Next-generation technologies such as social, mobile, the cloud and big data are profoundly changing the way we interact with each other and the way we do business, and the trend is only accelerating. According to International Data Corporation, worldwide spending on these technologies will grow 3.8 percent this year to more than $3.8 trillion.
This new era of technology is upending the traditional sales funnel. Instead of following a set sales process, consumers now learn about products and services on their own terms. To keep up, marketers must use data and digital tools to learn about and engage their prospects and customers.
Vendors controlled the traditional sales funnel, which was sequential and focused on products. Customers learned about solutions on vendors’ terms. They gained awareness through online, event or email marketing. If they expressed interest in a solution, a sales team reached out to provide personalized information, answer questions, show proof of concept and scope a contract.
But next-generation technologies have transformed this model. Customers can now access information online in an instant, so there is no need for sales calls. Both businesses and consumers can fully analyze a solution online before ever contacting a seller. Instead of relying on vendors, customers validate solutions by referencing trusted independent sources, such as users, market experts, and industry analysts.
Customers don’t answer sales calls anymore. Instead, they initiate contact only after researching solutions and coming to a purchase decision. In the software-as-a-service (SaaS) industry, many customers purchase vendor solutions online without ever interacting with a salesperson.
This new model is great for customers because it gives them control over their own sales journey. But it presents challenges for marketers because they now must use a consultative approach to meet demand for more personalized experiences that are tailored to address customers’ specific needs.
Relying on a one-size-fits-all marketing funnel turns off customers and has proven to be inefficient. And without a standard sales funnel or direct customer engagement, marketers have to find new ways to learn what their customers like, what social networks and mobile devices they use, and what content they share.
Marketers can no longer gather information about customers through the traditional sales model, but they’re not flying blind, either. Try these tactics to increase your chances of success:
As customers increasingly learn about and choose services on their own terms, discovering how these customers navigate the sales journey is crucial to serving them well. With the right data collection and predictive analytics, you can identify behavioral patterns, anticipate needs, engage customers and ultimately provide services that delight.