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There’s an old poker line - “when you look around the table and you don’t know who the ‘mark’ is, you’re the ‘mark’!”
It should be a thing!
The poker line came to mind as I watched a webinar this week. It was billed as ‘an introduction to funnels’. The webinar was full of people seeking to dip their toe in the water and build an online business. They needed help and one of the things they apparently needed to learn about, was ‘funnels’. Lead funnels. Sales funnels. Marketing funnels. They needed to know how to build them and use them.
Through the 45 minutes, key phrases like ‘lead gen funnels’, ‘content’, ‘lead magnets’ and ‘offers to lure your prospects’ kept springing up. I found it all rather sad. All these people wondering how to take the leap, set up an online presence, attract customers and hopefully sell something to them … and the way to do this was to understand the strategy of your business and develop your funnel. The irony that they were themselves in a funnel seemed to be missed.
The free webinar had an offer at the end.
My mind flipped back to 12-year-old John in York Market. Traders shouting out at the top of their lungs … “I’m not asking … “ and “Don’t tell anyone now - this is just for you …”. I paraphrase ….
“Right now, because you took the time to stop and listen, I’m not asking $3,000, not $2,000, not even $1,000 - no, right now all you need to pay is $999 and we will work with you and help build your funnel. Can’t afford $999 - we do payment plans.”
I am clearly in the wrong business!
Photo: Patrick Hendry on Unsplash
All this in marked contrast to an online discussion that was not specifically about funnels but rather the nature of the modern customer engagement process and specifically the collection of data that on occasions seems to be the raison d'être of organizations and how that data is used in an organization’s ‘funnel’.
Funnels … those things that are used to direct animals, fluids, smoke, money from a big wide open space into a small place where what was funnelled can be better managed … a term first coined by Arthur Peterson, according to Mathews on Marketing - no surprise that Arthur worked in the Pharmaceutical industry!
The theme of the conversation was how to get businesses to sit up and recognize that they are engaging with people. Warm, living people. Not prospects, suspects, punters, customers .. at one point someone wrote;
“If we’d stop using the word sell and replace it with ‘deal’ or ‘exchange’ I would suspect the conversation would come closer to a centered agreement.”
And there we have it … language.
My (edited) response
Corporate focus is on their sales process - scant thought given to a prospects buying process. 'Customer Journeys' that they draw and redraw barely recognize that prospects regularly ‘journey’ to places not under their control and not on their map.
Meanwhile companies have sales and marketing ‘targets' that need to be ‘hit’ when they ‘attack’ markets, even thought these same organizations have ‘external’ messging that descibes how customers come first and how they want to ‘partner’ with us.
If language used in public is so different to language use behind closed doors … which do you think best represent the values of that organization?
All of which points to the fact that an organization’s understanding that a sale is an exchange or a ‘mutually beneficial deal’ will fall on lost ears. Language is important - and the continual use of the 'language of war' inside companies about how they are going to ‘attack’ a market … doesn’t augur well.
The Sad Thing
Just as this group of hardened warriors that work with some of the largest organizations on the planet are seeking to change corporate language and thinking and leave behind words that dehumanize people - we have brand new individual traders trying to work out how to build their ‘sole proprietor’ business and they are being told to build funnels and develop offers to ‘lure’ people into the fold.
C’est la vie. The work is cut out for People First!
My thanks and appreciation for your continued support, comments and attention. Please like the post, share through your social channels and forward the email to colleagues, friends and family that want to join us on this journey and do comment or email me your thoughts.
For several decades, I was on the “buy-side” of technology products and services. True then, true now: there are no tricks or shortcuts in good sales strategies, and the vocabulary for those strategies remains sorely inadequate.
Perhaps this seems quaint, but I’ve long advocated that there is a *relationship* between buyer and seller, and the only useful advice to beginning salespersons is to first, nurture and then, manage those relationships.
The proponents of funnel analytics suffer from a long history of useless terms (and other magical incantations): the product is a service, value selling, find a need and fill it (etc.) are all reductive, avoiding any discussion of relationships, and the keystone aspects of healthy relationships: honesty, integrity, listening – all of the elements that build trust, over time.
Sure, I understand the urge to provide novice sales teams with a methodology that gives them confidence as they charge into a potential customer’s conference room.
We might as well tell those teams that successful sales are governed by the phases of the moon. In that regard, for those who remain starved for Helpful Hints: according to "The Old Farmer’s Almanac" of 2020: the best days for launching a sales project next month are September 19-21.
The Fordist, industrial, mechanical, and Newtonian notion of a business funnel is obsolete. It has been supplanted by complexity and networks. Most people do know this yet. Here's a screed...
and some background.
Another very annoying marketing term is 'penetration.' As if markets are fixed, static, monoliths. Gee, if we could just 'penetrate' the market everything would be fine. My typical reaction to this dopey term is a rhetorical question, "Why do you want to f*ck the customer?"
Let's retire funnel and penetrate forever.
Soon I'll be covering the most dangerous word known: community. It needs to be retired too, and fast.