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STAMFORD, Conn., November 13, 2019

Gartner Says the Traditional Linear Sales Process No Longer Exists

Sales Leaders Must Adjust Their Pipeline Management and Forecasting to Accommodate B2B Buyers’ Nonlinear Buying Journey

Today’s B2B buyers are defying the traditional sequential progression of sales stages, according to Gartner, Inc. With easy access to a wealth of quality information, buyers engage with sellers less frequently, and often revisit buying tasks that were traditionally executed chronologically.

“The B2B buyer’s journey is not a linear process,” said Steve Rietberg, senior research director in Gartner's Sales practice. “Gartner research indicates that B2B buyers go through six distinct steps to successfully complete a purchase. Often, however, they execute and re-execute these steps in parallel, while sellers track deals using discrete stages in a linear sales process, creating a disconnect.”

This disconnect reduces the accuracy of pipeline analytics and sales forecasts. As a result, sales managers cannot proactively identify stalled deals or seller needs because they lack a reliable method for gauging progress and identifying risk in their sellers’ deals. Subsequently, sales managers are unable to prescribe effective next steps to rescue stalled deals, or know when to walk away.

“The traditional approach of determining an opportunity’s probability to close based on sales stage completion simply no longer applies,” said Mr. Rietberg. “Sales leaders must provide sellers with an efficient method for navigating a nonlinear buyer’s journey and make changes to their pipeline management and forecasting to measure the progress of active opportunities more effectively.”

To get started, Gartner recommends that sales leaders:

  • Increase pipeline quality by measuring deal progress based on customer verifiers. This will give sellers a standard method for scoring their opportunities with more precision than a sales process with artificially imposed linear sales stages.
  • Improve sales analytics and lessen seller burden by integrating and automating opportunity scoring within customer relationship management (CRM)/sales force automation (SFA) systems. This allows selling organizations to evolve from a CRM/SFA based on a traditional linear sales process to one that assesses the pipeline with consideration for the actual buyer’s journey.
  • Incorporate opportunity scoring into forecast analytics. Opportunity scoring based on customer verifier completion and buyer job revisits offers a more accurate method for quantifying pipeline value and helps lay the foundation for artificial intelligence (AI) forecasting.
  • Build analytics based on buyer job progress. This provides sellers and their managers with a powerful new set of sales metrics to help identify opportunity risk and areas of seller need.

Gartner for Sales Leaders clients can learn more about how to navigate today’s nonlinear buying process in the report "Pipeline Management and Forecasting in a Nonlinear Buying Process."

About Gartner for Sales Leaders

Gartner for Sales Leaders provides heads of sales and their teams with the insights, advice and tools they need to address mission-critical priorities amid mounting pressures to drive growth through new and existing customers. With extensive qualitative and quantitative research, Gartner for Sales Leaders helps sales teams combat commoditization and price-based purchasing, develop critical manager and seller skills, elevate the value of sales interactions, unlock existing growth potential, and optimize sales force enablement.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and an objective resource for more than 14,000 enterprises in more than 100 countries — across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.

To learn more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business, visit gartner.com.

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