Table of contents
- What is the B2B sales funnel?
- What are the different stages in the B2B sales funnel?
- How do you create a sales funnel?
- The 4 best tips for building a sales funnel that increases conversion rates
The sales funnel represents how your leads progress through their relationship with your business. It demonstrates how leads are captured and then engaged with at different stages of their journey through the funnel. The B2B sales funnel has the same purpose, but it is customised for B2B prospects.
Often, the B2B buyer journey can be more complex than its B2C equivalent. B2B audiences tend to need more nurturing due to longer buying cycles and include a variety of different stakeholders.
The goal with the sales funnel is to move leads from the top into the bottom of the funnel.
Understanding the different sales funnel stages in helps you understand your target customers’ journey. It also allows you to more easily establish which different types of content work for each stage.
A classic sales funnel has 5 stages with varying labels. Here is our B2B sales funnel:
In the awareness stage, customers are discovering your product or service for the first time. They have realised their challenges and are just beginning to search for solutions.
In this stage, you should focus on answering your prospect’s questions about the issue. Content focused on educational resources, opinions and insights often works best.
In the consideration stage, customers are starting to think more seriously about their options. They’re engaging more deeply with your products and services to see how you may actively be able to help them.
This is when you want to start nurturing your leads. They’ve displayed genuine interest in your offering, so take the opportunity to provide product-related messaging. You may even get the chance for lead capture and sales engagement now.
The decision stage is when a potential customer has given you their full attention. They’re almost ready to buy. Likely, they’ve figured out what they want and narrowed down their options to a small number of competitors.
At this stage, it’s your chance to clearly demonstrate your USPs and key differentiators. Your aim is to convince your prospect that you’re their best, most appropriate option. More in-depth information about your products or services, or case studies, work well here.
The prospect is in the process of conversion at this stage. Your sales team should be in communication with them, making the sales process informative and seamless. Basically, their job is now to nail down the sale.
Do this by building a direct relationship and trust. Ensure communication is consistent and openly provide any additional material which could seal the deal. For example, free trials, demos, and one-to-one conversations.
It can be all too easy to forget about your customers once the sale is complete and focus on the next batch of leads. But retained customers are a huge source of revenue for many businesses – especially B2B.
The sales funnel takes this into account and helps you manage your existing relationships so you keep building trust. There’s also an secret implicit 6th stage here – advocacy. If your customers are delighted with their service, they’ll act as your ambassadors and help generate new leads.
Once you’ve cracked your sales funnel, you can more easily optimise your sales process for greater conversion and retention.
For example, tracking sales funnel movements will show you where you’re losing the most customers. This helps you identify simple problems which may be losing you leads. This could be that an email goes out too late after lead capture and so doesn’t get engagement. Or it may be that you don’t follow up after purchase and therefore don’t encourage customer loyalty.
Building a sales funnel doesn’t have to be complicated. Using this established structure all you need to do is fill in the details. Here’s how to build an effective B2B sales funnel:
- Research your target audience
- Monitor and track your audience’s online behaviour
- Draw people into the funnel – use digital content marketing, PR and PPC amongst other tactics
- Build digital lead capture assets – landing pages and forms can be used to progress the funnel
- Customise communication for each stage of the funnel
- Manage your CRM regularly
- Evaluate your success and make changes where needed
Who here wants their sales funnel to be as profitable as possible?
It may feel like the primary goal of your funnel is to create leads for your business. And you would be absolutely right. But without conversion, these leads will never generate profit. Increasing conversion rates should therefore be your first port of call when looking to increase the profitability of your funnel.
Here’s our top tips for building a B2B sales funnel that converts:
1. Integrate marketing with sales
First thing’s first. You need to align your marketing activity with your sales objectives. Marketing will be bringing in a massive proportion of your leads. If marketing and sales objectives are misaligned, any leads generated are much less likely to convert.
By lining up your activities you’ll see the following benefits for conversion:
- Marketing builds brand awareness and helps fill the funnel.
- Ensures more consistency in the messaging you give your prospects.
- Any misrepresentations or misunderstandings from marketing material will be spotted and fixed more quickly.
- Marketing activities can directly support sales pipeline and conversion targets.
- Marketing and sales handover processes can be automated.
- Marketing teams can add more detail about leads into a shared CRM.
2. Qualify your leads
There are few things more frustrating than investing resource into an uninterested prospect. Not only have you wasted your sales team’s time, but you’re losing out on sales to be made elsewhere. Plus, even if a misaligned prospect does convert, they’ll never be satisfied with your offering and will churn eventually.
Instead of pushing as many people down the funnel as possible, do some lead qualification recon to find your SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads).
First, leverage the work your marketing team has done – this will get you started on the right track. They know the target audience, their pain points and how your company can help. Compare all initial prospects to their MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) before proceeding with any engagement.
Next, evaluate the MQLs against a set of criteria, like your established buyer personas. Do they fit the bill? Are they compatible with your target market? If so you can start nurturing these leads.
Finally, dig deeper using a framework like the BANT test – Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing.
3. Personalise your content
You’ve just completed a rigorous lead qualification process. Now you should be armed with plenty of insight into your individual prospects. Personalise your communication accordingly to maximise your funnel movement and encourage conversion.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up on automation though. Automated responses and emails are essential to keeping up timely communication. But use these as a buffer or placeholder for more targeted conversations.
For example, set up an immediate automated response to a newsletter sign-up. Then follow this up in a day or two with a custom email once you’ve qualified the lead.
Also, you can still tailor your automated communication to suit different actions taken, different funnel stages or different sectors. For example, different emails should be sent to someone downloading an industry-specific whitepaper and someone signing up for a welcome series newsletter.
These people are clearly in different stages of the funnel and have different interests – so they will respond better to different messaging. This should be reflected throughout all sales (and marketing) content.
Some ways to communicate with your leads:
- Phone calls (old-fashioned but it works)
- Social media comments and communities
- Social media direct or private messages
4. Try out A/B testing
An A/B test, or split test, involves publishing two different versions of something and testing their performance.
Let’s take a PPC ad as an example. You can make very small changes to the text or image associated with this. One could say, “Click me now!” and another, “Click to find out more”. Or use a video on one and a static image with another.
Check the analytics after a certain amount of time – which got better conversions? Then take your learnings into your next sales or marketing campaign. You’ll be surprised how much of a different these small improvements can make to your conversion rate.
Talk to our team about increasing your sales ROI today – just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation.