You could say B2B sales funnels are to B2B sales teams what blueprints are to architects. Architects follow blueprints to transform ideas into buildings. B2B sellers follow the sales funnel to convert leads into deals.
Understanding the B2B sales funnel is a foundational step toward optimizing your customer journey and overall buying experience. But if you haven’t built a sales funnel for your B2B company before, don’t sweat it because we have your back.
This in-depth guide will help you build a successful B2B sales funnel to land your dream customers and win deals in any market. You’ll learn all the essentials of a B2B sales funnel, from how to build to how to optimize one for continued success.
Definition and purpose of a sales or marketing funnel
A sales funnel depicts the buying journey that prospective customers go through, from the initial touchpoint when they first interact with your brand to the last touchpoint when they purchase your offerings.
Whether prospects are B2B or B2C, sales teams must follow a series of steps (usually portrayed as a funnel) to convert them into paying customers. That means, a sales funnel’s first and foremost purpose is converting prospects/leads into paying clients in the short-term.
The secondary purpose of a sales funnel is to increase your company’s return on investment (ROI) in the long term. This happens when you continuously optimize the sales funnel, as we’ll discuss later in this piece.
What are the key stages of the B2B sales funnel?
B2B sales funnel stages aren’t identical in all companies. Salespeople often add extra phases to their sales funnel depending on how long their sales cycle takes and their organization’s internal sales processes.
However, all B2B sales funnels fall into three key stages:
Top of the Funnel (TOFU) or Awareness Stage: It’s the initial stage of the sales funnel where a potential customer discovers your brand or products and services.
Middle of the Funnel (MOFU) or Consideration Stage: The consideration or interest stage is the second step where a potential buyer weighs your solutions and value proposition to evaluate if you solve their pain points.
Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU) or Conversion Stage: It’s the last step where a prospect chooses your company’s products or services for their business use.
While these three stages are fundamental to a B2B sales pipeline, they only scratch the surface. Most B2B sales rep teams map their customer journey in six phases as follows:
Awareness: Potential buyers become aware of a brand through various channels such as word of mouth, referrals, inbound marketing, or social media.
Interest: Prospective B2C or B2B customers show interest in a brand’s products and services by browsing product pages or filling out email sign-up forms and webinars.
Consideration: Potential buyers weigh if a brand’s solutions can solve their problems. They read product reviews, testimonials, case studies, whitepapers, and other product-focused content.
Intent: Potential buyers express buying intention. They perform actions like downloading a demo, requesting pricing proposals, or booking a sales demonstration.
Evaluation: Potential buyers compare a brand’s solutions with other solutions. At this stage, all the B2B decision-makers of a company get involved.
Conversion: Potential buyers convert to customers and purchase a brand’s product or service.
We should add retention as the seventh stage. But because of its significant contribution to a B2B company’s long-term success, we’ll discuss retention in a separate section further down the article.
Building a strong foundation for your B2B business
A lot goes into building a functional sales funnel that elevates a sales strategy and ROI. But leveraging sales intelligence should be a top priority. You can’t create an effective sales funnel without collecting customer and market data first.
The more customer behavior data you analyze and implement, the more targeted your sales funnel will be, as you can clearly define all stages of your buyer’s journey. Otherwise, your sales funnel will follow the spray-and-pray approach, where you attract scores of prospects at the TOFU stage, but only a handful get to the BOFU stage.
To ensure your B2B sales funnel is effective, lay a strong foundation by:
Defining your target audience
You’ve probably heard marketers say, “When you market to everyone, you market to no one.” The same is true with building B2B sales funnels. If you don’t know who your target audience is, you can’t predict their buying behavior. You’ll simply have no concrete data points to model your sales funnel after.
But when you define your target audience, you understand their pain points, company size, interest, purchase intent, financial power, and buying behavior.
How you can identify your target audience:
Analyze your existing customer base
Research your competitors to know their customer base
Examine your website and social media traffic data
Join social groups your target audience shows interest in
Better yet, you can use Dealfront for B2B sales prospecting to identify and engage your dream customers in Europe. Dealfront does all the heavy lifting instead of you by providing comprehensive company profiles as well as technographic and firmographic data. This way, evaluating and picking out companies that can quickly convert to customers is easy.
Creating a buyer persona
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional depiction of your ideal customer backed by customer data and research. It helps you narrow down the list of prospective customers you come up with in your target audience research and create profiles for the most potential customers.
When creating your B2B buyer persona, model it for a real human being rather than an entity. Remember that although B2B companies are your customers, individuals go through the buying process and make the purchase decision. That’s why your B2B buyer personas should include both demographic and psychographic information, such as:
Social media channel preferences
Pet peeves in digital sales
Daily routines and hobbies
Keywords and phrases
Rank in a company (consider if they’re decision makers or supporters who influence purchase decisions)
What it could look like:
This way, your buyer personas will be detailed enough to help you build a sales funnel model that optimizes the customer journey best.
Conducting market research and competitor analysis
Doing detailed market research gives you multiple advantages. First, it helps you establish the pain points of your prospective customers. This empowers you to anticipate customer needs and build sales funnels that address their challenges in advance.
Second, market research shows you the places where your competitors are falling short, enabling you to capitalize on the gaps. For instance, if none of your competitors are creating call-to-action (CTA) videos for their BOFU stage, you can include them in your sales channels and improve your customer experience.
Market research can also help you:
Get new ideas for product development
Identify new market trends
Gather customer feedback
Establish competitive pricing strategies
These factors will help you build an effective and unique B2B sales funnel that attracts, engages, converts, and retains customers in the short and long term.
Setting clear goals and objectives for each stage of the funnel
Now that you have an ideal customer profile and understand your customers’ pain points, needs, and desires, it’s time for the next stage. You can finally allocate goals to each stage of your sales funnel.
You should outline your goals and objectives at the TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU stages. Set clear goals alongside key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you track progress.
For instance, if your customer is looking for an eco-friendly product, you can create (with your content marketing team) the following content for all three stages:
Reach potential customers with a TOFU content piece that focuses on their needs and pain points. Explain why green living is significant and why companies should pursue that lifestyle.
Create MOFU content explaining why your product is better than other solutions. Show how your product/brand helps companies achieve better outcomes than competitors.
Create BOFU content pieces with a CTA/download option to push the target audience to action, aka, convert them. Showcase the difference your brand’s green initiatives had in companies’ operations to persuade customers to convert.
Aligning your sales and marketing teams
Your B2B sales and marketing teams must work together when creating sales and marketing funnels because many of their tasks overlap. For many B2B companies, the disconnect happens when marketing teams transfer sales funnel workflows to the sales team or vice versa.
For instance, the marketing team may engage prospects up to the purchase stage and then transfer them to the sales team. If the sales team fails to close the buyers in time and they find alternative sellers, your company will lose out on the sale.
But when your sales and marketing personnel collaborate to build a sales funnel, they’ll perform lead generation much faster.
How to be great at customer retention
In the B2B sector, customer retention is king. And if you’re a SaaS B2B company running on a subscription model, customer retention is the lifeblood of your business.
If you’re good at customer retention, you can sustain or increase your sales revenue year-long. In fact, a 5% increase in customer retention can more than double your revenue. Additionally, you’ll spend five times more acquiring new customers than retaining your existing customers.
But even with all the significant advantages of customer retention, some organizations only pay lip service to this metric, much to their chagrin. Such B2B companies that overlook customer retention are at significant risk of losing clients during recessions or due to higher churn rates.
Top B2B sales teams use these strategies to sustain or enhance their customer retention rate:
So let’s break that all down…
Making customer onboarding effective
Stats show that an effective onboarding process can enhance customer retention by about 50%. This tells you that in the B2B sector, first impressions matter a lot. It means you should go out of your way to make your TOFU and MOFU experiences engaging and memorable as you teach new customers the value of your products and services.
Some of the tactics you can utilize to make customer onboarding a smooth experience include:
Setting up new customers with a dedicated client success manager
Inviting new customers to your community forums so they can interact with existing customers
Recording personal videos to introduce yourself and the product
Being as available as possible (e.g., using chatbots and business instant messaging apps for quick and continuous onboarding communication)
The goal is to impress your new customers and leave a lasting first impression. This will make them want to stay loyal to your brand or product.
Recognizing cross- and up-selling opportunities
Forbes says that your existing customers are 50% more willing to buy new products and spend 31% more than new customers. This is because it’s easier to cross-sell and up-sell existing customers as they’re already familiar with your brand and product’s quality.
Your sales team should be hawk-eyed and grab any opportunity to make more sales. If you create new products or upgrade existing product features, cross-sell them to your current customers.
Also, using your business acumen, select the right time to up-sell an existing customer who may have started with a lower subscription tier but now qualifies for a higher tier.
Collecting feedback and testimonials
What better way to retain your customers than giving them what they want? Over time, customers’ opinions and satisfaction levels change the more they use your product. And considering B2B buyers innovate quickly to capitalize on new tech developments, you must keep up with their evolving needs.
This is possible by collecting customer feedback and testimonials using methods such as:
Social media feedback
Reviews on review platforms such as G2
Customer interviews for success stories
Customer advisory boards
After collecting customer feedback, determine the best ways to implement it into your products and services. This yields two-fold benefits.
First, implementing customer feedback improves your products/services for all customers, even those who didn't leave feedback. Second, it tells customers you care about their opinions. Remember that even customers who didn't leave feedback most likely read the reviews and suggestions from other customers. When they see you act on the feedback, they'll perceive you as the customer-centric company you claim you are.
Analyzing and optimizing the sales funnel
You can build the best sales funnel out there, but if you fail to track results and optimize it accordingly, it won’t serve its purpose. You must measure and track key metrics to know how much progress your sales funnel is making and the parts you need to tweak or improve. Here’s how you can achieve this:
Track and measure key metrics
Funnel metrics track different parts of the customer journey to reveal how effective your sales funnel is. Some key funnel metrics you want to follow throughout your marketing strategy include:
Costs (cost per lead, customer acquisition cost per channel, service line, or product)
Fortunately, you can use many online tracking and automation tools to measure your success with the above metrics, including the following:
Although you have to pay a subscription fee to enjoy all the features of most tracking tools, you can also achieve a lot using a free tool like Google Analytics.
Identify areas for improvement
After tracking your key funnel metrics, you should compare them to the key performance indicators (KPIs) you set for your goals and objectives. If they don’t measure up, review the gap areas and earmark them for improvement. Sometimes, the modifications can be as simple as adding a fresh step in your sales funnel or as complex as rethinking the entire sales funnel.
Be ready to adapt to market changes
Given the fast evolution of the B2B market fueled by emerging technologies, the sales funnel strategies you set in one year may be outdated in the following year. Fortunately, your funnel metrics data will tell you where you’re lagging and what changes you need to implement to align with the current market trends.
Make your sales funnel efficient
Building a B2B sales funnel for your business is a surefire way to enhance customer experience and retention in the long term. But before you start building your sales funnel, ensure you:
Understand your prospective customers
Conduct detailed market research
Set clear goals of what you want your sales funnel to achieve
Get your sales and marketing teams on the same page
After setting up your sales funnel, ensure you track results in real time and make data-backed adjustments where necessary. But if building a B2B sales funnel from scratch feels like a lot on your plate, particularly for the vast European market, you can count on Dealfront.
At Dealfront, we’re all about helping B2B sellers like you develop winning strategies to conquer the competitive market. Our extensive tools help you identify and understand qualified leads based on deep data insights, so you can quickly model a befitting sales funnel.
Start your free trial today or contact us to learn more about how Dealfront can aid you in creating a successful B2B marketing funnel.