Analytical marketing is not very common in small and
medium size enterprises in the business-to-business sector.
As such, if we had a model or decision support system to
enable us to decide how to allocate resources across communication activities and channels, we will have a huge advantage compared to our competitors.
-Leon Suijkerbuijk, CEO of Inofec BV
The Sales Funnel, the Buyer’s Journey, and the Customer Decision Journey--These three perspectives on the sales process each bring something to the table--some perhaps more than others--and will act as a springboard towards progress if you’ve noticed your sales and marketing techniques are beginning to look a bit dusty. All three are wonderful for the simple fact that they ask you to seriously evaluate how you go about your sales process and whether it really is bringing in any return on investment---and if not, how it could do so better. So, lets jump right in...
The Funnel process, also known as the Sales Funnel, Purchase Funnel, Customer Funnel and Marketing Funnel looks at the purchase process from the perspective of the salesperson. The idea is that you begin with a large pool of perspectives and then throughout the sales process, narrow that down to a smaller pool of buyers.
The advantage of using this perspective to analyze the sales process is it lends itself to scrutinizing the amount of potentials who flow through each section of the “sales pipeline”, allowing the salesperson to identify “leaks”. If you look at March’s numbers and see that they were a bit low, then look a little farther back towards January, were fewer emails sent out? Was the advertising budget cut? From there you can figure out how to bolster that section of the pipeline and get the funnel flowing again. [For more information here, I recommend this article by Mindtools.]
The Buyers Journey, obviously looks at the sales process from the salesperson’s perspective, however it is slightly more attentive to the buyer’s experience--it’s a bit more about their journey, than the sales process alone. The buyers journey focuses on the customer’s progression through stages of unawareness, awareness, consideration, and, finally, decision, while also noting that the customer must acknowledge a need or problem before they will buy.
This perspective is valuable to a sales or marketing person, because it asks the business to guide the customer along their journey. So, when the customer is in the stage of unawareness, market to create awareness--this can include Google AdSense or bus-stop advertising in your local area. When they are considering, provide them with materials which will aid in their decision--these might be case studies or even straight up comparisons between yourself and the competition, whatever best demonstrates that you have the best answer to their need or problem (it could also include using software like ClientPoint, which sets your proposals aside from the competition). [For a very detailed description of how you can use the Buyer’s Journey in your sales process, check out this blog post by Tom Pisello: The ROI Guy.]
The Customer Decision Journey sees the sales process from an even more customer-centric perspective. Advocates for this perspective underscore how the consumer doesn’t buy like they used to, and argue that the funnel and buyers journey theories are outdated. This perspective highlights how the modern customer is able to consider a much wider variety of options and once they’ve decided, they also are much more likely to advocate for and develop a relationship with the brand through social media. The steps here are: consider, evaluate, buy, experience, advocate (either positively or negatively) and, possibly, bond.
This perspective is useful to the salesperson because it lends it self
well to a more modern approach to the sale process. Application of this theory to your sales efforts could include following the “5 Steps to Defining the CDJ” as recommended by David Edelman, sales and marketing consultant of McKinsey and Company. The steps are as follows: “1) Interview customers, 2) Gather publicly available data on search activity and traffic patterns, 3) Purchase additional multidimensional data, as needed, 4) Examine own site data, 5) Identify and analyze trends” (Aligning with the Customer Decision Journey). In other words, sales and marketing teams following this model conduct interviews, check out data available--for free or for purchase--online, and bring all of this together to form a general picture. This general picture represents what the customer thinks of the entire purchase process from beginning to end, and how decisions are made. [For a detailed explanation of this process, check out this case study in the Harvard Business Review.]
No matter which perspective you sympathize most with, the bottom line is that as a member of a sales or marketing team the very nature of your position asks you to critically look at the customer’s experience and adapt to it. If you do so, your sales process will continually be renewed and brought to life, because it will be a process that seeks to mirror real-life customer action.
Information and photo sources:
Featured image: Flickr/wisegie