The shift from the transactional sales we left behind in the 90s to today’s increasingly recurring business models like ‘as-a-service’, requires a shift in thinking about “sales process” design and the traditional vertical funnel. Today, we need a Full-funnel Revenue Architecture – a horizontal bow tie funnel that places appropriate emphasis on post sales customer success, execution and management to realize revenue performance. Predictable sustainable and accelerated revenue performance relies increasingly on the customer continuously realizing benefits and impact. Customer lifetime value and revenue realization are increasingly derived by maximizing the right side of the bow tie funnel.
Another aspect of the full-funnel approach is the greater requirement for seamless integration across marketing and sales activities and a collaborative approach between buyer and seller teams. Buyers expect efficient, effective, high quality buying experiences and they don’t care or consider whether these experience are based on your marketing efforts or your sales efforts. Buyers are in control and they choose when to access your web content, independent 3rd party review sites or when to speak 1:1 with your sales and service teams. In fact, they often interact with all of these touchpoints in different sequences and in unstructured and unpredictable ways.
Buyers are empowered and self-directed in their process.
Because the web provides such easy access to product, service and company information, buyers rely less on direct sales for education and more on available resources on the web. Traditional account sales has moved further down funnel, but may also have significant roles in lead generation at the top of the funnel.
During the early stages of the funnel, buyers may research solutions, watch videos, read content, download assets and review 3rd party marketplaces. As they move down the funnel, they may want to engage more actively with sales teams. But it is important to recognize that both sales-led and marketing-led activities and experiences are relevant and active end-to-end across the full funnel. The buyer team member’s may be in different places and some may want 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.
So what is 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 that are cross-functional in nature. Each seller stage may involve a mix of sales, marketing and customer execution activities. We evolved our standard Full-funnel Revenue Architecture process model to include variations of funnel stages that further recognize buyer stages and the corresponding seller stages. We also emphasize the need to fully customize the stages based on the buyer and business model. A reference model as depicted in the bow tie funnel image 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 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 the an Equitable Exchange to reinforce mutual value and respect in the buying process. Our goals is to structure experiences that engage, convince and convert. Collaborative qualification techniques helps 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 make a selection, they will engage more deeply – perhaps with a short list of providers – and this introduces a complex process of sales interactions combined with on-going 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 in order to retain and expand the relationship. The commit stage is enabled by structured 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.
Designing Your Full-Funnel Revenue Architecture.
Of course you will tailor your process and each stage based on how your business works. For example, a high volume B2B funnel tailored to highly self-directed buyers may be very different from high dollar value, complex sales at strategic accounts. The level of self-sell vs strategic direct sales engagement may vary widely in these different business models. Similarly, the role of SDRs or inside sales teams may play a greater role in selected business. Funnels may also be setup by offering (product or service) or by vertical industry.
Some keys in recognizing different funnel models include:
- Design funnels around buyer segments that have similar characteristics that we can identify
- Ensure buyers 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 apply where the volume of sales activity is higher and the dollar value or Customer Lifetime Value potential (CLTV) of the sale is lower.
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.
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/ABE (Account-based Engagement) 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 me (John Stone) by using the contact us form to discuss these strategies and how they may apply to your business.