly Fit into a “Sales Funnel”

Here are the top 10 questions that buyers have during their buying process.  How neatly do these fit into a linear “Sales Funnel”?   The simple answer is, they don’t.

  1. What’s my charter and my role? —  All buyers have some sort of job to do.  Unfortunately for salespeople, their job titles don’t often match what their real job is.
  2. What’s my plan? – The buyer outlines a plan for their business or department, such as its strategic plan, realignment of the organization, the acquisition of new capabilities, or defines a new vision for success.
  3. What problem am I really trying to solve?  The buyer’s within the customer organization realize they have a problem and seek to satisfy that need.  They begin to take action towards buying (as opposed to making their own solution or product).  They act accordingly by setting forth goals, objectives, targets, and budgets. They may appoint a team of people to evaluate potential vendors.
  4.  How are we going to start tackling this problem – The buying organization engages in activities to find a vendor, partner, or supplier.  They begin reviewing capabilities of selling organization(s) to see which competitor can meet their needs and with whom they would like to have a relationship.
  5. Where will I find more information? The buying organization requests vendor proposals, conducts more in-depth meetings, requests more detailed information, has more “serious” dialogue, conducts an analysis of risk.
  6. How are we going to make a decision?  Buyers in the customer organization have narrowed the choices down to one organization, begins “testing water” to gauge the organization’s ability to fulfill.  Has decided that benefits outweigh risks, begins talking about implementation?
  7. Where will we find the money we need?  The buyers work together to justify their investment and begin to move money around internally. They  write the check or signs the proposal.  Key decision-makers have their reputation on the line, the budget is set aside, and the entire affected organization has begun moving in a new direction.
  8. How will we get started?  – Buyers and their teams become a “customer or client” and begin implementing the solution.  They re-align organizational resources as necessary.  They put long-term plans together. They start communicating progress.
  9.  How will we know we’re successful? – The buyer formally or informally begins documenting the organization’s ability to fulfill the solution. And they start looking to the selling organization to deliver on what was promised.
  10. How do we fully integrate the solution?  – Once the purchase is complete and the product/service is implemented, the final step of the buying organization’s buying cycle is obtaining maximum use of the product/service in the buying organization. This is sometime referred to as return-on-investment (ROI) in pre- and post- sales processes, and return-on-assets (ROA) once the purchase is capitalized.  The product or service must be fully integrated, leveraged, and justified. From a relationship perspective, the buying and selling organization begin to work with a more trust-based bond. The buying organization begins to include the selling organization in appropriate strategic discussions.


When we realize our job is not to push our arbitrary sales process steps onto our prospects (and hope they magically buy from us) we can close more sales by staying in tune with the buyer side of the transaction.

Aside from a better understanding of my customers buying methods, the greatest advantage we’ve noticed since salespeople started asking these types of questions is is a change in buyer mindset. As soon as buyers recognize that our process is designed to assist them in making the best decision for their business, even if that means helping them decide on a competitor’s product, we  have created a new relationship that will eventually lead to more business for us.



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