We left transactional sales behind in the 90s. With recurring business models like ‘as-a-service’, we need to rethink the “sales process” from the traditional vertical funnel to a bow tie funnel that recognizes the role of the post-sale customer execution in revenue realization. We need a full-funnel approach. Predictable, sustainable, and accelerated revenue performance relies increasingly on the customer realizing benefits and impacts from a product or service.
A full-funnel approach requires integrated marketing, sales, and customer execution. Buyers expect efficient, effective, high-quality buying experiences, and they don’t care or consider whether these experiences are marketing efforts or sales efforts. Buyers self-sell and choose when to access your web content, independent 3rd party review sites, or speak with sales and service teams. They often interact with many of these touchpoints in different sequences in unstructured and unpredictable ways.
The web provides such easy access to product, service, and company information and buyers rely less on direct sales for education and more on the web. Traditional account sales have moved further down the funnel, but sales also may have a significant impact at the top-of-the-funnel, in lead generation and prospecting.
During the initial stages of the funnel, buyers research solutions, watch videos, read content, download assets, and review 3rd party marketplaces. As they move through their buying process, they engage with sales teams. Both sales-led and marketing-led activities and experiences are relevant and active across the end-to-end funnel. Different buying team members will be in different places. Some may need educational content and resources, while others may be ready for detailed pricing and service options analysis.
According to research from DemandGen, 71% of B2B buyers say that a company’s website is the most influential touchpoint when making a business decision. When looking for a new product, 87% of shoppers begin their search in digital channels, according to data in a Salesforce report. For those involved in the B2B buying process, 71% of researchers start with a generic search, as noted in a Google survey.
You need a Full-funnel Process.
A best practice is to design a full-funnel marketing and sales process with the buyer in mind. A full-funnel approach includes an understanding of the buyer stages and the corresponding seller stages. Each stage involves a different mix of sales, marketing, and customer execution. Stages should be customized based on the buyer’s journey and business model. A bow tie funnel might include the following buyer and seller stages:
- Confront (Buyer) – Attract (Seller): Here the buyer is at the earliest stage of their process. They are just beginning to confront the challenge, pain, or JTBD (job to be done) and are exploring and learning. Our job is to make them aware of us and to attract these buyers with helpful content and resources that make them more aware of our offerings in the context of their pain.
- Learn (Buyer) – Educate (Seller): At this point, we are starting to engage the buyer/ buyer team. Different members of the buying team may be in learning mode and hopefully, they are finding our content and resources helpful. This stage can take a while depending on the complexity of the decision, the range of buyers in the DMU (Decision Making Unit), and the alternatives they may be considering. Permission Marketing principles suggest we embrace an Equitable Exchange to reinforce mutual value and respect in the buying process. Our goal is to structure experiences that engage, convince and convert. Collaborative qualification techniques help us identify mutual fit and more objectively measure lead quality, qualification, and priority.
- Select (Buyer) – Engage (Seller): When a buyer or buying DMU is ready to select, they will engage more deeply – perhaps with a shortlist of providers – and this introduces a complex process of sales interactions combined with ongoing self-sell resources and nurture programs. Typically, the prospect enters a sales pipeline, and the sales team is orchestrating the process across the buyer-seller teams.
- Commit (Buyer) – Commit (Seller): This is the moment of truth when the buyer and seller are making a mutual commitment. Traditionally the work in sales might be largely completed, but today we know that realization of revenue depends more on the seller’s ability to impact the client’s business pain or needs to retain and expand the relationship. The commit stage is enabled by commercial management practices, terms, and conditions, agreements, and contracts.
- Activate (Buyer) – Deliver (Seller): Onboarding the solution and ensuring customer success requires effective integration of customer execution or customer success team and sales and account management team. Successful onboarding, training, and usage are vital to revenue realization and ultimately recurring revenue.
- Benefit (Buyer) – Impact (Seller): The only way we can maintain our revenue stream is when the buyer (client or customer at this stage) is actively realizing the benefits they expect from the product or service solution. It is our role to impact the customer’s business success to secure the revenue as well as to earn the right to up-sell and cross-sell for deeper value and impact.
Tailor the Process.
You will tailor your process and each stage based on your revenue architecture. A high-volume B2B funnel tailored to highly self-directed buyers would be very different from high-value, complex sales at strategic accounts. The role of SDRs or inside sales teams will play a greater role in different architectures. Different funnels may be needed for different products or services. Design funnels around buyer segments that have similar characteristics that we can identify – who follow a broadly similar buying process for each funnel design. Use the funnel design to organize efforts around the buyer’s process and the customer success model.
The stages in the bow-tie model depicted here are broad. Some businesses may want structured process steps that specify routine activities that marketing and sales teams execute. These might include things like making scripted outbound emails and calls, scheduling a discovery call, conducting a demo, holding a pricing meeting, holding a proposal meeting and signature meeting, etc. Often a structured sales process is helpful for more routine and consistent or transactional selling as well as for more junior sales reps who may need to develop selling skills and routines. A more structured process also applies where the volume of sales activity is higher and the dollar value or Customer Lifetime Value potential (CLTV) of the sale is lower.
Structured or Unstructured?
For more complex sales and where the ADV (average deal value) or CLTV is high – or when selling complex professional services – it is not likely that sales teams will use a highly structured process. For these teams, a stage-based marketing and sales process often works better. In this example, each stage will include a range of activities or steps, strategies, and tactics to orchestrate and engage the buyer and DMU (decision-making unit) across a complex buying lifecycle. In these cases, the stage is not defined as a specific process step, rather it defines the qualification status of the buyer along their journey.
Different archetypes means different processes.
To deliver effective buyer experiences, you can adapt to the buyer’s process and provide multiple pathways (or plays) and marketing and sales experiences for buyer engagement at each stage of the buyer journey. Archetypes are helpful in funnel design. Archetypes as reference models based on product/ service offerings and business models can inform funnel design by using a baseline model. For example, consider how different a funnel design and approach (archetype) will need to be for a high-volume low-dollar business vs. a low-volume high-dollar business model. When constructing your Full-funnel Revenue Architecture model, some of the principles you should consider include:
- Build buyer-centric funnels with a mix of marketing and sales/ human and digital engagement
- Use shared metrics and mutual accountabilities (e.g with Service Level Agreements as needed) driven by top-down business goals, metrics, and factored pipelines
- Engage a collaborative engagement approach with the customer including collaborative qualification
- Establish clear roles and responsibilities across your marketing, sales, and customer execution teams
- Build-in transparent accountability for teams across the aligned process measuring funnel math metrics up and down the bow tie funnel
- In general, and especially for ABM programs, shift away from using terms like “marketing-generated” and “sales generated”
If you are building or enhancing your sales process or funnel model, you may want to design a Full-funnel Revenue Architecture and customize your process and metrics around the buyer and your business model. Contact us by using the contact us form to discuss these strategies and how they may apply to your business.