Over the past years, we’ve seen more proclamations of a sales funnel  death than celebrations of its birthdays. However, it’s still the most  common area of improvement for sales and marketing teams. And rest  assured, sales funnels will be here for a while (shaking off copious  funerals arranged by haters) to provide valuable guidelines to  salespeople on how to do their jobs.

How to Build a Sales Funnel – B2B Model
How to Build a Sales Funnel – B2B Model

It’s not uncommon for the sales process to be described in orderly,  consistent fashion, yet have an actual process look something more like  this:

The origins of the sales funnel were developed by the American  pioneers of advertisement a century ago. Sales funnels include many  different models and come under a variety of names. Customer funnel,  sales cycle, purchasing process, and buyers journey are often used  interchangeably. Such abundance is due to the application of the term in  multiple fields of study as well as the tendency of individuals to  “own” specific processes attributed to the sales funnel.

Along with a variety of models, there’s no consensus on what a sales  funnel should or should not encompass. Its anything but consistent, from  company to company. Marketers see it as a journey a customer takes from  awareness to consideration to decision phase about the product or  service in question. Same goes for repeat purchase or expansion (loyalty  to a brand). Meanwhile, many sales teams perceive it as the specific  number of steps performed to turn a prospect into a client.

The purpose of this article is to provide the most comprehensive  insight into purchase funnel models– and how to build or modify them for  maximum sales effectiveness.

How to Build a Sales Funnel – B2B Model
How to Build a Sales Funnel – B2B Model

What you will learn about sales funnels:

1. What Is a Sales Funnel?

2. Models of Sales Funnel

  • AIDA
  • Classic sales funnel
  • Forrester’s models
  • McKinsey’s Loyalty Loop
  • Heinz Marketing’s Bowtie
  • Purchase funnel of Marketing Made Simple
  • JB Media Group’s sales funnel
  • RAIN Group’s buying process

Challenges of Building a Sales Funnel

4. Experts about Sales Funnel

Matt Heinz – President of Heinz Marketing

Carlos Hidalgo – Founder & CEO of VisumCx

5. How to Create a Sales Funnel

What Is a Sales Funnel?

There are three processes that are important for the understanding of a sales funnel:

  • buying – seeking for the solution of a problem (pain point);
  • selling – searching and communicating with customers that experience a particular pain point in order to provide the solution;
  • marketing – studying the problems and those who have them, educating the potential buyers and supporting the sellers.

Sales funnel is where these processes meet and engage. It’s up to a  particular organization how it arranges this contact. Obviously, the  buying process is beyond your control. However, you can influence it  through a manageable selling process and marketing activities.

Why funnel?

On the one hand, the purchase funnel is firmly interwoven with a  sales pipeline of a company. The latter represents the scope of your  influence on the pool of potential customers. Their number decreases as  they pass from one stage to the next one. For example, your SDRs sent  2001 emails in June 2018, got 42 replies and set 14 appointments:

Next, you had 10 prospects who showed up and your sales team won 5  deals. In one year, two customers churn. However, your team manages to  expand 1 account and negotiate the reselling for 2 clients. As a result,  you have 3 customers in June 2019.

That’s a very simplified math. Obviously, your sales team works hard  every month to make sure that there’s plenty of fish in your sales  pipeline.

On the other hand, a marketing funnel represents how a customer moves  from the general knowledge about the product/service and their  providers to a very specific action – the purchase from a certain  company. That’s why the top of the funnel is always wide, and the bottom  is narrow: of all the offers out there your client finally chooses you.

Controversy

Many experts claim that a sales funnel is a sequence of stages  (phases) in a single selling process. A prospect enters the sales funnel  by gaining awareness about a product or a service. And afterward, he or  she goes down the funnel through the Interest and Decision stages to  Action.

However, new researches in 21st century put the old sales funnel  model under question. In 2010, Forrester issued several reports  dedicated to the subject. They emphasized that the old model didn’t take  into account the advocacy of the clients, customer lifecycle, and  complex buyer journey.

Furthermore, back in 2012, CEB made a comprehensive research on  customer behavior and figured out that many prospects began falling off  the classic sales funnel. According to CEB, the buyers did the research  on their own and would often enter the sales funnel at the late stages.

Sales Management Association made a conclusion that customers movement along sales funnels changed.  It used to be one way – from the top to the bottom. Now, it became  multidirectional. In addition to this, the number of channels and  touches per one buying process increased significantly, making marketing  teams an important part of the process.

sales person salary
sales person salary

Sales Funnel vs. Buyer Journey

Some of the marketers were eager to announce the death of a sales funnel and offered to replace it with the term “a buyer journey“.  However, in our opinion, this approach isn’t effective. And here’s why.  This term appeared as an acknowledgment of the buyer’s power and  control over the buying process.

The sales funnel in the past was pretty stressful for customers as  they lacked data and were under constant pressure from sellers. The  vendors were active, they were the leaders and controllers of the  process. The clients were passive and forcefully guided through the  funnel.

There was a strong imbalance in favor of sellers. However, today we  see the new imbalance in favor of buyers. Abandoning the idea of a sales  funnel strongly supports this situation. However, is it really good  that buyers have a full control?

Ric Riddle in his webinar said that customers who do the research on  their own often don’t see the root causes and come up with suboptimal  solutions. In addition to that, the pressure of decision making process  can cause buying analysis paralysis and halt the sales.

There’s one more important aspect about the sales funnel – the internal organization of your sales and marketing efforts. Carlos Hidalgo was one of the few people who defended the sales funnel stating:

In order to manage any change, organizations must address  the internal, operational process so that sales can effectively engage  with customers

Sales funnel is an inalienable part of the operational process, which  inter alia is necessary to build a sustainable strategy for the  communication with your potential and existing clients.

And here’s one last argument. No matter how long and complex buyer  journey can be, every buyer still moves from a problem recognition to  its solution. Vendors pass all the sales funnel stages, even if they get  into the same phase two times or more.

your Sales Funnel Stages
your Sales Funnel Stages

This  might seem a chaotic labyrinth. However, try following each of the  complex buying journeys and see how it passes the stages of the sales  funnel.

By the way, Mark Ritson described the difference between the sales funnel and the buyer journey: If you think the sales funnel is dead, you’ve mistaken tactics for strategy.  He used the description of a purchase made by Publishers Clearing House  CMO Jason John and explained how it fitted the very first funnel model  (AIDA).

What’s more important for a seller is to make sure that every step  convinces buyers that this particular solution is the best one on the  market for them.

sales team
sales team

Why are the sales funnel stages so important?

We believe that the sales funnel as a multi-stage process should  remain in use, despite the fact that buyers’ journey isn’t necessarily  straight and can take any direction.

1. Sales Process and the Pipeline

Any sales team needs an established process. To create it you need to arrange their actions in three dimensions:

  • when – phase
  • who – position
  • what – task.

The stages of the purchase funnel provide you with the landmarks for each dimension.

In the best-case scenario, the real-time visualization of your sales  process is your pipeline. It contains all the necessary data about the  prospects, opportunities, and clients that you currently work with. A  pipeline is a powerful tool to track and analyze the activities of your  sales team as well as to make predictions of your revenue.

Just imagine a company that has a simple spreadsheet of contacts they  work with sorted by name or date of the last communication. What should  be the next step for a sales team with Company A? How close are they to  the actual closing? These are just a few of endless tactical questions.

But there are even more important strategic inquiries. For example:

Is our sales team communicating with enough number of companies to generate the revenue our firm expects from us?

Will we close enough deals to meet the quota? What are our  predictions for the next quarter? What did we do right (wrong) last  month?

If you don’t have a clear structured pipeline you won’t be able to  answer these questions. And you won’t manage to build any capable sales  process. As a result, you won’t have predictable revenues. Will your  business be able to survive? Maybe. Will you grow your revenues?  Unlikely.

Where the structure for your pipeline comes from? A sales process  arranged in three dimensions (who? when? what?) in accordance with your  sales pipeline. Build a good one to organize your sales process  accordingly and see how your revenues grow.

2. Sales Specialization

Once you’ve created a process you will see that the tasks at the  beginning of your pipeline (top of the funnel) are very unlike and  require different skills than those at the end (bottom). If you’re an  experienced manager, you will understand that one person can’t be  equally efficient at fulfilling all these tasks.

That’s where sales specialization comes in handy. Though introduced not so long ago, it has proven to be a  valuable innovation within sales teams. Needless to say that sales  specialization follows the logic of the purchasing process and enables  to focus on each stage of the funnel.

Thus, Data Enrichment specialists and SDRs work at the early phases  of the funnel. Sales managers take over the middle and late stages. If  your funnel goes beyond the purchase phase, then you have Customer  Success Managers to serve your existing clients.

Summing up, to build a sales pipeline you need inter alia to  establish several positions within your team, hire the right people and  equip them with the right skills and procedures.

2. Relevant communication

As a potential client undertakes the buyer journey, they seek and  obtain information to facilitate their buying decision – in other words,  to move to the next phase. They have three main sources:

  • sales team
  • content provided by the organization via various channels
  • reviews of the providers’ clients and unbiased third parties

At each stage of a buying process, a customer needs to receive the data relevant to that stage.

For example, it would be strange if Custom Success Managers  asked the clients during the onboarding call if they need lead  generation services. Similarly, it wouldn’t be appropriate if our Sales  Development Representatives began straightforwardly with pricing in  their email outreach instead of asking discovery questions.

For a marketing team that supports the efforts of the sales, it’s  equally important to provide all types of content for each stage of the  buying process. Here’s a simple example from the blog of our company:

  • What’s the Price of a Lead? – The awareness of a problem stage: high costs of in-house SDR team
  • Lead Generation Companies (with Companies Comparison Table and ROI calculator) – Discovery stage – the search for a solution
  • Case Studies – Negotiation Stage

A well-tailored sales funnel provides guidelines on what information  to provide at a certain stage in order to facilitate the movement of a  buyer to the next stage.

4. Conversion rates

How to supply the relevant information about your company and product  or service that will help your potential buyers to choose you among  many other providers? We’d say the perfect formula would be analysis –  suggestion – implementation – analysis – calibration – implementation  and so on and so forth.

How do you conclude that you’re doing something wrong in your  communication with clients or alternatively – not doing enough? Your  sales funnel provides you with the solution to this problem.

When your monitor the number of buyers at each stage of the purchase  funnel, you can calculate the conversion rates between the phases. You  can see where your teams have done brilliant work (and analyze what’s so  efficient about it). Alternatively, you can also spot a “bottleneck”  for your prospects, and figure out what you can do to fix the weak spot.

Unmistakably, not all of the prospects that get into your sales  funnel will stay in it. However, if you see that for instance at some  point you have an abrupt reduction of leads, be sure that you need to  change the communication with them at that stage.

Buyer Journey – an important lesson to learn

Despite the necessity of the structure provided by a sales funnel,  there’s one important thing that sales teams often forget about – Golden  Mean. Being too procedural can be as damaging as not being at all.

A good example is cashiers of some supermarkets offering extra  services/products or customer support of mobile operators trying to sell  you some new solution for the home Internet not even caring to ask if  you have a home. It can be really annoying especially when you’re in a  great hurry, with a tired toddler or thinking of something more  important than buying a present card.

In the example provided above sellers act more like bots than real  human beings. And while in some cases, it’s better to replace actual  human communication with software interaction, individuals by no means  should liken machines.

Sales process should be – to a certain extent – flexible and adaptive  to the needs of every buyer. It’s especially important in the age of  micro-targeting and customization.

It would be irrational or even deal-ruining to develop a very  specific buyer persona, research the leads that fit it perfectly, make a  personalized outreach and then ruin everything by offering them  undergoing procedures that don’t fit their buying logic.

There are several ways you can address this issue:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to the prospects you work with. For example:

“Will it be relevant if we shared with you success stories of our customer?”
“Many organizations working in your industry apply this software to  strengthen the impact of our service. Do you think your company could  benefit from it too”
“What is the buying procedure in your company? We do the following steps  to facilitate the buying process for our customers, but we want to be  100% YOU-oriented”

2. Ask for RFP – No need to invent the wheel. Your buyers have ready-to-use procedures. All you need is to adapt.

3. Conduct surveys among your existing clients. For example:

“What was the most helpful in our sales process?”
“What negotiation procedures were in your opinion unnecessary?”
“How can we improve the buying experience of our customers?”

4. Analyze your conversion rates at each stage – they might show the stages of the sales process that need improvements.

5. Track the reactions of your buyers. If they’re  bored, less concentrated or tense and impatient, you might be doing  something wrong. Summing up, anything that doesn’t bring value to your  customer will make them experience discomfort during the conversation  with the seller. Don’t push – it doesn’t work that way.

sales CRM and sales funnel
sales CRM and sales funnel

So, what is sales funnel after all?

As we mentioned before, there’s no single sales funnel definition. On the one hand, it’s the understanding of how the buying process is organized. On the other hand, it’s the way a vendor company creates the environment for its potential customers to make a purchasing decision.

Summing up, a sales funnel:

  1. is a virtual place where selling and buying processes meet enhanced by marketing activities
  2. contains information about the potential customers of a certain company, their consumer buying behavior, and decision making process
  3. provides a number of channels for buyers to engage with the organization
  4. has stages that are relevant to the logic of the buying process
  5. enables different types of engagement at different stages
  6. educates and brings value to a potential customer
  7. is adapted to different types of buyer personas
  8. gives data for the analysis and planning of sales process, and marketing activities

Models of Sales Funnel

There are several models of a sales funnel that were developed over time due to the evolution of the buying process.

The first model – marketing funnel

The very first sales funnel was AIDA. Developed back in late 19th –  early 20th century by a number of American marketers and advertisers,  it described a formula for a perfect ad. There were several versions,  but AIDA associated with Verdi’s opera of the same name gained a  foothold. The term was first applied to sales by Arthur Sheldon in 1911.

first sales funnel was AIDA
first sales funnel was AIDA

The acronym that stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action  was later supplemented by additional stages, e.g. Satisfaction in  Arthur Sheldon’s model. Some marketers would rename a certain phase.  However, the main idea behind AIDA remains the same:

  • First, you notice a product.
  • Then you start thinking about it.
  • Next, you want it.
  • And finally, you acquire it (and experience emotions about it).

AIDA applied to B2B might look like this:

  • Awareness – decision-makers find out about a product or service.
  • Evaluation – they begin to analyze its pros and cons and compare with similar products/services.
  • Intention – choosing the provider.
  • Purchase.

We intentionally renamed the stages, because purchases in the B2B  environment are driven by rational thinking rather than emotions as  opposed to B2C. However, we emphasized that one can’t simply take away  sentiments from any human activity. No surprise, that sellers and  marketers have always leveraged them.

Pros:

  • the purchase funnel was groundbreaking at the time.
  • it educates sales and marketing teams on how buyers make their purchasing decisions.

Cons:

  • this model doesn’t take into account the emotions, thoughts, and behavior of a buyer after the purchase (except for AIDAS).

Classic sales funnel

AIDA eventually transformed to what Forrester and McKinsey referred to as a classic purchase funnel.

Classic Sales Funnel
Classic Sales Funnel

Pros:

  • It encompassed loyalty as part of the desired buyer attitude.

Cons:

  • It didn’t take into account that on the flipside of loyalty there’s indifference or even hatred.

Forrester’s models

Forrester made several important reports on the marketing funnel. In  2007, Brian Haven’s Marketing’s New Key Metric: Engagement described the  complexity of the buyer journey, influenced by information available  online. He argued that buyers can become valuable contributors to the  brand.

Forrester Sales Funnel Model
Forrester Sales Funnel Model

Pros:

  • The model shed light on what influence purchaser’s behavior.
  • Companies were incentivized to serve their customers better.

Cons:

  • The model described a buyer journey rather than a multi-stage sales funnel.As mentioned above, Forrester issued Time To Bury The Marketing Funnel report by Steven Noble in 2010, in which they talked about the customer  lifecycle as better ways to understand the buyer behavior.
Forrester Sales Funnel Model
Forrester Sales Funnel Model

They offered to expand marketing funnel (Awareness, Consideration,  Preference, Purchase) and add Loyalty as a next stage. Steven  Noble emphasized that such a model will be in line with the customer  lifecycle. Discover -> Explore -> Buy -> Engage and back to the  beginning.

Later, in 2012 Forrester analyst Jeff Ernst came up with the idea to merge marketing funnel and customer lifecycle.

Forrester Sales Funnel Model
Forrester Sales Funnel Model

Pros:

  • Marketing funnel encompassed the relations of a buyer and a seller after the purchase

Cons:

  • It’s only partly true that after the engagement of customers with  the brand, they again get into the discovery stage (for account  expansion to be precise). In most cases, they either churn or  repurchase.

McKinsey’s Loyalty LoopIn 2009, McKinsey presented their model. It was a circle with a  loyalty loop, which showed how positive postpurchase experience  contributed to the reselling.

McKinsey Sales Funnel Model
McKinsey Sales Funnel Model

Pros:

  • The model encompassed the postpurchase and repurchase stages.

Cons:

  • The funnel provided fewer phases.

Heinz Marketing’s – BowtieIn 2010, Heinz made two important statements about classic B2B sales funnel:

  • it didn’t take into account the communication with leads that aren’t  ready to buy at the time of contact but will be buying in the future
  • in reality, it should look like a bowtie, since after purchase there are many ways in which a customer engages with the provider

The model is also called an hourglass – depending on the vertical or horizontal positioning.

Heinz Sales Funnel Model
Heinz Sales Funnel Model

Pros:

  • dived deep into the consumer relations with the brand.

Cons:

  • didn’t take into account the negative impact of an unsatisfied buyer on the company’s reputation.

Purchase funnel of Marketing Made Simple

In 2017, Jon Gibson decided to share his piece of wisdom in his solo  project Marketing Made Simple. He made a short retrospective on the  existing models and presented his own version of the purchase funnel. We  liked it for a number of reasons, which we’ll list in the pros section.

Marketing Made Simple Sales Funnel Model
Marketing Made Simple Sales Funnel Model

Pros:

  • important stages were added: pre-awareness stage, a trigger event, opinion and a shortlist, and repurchase intent;
  • defection is also an important part of any sales funnel because it provides valuable data for analysis and planning;
  • noted that any buyer can be either ambassador or saboteur of a brand.

Cons:

  • account expansion hasn’t been anticipated.

JB Media Group’s sales funnel

The sales funnel was presented by JB Media Group in 2018. See the full model here.  The funnel is created for the marketers and explains what types of  content are relevant for the potential customer at each phase.

Sales Funnel Model of JB Media Group
Sales Funnel Model of JB Media Group

Pros:

  • provides guidelines on what to do at every stage of the funnel.

Cons:

  • didn’t encompass the efforts of a sales team.

RAIN Group’s buying process

RAIN Group never talked of a sales funnel. Instead, they provided a model of a buying process. See the full model here.  What’s interesting in their take is the successful attempt to describe  the activities that a sales team should undertake at each stage.

Rain Group Sales Funnel Model
Rain Group Sales Funnel Model

Pros:

  • guidelines for the sales team
  • the combination of the buying and sales processes

Cons:

  • no guidelines for marketers

Challenges of building a Sales Funnel

Sales funnel is a complex construct. However, when it comes to  implementation it gets even more complex. In fact, people who have built  many sales funnels, state that every single one of them is unique. It  should be built in accordance with your company, product, market and  buyers.

Here are some challenges companies might face:

Modern B2B buying process and purchasing funnel

What all the models listed above didn’t take into account is the  specifics of the modern B2B buying process. We imply the fact that an  average purchase in B2B has 6.8 decision-makers on average.

Will it be one sales funnel or many?

For sure, you will have several individual buyer journeys despite the  fact that they’re all the representatives of one entity. And you will  have to help them deal with their personal hardships of the decision  making process. You will have to build an environment that will  facilitate their movement from one stage to another.

You will definitely have to take into account all of the buyers  involved in the purchasing process as you build your perfect sales  funnel.

Old Business

Old companies that have operated for many years now built their  purchase funnels decades ago. Some of them haven’t changed the models  ever since. They desperately need transformations to adjust to the new  realities of the digital era and sales specialization.

However, rebuilding a sales funnel is hard, because it implies  changing your sales process. And it’s extremely difficult for several  reasons:

1. Sales process = structure

By structure, we mean a number of activities that a sales team  undertakes on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. Which of  them still work? Which are out-of-date? And most importantly – how to  change the structure with minimal resources and maximal effectiveness.

2. Sales process = skills

Have you ever played a musical instrument? Those who have, know that  learning the wrong consequence of notes is a nightmare. Experts claim  that it’s easier to train new skills is easier than retrain the old  ones. And a sales team is all about skills. Btw, you’ll need to retrain  managers and coaches too (as well as reinvent the training process).

3. Sales process = stability

Stability means you know what to do at each given moment of  time. Most people hate changes. Especially, when it comes to the trained  skills. They need time and extra effort to get used to it. Many people  are biased against new practices and techniques, even if the old ones  don’t work. Finally, there’s a natural fear that new tricks won’t work.

4. Sales process = specialists

Someone created that process and trained successors. These experts  (mostly managers) know how to support the existing order of things. To  create the new process you either need to retrain them or to find and  recruit the new ones.

Given the above said, it’s unsurprising, that some established  businesses are reluctant to transform their sales funnels. However,  being a brand new organization isn’t easier.

Young companies

Start-ups might seem to be in a better situation compared to the old  businesses. They can easily learn how to build a sales funnel from the  latest blog posts and reports. However, learning doesn’t guarantee  successful implementing. Young companies have their own challenges when  they decide to establish a sales process.

1. From the Owner to the Sales Department, with love

More often than not, in start-ups, sales are the province of a  founder/owner. A talented and ambitious entrepreneur inspired by the  novelty of his or her business drives sales with due passion and  charisma. Founders use their own networks to generate clients. Once the  network has dried up, comes the necessity for new leads.

Simultaneously, the growth f the business requires establishing Sales  Department. That’s where the problems might occur. Not all CEOs are  experienced salespeople. Oftentimes, they lack expertise on how to build  sales funnel, sales process and procedures. Especially when it comes to  lead generation, which is still new to many people.

2. Experience

To create a sales funnel means to describe your buyer’s journey, to  outline the key touchpoints, to create a working message. Most companies  analyze the existing patterns of their buyers’ behavior, their  communication, and reactions. Start-ups don’t have this data.  Furthermore, such sensitive information isn’t something you can Google.

3. Costs & Time

Building a sales funnel for start-ups from scratch requires hiring  and training a sales team. It will take time nd money before they  achieve the full productivity.

Solution

One of the possible ways to reduce costs and gain expertise is  outsourcing some activities within a sales funnel. As a rule of thumb,  companies entrust the top of the funnel to the third party rather than  the middle and the bottom. For example, outsourced lead generation  services enable to save budget on OTEs and the software as well as  managerial time.

Marketing and Sales: versus or plus?

Marketing and Sales: versus or plus?

Many companies have seen conflicts between marketing and sales. Who  should dominate the funnel? Which team should generate leads? Which  techniques are more efficient: inbound or outbound? And probably the  hardest tension is MQLs vs. SQLs. In this part of our article, we try to  answer these difficult questions.

The buyer journey has heavily digitalized over the past decades with  the massive access to the Internet. Everyone loves web for the  availability of the information in the first place. You can find almost  any data you want and leverage it too. This influenced the way buyers  make their purchasing decisions, and thus the way we build our sales  funnels.

But…

Has informational abundance made our buying experience easier?

Barely… Now buyers have more control over the buying process (as  mentioned above) and thus more responsibilities. As a result, it has  become significantly longer and harder for both decision-makers and  vendors. Back in the 90s, the key task was to close. Today, it’s to  provide as much valuable information as possible.

Let’s take a simple example of content development over the past  decade. Back in 2000 and something it was sufficient to staff your  website with keywords to get the best place in SERP. In 2018, Googles  methods of page ranking are the grey area of assumptions.

The era of meaningless articles with keywords ended long ago. And  selling texts don’t work either. One can’t simply publish an article  that doesn’t provide new and valuable ideas and hope it will stand out.

The successful sales funnel is a value-rich informational environment  that facilitates the buying journey for the decision-makers.

Who creates this value for your product and service? Marketing team  in cooperation with Sales. They study the market, competitors, buyer  personas, USP. They do the segmenting, think over the four Ps.

Who delivers this value to the prospects? Everyone. In today’s  high-competitive environment you need to leverage basically every  channel of communication with your potential customers to  succeed. Furthermore, their methods of influencing buyers differ by  nature. Needless to say – the more methods you have, the better. Just  make sure they’re efficient.

Marketers target large audiences and provide reusable information. Sales excel in real-time person-to-person communication.

There’s one more important thing to consider. In the B2B model  (unlike B2C), marketers don’t sell. Will you buy a $50 garment from an  online store? Probably. Will you enjoy a robot delivering your pizza  (yep, no need for tips!). Will you object to using an automated cashier  in a supermarket? Hardly. You will probably use a credit card to pay for  Grammarly Premium for your team. It’s only $12/mo, but…

Will you sign $200K contract by filling a form on a website without negotiating the terms?

Any B2B sale requires face-to-face communication. And that’s what  sales do and marketers don’t. The former negotiate. The latter support  with reliable and unbiased information.

If your Marketing Sales and Marketing teams communicate, cooperate  and think of driving value in the first place, your company succeeds. If  they fight over the funnel, they fail.

Experts about Sales Funnel

We reached out to the experts mentioned in this article and asked them their opinion on a sales funnel.

Matt HeinzPresident and Founder of Heinz MarketingProlific
Matt HeinzPresident and Founder of Heinz MarketingProlific 

Matt HeinzPresident and Founder of Heinz MarketingProlific author and  nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt is President and  Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business  development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and  industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen  insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.

Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results  with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer  loyalty. He has helped organizations such as Amazon, Seagate, Morgan  Stanley, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and many others create  predictable, repeatable sales & marketing engines to fuel growth.

Matt is a repeat winner of Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management and Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers. Matt renovated his 105 year old historic farmhouse in Kirkland,  Washington with his wife, Beth and enjoys it with their three young  children, dog, two rabbits, and seven chickens.

How do you come up with the idea of a bowtie sales funnel?

I’m sure someone else came up with it before me, we just were on a  whiteboard one day talking about customer lifetime value in addition to  just net-new customer acquisition. It’s a reverse funnel in terms of  expanding the opportunity you may have with a new customer, earning  greater retention, renewals, and upgrades.

Has your vision of a sales funnel changed over the past 8 years?

The sales funnel has never been precise for every single deal, so  it’s still a model to be used as a baseline primarily. That said I do  think that may companies (ours included) have gotten more precise in how  we manage funnel stages across sales and marketing. Where marketing  traditionally owned the top of the funnel and sales owned the bottom,  today we see more companies split the funnel vertically such that sales  & marketing each have a role at more parts of the entire buying  process.

What’s new about the sales funnel in 2018?

More companies are running account-based sales and marketing programs  which means the funnel is much narrower. You don’t start with the  entire addressable market or a bunch of web traffic, you start with a  smaller set of high-value targets. The buying process doesn’t  necessarily change, but the focus from sellers certainly does in this  model.

Can you name 3 pillars of a working sales funnel?

Attention, engagement, and commitment. These are generally the top  half of the funnel, but you aren’t going to get many prospects to close  if they don’t understand the problem that needs solving and commit to  change on its behalf.

Learn more about Heinz Marketing on their website. Connect with Matt Heinz via LinkedIn.

Carlos HidalgoFounder and CEO of VisumCxCarlos Hidalgo
Carlos HidalgoFounder and CEO of VisumCxCarlos Hidalgo

Carlos HidalgoFounder and CEO of VisumCxCarlos Hidalgo is  founder and CEO of VisumCx, a Customer Experience Strategy Firm. Carlos  has over 20 years’ experience working with B2B organizations in  delivering multi-channel customer experience strategies and programs.  Carlos is widely recognized for his expertise in B2B marketing, sales,  content and demand generation and is an international speaker on how  organizations need to transform to meet the needs of their customers and  buyers.

Carlos is the author of Driving Demand, has been named one  of the 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management for the last  six years and is recognized by Onalytica as the “Most Influential Person  in B2B North America in 2015.”

1. You were one of the defenders of a sales channel back in  2012 and made some interesting observations in a blog post for ANNUITAS.  Has your opinion on it changed over the past years?

I believe what I defended was the use of the funnel internally for  tracking and analysis. I think my view on how organizations use the  funnel has relatively stayed the same and that is to use it to track and  measure your progress toward a revenue goal and the conversion of leads  across various internally defined lead stages, but do not make the  mistake in thinking that this is how the buyers buy. As I have said many  times before, I have yet to hear a B2B buyer ever state “I am in the  Sales Accepted Lead stage of my buying process.”

2. What are three important things sales and marketing teams should remember when building a B2B sales funnel?

I believe it is more than just developing a funnel. You have to think  about building a holistic program that will align to the buyers  purchase path. I speak to many organizations who have a funnel they  track or have adopted the waterfall, yet they have nothing coming in  other than inquiries.

If you are looking to adopt a funnel/waterfall approach, remember, as  I stated earlier that the funnel is not the same as a B2B buyers  purchase path. Secondly, the usefulness of the funnel is only as good as  to the times you are reviewing and optimizing the performance. Thirdly,  this changes if you are moving from volume demand generation to an ABM  approach.

3. You spoke about the importance to align your sales process with the buyer journey. How to achieve it?

You have to take the time to speak to your buyers and get an  understanding of their approach and process of purchasing. Too many  organizations do this internally with marketing and sales in a room and  never involve the buyers in the mapping of the journey. Often times when  I have compared what buyers tell me about their purchase path with what  companies think they know; they are very different. It is imperative to  get your customers perspective when understanding the journey

4. In your opinion, what’s the best way to build sales and marketing activities for a model sales funnel?

Again, this begins with your buyers and understanding you need to  develop a program that aligns to the full journey and not just part of  it. Too many times I see organizations doing activities focused on one  area of the journey and across just one channel.

B2B buyers are multi-channel in their approach to buying and  marketing teams have to know what channels their buyers prefer before  they begin launching activities and sending out content.

So the answer is . . . it depends. The most useful activities will depend on what your buyers prefer.

Learn more about VisumCX on their website. Connect with Carlos on Twitter.

How to create a sales funnel

Building a sales funnel is a challenging task for any organization. It needs efforts from both  marketing and sales teams. There are two main aspects you need to  remember:

Customization wins and it’s an ongoing process

Just like you outline your buyer personas, to make your outreach  personal, you need to adjust sales process to the needs of potential  customers. No model you’ll ever find on the Internet can provide a  comprehensive guide on how to build a sales funnel – that is to say the  efficient communication environment between your company and your buyer.

What works great in the financial sector, might fail in the  automobile industry. For example, demonstrations are good for tangible  products or software. However, case studies are arguably better for  service providers.

Here’s another good example. Databox has applied a unique lead generation tactics for their company. Read the interview with their CEO Peter Caputa to learn more.

No matter what sales funnel model you apply to your process, you need  to customize the activities at each stage to create the best buyer  experience and give your customers what they need to move forward.

The task of your marketing and sales team is to study the behaviors  of your buyers all the time and adjust their tasks to it. Obviously, it  can’t happen overnight. Continuous monitoring and analysis can provide  you with valuable data and unexpected insights.

So, make sure that your selling process is flexible to a certain  extent. In this case, any strategical or tactical changes in your sales  funnel will require fewer resources (time, money, efforts) when  implemented in real life.

Problem-solving is a new evergreen black

What could possibly blues, Marvel movies (well, pretty much almost  all the human culture), and B2B sales process have in common? They’re  built around one single pattern:

The Question (problem) – The Answer (solution)

That’s because of who we, humans really are. We are problem-oriented  creatures. Our brain shows stronger reactions to negative stimuli than  to positive (and obviously the neutral ones). That’s called negativity  bias. That’s why many of us love hero stories with their thrilling  global threats.

Obviously, the behavioral reactions of individuals vary on a scale  from stagnation to thinking to action. However, your prospects are  most-likely those who take responsibility and act. Otherwise, they won’t  be managers and C-level titles.

The resolution of problems takes almost as powerful effect on our  brain. In a sense, it can be regarded as a reward, which is closely  linked with pleasure. Catch your buyer’s attention by speaking  explicitly and fairly about their pain points. Then teach them how to  solve it and leverage effect.

Summing up, build your funnel around problem-solving. This means  every stage and every activity should empower your buyers with the  knowledge they couldn’t get elsewhere. If you do it right, it will help  build trust between you and your potential customer and eventually  influence the purchasing decision.

Problem-solving is a new evergreen black Sales funnel for Marketor
Problem-solving is a new evergreen black Sales funnel for Marketor

Build your own sales funnel

We suggest creating a spreadsheet that will cover the following aspects:

  1. Purchase funnel stages
  • Substages relevant to your product and industry
  1. Sales activities at each stage:
  • Tasks
  • Sales staff responsible for each particular task
  • Software & tools you will need at this stage
  • Key skills required and Training
  1. Marketing activities at each stage:
  • Tasks
  • Marketing staff responsible for each particular task
  • Software & tools
  • Key skills required and Training
  1. Outsourcing options
  2. Conversion rates at each stage
  3. Activities aimed to stay in touch with the prospects that aren’t ready to make a decision
  4. Analysis:
  • Key strengths and weaknesses
  1. Forecasts
  2. Suggestions on how to adjust a stage to address the buyer’s need

Datarob Sales Funnel Model

Datarob sales funnel model
Datarob sales funnel model

Preview of Datarob sales funnel model

At the Top of a Sales Funnel – Lead Generation

As a lead generation company, we understand the importance  of the top of the purchasing funnel. If you don’t get enough  high-quality leads, the whole sales process will collapse no matter how  perfect your later phases are.

Lead generation is a complex process that for sales teams comprises of two stages:

1. Data generation and enrichment – the acquisition of the accurate contact data of the leads that fit your buyer persona

2. Outbound Prospecting – connecting with your leads with a view to find out more about their  pain points, educate them on how to solve their problems, offering to  start a conversation with your sales managers.

These practices can be quite expensive. That’s why many organizations  are eager to reduce the costs by working with lead generation  companies.