The B2B sales funnel is inherently longer than most industries. While some argue that B2B sales funnels are dead, it cannot be farther from the truth.
Most B2B sales teams, if not all, constantly hunt for solutions to improve their sales funnel and optimize pipeline efforts.
But how do you build a funnel to fuel growth?
In this article, we’ll dive into what B2B sales funnels are all about, how to create a tight funnel, and what mistakes to avoid while building one.
What Is a B2B Sales Funnel?
A B2B sales funnel is a stage-wise representation of a typical B2B customer’s journey, from being aware of your solution to actually purchasing it. It walks you through the sequence of steps an ideal prospect takes to become a customer.
A sales funnel for B2B has five primary stages: awareness, interest, evaluation, engagement, and action.
The biggest benefit? B2B sales funnels break down the sales process into smaller chunks so you can easily detect prospects’ pain points and challenges in moving to the next stage, thus giving you a sense of direction in moving them across the funnel.
What’s The Difference Between a B2B Sales Funnel And a B2B Sales Pipeline?
Sales funnels and sales pipelines are used interchangeably, which is a big misunderstanding. They are different entities representing distinct steps in a typical sales process.
Sales funnel stages represent a buyer’s journey from when you’ve captured their attention to them taking action on your offering. Meanwhile, pipelines represent internal sales processes, for example, the exact steps SDRs take to convert leads, from building prospecting lists to negotiating and closing the sale.
A typical B2B sales funnel stages: Awareness ➔ Interest ➔ Evaluation ➔ Engagement ➔ Action.
A typical B2B sales pipeline stages: Prospecting ➔ lead qualification ➔ Pitching ➔ Negotiation ➔ Deal closing ➔ Retention.
To wrap up: a B2B sales funnel broadly depicts a buyer’s journey, and a pipeline depicts the sales teams’ internal processes involved in prospect conversion.
What Are the Stages of a B2B Sales Funnel?
Let’s discuss the five basic stages of the sales funnel involved in converting a lead to a customer:
Stage 1: The awareness
In this stage, the prospect faces a challenge or a pain point they’d love solutions to. They may search the web for answers through inbound marketing mediums and happen to spot a few solutions that fit their use case.
This is also the stage where prospects are the most curious and look for answers persistently.
For sales and marketing teams, the awareness stage is where they work to attract prospects to their solution by promoting how it solves their initial pain point.
Stage 2: The interest
In this stage, you’ve successfully attracted a prospect’s attention by subtly placing your product or service as the solution to fixing their woes.
And this is when prospects research your products or services deeply, get in touch with your support team for a product demo, etc., to see if your offering suits their needs.
Stage 3: The evaluation
In the evaluation stage, the potential customer weighs their options and moves closer to finalizing or rejecting the deal.
So as sales teams, you must help the prospect take the final call by stirring their interest and letting them access the right information across touchpoints. A pipeline stage similar to the evaluation stage is where you negotiate and close the deal through discovery calls, introductory meetings, etc.
Stage 4: The engagement
In the engagement stage, the qualified lead interacts with the sales team through presentations, product demonstration calls, and more.
The motive behind this stage is to move the potential customer closer to finalizing the deal by thoroughly understanding their pain points and explaining how your solution helps fix them over competitors.
Stage 5: The action
The action or the purchase stage is where the deal is closed, and you’ve successfully converted a lead.
However, this does not mean the sales funnel ends abruptly. To let your hard work pay off, ensure you continuously work toward building a strong relationship with customers and retain them using targeted follow-ups.
How to Create a Leak-Proof B2B Sales Funnel?
Let’s discuss how to build an effective, leak-proof B2B sales funnel for your business:
1. Understand your customers’ demands
Establishing any sales process needs a thorough understanding of who your customers are and what they need. And building a B2B sales funnel is not any different.
To understand customers’ and prospects’ demands and needs, you must:
- Keep an eye out for comments on competitors’ social media pages and review sites.
- Track your target audience’s activity, such as social media shares, likes, and email and website activity.
- Analyze your website using tools like Google Analytics to find trends, such as top-performing pages, most-clicked CTA, audience demographics, etc.
- Stay open to communication. Interview your current customers to know their expectations.
2. Ensure ease of communication with prospects at every stage of the sales funnel
It’s impossible for prospects to move down the consecutive sales funnel stages without proper advice to expedite their buying decision. And they may look for information using the below sources:
- Your sales team.
- Free resources on your website, social media, emails, etc.
- Review sites for unbiased opinions.
For example, you can use reviews or case studies to engage potential clients in the evaluation stage, SDR-run qualifying questions in the interest stage, and product-focused blog posts in the awareness stage.
3. Keep in touch with customers or follow up with prospects
How can you ensure prospects stick with you until the end of the sales funnel’s stage? It’s by nurturing them with targeted follow-ups and building strong connections.
And the same goes for your customers. Keep in touch with them and seek feedback to know what worked, what didn’t, and what needed improvements during their purchase journey.
A well-thought-through follow-up strategy is key to building a B2B sales funnel. Ensure your follow-up process is consistent and relevant so more leads easily go through the evaluation stage.
Here are a few statistics to prove follow-up effectiveness:
Some tips to build follow-ups into your funnel:
- Set up meeting reminders.
- Train your sales reps in outreach strategies and offer them cold emailing and cold-calling tips.
- Clean unresponsive prospects from your contact list to keep it healthy.
4. Organize your sales operational processes
Well-organized operational processes make it easier for your sales teams to track leads, know what they’re up to, fill your sales pipeline, and increase conversions.
Here’s how to stay organized without losing your sanity:
- Visualize your sales pipeline and interlink with sales funnel stages, as it helps to show where exactly your prospects are in the sales process.
- Use a powerful CRM system to organize contacts, send alerts, and keep every lead data in a single source of truth.
- Score leads to ensure you prioritize the most qualified ones.
5. Align your sales and marketing teams
There’s no either-or with sales and marketing in B2B processes. And the secret to building a leak-proof B2B sales funnel is the combined efforts of both sales and marketing teams.
Ensure both teams collaborate on essential tasks like lead generation and conversions. Ultimately, they must work in tandem toward achieving a common goal – generating and nurturing leads to fill up the sales pipeline.
5 Mistakes to Avoid for Growth
We’ve gathered 5 common mistakes marketing and sales teams make while trying to achieve growth with their sales funnel:
- Lack of strong calls to action
A strong call to action (CTA) should tell prospects exactly what to do. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, most B2B companies miss adding an effective CTA.
Moreover, studies suggest personalized CTAs convert 42% more prospects into leads than weak CTAs. A good CTA should be dynamically personalized and create a strong sense of urgency.
- Using unimpressive website design and copy
In B2B, websites are key in attracting potential customers in the awareness stage. So if your home and landing pages have bad navigation, design, and unattractive copy, it’s time to rework your website design and copy.
- Having a funnel with too many steps
A lengthy funnel with too many steps to conversion could lead to prospects losing track of your process and eventually opting out. Try to minimize steps and make the process simple and straightforward.
- Not following up with leads
Not all leads are conversion-ready from the word go. They may need a little push with follow-ups and a strong reason to convert. So you’re leaving money on the table if you’re not following up with your leads.
- Neglecting analytics data
B2B brands deal with enormous data waiting to be explored. Sales funnel conversion data is one such statistic that needs to be analyzed to optimize future campaigns. But most companies fail to use an analytical tool to recognize and study data to improve their funnels.
A leak-proof B2B sales funnel is founded on careful customer research, well-connected communication, and aligned teams and processes.
Monitoring and optimizing the B2B sales funnel should be proactive at every stage to avoid leaks and wasted efforts. Failing to do this can make your sales cycle longer than it already is.
Matej Mešár is a copywriter with a journalistic background based out of Bratislava, Slovakia. Currently, he has his sights set on the SaaS sphere. He works for CloudTalk, helping to create compelling messaging supporting the next generation of cloud communication.