The AIDA sales funnel is dead. Maybe it's okay for B2C but B2B sales are a buying process, supported by industry analysts. Created by Starsight Analyst Relations.

The death of the sales funnel.

RIP the AIDA funnel.

The 110+ year old purchase funnel is OK for B2C… and it’s proven rather enduring. Elias St. Elmo Lewis who worked back then at Burroughs (of early mainframe fame, now known as Unisys) came up with AIDA around 1898-1910, the idea a consumer moves through four stages when buying a product:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action
The AIDA sales funnel show buyers moving through four stages: attention, interest, desire, action. This is useful for B2C sales but our blog argues it is not for B2B sales. Shared by Starsight Analyst Relations.
Source: Techs Place

But what works well for B2C doesn’t translate well in the business-to-business world. In our B2B information technology industry, buying hardware, software or services often include teams of buyers, with an average of 25 people, increasing to 35 when you consider those sitting outside of the buying organisation.

And it doesn’t stop there: B2B buying involves routinely other parties: consultants and SI’s, ISV’s, VAR’s. The common point between all those third parties? They value and seek third party opinions.

Additionally, B2B technologies or services aren’t an impulse purchase. Sure, you can get a ChatGPT licence and start using GenAI immediately but mostly it’s about experiencing a broken business process and realising that there’s a new way to resolve it. It can come from a hyped issue. Take Y2K or GenAI: maybe the CFO will fear there’s a risk that needs addressing, the CCO will wonder whether customer experience can be improved, etc. And the CEO will ask if her competitors are already using it.

As B2B buying turns to groupwork, it is hard to pinpoint a specific buyer: with several buyers and many signals, marketers are finding extremely difficult to understand when and where buying decision are actually made. Quite often, B2B sales teams focus on C-level, which in some circumstances can unblock a solution and help close a deal. But the reality is that CIO’s and other C-suite executives often delegate key aspects of the buying process to their teams, for instance IT architects to ensure a vendor solution will work well in a given IT landscape. Those teams will more often than not preselect vendors and technologies and the CIO and/or her peers will rubber-stamp this after the negotiation stage.

Big FIG Gartner is saying that B2B buying doesn’t play out in any kind of predictable, linear order. Instead, customers engage in what one might call “looping” across a typical B2B purchase, revisiting each of those six buying jobs at least once.” In the illustrative B2B buying journey image below, those six buying jobs are the four in the orange boxes, plus validation and consensus creation, which span the entire process.

Technology industry analyst firm Gartner designed a B2B buying journey, buying process or new version of the sales funnel which is an illustrative example of four main steps (problem identification, solution exploration, requirements building and supplier selection) with many loops and sub-steps. Vendors, peers, social media and industry analysts all have influences at different stages. Shared by Starsight Analyst Relations.
Source: Gartner

Even though B2B technology procurement is complex and team-led, marketers still regularly focus on “decision maker” personas only. Personas tend to focus on core users or final approvers –and omit other influencers, internal and external such as channel and consultants. Focusing on the known players, those decision makers who speak directly to the vendor is myopic as most sales interactions happen outside of vendor knowledge. Cue the spaghetti monster.

The new sales spaghetti monster.

B2B buying is not a funnel, and it’s not a cycle either – it’s a spaghetti monster. With the shift from individual buyers into buying groups, there are more and more external sources to keep on top of to ensure consistent messaging and positive positioning throughout the buying process.

Those external sources include industry events, B2B peer review sites and, of course, technology industry analysts. You cannot sit back and hope those sources work for you, you have to get ahead of the game and start influencing them.

One thing is certain and that is analysts influence all stages. As the original thought leaders, analysts have the ability to influence buying decision makers all the way from the line of business level to the C-Suite and so they can be key to driving sales for any B2B technology business.

The Starsight spaghetti monster: B2B sales process is a complex process, industry analysts are influential at every step.


  • What it looks like: realisation and gradual consensus on a business issue (for instance CX or internal processes) that needs to be remedied.
  • Analyst influence: trend reports, other syndicated research, webinar and event commentary on the market.
  • Other influences: peers, social media commentary, customers, regulation, competitive pressure.
  • Stakeholders: C-level, sometimes progressive IT, people close to the business issue.


  • What it looks like: definition of requirements to solve this issue and understanding of the technology solutions available.
  • Analyst influence: inquiries, case study reports.
  • Other influences: peers, consultants, channel.
  • Stakeholders: CTO, line of business, users, architects.

Evaluation & selection.

  • What it looks like: deeper understanding of technology solutions to create a long list, then short list and RFIs.
  • Analyst influence: evaluative research reports like the Gartner Magic Quadrant, Forrester Wave and IDC MarketScape, inquiries and advisory.
  • Other influences: peer review websites, sourcing advisors, vendors.
  • Stakeholders: CTO, procurement, IT, users


  • What it looks like: tender and negotiation to secure the deal.
  • Analyst influence: buying guides, inquiries.
  • Other influences: vendors, sales integrators, peers.
  • Stakeholders: IT, finance, procurement.

Implementation & repurchase.

  • What it looks like: strategy, training and establishment of best practices. Also understanding of any other tools required to succeed.
  • Analyst influence: inquiries, best practice reports.
  • Other influences: vendors, sales integrators.
  • Stakeholders: IT, users.

Analyst relations supports complex B2B sales processes.

With all this time B2B buyers spend with those outside of your sales team, it makes sense to use AR as an insurance policy. Analysts have contacts with all of those external sources that buyers consult. They are speakers at industry events and host some of the largest themselves, such as the Gartner Symposium and Forrester B2B Summits. They use B2B Peer Review Sites to inform their research and Gartner even has an entire suite of them. They are also trusted third party advisors and speak to c-suite, LOB managers, procurement and partners on inquiries.

Analyst relations’ mission is to create a business environment conducive to business. Industry analysts are the original thought leaders, they see conversations in the marketplace. They’re enjoying a unique vantage point, talking and consulting not only with end-user and buyers but also with all other ecosystem participants such as consultants and system integrators, business process outsourcers, technology vendors, regulators, channel partners, etc. This vantage point is how they can bring business value, as such, an analyst relations strategy will bring 4 key impacts: sales, go-to-market, insights and awareness.

Ignore them at your peril -they’re a fundamental part of the buying process spaghetti monster.

With thanks to Jon Collins / GigaOm and Jon Reed / Diginomica (check this blog post) for their time and invaluable input.

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