As prospects moved from “ask the expert” to “ask the trusted network” Step 1-4 in an average sales process can simply be skipped. Sales is no longer part of the “exploring, needs analysis, customer qualification, solution exploration” phase – period.
The effect on the pipeline: prospects get in touch with a vendor at a stage where the prospect is pretty well informed what they want – the brand or product decision is well prepared and almost done.
Pipeline building happens within the trusted information sources (60-80% of purchases are based on recommendations). Now SALES has NO access to that process – worst the prospects avoids any sales contact prior to solidifying a decision. AND marketing as we know it today doesn’t have a saying either – because the decision evaluation process tells the prospect “Avoid the marketing bull shit”.
As businesses trying to re-invent themselves and become part of the trusted networks to “return to the game”, social selling and social marketing inherit new rules:
SOCIAL SALES becomes a navigation task connecting prospects with existing customers to augment their trusted network and become an additional navigator in their buying cycle. That means sales is involved in 100% of the pipeline development but almost 0% in pipeline creation (the trusted relationship story). We have to accept the fact that we have to rewrite the “sales process” as it is no finally and in-reversibly a buying process we only can “participate” in but no longer “control”. Unless we accept that as a new reality we will run behind a fainting sales pipeline with only loosing more influence – and business.
SOCIAL MARKETING becomes the “radar”, the “listening engine” needing to understand who is talking, evaluating, influencing…and as such is almost 100% pipeline creation but then quickly have sales build the trusted relationship and as such marketing is no longer pipeline development, no longer the semi automated “nurturing process”.
If you dive deep in how Zappos (online shoe dealer), Cisco (high end network equipment) or Virgin (travel) does it, you will notice that there is actually no real difference between B2B or B2C – and no real difference whether it is a $60 product, a $600 service or a $600,000 project.
We may still call it sales pipeline – but if we don’t recognize that the composition has changed we are on the loosing battleground.