It’s become trendy in B2B circles to say that the funnel is irrelevant.  That it isn’t valuable as a tool to track buyer behavior and the sales process.

Poppycock!

The sales funnel hasn’t just now become irrelevant.  It has always been a poor indicator of how buyer’s work.  But that’s not the point worth considering.

The funnel is still valuable, but primarily as a way of organizing our sales process and helping to direct what we do next, based generally on where the buyer is in their decision-making process.

But it’s asking too much of that funnel to hope it reflects both how we sell and how the buyer actually engages and buys.

I’d argue that you need two tools to manage sales.

First, you need a sales funnel that organizes your sales process, broken up into stages, that can help you consistently track progress across the team.  This is done based on common definitions, and drives accurate forecasts of future closed business.

Two, you need a deep, consistent understanding of the buyer’s journey – how they go through the stages of observing or experiencing pain, clarifying desired outcomes, eventually identifying and engaging with potential solutions, etc.  That journey has general stages, but the specifics are truly unique to each individual buyer.

Let’s not pretend that the sales funnel approach means every buyer is engaging in exactly the same way.  But if we tried to build a sales process that mirrored each individual buyer’s behavior, there’s no way we could ever create a consistent, accurate and useful sales strategy.

I believe we need sales funnels as selling tools, but the way we actually sell – the way we engage with, observe and respond to buyer’s – is based on an understanding of and adjustment to each individual buyer’s journey.

The trick is making those two work together.  Your sales process needs to be based on the most common buyer’s journey for your target market, but allow for interpretations based on the uniqueness of each buyer’s plight.

Work the funnel, but sell to the journey.