Buyers want an efficient, effective, quality buying experience. They don’t consider whether their experience is “marketing-generated” or “sales-generated”. They choose if they want to engage with your web content, 3rd party digital outposts or marketplaces or with your sales people. They most likely will interact with all of these in different sequences and in unstructured and unpredictable ways.
Buyer engagement efforts take place all along the buyer journey and to deliver the experiences buyers expect and maximize your revenue impact, you need an integrated marketing and sales process.
How structured or unstructured should your marketing and sales process be?
A best practice is to design a full-funnel marketing and sales process with the buyer in mind. The full-funnel approach includes a marketing funnel and sales process. Typical stages of the buyer’s process (and corresponding funnel stages) are:
- Aware (Attract)
- Discover (Engage)
- Evaluate (Convert)
- Purchase (Convert)
- Implement (Manage)
But these are just examples. You will need to tailor the process for different buyer funnels.
Most often, you will want to tailor your process based on each ‘funnel’. For example, a high volume B2B funnel tailored to self-directed buyers may be very different from high value, complex sales at strategic accounts. Other funnels may be setup by offering (product or service) or by vertical industry. The keys in selecting a funnel include:
- Buyer segments have similar characteristics that we can identify
- Buyers follow a broadly similar buying process
- We can organize our efforts around the buyer process.
Some businesses may need a highly structured process that dictates specific activities marketing and sales need to execute. These might include things like # outbound emails, outbound call, meeting schedule, discover call, demo, pricing meeting, proposal meeting, signature meeting, etc. Often a structured sales process is helpful for more routine and consistent processes or for more junior sales reps that need to develop selling skills and routines. It also applies where the volume of sales activity is high and the dollar value or Customer Lifetime Value potential (CLTV) of the sale is lower.
For more complex sales 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 may work better. In this example, each stage will include a range of activities, strategies and tactics that teams will orchestrate to engage the buyer and DMU (decision making unit) across a complex buying lifecycle.
Buyers are empowered and enabled. They are more 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.
During aware and consider stages, they may research solutions, watch videos, read content, download assets and review 3rd party marketplaces. As they move into the consider, evaluate and decide stages, they may want to engage more 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.
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.
Designing a Full-Funnel Marketing and Sales Process
To deliver effective buyer experiences, companies can adapt to the buyer’s process and provide multiple pathways (or plays) across marketing and sales experiences for buyer engagement at each stage of the buyer process or journey. When constructing a modern marketing and sales funnel, some design principles you should consider include:
- Buyer-centric funnels with a mix of marketing and sales/ human and digital engagement
- Shared metrics and mutual accountabilities driven by top-down business goals and factored pipelines
- Collaborative engagement and qualification across marketing and sales along with clear roles and responsibilities
- Transparent accountability for marketing and sales teams across the aligned process
- For ABM, moving away from “marketing generated” and “sales generated”
Defining Your Funnel Marketing and Sales Stages
The following are example stages in a full-funnel design. It is important to note the TOFU (top-of-funnel) activities may not be exclusively in the domain of Marketing. In certain funnels outbound sales prospection is vital. Similarly, at the BOFU (bottom-of-funnel) stages, the responsibility may be mostly with Sales, but activities can be effectively enabled by Marketing-produced content and resources. In the MOFU (middle-of-funnel), there is a clear need for highly collaborative processes to effectively nurture the prospect in their consideration stage.
TAM and Active TAM
While not a traditional funnel stage, we like to model TAM and Active TAM to test our assumptions related to awareness volumes. You can estimate the number of Active TAM and the size of the contact database based on the typical DMU (Decision Making Unit). You can estimate the universe of prospects you would like to drive into your TOFU.
- Prospect is in a selected market and segment for our funnel
- We can measure the size and value of the TAM (e.g. numbers of accounts, contacts) and the size of the market opportunity (revenue) and our current market share
- We have identified ways to access and engage buyers / personas based on the size and nature of the TAM
- We can also estimate the % of TAM that are likely in an active buying cycle and test the degree to which our TOFU programs are penetrating the active TAM
- Where possible, we can use intent data to determine active TAM
Aware (Attract Stage)
- We are executing awareness programs (e.g. PR and Media Placement, Email Marketing, SEO / Search, Paid Media, Events, Analysts, Marketplaces)
- For certain funnels, we are making outbound sales “touches” (calls, emails, invites, etc.)
- The goal here is to get a response or a ‘Lead’ (note: this is not a qualified lead (MQL or SQL) at this point.
Example Metric: 10% of Aware Leads Convert to Engaged
Discover (Engaged Stage)
- We can engage with buyers that have responded (e.g. a sales call response, download, email open, form conversion, etc.)
- We can nurture these leads with buyer experiences and engagement strategies until they are qualified
- We apply qualification criteria like BANT (or better yet, Revenue Architects FACT model) to build a lead score
- In some cases, particularly with direct sales outreach responses, these engaged leads can be fast-tracked to a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) and the sales pipeline
Example Metric: 20% of Engaged Leads Convert to Qualified
Evaluation (Qualified Lead)
There are a few elements of the Qualified Lead status: Marketing Qualified, Sales Accepted and Sales Qualified.
- the lead score (including fit and behavior criteria) meets a pre-determined threshold that is pre-agreed between Marketing and Sales for each funnel
- The buyer opted in to “talk to sales” or responded directly to a sales outreach
- MQLs when managed effectively should be almost universally accepted by sales (SAL), but there may be occasions where some are not.
- Some companies opt for a “collaborative qualification” approach in this process – fast tracking some leads to sales and slowing others down for nurture
- When the lead is “sales ready”, it is accepted (SAL) and it moves to the Sales Pipeline (but it may be returned for nurture!)
Example Metric: 95% of Marketing Qualified Leads Convert to Accepted for Sales Qualification
- We may have found the lead through a sales effort with minimal marketing interaction and lead scoring.
- We are having a sales-led conversations
- We are persuasively communicating our value proposition
- We are meeting the members of the DMU, discovering buyer needs, asking situation and problem questions
- We are collaboratively qualifying FACT — Fit, Accountability, Competition, Timelines
- Fit: The buyer and our team view this opportunity as a mutual fit
- Aligned: We are engaging with this buyer in a collaborative buy-sell process
- Competition: We perceive that we can differentiate and win.
- Timeline: The timeline for the sales process and implementation are realistic and achievable.
- Here enter the opportunity into the Sales Pipeline in CRM (including stage, amount and close date)
- We may share an Opportunity Brief with the sales team
Example Metric: 40% of Sales Qualified Leads Convert to Align Stage
- We continue to use qualification models to further confirm align around qualification levels (qualification is not a single one-time event)
- We execute our competitive strategy (if competitors)
- We are confirming fit, testing hypothetical pricing and offerings
- We are confirming differentiation and responding to any red flags, objections or gaps
Example Metric: 75% of Align Stage move to Proposal Stage
- We understand and are managing the decision process and timeline
- We understand the political map and have an engagement strategy.
- We understand the informal influences which may impact the client decision. We can convert them to favorable or mitigate the threat.
- We have put forward a strawman proposal that has been agreed in principle
- We have jointly and verbally agreed the customer value proposition with the DMU
- Buyer DMU recognizes we have a compelling business advantage
- Decision maker and influencer issues have been identified and addressed
- We are co-creating a formal proposal with the buyer team
Example Metric: 90% of Proposal Stage move to Closing
- Our active selling is complete, and the client views our solution as superior to alternatives
- We have verbal commitment from key decision makers.
- Our coach has pressure-tested it within the client decision chain (that is positive).
- We are finalizing the proposal and getting the necessary paperwork signed by the client.
- We have date for a final presentation (if needed).
- Terms are agreed / open issues identified with plans to address.
Example Metric: 90% of Closing Stage move to Closed
- We have a signed contract
- The Customer Success and onboarding plan is complete
- We have a plan for follow-on work
- We have developed an Account Plan
- We have tiered the customer based on factors like CLTV / Strategic and Referral Value / Fit
- We are delighting contacts and converting them to advocates and referral partners.
We help design customized full-funnel processes and metrics models. Contact John Stone jcstone @ revenuearchitects.com for a sample process model or schedule a 1:1 consultation.