The Demand Unit Waterfall is a unique funnel framework from SiriusDecisions that has helped many B2B organizations better understand buying teams within their target accounts. With the growing focus on marketing teams to help drive revenue, companies expect them to help accelerate deals through this funnel and close more business. This, according to expert analysts, requires proper processes and workflows that promote better engagement and insights from key stakeholders.
In an interview with Kerry Cunningham and Vicki Brown of SiriusDecisions, I had a chance to learn about how they have seen best-in-class practitioners take their Demand Unit Waterfall to heart. They shared thoughts on how traditional martech has impacted overall B2B strategy and how modern innovations are positioning companies to take control of their sales funnel and accelerate deals.
Demand Gen Report: The Demand Unit Waterfall has been around for more than two years. How do you think it has aged with the ebbs and flows of the B2B tech landscape and buyer expectations in the purchase process?
Kerry Cunningham: We believe the concepts of the Demand Unit Waterfall have aged really well. We won't say that everything is perfect, but there’s more traction today than there's ever been. I think the momentum in the direction of that demand unit approach is much greater today than it was even a year ago.
The thing that I think we've really seen a lot of recognition of in the last year is the fact that B2B buyers are groups of people, not individuals. But our current lead management processes that B2B has had in place fail to recognize these groups. That difference is all the difference in the world. The company that's got five people on your website, looking at your content is very much more likely to be a real prospect. But our current systems can't see that.
Vicki Brown: We are living in a world where our technology has dictated that we focus on leads. By definition, leads are orphan — they’re not connected to an account. So, when you have account-based marketing, and you have a bunch of leads, you can't connect those leads to accounts and you're really creating more of the problem.
What we need to do is really focus on how the buyers are buying, and then formulate our systems and processes. Look to that and measure and monitor that. Since buyers buy within buying groups, we need to look at each buying group as one single opportunity.
This week at Dreamforce, they are making a change within the Sales Cloud and upgrading that object to a first-class object. What that means is that you can now customize that object; you can actually add up to 100 fields from other objects, or you can create custom fields on that. So, you're going to be able to now bring scoring over to that OCR object. I think of it as the “buying group” object, you can help all your buying group members there.
So now, instead of account scores, or a set of lead scores, you can get a buying group score to understand how engaged that team is and add different roles to each member. So rather than just primary and secondary, you could put their buying team role as the “influencer” or the “champion” or the “end user.”
Then on an opportunity, you would now have this ability to see the breadth and depth of coverage you have for that buying group for that single opportunity. This can be custom fields. The other nice thing is they're going to be triggers. So that as you add people to this object, you could add them or remove them from other programs. You could add or do specific actions because of these triggers. You could give them additional scores and classify different [stakeholders] that you could add on that object. You could also add the actual waterfall stage or where they are so you're tracking how that group is progressing in their buying decision.
DGR: What are your thoughts on the topic of "funnel acceleration?" How does this impact the Demand Unit Waterfall?
Cunningham: To accelerate an opportunity in the pipeline, you must know how that opportunity is actually moving and what's stopping it from moving forward. When you think about the way things have worked in B2B, you're very lucky if you get one contact attached to an opportunity. So, the organization has a very difficult time understanding what's actually happening with that opportunity apart from just asking the sales rep.
With all of the things that marketing would love to be doing to accelerate deals that are in the pipeline, it's really hard when you don't have any information and you have to go specifically to an individual person and ask them what's happening with your deal. For example, think about why a deal at stage three might be stalled. Maybe the financial decision maker has not engaged yet, and it just can't move forward until you get that person engaged. You can't look in systems today and see what's happening because you don't have reliable data in systems like Salesforce.
One of the first things to do is get the right level of data inside Salesforce, or whatever other CRM, that you can actually see and help understand the state of this deal. We've seen a ton of traction in the last couple of years, from application vendors (particularly AI vendors) who are enabling auto capture of sales rep activities and contacts, so that we're getting a much more robust record inside of Salesforce of what those deals look like. That also allows you to see, based on actual historical data, if you're going to have a deal that's going to go all the way to close.
Brown: In addition to that, the other area where we're seeing great traction to accelerate deals is in the tele-services group. We're seeing a huge difference in those teams and we're seeing them elevated within their organizations to create opportunities when they get demand passed over from marketing. If marketing's not automating that process of connecting contacts to an opportunity, then we're seeing tele-teams create that opportunity earlier and connect the people to it. Then marketing and tele-teams’ outreach is blended. When you're looking at it from an account-based marketing perspective, you want that tele-team to look at that account, the deals within that account, then the people that should be associated to those deals.
By allowing those tele-teams to create that opportunity earlier, we’re seeing more companies accelerate pipeline.
DGR: How are you seeing best-in-class practitioners accelerate the latter stages of the Demand Unit Waterfall?
Cunningham: Every demand gen organization ought to have tactics ready to deploy against specific buyer personas that are part of the buying group that they're selling to. If they do have deals that are not moving as fast as we want, they must already have tactics set up and available that can drive offers and messages for the specific people that they need to engage inside those opportunities.
For example, if you get to the beginning of the last month of a quarter and realize you’re not quite where we want to be, it's probably too late. Part of your campaign planning must include these kinds of pipeline acceleration tactics. Those must be created in conjunction with sales; marketing can't go off and just do these things on their own, sales won’t buy it. Then, there can be some opt-in tactics where a sales rep could tick a box and say, “Yeah, run this tactic against this opportunity.” You could also even automate some of it if you have buy-in from the sales team. This can lead to greater engagement.
Brown: That's where this change from Salesforce I mentioned earlier is going to be groundbreaking. We've never been able to say, “I want all the people connected to this opportunity to get this program.” You’re now going to be able to target based on the deal.
[Salesforce] is going to allow triggers to happen when people are added or removed from a deal. Then, in their next release, there's going to be workflow rules so you can have automation do that for you. Now B2B companies are going to be able to act on the engagement within that opportunity. Deal acceleration now becomes so much easier, and so much more streamlined, and so much more automated.