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You heard me — the B2B sales and marketing funnel is dead, and by now, I think we all know it. However, if this comes as a surprise to you, then hopefully the rest of this post will be very enlightening (and if this isn't a surprise, I’d be interested in reading your thoughts in the comments!).

Here are the two key assumptions that the traditional B2B funnel makes:

  • It assumes everyone has a linear path from top to bottom
  • It assumes there is only one person in that journey

Now, let’s examine these one by one.

Fallacy One: Leads progress linearly from the top to the bottom of the funnel.

Imagine you’re purchasing a product as simple as swag for your company's employees. Do you just visit one website and wait for someone to call and pitch you their value prop? Do you suddenly stop looking for options or engaging on other channels like social media, referrals from friends, or review sites to find out more about it? The answer is no. We all have different approaches to getting information and it’s never a linear path. In fact, it’s a convoluted path that crosses a number of channels, timezones, geographical locations, and web properties. We are gathering all of the information that is readily available and then making informed decisions. Here’s the proof:

70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to sales. (SiriusDecisions) Tweet This

Consumers gather information on their terms using the channels they prefer. They can also leapfrog the buyer’s journey from start to finish because of many variables like urgency, price point, or an immediate business problem they are trying to address. Buyers don’t take a linear path — they take a “critical” path that drives their decision-making process.

Fallacy Two: There is only one person involved in the buyer's journey.

Think back to the last time you bought a product for your company that was over, let’s say, $1000 — and was solely something you thought about, made a decision on, and ordered on a company credit card before you alone started using it. The chances of that happening are none unless you are the CEO of a startup company with very few employees. The reality is that the B2B decision-making process for buying products or using services is done through collaboration. The bigger the company or the more expensive the product, the greater the number of people involved in the decision-making process. Here’s the proof:

The average deal has over 8 decision makers, a 43% increase from 3 years ago. (IDC) Tweet This

In short, the traditional funnel view that involves focusing all of your marketing and sales efforts on one person — who may or may be be the decision maker — could be futile. The chances of winning a deal suddenly depend on the sheer will of a single person trying to get your message in front of all the right decision makers at the right time and in the right format. That’s a lot to ask from that one person to help you close a deal in your target company.

So, what’s the solution?

Account-based marketing. More and more companies have figured out the art and science of lead generation, and are learning how to find the companies that fit their “best” target profiles. The problem is not identifying just the companies or the contacts, but proactively getting your message in front of all of the decision makers and influencers — and on their terms, too. This can be a game changer, and is exactly the kind of capability offered by account-based marketing (ABM). ABM allows you to use display advertising to reach all of the contacts within an account — not just a single lead — on all of the channels that they actively use during the buying process. Just like that, you’ve addressed both of the flaws in the funnel, from the non-linear progression of the buyer’s journey to single lead-based marketing.

About the Author

Sangram Vajre, co-founder and CMO of Terminus, is a passionate Marketing geek at heart and loves to solve problems, both analytically and creatively. In today's marketing world, when companies need to rapidly adapt to changing buyer-centric communication, Sangram finds comfort in all things technology to keep pace with this challenge. Over the years, Sangram has amassed invaluable experience from his exposure to startups, consulting, and global companies. Most recently, Sangram headed up Marketing at Pardot, which was acquired by Salesforce in 2013. You can follow him on Twitter at @sangramvajre