Sales 2.0 fact that can Kill your Sales Funnel

I keep reading this one: “buyers complete 75% of their sales cycle on the web before ever talking to a sales person”.

But just over the last few weeks of selling for our Internet start up I’ve found several examples where taking this data is best ignored.

I’ve been on a wide-ranging mission to get into new accounts – most of them in the Fortune 1000. This campaign has been going quite well [in my biased opinion because (a) I'm using Social Calling techniques and (b) we have an interesting product.] On meeting with some of these accounts, I found that some of them did in fact have needs and a few may indeed end up becoming customers.

But a big majority of them had not concluded “75% of their sales cycle on the web” before meeting with me. They had not defined their need formally. They had not gotten to that stage.

When we met they brought up something in their area of responsibility that they thought could be improved by something like the product we were discussing – the one I had brought to them. Some of them were then open to discussing this possibility from there.

So a group of companies entered our sales funnel without having completed their web research. They spoke to us first and put us in the driver’s seat. Sure they may decide down the line here to send someone out to do some web research on alternatives to our product but who has the edge then?

This happened because a sales person was proactively prospecting not because we have a great website, great SEO or a great blog.

OK, in some cases buyers have formalized their need and then they, or someone they delegate, go out and scour the web for solutions. This is when your SEO and inbound marketing needs to shine. This is the case where we sales people need great fellows in our marketing department.

The danger for sales people is interpreting this scenario where the buyer goes out looking for solutions as they only scenario. It’s the ultimate excuse to ditch cold calling. Very tempting. I mean it’s backed by fact, right?

But it’s not always true and I’m finding evidence that it’s most often false with the “whale accounts” we all strive to land. Every now and then, execs from these “whales” will find their way to your website but if you look at the statistics of business sizes out there you’ll see it’s one big “iceberg” with the huge majority of businesses being tiny. By pure statistics your website is likely to gather far more “sardines” than “whales”.

I’m no fan of traditional (aka dumb) cold calling. But I am a fan of smart prospecting. For sales people to rely on inbound leads to make their numbers is tantamount to professional suicide unless you work for an exceptional marketing company like a Hubspot where buyers flood to your website.

So sales people if you hear “buyers complete 75% of their buying cycle on the web before speaking to a sales person” you might want to stick in some ear plugs while you carry on prospecting.

11 Responses to Sales 2.0 fact that can Kill your Sales Funnel

  1. Greg March 6, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Nice thanks for the blog. Greg

  2. Miles Austin March 14, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

    Very helpful post and I hope that readers take it to heart. Performers recognize that many times there is opportunity to not follow the “herd” and this example is a good one to consider.

    It sounds you are bringing a solution to prospects that they might not “yet” have on their radar as a priority. This might simply mean that the sales cycle will be longer than for someone that is 75% through their buying cycle. The important point here is that you are now in a strong position to “influence” their decision when it comes time to buy.

    Much of the inbound and content marketing strategy is to “nurture” prospects during their buying cycle, to educate them, to establish credibility and expertise.

    Seems like what you are finding is that you can be both pro-active as a prospector and nurturing at the same time. I think you are experiencing what many of the top performers that I train have also found – use social tools to identify and understand likely prospects, nurture the relationship during the buying cycle and close the sale with confidence when they are ready to purchase.

    Thanks Nigel!

  3. Tom Hayhurst March 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    I like the posting. My one comment is that as 75% of the sales cycle may be completed before talking to a sales rep it appears that the more aggressive sales rep in more likely to “stumble” into that customer research phase. The more pertinent question is how a sales rep uses the tools available to find the right person or department that is trying to solve the need their product or service provides, and then communicating it succinctly. Surfing the web, voracious reading of publications from your industry, and from association journals, participating in clubs, blogs, and associations where constituents gather are just a few of the techniques successful reps find the customers that are researching. It may be hard work, but it brings to me the adage, “the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

  4. Dee Estus March 29, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    I agree with this post. Sales personel need to be proactive in their approach. In my experience this “sales people if you hear “buyers complete 75% of their buying cycle on the web before speaking to a sales person” you might want to stick in some ear plugs while you carry on prospecting” is a very effective approach.

  5. Dan May 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    This is so true, especially for me in Local Business Marketing where I know they need my services but most haven’t done any research about it.

    Good post.

  6. Jeff May 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    Great post and oh so true. I think the 75% number comes from IT buyers who know, almost, exactly what they want to buy and begin researching online.

    I like the research out now about Challenger sales reps versus Relationship-based sellers…successfult sales reps don’t wait for anything, they make things happen.

  7. WC Bracken July 11, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    Couldn’t agree more. I have been thinking about where this sentiment came from and tt seems to me that the line of thinking carries forward from “if a consumer wants to buy a car, they research the car online, see the price range they expect, and go into a car dealership 75% of the way to their purchase”. Not sure that translates though to more complex purchases such as enterprise software or services.

  8. David Brown July 13, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    This trend is so prominent in today’s market! it is really interesting to find out that the percentage is that high, i have to say that I myself do the majority of my browsing on-line and only go into get something when i want to try it on for example.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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