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It goes without saying that B2B sales (particularly at the corporate level) require a significant amount of time and work to nurture and eventually close. While B2C startups like Netflix and Uber can use organic consumer enthusiasm to drive sales, we B2B reps need to be a little more purposeful and methodical about the steps that lead from first curiosity to signing the dotted line.

The B2B sales funnel is a prominent model for this trip. While it is still extensively used, some detractors say it is out of date and, in some cases, erroneous.

A B2B sales funnel or pipeline refers to a sequence of stages that the archetype B2B users go through to complete a sales cycle. Its primary goal is to convert business prospects (leads) into paying clients. Its secondary purpose is to increase ROI. B2B Pipelines are specific for given products, but their general structure follows the AIDA buyer’s journey model (Awareness>Interest>Desire>Action).

Though it’s tempting to look at your B2B marketing sales funnel as a linear progression, in actuality prospects will go up and down in the funnel, linearly or non-linearly.

A B2B customer funnel takes a long time to optimize because it requires significant traffic to allow for conducting proper AB testing. If you have the traffic and the tools to test you should start doing it as soon as possible and keep doing it constantly.

This also entails following a strategy to sway prospects’ decisions in your favor so that more of them decide to become your customers. 

For small organizations with little traffic, the best approach is to find cracks or full-on breaks in the funnel and fix them. These are most often faulty forms, broken links, and missing stages for a complete user journey. This can be supplemented by applying CRO best practices that do not require testing. It’s also a good idea to apply the principles of customer-based marketing.

B2B sales teams use the funnel model to determine how best to engage with a given prospective customer and to understand what types of questions to ask and information to provide in order to progress that buyer through the funnel.

Now, there are a few naysayers who proclaim that “Sales funnels are Dead.” 

While this isn‘t true, the underlying criticism (that buyers‘ journeys are complex, and B2B buyers don‘t necessarily move through a sequential process as most sales funnels purport) is at least somewhat valid.

Let‘s say, for example, you use a B2B sales funnel model with the following stages:

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Consideration
  • Intent
  • Evaluation
  • Purchase

A given buyer might not necessarily move linearly along this pathway. They might run quickly through the first three stages, jump to evaluation, and then decide that the product they thought they needed isn‘t a good fit, and it‘s back to the consideration stage for them.

In another case, the middle four stages might not happen at all. It‘s less common in B2B sales environments (because the costs are inherently higher), but a buyer might jump straight to purchase in order to evaluate the fit and feel of a product. 

The best sales funnel examples are those that work as a high-level model.

Each B2B funnel is distinct. A B2B SaaS funnel will not appear the same as a B2B eCommerce funnel or a customized solution funnel. Each will necessitate a unique set of content to cover the important funnel stages. Having said that, all B2B marketing funnels follow the same basic steps as the psychological and practical client journey.

The basic B2B customer journey is made up of 6 stages:

1. Awareness 

In this stage potential customers become aware of pain or want. This can happen naturally or through your influence by running marketing campaigns across various advertising platforms. Prospects can also discover new brands by doing research on related topics, and this is how they are drawn into the awareness stage. You can position yourself to gain visibility in these instances by doing content marketing and SEO. 

If you have marketing knowledge you should start setting acquisition engines in place according to your marketing strategy, through PPC, SEO, Social media marketing, inbound marketing, and so on. If you don’t have marketing capabilities, consider hiring someone to take on this endeavor, or hire an SEO agency.

B2B sales funnel examples for the awareness stage:

  • Informational blog posts
  • PPC landing pages
  • Social media posts
  • Youtube videos
  • Quora or Reddit answers
  • Podcasts

After becoming aware of their need they may be motivated to the next stage, where they seek a reliable source of information to discover more about the business and its products. 

2. Interest

As prospects move on to the Interest stage, they begin to look into resources to learn more about solutions to their need.

Read Also: Sales Funnel Strategy

This is where they learn about your solution but not necessarily about your products or services. They may or may not be assessing specific solution providers, such as your company and competitors. Instead, they are seeking to answer general “who-to” and “why should I” questions regarding their need. 

In this stage, the prospects move from being Pain Aware to Solution Aware and finally to Product Aware (which is where they learn about your product or service). When they learn about your company they will most likely learn about your competition as well. Now begins the evaluation stage, where prospects try to decide if your offering is best for them.

B2B sales funnel examples for the Interest stage:

  • Product centric blog posts
  • Product pages
  • FAQs
  • White papers
  • Webinars
  • Conventions
  • Guest posting

3. Evaluation 

The evaluation stage is where you demonstrate how your solution is the best fit for the prospect’s requirements.

At this point, your principal aim is to establish a relationship with your leads to figure out what their final goals are. This is accomplished by providing the necessary content to address and remove fears and concerns, build trust, earn credibility, and clearly communicate your value add as opposed to your competition. 

You should also apply Voice of Customer (VoC) copywriting on your landing pages, develop a consistent brand voice, and perfect your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). All these should be gauged to your target audience.

B2B sales funnel examples for the Evaluation stage:

  • Pricing page
  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers
  • Product documentation
  • Product features page
  • Product comparison tables
  • Featured product reviews on known industry websites
  • Thought leadership articles
  • Video testimonials
  • Customized solutions
  • Client Brand logos
  • Customer Reviews 
  • Trust badges (G2, Capterra, Trust Pilot, etc.)
  • Awards
  • Security and compliance credentials and certificates
  • Privacy policy
  • Proper CTAs

Once you manage to convince prospects to try your product they cross over the next crucial step – Engagement. The purchase stage is daily straightforward. It is the culmination of what could easily be months of hard work. When the prospect makes the purchase they become a client. Good for you. Now it’s time to deliver on what you promise. 

You may think it all ends here, but not really. If you deliver great value to your customers then you are very likely to add an additional stage to your funnel – Loyalty.

4. Engagement 

During the Engagement stage, your leads will interact with your sales team. The first step here is to qualify your B2B funnel leads based on where they are in the buyer’s pyramid (not to be confused with the buyer’s journey). This is usually done by an SDR. 

This first step is essential because having your salespeople spend time on a prospect that is not likely to buy can drain your valuable resources. 

Once a prospect is qualified, your primary aim at this stage is to build a personal connection with the buyer and demonstrate your offering’s best aspects. Most importantly, you should do what you can to establish trust and even friendliness between the buyer and your salesperson.

You’ll want to show how your business can adequately fulfill their needs if they invest in your products or services, and present the implementation process and what comes next. It’s imperative to clearly communicate your understanding of the buyer’s problem areas and offer specific solutions for them.

B2B funnel examples for the Engagement stage (assets and actions):

  • A product tour or walkthrough
  • A live demo
  • Educational presentations
  • Email signature marketing campaign
  • Newsletter
  • Onboarding
  • Technical support
  • Special discounts

5. Purchase 

The purchase stage is daily straightforward. It is the culmination of what could easily be months of hard work. When the prospect makes the purchase they become a client. Good for you. Now it’s time to deliver on what you promise. 

B2B sales funnel examples for the Purchase stage:

  • Contact page
  • Telephone number
  • Subscription form
  • Saved items page
  • Cart
  • Cart abandonment automated email 
  • Payment page
  • Thank you page

You may think it all ends here, but not really. If you deliver great value to your customers then you are very likely to add an additional stage to your funnel – Loyalty.

6. Loyalty

The loyalty stage is the most important stage of the funnel. Post-purchase engagement is critical for building a B2B sales pipeline since it keeps clients happy. And happy clients will stay with you and endure more bugs than dissatisfied and ignored customers.

According to HubSpot, a 5% increase in customer retention can increase company revenue by 25-95%, and ultimately grow your customers’ Life Time Value (LTV). 

Enthusiastic customers are also most likely to become brand advocates, provide testimonials and leave great reviews. Build enough advocates, and you will position yourself as the go-to brand in your niche through word-of-mouth. 

B2B sales funnel examples for the Loyalty stage:

  • Product onboarding (for SaaS B2B funnels)
  • Email marketing nurture campaign
  • B2B Email marketing
  • Upsell proposals (email automation)
  • Customer success calls
  • Branded email signature
  • CSAT emails
  • Product engagement tracking
  • User interviews
  • Events and webinars
  • Product updates

How to Optimize Your B2B SaaS Sales Funnel

1. Boost Awareness with TOFU

TOFU content is designed to promote awareness of what your product can do and encourage prospective buyers to get in touch. Consider the example below of Adobe’s Creative Cloud on Facebook. The company offers a slick video along with a link to on-demand video content that dives into the use of 3D art tools — which Adobe just happens to sell — and how they’re impacting automotive design. Other TOFU approaches include how-to guides, tutorials, and multichannel social media campaigns.

2. Optimize Your Content

Content optimization takes place within 3 specific content generation tactics: utilizing a multi-channel messaging strategy, improving thought leadership positioning, and segmenting the content’s delivery. The goal here is to connect with potential customers and give them a more in-depth look at what your brand does and what sets it apart from the competition.

3. Target the Most Valuable Leads

The first tier of funnel optimization suggests that marketers focus on targeting the most valuable leads by examining how customers sought the information to begin with. Value propositions that resonate with select groups will facilitate the differentiation of these targets. This can be the most effective when exemplified by website design, management, and optimization.

4. Qualify Leads

On average, only 27% of B2B inquiries are qualified before they are given to the sales team. This is a problem since unqualified leads are far less likely to drive conversion. As a result, it’s worth taking the time to ensure leads have the intent and authority to make purchasing decisions.

5. Improve Lead Nurturing

Now the spotlight moves to lead nurturing. Here, the goal is to engage with potential customers and provide answers to whatever questions they may have. The better your nurturing efforts and B2B SaaS marketing strategies, the more likely you’ll be able to close the deal and drive SaaS revenue.

6. Make the Most of MOFU

Middle of the Funnel efforts focus on intent. This goes beyond lead nurturing to dive into the details of conversion. From a SaaS perspective, this means working with B2B leads to determine their specific needs and design offerings that best align with their budget and business goals. The more specific your team can get in discovering key pain points and potential remedies, the better your MOFU efforts.

7. Close the Deal and Keep Them Coming Back

Now it’s time to close the deal. This means presenting leads with a finished contract and service-level agreement (SLA) along with negotiating the length of the contract term. Depending on your SaaS model, you may offer a free trial or the option to cancel without penalty for the first few months. While the best bet here is a long-term (one year or more) contract, B2B leaders may be reluctant to sign on the line for that long.

No matter what the term length turns out to be, however, the underlying rule remains the same: Focus on over-delivering to exceed expectations to ensure businesses keep coming back. Worth noting? Even lost deals offer a valuable lesson. Rather than simply chalking the experience up to bad luck, it’s a good idea to hold a team debrief to discover where sales funnel processes worked as intended and where improvements could be made.

8. Measure Success

Once you have optimized to this point, on average, 20% of your leads will have converted into sales. This number is even more important when you realize only 32% of organizations have actually identified their marketing funnels. As a result, it’s critical to measure both current and historic success rates to see if you’re heading in the right direction. If not, it’s a good idea to assess your B2B SaaS sales funnel approach and make changes as needed.

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