A B2B sales funnel (aka B2B lead generation funnel) is the foundational basis of inbound marketing efforts for any business. If you’re facing challenges with scaling up your sales, you more certainly have potential roadblocks in your sales funnel. If you fail to craft an impactful sales funnel, your chances of growth become compromised significantly.
If you are a B2B company or service, you need to develop an effective sales funnel that converts prospects into paying and long-term customers. The sales funnel possesses a sequence of sales stages that varies with your buyer’s journey in your sales funnel and converts your prospects into loyal customers.
In this blog post, we will discuss each stage of the sales funnel and how you can craft an effective strategy to optimize each stage to boost the efficiency of your sales funnel and marketing campaigns.
What is the B2B Lead Generation Funnel?
The B2B sales funnel defines how B2B prospects discover, research, and perceive content that impacts their purchase decision and brand choice. Understanding the vitality of the sales funnel and how prospects pass through each stage before converting into customers, is the determinant for the success of any B2B lead generation strategy.
The lead generation sales funnel considered the most remarkable entity in modern digital marketing efforts, and it’s vital to determine its overall functionality and flows. It showcases the overall buyer journey with your business as a multi-tier process, with different ingredients to address customers’ pain points at each stage. The objective is to keep your prospects aware of your business value proposition and convert them into customers at the bottom of the sales funnel.
The Important 5 Stages of a B2B Sales Funnel
When we talk about B2B sales funnels, we discuss creating one that leads website visitors to the sales. That’s a simple picture of the overall sales funnel idea. In practice, the sales funnel is more complex and needs to be optimized robustly.
The B2B sales funnel possesses five stages, namely:
Let’s discuss each sale funnel stage in detail.
1. Awareness stage
The awareness stage is all about making your brand visible as an industry leader in your niche.
In the first stage of the B2B sales funnel, your B2B prospect will be looking for answers in the awareness stage. They need enough resources, information, reviews, and insight necessary to identify and resolve their conflict or problem. Their problems can be overly simple or complex.
At this stage, the quality of the lead is very low as there is no certainty that they will continue their journey with your brand up to the sales stage. But, if you attract them with top funnel marketing ideas and nurture them with informative & relevant content, you can trigger their interest in your brand and products or services.
At the awareness stage, a buyer persona is vital to determine how your ideal customers think, what are their pain points, and their preferences. It helps you focus your efforts on prospects who are more likely to become paying customers.
2. Interest stage
In this stage, your prospect starts researching, comparing, and evaluating your products or services to collect more information. They use this information as a knowledge base to prioritize their choices and finalize their purchase decision in the late stages. This is the first and most vital stage in the buyer journey where trust starts growing. At this stage, your lead nurturing efforts primarily focused on showcasing the value of your brand and its products to make them considerable to your potential customers.
3. Intent stage
Up to the intent stage, you have hooked your prospect’s attention. Now it’s time to focus on showcasing your products and services as the most viable solution for their problems and business. To further strengthen trust, this is the point to let your leads determine if your solution is worthy and practical enough to resolve their pain points.
A gesture of transparency & integrity at this vital stage can be fruitful in the longer run, even if your products or services don’t meet the required criteria of your prospects.
4. Engagement stage
When your prospects reach the engagement stage, your sales team takes charge of the marketing team and interacts with your prospects. It includes pushing a product demo, freemium or trial periods, sales pitch, and clear communication further to evaluate the customers’ expectations and pain points. Again, the relationship and trust you develop at the engagement stage are essential in pushing the lead to the last stage.
5. Sales or Purchase stage
The purchase or sales stage is the last stage in a mainstream sales funnel. But just because a customer bought your products or service doesn’t necessarily mean that your B2B sales journey ends here.
Post-conversion engagement and nurturing are necessary to win loyal and long-term customers. According to the stats, over 80% of B2B sales are triggered by referrals via friends or colleagues, and the referral leads have a 30% higher potential to become a customer.
Sales Funnel Vs. Sales Pipeline
Consider the following visuals to understand B2B sales funnel stages and B2B sales pipeline stages.
B2B sales pipeline stages are somehow similar to those of a b2b lead generation funnel, but they are represented slightly differently. B2B sales pipelines offer a competitive edge to sales teams as they showcase the value of a deal, the scale of the potential deal, and the various stages of a current deal at any given time.
B2b sales funnel models, on the other hand, are vital for indicating how prospects are exploring a particular service or business and whether enough leads are reaching the bottom of the sales funnel.
Another notable difference is a sales pipeline is primarily geared toward the activity of a business and its roadmap to find prospects and determine whether they match your buyer persona.
Whereas a B2B lead generation funnel aims significantly on the prospect and the buyer journey. The buyer journey involves how your prospects discover a business and gradually move to the bottom of the sales funnel as their interest and thirst to resolve a particular conflict grows.
In simple words, a B2B sales pipeline is intended to focus on the process that your sales team leverages to convert a prospect into paying customer; a B2B lead generation funnel showcases the buyer’s journey from the prospect’s point of view.
It makes vital for a business to use both sales pipeline and sales funnel to craft an effective lead generation strategies. For instance, a business can leverage a sales pipeline to evaluate how impactful its sales process is. Consider a sales team that measures how many hot leads they are attracting, how many appointments or demos they are getting scheduled, how many prospects they are outreaching, and how many prospects they are converting into customers.
Whereas your marketing team leverages different B2B sales funnel stages to get deeper and more fruitful insights into how and where prospects are discovering and interacting with their business.
B2B sales funnels provide your sales and marketing teams with a winning edge in discovering any areas of their sales and marketing campaigns that need to be optimized in order to boost their brand awareness and lead nurturing process It interns, reduces your customer acquisition costs, and boosts the ROI and results into successful lead generation campaigns.
How to Maximize Your Effectiveness in Each B2B Sales Funnel Stage
To improve the efficiency and impact of your marketing efforts, you can’t engage all your prospects using the same type of content throughout their journey in your sales funnel. You must reconsider and revamp your efforts for each sales funnel stage. For instance, when you create a piece article, ask yourself if this blog is meant for the prospects who just discovered your brand, or for people who are ready to make a purchase or somewhere close to the sales stage?
By optimizing your B2B sales funnel stages, you’ll note a much greater impact and unleash the real potential of your B2B lead generation funnel.
Tips for Maximizing Effectiveness During the Awareness Stage
Identify your target market and create buyer personas
Every business is different. You need to perform comprehensive research on your target market and create your buyer persona. A buyer persona is a profile of your ideal customers who are more likely to buy from you. It includes their demographic information, priorities, interests, behavior, and buying patterns. It helps you in filtering your ideal prospects and gear most of your marketing efforts towards attracting and nurturing prospects are have a high potential to become a customer.
Use effective leads gen strategies
Draw a clear outline between Brand Awareness vs Lead Generation. The first stage of your funnel is all about brand awareness. Craft effective lead generation strategies like content marketing, SEO, paid advertising and social media marketing. Optimize each strategy to get the most out of it. To learn about different lead generation strategies, read our dedicated blog post about Sales Lead Generation – Effective Ideas & Strategies To Consider In 2022.
Too much persuasive can overrun the campaign
A great number of prospects enter your sales funnel at the awareness stage, but the number keeps reducing as you move further down the sales funnel. To refrain from losing prospects and identify leakages in your sales funnel is all about ensuring that your business website offers relevant information and informative content.
In the awareness stage, refrain from using sales pitches. You need to offer clear and informative content that adds value to prospects’ initial journey with your brand. Your primary objective here is to establish authority and maintain your image as an industry leader or subject expert. Enforcing sales pitches to lock a quick sale can frustrate your website visitors and they eventually start losing interest. Keep nurturing them with the valuable content until they become a sales ready prospects.
Tips for Maximizing Effectiveness During the Qualifying Stage
Nurture leads through email marketing and other lead nurturing campaigns
Lead nurturing strategies plays a vital role in preparing your prospects for a sale. You need to approach them in a highly personalized way at the right time with the right content. There are certain events in your prospect’s life that determine the perfect time to engage them.
It can be a new wave of funding for entrepreneurs, a change in management, or a tougher competition. Keep a strict check on different dynamics and variables to identify the best time to engage and nurture your prospects according to their needs and expectations. It will make them more inclined to entertain your business offerings.
Use sales collateral to close deals faster
Sales collaterals are used by your sales team to convince your customers to purchase by showcasing the true potential and value of products or services. The primary objective behind sales collateral is to offer the prospect the required information to help them compare, decide and buy a product or service.
Sales collateral includes a range of printed materials including:
- Product catalogs
- Purchase guides
- Customer case studies
- Technical specs sheets, etc.
Align sales and marketing teams
Align your marketing and sales team for rich collaboration. For instance, your marketing team needs to nurture your leads and turn them into sales-qualified leads (SQLs) before passing them to the sales team. Your sales team further nurtures your leads before closing a deal and passes them back to the marketing team for further nurturing if they find them immature to make a purchase. All these flows are not possible without your sales and marketing team on the same page and sharing a high level of synchronization.
Tips for Maximizing Effectiveness During the Closing Stage
Price your products and services correctly (Competitive Analysis)
Avoid marketing your products at too high or too less a price. Set up an effective competitor analysis campaign to know the value and price structure your competitors are offering. Market your products or services with competitive prices, discount or promotional offers, competitive delivery time, and the scale of after-sales service.
Refrain from going towards an aggressive pricing strategy on the cost of worsening your ROI just for the reason that your competitors are doing. Play smartly and attain a pricing edge where necessary.
Tip: Revamp your procurement cycles to ease the burden of cost. It will allow you to market your products or services at the most competitive prices possible.
Overcome objections and seal the deal
B2B sales funnels have longer sales cycles, hence you need to make your lead generation and nurture process more efficient and time-friendly. Rethink the tools or strategies you are using to capture and convert leads. The strategies and tools you opt for should seamlessly integrate with your existing system.
Avoid using outdated and traditional strategies. Integrate automation to get your lead data automatically registered in your CRM. It will eliminate any chances of your sales team missing any vital leads or lead data. Automating lead generation process will enable you to set up a streamlined drip emails sequence, lead qualification, and lead scoring.
Relevant Read: Best B2B Lead Generation Tools
To ensure a consistent flow of leads in your B2B sales funnel, look for the potential roadblocks in your sales funnel that slow down your overall lead generation process. Eliminate them and ensure a better experience for the prospects throughout their buyer journey up to the sales conversion. Furthermore, you can take assistance from lead generation experts to close your potential leads.
Buyer retention is more important than ROI
This is where most B2B sales funnels separate their way from the mainstream lead generation model. In the old practice, businesses only aim to make sales and abandoning their sales and marketing efforts as soon as the leads become sales.
As we have discussed earlier, over 80% of B2B sales are triggered by a referral via a friend or colleague, and the referral leads have a 30% higher potential to become a customer. For B2B businesses, it is vital to leverage the power of customer referrals and retain or re-engage the existing customers.
Consider the following stats to acknowledge the importance of customer retention and re-engagement.
Famous Sales Funnel Models used for B2B Sales
The three commonly used B2B sales funnel models include:
AIDA model is also known as the lead generation funnel. It is the approach names as an acronym, AIDA, which is abbreviated as Attention – Interest – Desire – Action.
- Attention or Awareness: Hook the attention of the prospect.
- Interest: Trigger prospect’s interest by leveraging different content types
- Desire: Persuade customers to think they need your product or service to resolve their pain points
- Action: Nurture prospects to convert them into customers
Above 4 B2B lead generation funnel stages are used to nurture and convert the prospects into sales.
The unique aspect of the Forrester model is to acknowledge and implement marketing and sales tactics to help prospects progress through their buying journey in your B2B sales funnel. You don’t have to aggressively push leads through a sales funnel in a hustle to lock the deal. Inform, educate and nurture your prospects and let them decide and finalize their purchase decision.
McKinsey’s Loyalty Loop
The digital revolution and instant access to the global market have triggered a remarkable change in customer behavior and made it complex for the business to convert and retain customers. It’s high time now for the business to revamp its marketing and customer retention efforts. Customer retention is more budget-friendly compared to acquiring new customers. McKinsey’s loyalty lope stresses the need for an effective post-sale phase to boost consumer loyalty towards brands, their likelihood of buying your products more often, and give you a leverage of word-of-mouth marketing.
Optimizing each stage of your funnel and using the right content & strategies are fruitful for your B2B business. B2B lead generation doesn’t end at the purchase stage. To attain the most out of your lead generation efforts, don’t forget to retain and re-engage your existing customers and leverage customer referrals and loyalty as long-term benefits for your business. Furthermore you can hire B2B lead generation agencies to help you build an effective sales funnel for your B2B business.