Think B2B sales funnels are the absolute plug to sales success?
In the best-case scenario, funnels lead to sales deals that take forever to close and cause endless headaches. In the worst-case scenario, funnels are the root cause of sales failure, and therefore overall business failure.
As we’ve said before, just because every other B2B company uses funnels doesn’t mean that you and your sales team should too!
Don’t believe it?
We’re sharing 10 reasons why you should stop using traditional B2B sales funnels as a model for your buyer’s journey. Additionally, we’re sharing what to do instead of following a sales funnel model.
The moment you stop using a funnel is the moment you:
- Clear out the path in front of you;
- Set yourself apart from your competition; and
- Set yourself up for sustainable, long-term sales growth.
Funnels hold you back from reaching your full potential, and they’re 100% in your control to get rid of. Therefore, success is within your power.
What to Do Instead of Making a B2B Funnel
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “If I don’t use a funnel to model my customer’s journey and build out my selling process, then what should I be using?”
In short, instead of using a traditional funnel or trying to make one of your own, simply follow a basic sales process. Simple and straightforward processes:
- Foster an effective buyer’s journey;
- Create a solid customer experience; and
- Waste little time, energy, and resources.
Most importantly, the most basic processes manifest the most closed deals.
Just because funnels look cool and sound logical doesn’t mean that they’re effective!
On the flip side, just because short and sweet processes are short and sweet does not mean that they’re ineffective.
10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use a Traditional B2B Sales Funnel
Still not convinced that traditional funnels are a one-way ticket to self-destruction?
Here are the 10 clear reasons why you shouldn’t use a traditional funnel model or try to make one of your own!
If funnels were so viable, there would be many more successful salespeople out there. That being said, if you do what everyone else does, you’ll get what everyone else gets: sub-par sales results that don’t match the amount of effort they put in.
1. Funnels Directly Cause Prospect Ghosting
Is there anything worse than getting ghosted by a qualified lead? And not just any qualified lead, but one that you’ve spent seemingly endless hours pursuing only to have them fall off the face of the earth without even saying goodbye.
Getting prospect ghosted by potentially new customers is as bad as it gets in B2B sales, especially if you’ve already:
- Taken the lead through several stages of the sales funnel;
- Invested significant time and energy into the customer relationship; and
- Spent hours putting together a highly-valuable free proposal.
Unfortunately, sales funnels are like a one-way ticket to getting ghosted!
That being said, the short answer to prevent getting ghosted by potential buyers in the first place is by ditching the funnel.
How to Stop Being Ghosted
What exactly is it about funnels that causes ghosting?
While there are several funnel-related factors that cause ghosting, the most blatant one is that funnels are associated with a non-assertive sales approach.
By non-assertive, we mean that you aren’t asserting your expertise and the fact that you are totally capable of solving the prospect’s key problems. From your potential buyer’s point of view, this will come across as low confidence.
Unless you are assertive in your sales approach, prospects will almost certainly ghost you. Instead of seeing you as somebody who they need to overcome their pain point, they’ll view you as disposable.
2. Funnels Cause Extremely Long B2B Sales Cycles
How long does it usually take you to convert a qualified lead into a paying customer? If you’re like most sales and marketing teams, it takes about 4 months for a single prospect to go down the entire sales pipeline.
Not only is this fact completely absurd, but it’s also normalized!
It seriously shouldn’t take months on end to move prospects in your target audience through the pipeline, yet most sales teams see it as completely normal.
The reason is that most sales teams are religious followers of sales funnels.
Funnels lay the foundation for sales cycles, therefore, if you’re using a funnel that is inherently flawed, then it’s inevitable that your cycle will also be flawed. By flawed, we mean that it’ll be far more complex and take longer than it needs to take.
Funnels foster cycles, so if you’re using an inherently terrible funnel model, then it’s a given that your cycle will lead to disaster.
Sales Processes Should Never Last for Weeks
Despite popular belief, processes shouldn’t last for weeks on end. In many cases, they shouldn’t last for more than one week!
Depending on the size of the B2B company and how many decision-makers there are, there’s a good chance that you can close deals in a matter of days.
Rather than using the B2B sales funnel stages to foster your sales cycle, simply implement a basic sales process.
Believe it or not, basic processes foster better buying processes than even the most widely used funnel.
3. B2B Leads Have 100% of the Control
Following a sales funnel is like handing control of the sale over to prospects on a silver platter.
Despite the fact that there isn’t a single sales professional out there who likes that out-of-control feeling, many of them seemingly willingly hand control over by abiding by a sales funnel.
The moment that you hand over control is the moment that:
- You set yourself up to get ghosted;
- Potential B2B buyers stop seeing you as an expert; and
- Potential B2B buyers stop thinking that they need you at all.
If you don’t like not being in control of the selling process, then stop handing control over to prospects.
Leads Don’t Know What Their Pain Points Are
Here’s the thing: More than 90% of prospects don’t know what their pain points are or how to solve them. If they did, then they would have already solved them and you would serve no purpose in their life.
Therefore, the problem is that if prospects don’t know what their pain points are or how to solve them yet they have complete control over the process, then it’s a recipe for disaster!
Again, if B2B customers know what their problems are and how to solve them, then you serve no purpose in their life!
Take control of the sale from the very start and hold onto it to the bitter end.
4. You Give Away Free Value for No Return
Are you sick and tired of feeling like you’re going all-in for your B2B leads only to have them ghost you, treat you as a vendor, try to negotiate, or simply hit you with a hard ‘Thanks, but no thanks?’.
If so, you’re not alone! The reason you’re not alone is that traditional sales funnel models set sales reps up to hand out free value like it’s candy without getting anything in return from their B2B leads.
For example, during the awareness stage or interest stage of funnels, many salespeople hand out free, value-filled proposals to leads as if they’re not spending hours putting them together. Despite the fact that those proposals very rarely lead to a closed deal, salespeople continue to hand them out as if they’re worth nothing.
From now on, stop handing out free value at the top of the funnel without getting anything in return. Instead, ditch the funnel and use those initial meetings with prospects to get to know them on a deeper level.
Don’t You Hate Giving Out Free Proposals?
Hate giving out free proposals? Stop giving them away then!
The next time a B2B company asks you to send them a proposal, use that as an opportunity to:
- Differentiate yourself from the competition;
- Make the prospect feel good about themself; and
- Gather valuable information about the prospect that you can use to close the deal.
The simple way to do these three things is by using the time that you’d normally spend putting together a proposal to get to know the prospect better!
For example, if a prospect emails you asking for a proposal, say to them, “I don’t even know enough about you and your needs to send you a proposal! Why don’t we set up a meeting for tomorrow so I can get to know you better?”
Remember, the selling process is about understanding potential customers, and proposals do the exact opposite.
There Is No Such Thing as Something for Nothing
When it comes to B2B sales (and life in general), there is no such thing as something for nothing.
Consider this, you can give away a proposal for free and get nothing of value in return, but what does that lead to? If you’re a normal human being, it’ll lead to resentment on your end.
You might think you’re being nice by giving away free proposals while getting nothing in return, but resentment is building up underneath the surface. Before you know it, you’ll start lashing out at the lead! Ultimately, that resentment will kickstart the downfall of the ensuing customer relationship.
Like all relationships, supplier-customer relationships are built on a fair exchange of value. Therefore, if you’re giving away free value while getting nothing in return, what you’re really doing is fueling a toxic relationship.
5. Funnels Directly Cause Business Growth Plateaus
In addition to getting ghosted by prospects, hitting a business growth plateau is another one of the most aggravating sales problems.
Just like how funnels directly cause ghosting, they also directly cause plateaus!
The root cause of a plateau is complacency. More specifically, plateaus are caused by complacency within sales funnel-related factors, such as:
- Handing control of the sale over to prospects;
- Sub-par sales and marketing strategies; and
- Low conversion and retention rates.
If you’ve experienced a plateau before, then you know how aggravating it is to be working extremely hard only to not manifest any results.
If you’ve been lucky enough to not yet experience a plateau, then don’t set yourself up to hit one not by abiding by a traditional funnel model.
Negative Sales Growth
The hard truth is that funnels can lead to much worse than sales plateaus. In fact, they can lead to outright negative sales growth!
Instead of setting yourself up for negative growth, ditch your funnel before it’s too late!
While plateauing is never a good feeling, it’s significantly better than hitting a hard downhill slope. The good news is that it’s 100% within your power to prevent negative growth.
6. Potential Customers Attack You
How many times has something like this happened to you: You’re in the middle of a sales pitch and feeling as if you’re killing it. You think you’ve made it clear that you’re the expert, and that your particular product or service is the key to solving the prospect’s problem. Then, the moment the pitch ends, prospects start berating you with hard questions. All of a sudden, the energy in the room tanks because you feel as if you’re being attacked.
If this sounds even remotely familiar, it’s because your sales funnel is setting you up to be attacked, and here’s why: You’re talking about yourself instead of the customer.
Moreover, you’re sales-rep-centric instead of prospect-centric. As a result:
- You talk about yourself instead of asking questions;
- You put yourself at center stage to be questioned; and
- Prospects ask you hard questions in a direct attempt to compare you against your supposed competition.
Ultimately, you set yourself up to be attacked by customers because you put yourself on defense instead of offense!
Put Yourself on Offense
Sales funnels are inherently sales rep-centric instead of prospect-centric.
When you’re at center stage, particularly during the consideration stage, it’s as if you’re putting yourself directly underneath a spotlight to have tomatoes and lettuce thrown at you.
Rather than getting berated by prospects, switch spots with them by putting them at center stage and asking them questions. In an instant, you’ll be on the offense instead of defense.
The idea is that you want to get prospects talking about themselves instead of you talking about yourself. By doing so, you’ll:
- Make prospects feel appreciated;
- Make the prospect’s decision-making process more clear-cut; and
- Regain complete control of the sale.
Instead of allowing yourself to be attacked, ditch your sales funnel so that your sales process becomes prospect-centric!
7. Extremely Low Conversion Rates
This one is a bit of a given: Sales funnels lead to extremely low prospect-to-customer conversion rates for more reasons than you can imagine.
In the irregular cases that you do push prospects through the different stages of the funnel to reach a closed deal, customer retention rates are extremely low!
Because sales funnels foster terrible supplier-customer relationships.
Without having solid, long-term relationships, it’s nearly impossible to retain customers. Not only that, but you miss out on the many perks that come from having great relationships, including:
- Regular referrals;
- Subjects for testimonials and other B2B marketing;
- Valuable insights into your target market.
Sure, you might be able to get a prospect to make a purchasing decision in your favor, but can you retain them? Maybe you can, but not without ditching your funnel first!
8. Messy Lead Generation
Traditional funnels are all about numbers, numbers, numbers! Particularly when it comes to lead generation, funnels are all about how many people you can shuffle into the sales pipeline.
However, the numbers game can only take you so far. On top of that, playing it has several potential consequences, including:
- Spending endless time on leads who obviously aren’t a good fit; and
- Investing your resources into leads who are likely to ghost you.
Sales funnels are all about numbers, but numbers don’t necessarily create solid sales results.
Instead of running up the numbers in your CRM, ditch the funnel and start focusing on the quality of your leads over the quantity of them.
Quality Leads Over High-Quantity Leads
Rather than measuring lead generation success on how many leads you can get into your pipeline, measure it based on how many leads in your ideal target market you can get to move into the next stage of the funnel.
Moreover, the metric for success isn’t the number of leads you start out with. Instead, it’s the number of prospects you keep after qualifying them!
Just like financial wealth is built based on the amount of money you keep after getting paid versus the number on your paycheck, the formula is essentially the same for lead generation.
That being said, make sure that you’re living by these lead generation rules for success:
- Develop an ideal prospect profile (IPP) and an ideal buyer persona (IBP) to define your ideal target market
- Consistently follow up with leads who fit within your ideal target market
- Regularly monitor your lead generation metrics
Following a funnel for generating leads is like living paycheck to paycheck: You can make as much as you want, but not being diligent with money will have you back to nothing in seconds.
9. You Turn Into a Robot
Sales funnels force you to become a robot.
Consider this: Just about every sales funnel model fosters the exact same buyer’s journey. As a result, customer experience is basically the same across the board. When customer experiences are nearly identical between companies, all the effort that you and your team members put into standing out goes to waste!
Essentially, it’s like turning yourself into an automated robot which has several consequences, including damaging potential customer relationships and making your marketing strategy worth virtually nothing.
If you want to make more sales in less time and with less of a fight, then you need to stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, sales funnels force you to become more of a robot than an individual with unique value.
B2B Marketing Turns to Trash
When it comes to marketing, the absolute last thing you want to do is blend in with your competition. Unfortunately, because funnels turn you into a robot, that’s exactly what happens.
More specifically, the brand messaging in your marketing campaigns stops capturing the attention of your ideal potential customers.
In addition to cold outreach, developing solid inbound marketing content can play a major role in sales success. However, without an amazing brand message, those pieces of content start to lose their potency.
Instead of conforming, ditch your funnel so that the potency of your outbound and inbound content marketing message stays strong.
10. You Turn Into a Vendor
Do you absolutely despise being referred to as a vendor by prospects? Do you despise feeling as if brands are simply window-shopping your product/service instead of taking you seriously as a sales professional?
If so, it’s all thanks to your funnel!
Funnels set you up to become a window shop-worthy vendor for many reasons with some of the most egregious ones being:
- Completely stripping you of your expert status;
- Setting you up to be directly compared against your competitors; and
- Crushing the unique value that you and your company add to the market.
Remember, B2B businesses genuinely want to work with expert sales professionals. Therefore, if you feel as if they see you as a vendor or are window shopping you, it’s actually your fault!
The good news is that gaining back your expert status begins with you removing the funnel from your life.
Until you do that, you’ll almost always be seen as a vendor and not the expert who you truly are.
Final Thoughts on Why You Should Ditch Your Sales Funnel Model
Still think that sales funnels are a good idea? If your idea of a good idea is self-sabotage, then funnels are certainly perfect for you.
Instead of leading your sales team straight to destruction, take a step back, ditch your sales funnel, implement a basic sales process, and then start again. Success is a matter of simplicity!
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