Shahin Khan moderated a Zoom discussion on April 6, 2021 covering the topics of “Sales Cycle. Marketing Funnel. and Customer Journey.”  Panelists included James Hankins, Samuel Brealey, and Doug Garnett.

These notes are based on quick scribbles during the call. You can also watch it on YouTube.

Shahin: Sales flow tracks deal flow, AIDA, sales-marketing alignment. Has it changed? Is it obsolete?

Samuel: Not obsolete. Useful because it is simple to explain.

James:  A sales funnel is 1:1. A marketing funnel is a metaphor. It is not 1:1. I blame Millward Brown. I hate the word conversion. Different people, but in the same bucket.

Shahin: Snapshot of deal flow based on likelihood to buy. Never intended to represent the customer journey.

Doug: What I don’t like about customer journey: he shows a meticulously detailed chart mapping every department to every stage/touchpoint.

Samuel: People bamboozle with data. Illusion of control.  When sales are flat-lining, you need to reach more people. When you try to create a story the whole thing collapses.

Shahin: How do you know that’s really the customer journey? The objective is to arrive at a sales process that works more often than not.

Doug: People convert on their own. You can try incentives, but you’re not in control. You’ve got to listen to the market. Every conversation, listen for indicators.  Focus groups can test assumptions.

James: Risk management. No one wants to tell their boss “this MIGHT work.” Data as CYA.

Ikea example. Relationship between awareness and consideration. They were only bringing in starters (people beginning a household). Like Marmite (yeast extract)  – people love it or hate it. An acquired taste. You were either an Ikea fan or not. Needed to broaden the appeal by focusing on design.

** The value is to take you somewhere – insight, not reporting.

Samuel: People become obsessed with minutiae numbers.

Shahin: B2B is a committee buy: Multi-funnel. For components, it is a design decision.

James: The Hankins Hexagon came from probabilities. (Marketing Week article.  21-minute YouTube video.) Six nodes on the hexagon are: Passive Assimilation, Trigger, Active Evaluation/LL, Comparison/SL, Purchase, Post Purchase. There are lines (pathways) connecting each node to every other node. Mathematically underpinned by the Markov chain.  Pathways fit a normal distribution curve. So far it is theoretical.

Shahin: Two types of sales:

  • Transactional / low commitment / candy bar
  • Intellectual / big commitment / 5-year lease

Doug: Sometimes you sell on first presentation. Sometimes it takes 9 months.

Samuel: Byron Sharp category entry points. Finding points in the customer journey when you can influence them.

Risk brings in external factors.

Bring in ABM (account based marketing) to influence them.

Internal politics.

Shahin: Diagnostics? ABM?

Samuel: ABM is a fad. Acount based marketing. Same old crap with another name. Nothing is new. It’s just tools. ABM is basically the funnel upside down.

If you get too granular…

James: Sandler sales system. Useful from 1:1 perspective.

Had a pitch. Senior decision maker (so we thought). Put all eggs into that basket. At final decision, that executive was not involved.

Campaign to get people to stop smoking. Biggest lever in the UK is pregnancy. Hmm. What should we do? Encourage more pregnancies?  Another factor:  people who have quit 14 times are likely to quit permanently. So the campaign focused on getting more people advance along that continuum.

Doug: Things beyond marketers control.

Shahin: ABM starts to sound like AI… identify those most likely to buy.

James: Significant data protection concerns with that… especially in Europe.

Samuel: Notion that computers are always smarter than people. Computers can’t take into consideration complex human variables.  Humility: we’re not dealing with certainties.

Doug: The danger in the funnel is we try to make it linearly actionable.

Emotional factor. Competitors ignored Korean client. We didn’t meet his benchmark, but we listened to him and address his concerns. We won the sale.

We often allow marketing speak to leak into conversations with customers. “funnel” “convert”

James: Nobody likes to feel they are being sold to. Depersonalizes. Treat people with respect.

Shahin: Solution Selling or “coalition” selling. Adds another layer of complexity. Customer is not just buying your product; it’s part of a total solution, e.g. computer, storage, network, etc.

Samuel: Lots of companies resell Hubspot. I wouldn’t use Hubspot myself.

Not just about closing the sale, but about longer term retention. Is retention part of the funnel?

Doug: Regarding coalition, you need somebody to be leading.

Shahin: General contractor analogy.

James: Sounds like the agency model. Clients wants to buy media. There are lots of things that can be bolted on, e.g. econometrics, etc.

Samuel: Would not show hexagon to a client.  Tool for marketer.

Shahin: Politics of sales department and marketing department. Sales calls it a “zero revenue lead.” Otherwise they’ll have to do a forecast.

James: We have to remember this is about understanding human beings. Improving the likelihood they will buy.


All of the participants can be reached on Twitter: Shahin Khan, James HankinsSamuel Brealey, Doug Garnett.

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