B2B sales can often seem like a mystery.
You’re selling to sophisticated buyers at high price points and the sales cycle takes much longer.
How are you supposed to know what your prospects are thinking during each stage? And more importantly, when will they finally buy?
Enter the B2B sales funnel.
What is the B2B Sales Funnel?
The B2B sales funnel is a sequence of big-picture steps your prospects go through before they finally buy. It’s a model that helps you create your own customer journey.
It also helps you determine customer-by-customer what kind of sales and marketing activities prospects will likely respond to. It helps you turn awareness into leads, and leads into customers.
Why Do B2B Businesses Need a Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is a strategic framework that guides potential customers through a series of stages, from initial awareness to making a purchase decision. While some may argue that B2B sales don’t require a funnel due to the complexity of the sales process, implementing a sales funnel can benefit B2B businesses. Let’s explore why B2B businesses need a sales funnel.
Structured Lead Management
A sales funnel provides a structured approach to managing leads effectively. B2B sales cycles are typically longer and involve multiple decision-makers. By implementing a sales funnel, businesses can categorize leads based on their stage in the buying journey and allocate appropriate resources and efforts accordingly. This structured lead management ensures that potential customers receive the right information and support at each stage, increasing the likelihood of conversion.
Enhanced Lead Qualification
In B2B sales, it’s crucial to focus on quality leads rather than quantity. A sales funnel enables businesses to qualify leads based on their level of interest, engagement, and fit with the ideal customer profile. As leads progress through the funnel, businesses can gather valuable data and insights, allowing them to prioritize and allocate resources to leads that have the highest potential for conversion. This targeted approach saves time and resources by avoiding wasted efforts on unqualified leads.
Increased Conversion Rates
One of the primary goals of a sales funnel is to guide leads through the buying process and convert them into paying customers. B2B businesses can significantly increase their conversion rates by mapping out the stages of the funnel and tailoring messaging and content to address the specific needs and pain points of leads at each stage. A well-designed funnel ensures that potential customers receive the right information and nurturing at each touchpoint, building trust and confidence in the solution being offered.
Improved Customer Relationship Management
B2B sales often involve building long-term relationships with customers. A sales funnel allows businesses to implement effective customer relationship management strategies. By tracking customer interactions, preferences, and behaviors throughout the funnel, businesses can provide personalized experiences and targeted communication, fostering stronger connections and customer loyalty. This tactic enables businesses to identify upselling and cross-selling opportunities to maximize customer lifetime value.
Data-Driven Decision Making
Implementing a sales funnel provides B2B businesses with valuable data and insights that can drive informed decision making. By tracking key metrics at each stage of the funnel, such as conversion rates, time spent in each stage, and customer acquisition costs, businesses can identify bottlenecks, optimize their sales process, and make data-driven adjustments to improve overall performance. It helps businesses identify trends, patterns, and opportunities, empowering them to make strategic decisions that lead to growth and profitability.
Scalability and Growth
By understanding the conversion rates and customer acquisition costs at each stage, businesses can predict their sales and revenue potential, allowing for better resource allocation and forecasting. A scalable sales funnel also ensures that businesses can replicate successful strategies and processes as they expand into new markets, target new customer segments, or introduce new products and services.
6 B2B Sales Funnel Stages
Prospects need to know you exist before they can buy from you.
So, this stage is all about attracting interest, building your brand, and developing trust with prospects before starting conversations with them.
Awareness is precisely why you do all the marketing activities you do. You’re trying to get your brand in front of your ideal customers, so you can begin developing a relationship with them.
As you attract the attention of your target audience, you’ll get a percentage of people who want to “get their toes wet” with your brand.
They aren’t likely interested in buying a high-ticket offer at this point, or even anything for that matter.
But they want to know specifically how you could help them.
Your goal is to continue to build the relationship and demonstrate your authority–while also solving more of the prospects’ problems.
This stage is where your prospect becomes a marketing qualified lead and sales usually steps in to convert the warm lead into a customer.
Free trials, demos, case studies, and quiz funnels are effective at this stage because you can give your prospect a first-hand look at what you offer.
At my content marketing agency Rank Tree, I retarget frequent blog visitors to my case studies page. These pages have detailed examples of how I helped people accomplish the results they’re looking for.
Your main goal is to move them to some sort of action–not necessarily a purchase yet, but a small commitment.
The engagement stage (also referred to as “Intent”) is where you separate the wheat from the chaff–you’re looking to convert prospects into potential buyers. This is arguably the most difficult stage in the whole process.
It’s where you have to convince people who are moderately interested in your offering to take a serious step towards purchasing (e.g. booking a sales call or talking with a sales rep).
You also have to convince them to go with your brand over others, because they’re aware of their need and have likely researched your competitors.
This is the holy grail–the closed deal.
Only a percentage of people will reach this ultimate goal, but that’s okay and to be expected.
That’s why you build your lead pipeline to send as many qualified prospects through your funnel as possible. But even after you get your prospect to officially become a customer, your work isn’t done.
After the sale, you have to focus on retaining your customers and drumming up referrals.
This stage includes your product or service delivery, the quality of your solution, and your customer service.
If you can live up to your promises from stages 1-4, then you’ll create a referral machine and retain your customers.
B2B Sales Funnel vs. B2C Sales Funnel
How is this different from the B2C sales funnel?
The main difference is the length.
The B2B sales cycle is significantly longer than B2C because you’re working with:
- Higher price points – often $10,000-$100,000+ vs. $100-$1,000
- More decision makers – B2B purchases usually have to get approval from multiple people whereas B2C is usually only one person.
- Longer customer lifetime – B2B purchases often mean you’re engaging with a company for the long haul and there are substantial switching costs.
So, while the stages are the same with both B2C and B2B funnels, B2C prospects can go through the entire cycle within a day while B2B sales cycles can last for months.
How to Build Your B2B Sales Funnel
1. Map Out Your Customer Journey
The most critical part of building a B2B sales funnel is mapping out the specifics of your customers’ journey through the funnel stages.
For example, what does it look like specifically when your prospects are in the awareness stage? What about the consideration stage?
Empathy maps are effective because they can help you determine what your prospects are thinking and feeling.
You have to get inside your prospect’s head and determine the most valuable thing you can offer them at each stage in the funnel.
2. Determine Your Content Assets
Once you’ve mapped out your strategy, it’s time to execute.
Here, you determine which specific content assets you’ll need at each stage of your funnel (e.g. webinars, whitepapers, workshops).
Here’s an example I laid out in my post on SaaS content marketing that gives an example:
Finding the best answer for each stage means truly understanding your customers. You need to know the specific pain points they’re experiencing and goals they have during each step of the funnel.
The more fine-tuned your content assets are, the better leads you’ll generate with your funnel.
3. Test & Iterate
Your work isn’t over even when your funnel is built.
Consumer behavior will change.
Industry-changing trends will emerge.
Or certain pieces of your funnel will stop working over time.
And that’s why it’s so important to approach your B2B sales funnel like a scientist. You’ll constantly have to experiment and optimize to find the right formula for generating high-quality leads.
Keep a pulse on your numbers and what your marketing and sales teams are saying from the front lines, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
Succeed With a Rock-Solid B2B Sales Funnel
Your funnel is the lifeblood of your business. That’s why it’s so important to put this level of intentionality, strategy, and effort into building the best B2B sales funnel possible. Following these frameworks and principles are a great starting point.