Buyers Don’t Care About Your Sales Funnel

I read an article recently that discussed how content can “help push your prospects through the sales funnel.”  While I am quite aware of B2B’s fascination and obsession with funnels and waterfalls, the truth is buyers couldn’t care less and certainly will not be pushed through anything.

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Perhaps this is the problem with so many organizations and their inability to be effective with Demand Generation and Content – according to a study we conducted here at ANNUITAS of enterprise B2B organizations, only 2.8% of organizations claimed they are effective at achieving their goals.  Pretty anemic!  However, if organizations are taking the very insular view of “pushing their buyer through the sales funnel” it would explain quite a bit about the lack of effectiveness.

Let’s take a look at today’s sophisticated buyer according to the Demand Gen Report 2014 B2B Buyer Survey:

  • 41% of B2B buyers state they are waiting longer to initiate contact with vendors than in years past
  • 68% stated the number of sources used to research their purchase has increased
  • 34% of B2B buyers have seen an increase in the number of team members involved in the purchase process.

According to Corporate Executive Board (CEB):

  • The average B2B buyer is 57% of the way through their purchase decision before engaging a supplier sales rep
  • Suppliers have 12% of the buyers total mindshare across the entire purchase path.

So not only are B2B buyers taking longer, researching more and having more people involved in the purchase process, but they are also giving very little mindshare to the vendors throughout the entire purchase cycle.

Given these insights into the ways B2B buyer’s purchase, how is it plausible for an organization to think, “we will push our buyers through the sales funnel?”

While I believe the concept of the funnel or waterfall is legitimate for tracking conversion metrics between marketing and sales. However, it is not at all feasible for an organization to map content to it or expect that a B2B buyer will simply follow the very linear, step by step process simply because that is what the vendors prefer.

This entire concept of buyer centricity is not something new, however it seems that B2B marketing and sales professionals have been very reluctant to embrace this understanding and adapt their behaviors.  Even worse, recent studies show that organizations are inexplicably duping themselves into believing they are maturing, when statistics show otherwise.  The 2.8% of effectiveness mentioned above notwithstanding, Forrester also highlights the alternate reality in their July 2014 Study Compare Your B2B Content Marketing Maturity that shows 51% of those surveyed rated their Content Marketing Practice as mature, yet an overwhelming 85% say it is only somewhat effective.

The sophisticated buying process that exists in today’s B2B environment is not a trend, it is now our way of life.  Organizations that continue to look through the lens of a “sales funnel” or “pushing their customers” are still stuck in the old fashioned Mad Men era of marketing and as Forrester states, “risk losing to more empowered competitors.”

Author: Carlos Hidalgo @cahidalgo CEO and Principal, ANNUITAS

 

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