Changing of the Sales and Marketing Funnel in the New Age of Business Buyers

A few weeks ago I read a Blog article [How the Marketing Funnel Works From Top to Bottom, by Rebecca Lee White with TrackMavern] describing the changing dynamic of the technology sales and marketing funnel, shifting responsibility about 80% of the funnel to marketing. The essential argument was that overall responsibility for the funnel now rests on marketing’s lap. I tend to agree and don’t know many marketing executives that would say otherwise.

The point that often gets overlooked in these sorts of discussions is that sales responsibilities have undergone corresponding changes with the times as well. Ten years ago, the buying process was fundamentally different. The CIO received a budget and was left to make use his or her best judgment to direct technology purchases for the organization, with minimal oversight. Now, most CIO’s report up through the office of the CFO. Increasingly, most purchase decisions require the approval of the CFO. Furthermore, Line of Business, which was generally left out of the decision making process, now drives the majority of the decision making around technology. This largely as a consequence of self-service and cloud delivery trends and the increased strategic importance of technology to the business. The resulting multi-stakeholder buying dynamic has fundamentally changed sales and marketing operations, potentially for good.

Ten years ago, most IT decisions were made by CIOs, based on a “speeds & feeds” comparison, balanced by pricing concerns. The traditional sales and marketing funnel was built on this expectation. As a result, sales teams would spend most of their time on product demo’s and price negotiations. Today, with the introduction of the CFO and Line of Business into the process, now complicates matters. Engaging a business buyer requires the management of interest and engagement across multiple “funnels” across relevant stakeholder groups.

The consequence for sales is a need to respond with a more diverse set of interests. Consider the traditional CIO engagement model. Now compare the perspective of the CFO. CFO’s could care less about speeds & feeds of a solution. They want to understand how the investment betters the organization, whether it is the best solution for the money, how it fits into the financial plan, and (most importantly) what is the TCO and ROI. For IT solutions providers, this means that you must be prepared to build a business case with demonstrable financial ROI with your buyer. If you’re not, you are setting yourself and them up for failure.

From my standpoint: even though this change has already happened, many vendors have been slow or unable to effectively shift their sales operations . . . even where marketing has adapted to multi-channel and multi-persona content strategies. But what have you seen? I’d love to hear your perspectives and your experiences with the new buying dynamic. Please feel free to leave your own comments and stories below.

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