Just because everybody is doing something doesn't mean that it's right and that you should do it too. And, this truth couldn't be more accurate for B2B sales funnels!
Sales funnels are an OG sales tool that just about every B2B business swears by, despite never living up to their full sales potential. The efficacy of funnels is rarely ever questioned. Instead, most salespeople take funnels as a given.
However, what if I told you that, if you're struggling to achieve your sales goals while abiding by a traditional sales funnel, that the funnel itself is what’s causing your problems?
That being said, we're sharing exactly why traditional B2B sales funnels directly cause sales failure. Additionally, we're also sharing what you should be doing instead of abiding by a funnel.
Unless you ditch your funnel for good, you'll likely:
- Never get sales results that match your effort;
- Spin your wheels without going anywhere; and
- Never figure out why you’re not reaching your sales goals.
Bottom line: If you want to achieve solid sales success, sales growth, and overall business growth, then ditch your funnel for good!
What Is a Traditional B2B Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel outlines your potential customer's supposed buyer's journey. It includes each stage from the point at which they first become aware of you until they make a purchasing decision.
Also sometimes referred to as a marketing funnel, traditional funnels usually include 5 different stages that occur in this exact order:
- Awareness stage - the prospect becomes aware of you and your solution
- Consideration stage or interest stage - the prospect considers what you have to bring to the table and weighs their options
- Intent stage - the prospect intends to make a purchase from either you or one of your competitors
- Purchase stage - the potential buyer converts into a paying customer
- Retention stage - your sales team delivers the solution with the hopes of maintaining the B2B customer relationship long into the future
Moreover, the stages of the sales funnel are considered to represent a standard customer journey. Each potential buyer starts at the top of the funnel and makes their way down to the bottom of the funnel as they come closer to making a buying decision.
Meanwhile, as your potential customers are making their way down the sales funnel, you and your sales team are working through your own tactical sales process, which includes everything from lead generation to the final sales pitch.
Think of the B2B sales funnel stages as the user or buyer interface aspect of sales, while the sales process is the backend aspect that salespeople power through.
Despite the fact that these sales funnels look full-proof, logical, and are widely used, the hard truth is that they set you and your sales team up for failure!
Your B2B Sales Funnel Is Setting You Up to Fail! Here’s Why
Remember... Just because every other B2B company abides by a traditional sales funnel doesn't mean that you should adopt the strategy!
Instead of blindly following other company's sales strategies, why don't you sit back and ask yourself why so many B2B companies consistently fail to reach their sales goals despite using these supposedly full-proof methods.
Furthermore, here are the exact reasons why traditional sales funnels lead to failure, why you should give up on the OG funnel for good, AND what you should be doing instead!
1. Funnels Assume That Leads Understand Their Pain Points
Perhaps the single-most detrimental aspect of the traditional sales funnel is that it assumes your sales leads know that they have an active problem, and have at least somewhat of an idea of what they need to do to solve it.
However, that simply isn’t true!
If leads knew that they had problems, then inbound leads would make up the majority of customers instead of outbound leads.
The hard truth is that at least 90% of your sales leads don't know that they even have a pain point in the first place. Of the other 10% who know that they have a problem, they either have no idea how to solve it or don't care enough to solve it.
Therefore, following a sales funnel that assumes prospects understand their pain points makes absolutely no sense.
Instead of approaching your leads assuming that they know what's going on, you need to walk in as if they're completely blind (because they are)! In the end, you’ll walk away with a closed deal and the prospect will be thankful that you stepped up to the plate to help them.
B2B Leads Don’t Know What Their Problems Are or How to Solve Them
The selling process between you and your sales leads is a lot like going to the doctor, in which you are the doctor and leads are your patients...
Think of it like this: Let's say that you're an expert doctor who has a patient coming in for extreme back pain. During the appointment, what do you and the patient do? If you're a good doctor, you'd ask the patient questions about their symptoms, and then diagnose and offer solutions. If you're a bad doctor, you'd let the patient tell you what their symptoms are, allow them to self-diagnose, and even let them propose what to do about it.
Unfortunately, traditional funnels are completely backwards! Instead of putting you in the doctor's seat, they put your lead in the doctor's seat and you become the patient.
When you consider that leads have no idea what to do about their problems, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it?
Your sales leads are like patients who, while they might feel some symptoms, don't know what their problem is or how to solve it. On the other hand, you are the doctor who's got the training and skills to diagnose and solve the issue.
You’re Supposed to Be the Expert!
In a recent Salesforce survey, almost 80% of B2B business owners said that it's at least very important for them to work with trusted, expert advisors, and not just sales reps.
However, sales funnels completely strip you of your expert status by assuming that prospects know what their problems are when they actually don't!
A real expert would step up to the plate and diagnose a prospect's issue rather than let the prospect tell them how it is.
Bottom line: If your leads know that they have a problem and know how to solve it, then what are you really doing there? If they know the in's and out's of their problems, then aren't you just a commodity?
In short.... Don't commodify yourself by following a classic sales funnel. You are the expert. You are in charge!
2. Funnels Put Power In the Potential Customer’s Hands
Are you one of the many sales reps who feels absolutely out of control during the selling process? More specifically, do you feel like you're at the constant mercy of your prospects and their poor decision-making?
If so, it's because of your sales funnel!
Believe it or not, but abiding by a traditional sales funnel is like serving up power and control to your leads on a silver platter.
And, as you know from experience, nothing good ever happens when control is in the prospect's hands!
That being said, take back control of the sales process by throwing your funnel in the trash.
No More Free Proposals!
Want to know the absolute worst sales tactic ever known to man that is utilized in almost every sales funnel but only leads to low conversion rates...? It's sending out free proposals to your qualified leads!
What makes sending out free proposals such a terrible idea?
Not only do free proposals put 100% of the power into the potential customer's hands, but it also:
- Wastes your precious time;
- Strips you even further of your expert status; and
- Pins you right up against your competition.
Think about it... How many times have you made it to the consideration or interest stage of the funnel and then been hit with a 'Send us your proposal and we'll get back to you'? Then, after spending countless hours putting together that completely free proposal, how many times have you waited anxiously for a response only to get hit with a 'Thanks, but no thanks'?
If you're like most salespeople, then you despise handing out proposals like they're candy…
Therefore, stop doing it! Not only do you despise proposals, but they make reaching the next stage of the sales process virtually impossible.
Make Their Buyer’s Journey as Simple as Possible
Instead of letting prospects take control of the situation, you should take back control in order to make their buying process as simple as possible.
While leads might try to take control right off that bat, don't let them do it! In the end, they'll be happy you took control instead of leaving it all up to them.
Take a moment to put yourself in your potential customer's shoes... If you were them, wouldn't you want your buying experience to be as easy as possible? Wouldn't you appreciate it if the prospect made your life easier by handling the ins-and-outs of the situation?
They might not say it out loud, but leads always prefer a simple buying process. Not only that, but they prefer working with expert sales professionals who take control of the situation!
3. Sales Funnel Models Are Sales Rep-Centric
To put it very simply... The selling process isn't about you! Yet, sales funnels are extremely sales-rep centric.
Think about it: The awareness stage is about making the prospect aware of YOU. The consideration or interest stage is about forcing the prospect to consider YOU. The intent stage is about ensuring that the customer buys from YOU. Then, the purchase and retention stages are all about YOU winning the deal and keeping the customer under YOUR wing.
Again, the selling process isn't about you! Rather, it's about understanding the customer. Yet, sales funnels inform a sales process that is entirely sales-rep centric.
At the end of the day, this makes your leads feel:
- Not cared about; and
- Annoyed that all you do is talk about yourself.
Instead of following a sales-rep centric selling process, turn the tables back on the prospects... Ditch the sales funnel and adopt a customer-centric selling process!
Stop Talking About Yourself!
Straight-up: Just stop talking about yourself.
Instead of talking about yourself, start asking more questions.
Put yourself back in the position of an expert doctor... When patients come into your office, you ask questions about their symptoms, and then give them plenty of room to speak before you even think about proposing a diagnosis and solution.
Just like how expert doctors ask questions and then let their patient's do the talking, you need to ask your prospects direct questions and then take it all in!
As an added bonus, if a prospect ever asks you to send them a proposal, use it as an opportunity to turn the tables back on them.
For example, tell them, 'I can't send you a proposal yet because I don't know you will enough! Why don't we spend more time talking about you and your goals instead of me talking about myself?'.
By doing so, you'll make the prospect feel appreciated, understood, and you'll get the information you need to properly diagnose their pain point.
Your Delivery Is Just as Important as Your Deliverable
People are less likely to remember what you say and more likely to remember how you make them feel.
That being said, you can spend all day talking about yourself thinking that you're helping prospects, but it'll only make them feel bad. You can say all the right things but it still won't sit well with them.
From the first contact to landing a signature on the dotted line, make the process all about prospects!
4. Traditional Sales Funnels Foster Terrible Sales Processes
How long does your typical sales process last? 1 month? 3 months?? 6 months???
According to a 2020 HubSpot survey, it takes B2B companies an average of about 4 months to take a new customer down the entire sales pipeline.
In short: THAT'S ABSURD.
It should NEVER take four months to land a new customer. In fact, it should only take a matter of weeks. However, that's only realistic if you kick your traditional sales funnel to the curb.
Nobody likes an exceedingly long sales process... Not you, your sales team, your marketing team, or your potential customer wants to spend weeks on end trying to come up with a decision, yet that's how it typically plays out.
Long sales processes are bad sales processes, and just about every exceedingly long sales process is the product of a traditional sales funnel.
B2B Sales Cycles Shouldn’t Last for Months
Believe it or not, but B2B sales cycles shouldn't last for months. In fact, if you do things right, cycles shouldn't last for more than one month!
Does this come as a shocker?
If so, it's unsurprising when you consider how most B2B companies have come to believe that it's acceptable and normal for the cycle to last that long!
Unfortunately, traditional sales funnels have made it so that cycles last for exceedingly long periods of time because they:
- Put the customer (who doesn't even know what the problem is) in power;
- Don't align the customer's needs with your needs; and
- Don't emphasize the importance of immediate follow-up.
To put it very simply: The longer the cycle, the less likely the customer is to purchase from you.
Don’t Allow Yourself to Be Window Shopped
The longer your cycle, the more likely prospects are to window shop you instead of actually buy from you.
Just like how you can window shop for clothes and furniture without having a real intention on buying anything, your prospects can do the exact same thing to you!
While prospects might say that they’re going through the decision-making process, they're really just pulling your leg.
One of the simplest ways to shorten up your cycle and prevent being window shopped is by upping the prospect's sense of urgency. Once you reveal yourself as an irreplaceable expert who knows exactly how to solve their problem, don't let them run away! Instead, hype up their urgency so that they buy immediately.
Stop allowing yourself to be window shopped as if you're a gift shop owner. Ditch the funnel to shorten your cycle and convert leads into happily paying customers.
5. Your Competitors Are Gaming on the Same Funnel
Considering that the use of traditional sales funnels is so pervasive, odds are that your biggest competitors are also banking on the same funnel for success.
Therefore, unless you're trying to blend in with your competition, then using their same methods is a total no-no.
Moreover, banking on the exact same funnel will make it so that you follow a similar sales process as that of your competition. This has a few major repercussions, including:
- You'll reduce yourself to a vendor;
- Your brand messaging will be exactly the same as that of your competition; and
- You'll miss out on key opportunities to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Isn't the whole purpose of starting a business to bring something new and fresh to the market in order to stand out to your target audience?
Well, if you use a traditional sales funnel to convert quality leads into new customers, then you're basically throwing yourself into the same bucket as that of your competitors. AKA, you’re missing out on the whole purpose of having a business in the first place.
Don’t Reduce Yourself to a Vendor
Are you one of the many B2B sales reps who absolutely despises being referred to as a vendor? Are you sick and tired of being thrown into the same bucket as that of your competitors when you see yourself as completely different?
If so, then it's about time you drop the funnel for good!
Because, again, all of your competitors will be using a traditional funnel, therefore it's only inevitable that your sales process will be very similar to theirs.
With virtually the exact same process, it's easy to see why potential customers would label you as a vendor! If there's nothing about your process that makes you stand out, then they'll inevitably pin you up against your competition.
Also, keep in mind that your target audience wants to work with high-quality, irreplaceable experts who will tell them how it is, not replaceable vendors who simply do their job and then check out.
However, if you sell yourself as virtually the same as your competition, then you'll inevitably look less like an expert and more like a vendor in the decision-maker's eyes.
Bottom line: By following a traditional sales funnel, you set yourself up to be seen as a replaceable vendor. Despite the fact that you're totally different from your competition, leads will throw you in a bucket with them.
Best Known Sometimes Beats Best
Again, by abiding by a traditional sales funnel, you'll inevitably blend into the weeds with your competition.
Thanks to being in the weeds, your leads won't see you stand out among the crowd. As a result, your entire B2B marketing strategy, designed to make you stand out, goes to waste!
There's a hard truth about B2B business that goes like this: Sometimes the best known beats the best! By that, we mean that you can have the best product/service in your industry, but it doesn't matter if nobody knows who you are.
On the other hand, you can have a great product/service and trump those who are arguably better than you simply because you know exactly how to stand out in the crowd.
Now, that isn't to say that you should neglect the quality aspect of your deliverable, but it is to say that you can't have an awesome deliverable and expect to sell it without knowing how to stand out from the crowd!
Final Thoughts on Why Traditional Sales Funnels Lead to Failure
If you believe that following a traditional sales funnel will get B2B buyers to flock to you, then think again!
If funnels were so amazing, then there would be way more successful salespeople out there, but there aren't…
Furthermore, it's about time you ditch the funnel for good. Instead of a funnel, follow a simple sales process that actually leads to closed deals!
The longer you abide by the OG funnel, the more time you'll spend spinning your wheels without going anywhere. How much longer will you keep doing what everyone else is doing only to end up disappointed in the end?
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