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 boosting your results.
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about the B2B sales funnel.
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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 in on 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.
The 5 Stages of Sales Funnels
Although a sales funnel for B2B will be unique in specific ways, it’s still important to understand the basic structure of a successful sales funnel.
Here’s a brief rundown of the five stages.
At this stage, a lead is first becoming aware of your brand and product catalog.
They may also still be discovering their pain points, as well as the possible solutions out there.
The goal at this stage is to enlighten the prospect about all these things, spark an interest in your brand, and make them aware of your larger brand purpose.
Once a lead is aware of your brand, they progress to the interest stage.
This is the point where they start learning what your company is all about, checking out your service offerings, and potentially starting to consume your online content.
Strategies like keyword-rich blog posts, social media content, and email outreach can be helpful here.
At this stage of a sale funnel, prospective customers are still evaluating their options to see which option is the best fit for them.
At this point, use tactics like testimonials, reviews, newsletters, and ebooks to show them why your product is the solution they’re looking for.
Your lead has decided to buy at this point and likely only needs an extra nudge to pull the trigger on a purchase.
Make your product irresistible with strategies like limited-time specials and offers, retargeting efforts, targeted email correspondence, etc.
During the loyalty stage of a sales funnel strategy, you’ve successfully converted your customer.
Now the focus is on retaining them and making sure they become a repeat buyer. Marketing options like loyalty programs, discounts, re-engagement email content, etc., are super helpful at this point.
How Do You Optimize a B2B Sales Funnel?
Creating a solid sales funnel for B2B is only part of what it takes to start reaping the rewards of your efforts. The rest is about optimizing your sales funnel so it’s as efficient at leading consumers toward a final decision as possible.
Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Optimize your marketing content
As a B2B marketer, you can make your content a lot more effective by optimizing it for maximum results.
Start by segmenting your content delivery strategy to ensure each piece reaches precisely the audience it’s intended for.
Then take things to the next level by embracing methods like multi-channel messaging and thought leadership improvement.
Qualify and target your leads
On average, only 27% of B2B leads are appropriately qualified before they’re passed to the sales team for further nurturing.
However, unqualified leads are significantly less likely to convert, meaning your sales efforts aren’t as effective as they could be.
Implement a dedicated lead qualification strategy to improve conversions and better target the most valuable leads right from the get-go.
Use TOFU to raise awareness
Each portion of your sales funnel for B2B needs to be designed with the unique needs of those specific leads in mind.
A consumer at the top of your funnel (TOFU) is still in the awareness phase of their buyer journey, so create content that educates them on how your product can meet their needs and encourages them to reach out.
Think about tutorials, how-to and step-by-step guides, etc.
Maximize the efficiency of your MOFU
Once leads move to the middle of your B2B sales funnel (MOFU), they’ve progressed to the intent phase of their journey.
This is the point where B2B sales reps should be digging into the nitty-gritty details with prospective customers, determining their needs, and using what they learn to nudge them toward a purchase.
The key to success here is to focus on discovering customer pain points and emphasizing how your product can help resolve them.
The Benefits of a Sales Funnel for 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 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 is 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 of 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, about the role of creativity in B2B Marketing.