As a business owner, you may or may not have a background in sales and marketing.
Heck, you may just be hanging on by a thread, learning as much as you can about digital marketing to grow your brand and increase leads.
But someone has to actually run the business, right? So marketing and lead generation may have fallen to the wayside.
This is especially the case in smaller companies that don’t have separate marketing and sales departments.
However, the sales funnel, created around the turn of the century, is still a valuable guide to boost your results.
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about the B2B sales funnel.
What Is a B2B Sales Funnel?
The idea behind the business-to-business sales funnel is to intentionally guide potential buyers on a path from introduction to your brand to the sale.
Elias St. Elmo Lewis, owner of an advertising agency and future member of the advertising hall of fame, developed the theory around 1990.
He explained the individual stages of a potential customer’s or buyer’s relationship with a business.
This model was later combined with the funnel concept and is still used today.
Why use the B2B sales funnel?
You built your business to see steady growth.
Using a funnel can help you get there by increasing sales and retaining customers.
You probably already get sales, but if you understand the process by which sales take place, you can increase conversions.
How Does a B2B Sales Funnel Work?
In a B2B sales funnel, first, you have to identify your buyer personas.
Then you can create targeted marketing campaigns designed to attract them.
Understanding what buyers are looking for and creating content to make them realize your product or service fills a gap in their inventory means more conversions for your business.
In other words, a sales funnel breaks the buying process down into smaller chunks. Each chunk is designed to attract a customer.
Therefore, honing each part of the process will ultimately mean more sales for your business.
What Are the Stages of a B2B Sales Funnel?
Nearly all B2C sales funnels contain only four stages, usually called AIDA: Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.
The individual consumer doesn’t need a salesperson to make a sale, and the sales cycle is much shorter.
However, the B2B sales funnel has two additional stages: Intent and Evaluation.
The expanded funnel from four to six stages is because of B2B’s unique characteristic of providing products or services to other businesses.
Most people are seeking out products or services to solve a problem.
At the top of the funnel, the potential customer or buyer does not know about your product.
They only need a solution to their problem. Figure out how to engage them and make them aware of your product or service.
Here, you use educational content focused on a targeted demographic. Some examples include blog posts, ebooks, checklists and infographics.
The second stage of the sales funnel involves interest.
The potential buyer or customer knows the problem they need to solve and has heard about your brand.
They need to know whether you can solve their problem.
In this stage, consumers are looking at multiple brands, so you need to stand out.
Make yourself unique by focusing on your product. Include a call to action or a discount for new customers. Schedule a meeting with a sales representative for an introduction.
Here, you have baited the hook, and the potential customer has taken a small bite.
In this state, a decision is often made.
Content marketing needs to work on closing the deal. The first valuable contact might occur, like a price request or meeting.
Try exclusive promotions or free trials. Follow up on leads. Respond quickly, as you are more likely to convert.
After the first meeting, you should follow up with the buyer.
This is the stage where product demos are commonplace. You may be asked to give a formal proposal for a sale.
Here, you can get a good idea of where the buyer sits. The sales team takes over, showing the buyer why you are the best choice.
In the evaluation stage, the buyer reviews all they have learned about you.
They pick apart your presentation and find out if your product is the right fit.
Here, you must know just what your competitors offer, as you can rest assured your potential buyer is comparing you to them.
The last stage, action, makes or breaks the deal.
If the buyer is interested, they make the purchase. If not, they will likely buy from a competitor.
This is often considered the most important stage and where the contract is signed.
Don’t slack off here, as you can easily build lasting relationships with buyers during this stage.
The Benefits of a Sales Funnel to B2B Business
First off, creating a sales funnel will help you know your public.
In turn, you can make sure your product or service meets your customer’s needs and solves their problems.
Amazon Business recently revealed that 91% of business buyers prefer online procurement to offline, which means more chances to gather insights and data to understand your target audiences.
Taking the time to get the pieces of the sales funnel working properly will mean increased sales for your business.
Tips on How to Create a B2B Sales Funnel
Don’t assume that the sales funnel has to be linear.
The more modern trend is to incorporate a variety of aspects of the modern, mostly digital business into the classic sales funnel approach.
Rather than looking like a funnel, your approach may look more like a squiggly line.
While you will generally follow the outline above, don’t be afraid to stray a little to the left or right if your product or service offers something unique.
Build an established sales process
Getting everyone on the same page will streamline the process.
Utilize spreadsheets, communicate expectations, look forward and make predictions or adjustments based on how things are going.
Let your sales team specialize
Some members may be more suited to front-end tasks, whereas sales managers can take over in the middle or end stages of the sales process.
Project managers then take over, making sure to nurture established client relationships.
Foster communication throughout the process
Communication comes in the form of:
- Person-to-person communication between the sales team and buyer.
- Content marketing designed to give buyers information.
- Unbiased reviews from outsiders.
Monitor the actual success of your team
The conversion rate can tell you a lot about whether your sales team is doing its job effectively.
Your sales and marketing teams can be professional, persuading potential customers and buyers to make the deal without being pushy.
Follow up with customers
The objective is to see what worked and what didn’t during their purchasing journey.
You can get lots of information by using surveys, analyzing sales and reading reviews.
Take the information you learn along the way and readjust your sales funnel accordingly.
You can also use customized content, making sure that your sales and marketing teams are on the same page.
Wrap Up: Incorporating a B2B Sales Funnel Into Your Business’s Operations
In this blog post, we have merely scratched the surface on the ins and outs of the B2B sales funnel.
There are various strategies and solutions that can be implemented by even the smallest companies to increase sales and streamline processes.
If you are ready to learn more, watch our recorded webinar with best-selling author Jason Miller!
You’ll see a great talk about the role of creativity in B2B Marketing.