One of my favorite book series as a kid was the “Choose Your Own Adventure” collection. If you’re not familiar, these books allowed the reader to delegate the path the story took—the reader would arrive at a page where the protagonist must make a decision, and the reader chose which path the character(s) would take. The book would tell the reader to jump to a certain page, and the story and its ending would be altered based on each decision the reader made from there. There were multiple outcomes for each book, which was great for bookworms like me who loved reading books more than once.
When I came across a post on the Salesforce blog about the death of the B2B sales funnel, I was reminded instantly of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. But what could a children’s book series have to do with sales? Well, the old-school sales funnel is similar to a traditional novel—there is a singular beginning and end; each lead starts at the top and moves linearly to the bottom. There is only one outcome (barring the lead doesn’t exit the funnel prematurely), and each lead takes the same path as all of the others. With the old-school sales funnel, the sales organization was in complete control, and the only information leads could really consume was from the sales organization itself.
But those days are far behind us. The traditional sales funnel is dead. Today’s sales funnel isn’t much of a funnel, and it’s quite similar to a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel. There is the possibility of multiple outcomes and paths for each lead to take. Today, the buyer is in complete control of the sales process and how/when they reach the bottom of the funnel. Once buyers were given unlimited access to all product, feature, and competitive information, sales organizations knew they needed to adapt—quickly. Gone are the days of the linear sales funnel and the accompanying playbooks. Even playbooks set up with “if-this-then-that” processes become stale very quickly.
This is because sales leads are like snowflakes. No lead is the same, and should never be treated as such. There is no such thing as a linear sales process anymore. Buyers take a myriad of different paths and arrive at different outcomes at different times.
In “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels, the author had to prepare each possible path, ensuring that the pages lined up correctly with each possible outcome—otherwise the story wouldn’t make sense and wouldn’t deliver any value to the reader. Sales reps must approach leads in the same fashion: they must be prepared for every possible situation and outcome, with the most relevant and valuable sales content for any situation at any time.
While static sales playbooks may seem to be the answer to today’s nonlinear sales process, the only infallible approach is putting contextually-relevant, customizable sales content where sales reps can easily access it. This allows them to have only what’s important for their specific sales interaction, ensuring that the sales conversation is as productive and valuable as possible.