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Is the Sales Funnel Dead?

If you type “Is the sales funnel dead?” into Google, you’ll find dozens of articles gleefully proclaiming that the sales funnel is dead. They argue that these days prospects do a whole lot of research on their own before they ever interact with a vendor. And these folks continue gathering information from the Web and social media well into the buying process. The path from prospect to customer is long and twisting, and in the B2B space in particular, a lot of people are likely to be involved in the buying decision, making the sales process even more convoluted.

So is the sales funnel dead?

In a word, no.

It’s true that the sales process has certainly changed. The Internet and social media have made it much easier for prospects to learn about your products and services without talking to sales. But that doesn’t mean the funnel metaphor has outlived all of its usefulness.

It’s still true that you have a defined group of people who could potentially use your products and services. This is your total market, and it’s represented by the large open mouth of your funnel.

You still have a smaller group of people who are a really good fit for your products and services. This is your target market, and it’s the first step inside the funnel.

A somewhat smaller group will actively consider purchasing your products and services. These are your prospects. Over time, some of your prospects will drop out because they have decided that what you offer isn’t the best fit for their needs. This is represented by the narrowing sides of your funnel.

And eventually, some of those prospects will purchase your goods and services, becoming customers. This, obviously, is represented by the narrow end of the funnel.

The route that a particular organization takes from being part of your target market, to becoming a prospect and eventually a customer may not be a straight line, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t sometimes helpful to use the funnel metaphor in your sales ops efforts.

Of course, it may also be helpful to use some other metaphors. Here at SellingBrew, we’re particularly fond of viewing the sales process as a machine or a pipeline. In any sales process, prospects go through various stages. Viewing those stages as steps in a manufacturing process can be incredibly helpful in optimization efforts.

Business metaphors come and go as different approaches and philosophies become more or less popular over time. For now, the phrase “sales funnel” appears to be in decline, but it could very well experience a resurgence of popularity in the future.

The important thing isn’t the metaphor that you choose to use for your sales process—the important thing is that you are thinking strategically about sales and constantly working to make your process more efficient and effective.

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