The 5 Stages of A Successful B2B Sales Funnel You Should Know
A B2B sales funnel is the cornerstone of any business. If you're struggling to grow sales, you can be sure that there's a problem in the funnel. Unless you know how to build an effective sales funnel, there is no real chance for your business whatsoever.
If you are in B2B sales, you need to create a sales funnel that converts potential clients into paying customers. The sales funnel has a series of sales stages that convert a prospect into a paying customer. This article will guide you on how a sales funnel works and explain the five stages you should know.
What Is a B2B Sales Funnel?
The sales funnel is the most important idea in modern business, and it's important to understand how it works. It shows the sales process as a multi-step process, with several stages and steps in each stage. The purpose is to keep the lead aware of your company's value and convert them into a sale.
Sales funnels are a key tool in the marketing arsenal of both B2B and B2C businesses. A well-implemented sales funnel enables a company to guide a customer from a lower-priced product or service into a more expensive offering.
Why is B2B Sales Funnel essential?
If you're running a business and creating a sales funnel, you know how important it is to master the sales funnel as each stage defines which goals and actions you need to work on as you move toward the end goal.
The sales funnel is the engine that powers your B2B sales process. It is the process through which leads are converted into customers.
If you're looking to grow your B2B sales funnel, it's important to understand where your leads are currently in the acquisition process. If you aren't sure where to begin, take the time to learn more about the different stages of the B2B sales funnel, use your funnel analytics to find out where they're at, and start selling to your leads today.
The 5 Stages of A Successful B2B Sales Funnel You Should Know
When we think about sales funnels, we think about creating one that converts visitors into leads and then into sales. That's the theory. The reality is that sales funnels can be complex and need to be managed and nurtured aggressively.
The sales funnel has five stages,
1. Awareness stage
In this stage of the funnel, a B2B customer will look for answers. They need the resources, data, education, opinions, and insight necessary to solve their problem. The problem might be simple or complicated, like a new supplier for manufacturing issues or software that integrates their front-end and back-end operations.
Now at this stage, the value of the lead is low as there is no guarantee that they will pursue a solution from your brand. But, if you provide them high-level information and relevant content, they might become interested in your products or services.
At the top of the funnel, a user persona is vital to understanding how your customers think, what problems they're trying to solve, and their path to the solution.
2. Interest stage
In the Interest stage, they start researching your products to gather more information about them. This is the initial stage in the buying process where trust is built. At this point, nurturing the lead is majorly focused on boosting the opinion of your brand in the customer's eyes.
3. Evaluation stage
During the evaluation stage, you have solidly captured the buyer's attention. Now it is time to focus on showing how your solution is suitable for the customer needs.
To further build trust, this is the time to let your leads know if your solution is not in their best interest.
A show of honesty and integrity at this critical stage might help in the future, even if your product and service don't meet the customer's needs at this time.
4. Engagement stage
When your lead is in the engagement stage, they will be interacting with your sales team. This might include a product demo, sales pitch, and clear communication to understand the buyer's pain points and help them reach a solution. Again, the relationship and trust you create at this level are crucial in the lead moving to the last stage.
5. Purchase stage
In a traditional sales funnel, the purchase or buying stage is the end. The Purchase Order is either written or approved. But just because a customer bought your products do not mean that you have reached the end of the B2B sales funnel.
Post-purchase engagement keeps the customer happy, further feeds the funnel, and is key to building a strong B2B sales pipeline. That is because 84% of B2B sales start with a referral via a friend or colleague, and these referral leads convert 30% more.
While the traditional sales and B2B marketing funnel are still the most widely used strategy, account-based marketing advancements (ABM) are changing the traditional role of the funnel.
How to build the perfect B2B sales funnel
The chances are your sales and marketing teams must be familiar with the B2B sales funnel philosophy - identify and break down the key steps in a buyer journey to understand better where actions are taken, and opportunities lie.
The classic sales funnel model has been around since 1898. And while the main stages of this nearly 125-year-old approach are still relevant, the model is quite outdated because the B2B customer base has changed.
The B2B buyers now go through a complex and multi-tiered journey when making their purchase decision. Unlike generations before them, today's buyers have access to thousands of results, reviews, ratings, and sites at their fingertips in seconds.
A Google study revealed that 89% of B2B researchers use the web to research their B2B customers, and 81% of customers use the internet to research the B2B businesses in return. So why use a B2B sales funnel model that does not address modern, digital business?
That is why Forrester issued several reports in 2010 against the classic model. And further research in 2012 showed that many prospects did not fit the traditional B2B sales model and actively fell through its gaps. As a result, new models have emerged,
- Forrester's models - A combination of peer reviews, recommendations from friends, competitive alternatives, and user-generated content that pushes leads through the discover, explore, buy, and engage stages.
- McKinsey loyalty loop - McKinsey presented their model in 2009. The classic AIDA model was added with a loyalty stage, or to be more specific, a circle with a loyalty loop, which showed how positive the post-purchase experience contributed to the reselling.
- Heinz model - This sales model has community, awareness, consideration, action, the value realized, loyalty, evangelism. This model is also called a Bowtie because of its shape.
- The Conversion Funnel - This B2B sales funnel concept has pre-awareness, awareness, research & familiarity, option & shortlist, consideration, purchase, brand ambassador, repurchase intent, or defection.
- JB Media Group's sales funnel -JB Media group presented this model in 2018. This involves brand awareness, lead generation, client nurturing, and retention.
- RAIN Group's buying process - RAIN Group never talked about the sales funnel, but instead created a buying process model. This model has prospecting/dissatisfaction, prospecting/analysis, solution crafting/intervention, solution presentation/selection, win/commitment, and account development/implementation
Here we will explore these modern models and the classic model to engage with leads to increase close rates and support the new business after purchase.
1. Attract customer attention
Your customers have countless options and limited time to explore them all. An average person spends just 37 seconds scanning a piece of content about products and services they consider during the research and awareness phase.
If you wait until they are ready to purchase, you are too late. They are on to the next option already. Instead, you could focus on building top-of-mind awareness before customers even know they need your product and ensure they already know to turn to you when a problem arises.
By personalizing content to the buyer personas you want to convert, you ensure they are not turned away by the information that is not relevant to them. This might seem simple, but 73% of B2B consumers are turned off by sites that display ads, promotions, and blogs that have nothing to do with them.
But how do you know what these buyers want before they do and showcase this information in a captivating way? By learning from your current leads through requests for proposals (RFPs), analyzing conversion rates and the resources buyers most use, and tracking where current buyers take action.
Then, once you know you create content that leads to love, offer downloadable lead magnets and other content marketing incentives to drive them to provide their email address. You can also build brand awareness by regularly engaging with them through email drip campaigns that showcase your expertise and service.
2. Nurture your relationships
Consistency is crucial to ensuring your leads stick with you through every stage of the B2B sales funnel. For 63% of customers, B2B companies have to demonstrate their knowledge and relevancy three to five times before leads begin to believe your business's claims. If you are not consistently putting your products and services in front of them, they will not consider you a valid option when they make purchasing decisions.
It could be hard to convince your sales team to produce content for this early stage, as the ROI (Return on investment) isn't always obvious. But only 4% of your website visitors are ready to buy, and the other 96% need nurturing to get to the next step.
It takes an ideal buyer 84 days to go from the awareness to consideration phase of the B2B sales funnel. This is not just about capturing more leads but making sure good, and quality leads convert. By investing in the crucial stages of customer journeys, companies generate 50% more leads and see a 9.3% higher sales quota.
Like the awareness stage at the top of the funnel, drip email marketing is excellent to nurture relationships with potential customers. Send prospects personalized cold emails that they find interesting to engage and educate with while keeping your brand top of mind.
To take this approach beyond awareness creation, use a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track what type of content your potential buyers most engage with and which buyers are reading and clicking through it most often. These key metrics signal when leads go from curiosity to exploring options and signal your sales professionals to reach out.
3. Make the first impression count.
The saying first impressions are lasting impressions could not be more true in B2B sales funnels. Therefore, when qualified leads are ready to progress down the sales pipeline, it is vital that your sales rep show they understand each lead's unique problems.
Remember those customer surveys, RFPs, and other metrics you analyzed in the awareness stage? Use them to learn about the challenges leads most face to build trust and respect.
Reports have shown that B2B companies whose sales representative focused on solving three to four customer problems on the initial call saw an 81-85% success rate of the customer moving down the B2B sales process.
To make sure that customers respond quickly to your first contact,
- Spend some time in the awareness stage to identify a handful of issues that your customers face.
- Come up with a scenario of the unique ways your product or service helps leads overcome these challenges.
- Ensure this resource is quickly and easily available to the sales professional who makes the first contact, as 35-50% of the sales are closed by the first salesperson to respond to leads.
Also, utilize a CRM to note the specific questions and challenges the lead encounter when they first reach out and add these to your first call plan. Initial calls should quickly point out your product value, how you can help address their needs, and leave time for questions from customers.
4. Drive home your value
It is easy to let your foot off the gas when your customers are ready to convert because you have had good calls and emails that seem like the lead will convert on their own. However, this method costs companies valuable, easy-to-reach business. Also, 47% of larger purchases are made by nurtured leads, those who receive support all the way to the close than leads left to their own devices.
Help your leads across the last stages of the sales funnel by implementing the ASK process:
- Align priorities - Explain that you understand your lead's pain points and show how your product resolves them.
- Secure commitment - Talk about the additional benefits of doing business with you and answer the lead's questions, if any.
- Keep the relationship alive - If you do not get a yes right away, ensure to check in with your lead later. Even if they do not become a customer, they might be able to provide valuable insight on enhancing your sales funnel.
By engaging with your buyers consistently from the first contact to the close through follow-up emails, personalized messaging, and cold calling, you improve the chance of their conversion and build a strong customer relationship that lasts long even after they purchase.
5. Continue to build a strong relationship after the close.
This is where most modern B2B sales funnels differ from the traditional five-stage model. In the past, businesses focused only on getting the purchase, leaving their sales and marketing activities after this last B2B sales funnel stage.
But that ignores the power of customer referrals and customer retention.
Your buyers know their industry-best, and if you nurture that relationship and ensure customer satisfaction via excellent customer service, you can attract sales-qualified leads with less work and a greater chance of a conversion. You also benefit from return sales, which is six to seven times less expensive than the cost of acquiring a new customer.
Similar to the awareness stage at the very beginning, it all comes back to communication. Check your existing customers with surveys and email follow-ups from your sales team. You'll learn what they love most about your product, gather valuable testimonials, and even prompt them to share their buying experience with friends and on social media.
If you want to drive them to refer friends and post reviews, consider giving rewards for these actions, like coupons, discounts on future purchases and services.
Your B2B sales funnel is not just about new leads, but about the business's long-term growth.
The key to ensuring your B2B sales processes resonates with your prospective customers and guides them seamlessly through the purchase funnel lies in understanding your pipeline data.
The process of selling a product or service is an intricate and important part of any business. The stages above help outline the journey from cold contact to offer to negotiation to purchase to launch and beyond. To help ensure that you have a successful sales funnel, you will want to build a solid relationship with your potential customers and show them that they can trust you to keep their data secure.
Following the five stages outlined above will help you build a successful sales funnel that leads from cold contact to purchase. Apart from the sales funnel, there are several other B2B sales strategies and cold email practices that could help boost your sales and conversions.
What is a B2B sales pipeline?
A B2B sales pipeline shows how your sales team influences the pool of potential buyers, focusing on what actions were taken to win the deal.
What is the buyer's journey?
This term appeared as an acknowledgment of the buyer's power and control over the buying process.
What are B2B sales?
B2B companies make transactions with other businesses and often sell and target a group rather than an individual consumer.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a strategic inbound marketing strategy focused on digitally creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and educational content to attract, retain, and qualify potential new leads.
What Will Buyers Look For?
Buyers will consider your product based on the value of your solution, the relationship you've built with other buyers, and the customer service you've to offer.
What is B2B Marketing?
In B2B marketing, there is little to no personal emotion involved in the decision-making process.