I am sure most of you know the famous sales funnel and they would have used at one point in their career; and every sales guy on this planet would know it by heart & kidney! Leads that hover above the funnel gets warmer by the marketing efforts (Awareness campaigns) and enters the mouth of the funnel from the top. They start moving down as the sales process advances towards closures. Of course, sales gurus have written volumes on just the funnel process alone, so I wouldn’t touch that area. We call it the traditional sales funnel.
In the traditional sales funnel approach, the leads are created mostly by the marketing campaigns and promotional campaigns typically handled by the marketing team (this team is different from the field sales team). Once the lead becomes hot enough to enter the funnel, the baton is given to sales team to take it to a logical closure. The top portion of the funnel is still handled by the marketing function in coordination with the sales function. In this approach, sales guys are the most dominant characters. They are generally the blue-eyed boys of the CEO.
For example, when the marketing team releases a beautiful advertisement about their new car or a washing machine in the local newspaper, it creates an impulse in the minds of the prospects and makes them visit the nearest store or showroom. They have created awareness and interest in the prospects, which used to be the primary objective of the marketing team. The baton is then handed over to the sales team to convince the prospect to convert them to clients. The sales guy in the store explains the features & benefits of various models and helps the prospect to make an informed decision.
Though this is a typical example in retail industry, this is very much applicable to almost all other industries. When the marketing team participates in an event to promote their ERP software, the leads generated from that event are handed over to the sales team to follow up and close. So would be the case with a builder when they launch a new property. So would be the case with distribution, FMCG, cement, steel, shoes, watches, pens, clothes, toys, etc.
Things are changing as time is. Unlike the clear demarcation (more or less) that marketing and sales functions used to have in the past, its changing drastically in today’s world.
As we speak (or as you read), more and more aspects of the sales funnel are now being handled by marketing function; leaving very less play for the sales function. From 20%, marketing now controls over 80% of the pyramid. Right from creating awareness, generating interest, strengthening prospect’s intent and to some extent the evaluation process is now owned by the marketing function. In some cases like smart phones, they rule the roost even by controlling the Purchasing decision of the prospect. While the marketing folks are becoming smarter day by day, the sales guy is becoming just a postman. The clever marketing guy has shaved the intelligence off the sales guy! Or, did the consumers forced them to do that? It doesn’t really matter right.
I didn’t really understood when some of the great philosophers said the world is flat; until the World Wide Web has made everything transparent. To me, flat means ‘availability’. Today, I can do a video call with my sister living in Houston on a press of a button! And you know what, almost free!! I am now connected with my school, college, graduate classmates & ex colleagues, 24×7. When I am so well connected, why will I not use these connections for my benefit? I would definitely.
Basically, whatever change in sales pattern that we noticed, is happening because of this change in consumer behavior. Consumer mindset is changing because he has everything available on a click, all the time, almost free. When your prospect decides to make a purchase, he or she goes around searching for information and feedback. So the marketing teams realized this trend and have started penetrating deeper in the funnel so that they could stay connected with this prospect and help him or her to make that purchase by giving relevant information. When your prospect is going to Facebook to find some information, how can you not be there? So the marketing team creates their presence to influence his or her decision. So would be the case with Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other online presence. In the process, the poor sales guy is being restricted to just do the paperwork or deliver the product. How many times did you notice that a person goes to a mobile store to ask for the availability of a specific phone? (Including the model no.) The marketing team has educated the consumer to buy exactly what he or she wanted; the guy goes to a store just to check for availability! In the e-commerce space, even that’s not required.
The difficult part for the marketing team is that they now need to be everywhere (wherever the prospect is looking information). The advantage with this is that they can address a larger set of audience, which was not possible in the traditional setup. Of course, it depends on how creative you are, how do you control costs and how much do you want to spend on each medium, etc.
I guess the world is moving from ‘being sold’ to ‘buying’. At least that’s what the consumers are thinking. They think that it is moving from ‘push of sales’ to ‘pull of value’. Meaning, the consumer is under the impression that he is buying a product or a service based on the value and NOT because of an advertisement or aggressive sales push. Less does he know what’s cooking behind.
I foresee that in the next 5 to 6 years, marketers will have a lot more control on the decisions of the consumers. Earlier, marketers had a restricted access to the consumer’s world, but now in this digital age, they get complete access to the consumer’s world. How? Very simple, they can have the brand’s virtual presence anywhere, technically.
The fact of the matter remains that consumers think they have suddenly become more intelligent and now believe they are now able to make smart decisions. It is actually these marketers who are making them believe so! My only worry is that when marketers become smarter, the consumers don’t have a choice but to become dumber!
Do you want to know how?
“Facebook now has pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans.” So that marketers could now run ads for specific individuals on specific product or service; laser focus campaigns, aah?
“There is an app called “moodies” which can already tell in which mood you are. Until 2020 there will be apps that can tell by your facial expressions if you are lying. Imagine a political debate where it’s being displayed when they are telling the truth and when not.” Wow, honey, I lost my privacy!
“The cheapest smartphones are already at 10$ in Africa and Asia. Until 2020, 70% of all humans will own a smartphone. They say that everyone would have same access to world-class education.” Really? You couldn’t find a better way to educate people so far?
I am not against the advancement in technology or even the smart marketer, I only want to bring my personal perspective to the way the world is changing. I agree that change is inevitable, but now that we know this in advance, its our responsibility to make it a positive one that could benefit the human race.
Remember, disruptions are useful only if they benefit humans; not computers!
This happens when you put PURPOSE over money, position, power and greed.