The Stages of a B2B Sales Funnel A Comprehensive Guide

The concept of a sales funnel has been around for over a century, with Chicago meatpackers in the late nineteenth century tinkering with strategies to sell their products to other businesses. Today, the fundamental challenges of selling remain the same for the modern B2B sales funnel. The key is to strike a chord with potential buyers and find alignment, create value, and deliver instead of following generic steps.

In this extensive guide, we will take a closer look at each stage of the B2B sales funnel, including core activities and tips for success. Whether you are auditing your existing sales funnel or constructing a new one, understanding these stages will help you navigate the complex world of B2B sales.

What Is a B2B Sales Funnel?

A B2B sales funnel encompasses each step that a potential buyer takes from the suspect/prospect stage to becoming a new customer. Throughout the B2B sales funnel stages, buyers, sellers, and marketers engage with each other in various ways.

The sales pipeline, on the other hand, refers specifically to what the sales team does during this process. It involves prospecting, qualification of opportunities, initial meetings, defining needs, proposals and negotiation, closing, and conversion rate.

Building a B2B sales funnel is crucial because it needs to account for the evolving ways people buy. In the new B2B landscape, the buying process is far less sequential, with buyers exploring, evaluating, engaging, and experiencing at their convenience. Recent research shows that B2B companies that sell through multiple channels and have added hybrid sellers are more likely to grow their market share.

Moreover, there are five important changes in B2B buying behavior that must be considered: the rise of procurement, the quest for collaboration, the evolution of the “act of selling,” the role of risk, and the commoditization of most industries. Therefore, a thorough and resilient sales funnel is essential to succeed in the complex B2B market.

The Difference Between B2B and B2C Sales Funnels

The B2B sales funnel differs from the business-to-consumer (B2C) sales funnel in several ways. The B2B sales funnel entails more complicated dynamics, relationships, and business needs. It involves more money, lengthy sales cycles, and numerous decision makers. Additionally, it requires different marketing content such as case studies, white papers, and reports.

Understanding these differences is crucial for B2B sales success, as it allows you to tailor your approach and strategies accordingly.

The 6 Stages of a B2B Sales Funnel

At, we recognize six core stages of the B2B sales funnel: prospecting, needs discovery and driving, solution crafting, solution presentation, win, and account development. Let’s take an in-depth look at each stage, including the corresponding stage in the buying process and the skills necessary to excel in each.

Stage 1: Prospecting

Prospecting is the stage where sellers target the right buyers and generate demand. It involves researching buyers, implementing an outreach plan, setting meetings, planning for the first meeting, and beginning a sales opportunity plan.

To excel in this stage, sellers should build and deploy a prospecting campaign, also known as an Attraction Campaign, to connect and set meetings with potential buyers. It is essential to fill the pipeline consistently and energetically prospect over the long term.

For buyers, this stage is marked by dissatisfaction, as they begin looking for solutions to their problems or new ideas and possibilities to achieve stronger results. They search for options that are appealing or nagging at them.

Stage 2: Needs Discovery and Driving

In this stage, sellers need to discover and drive the buyer’s needs by conducting a thorough needs discovery, asking insightful questions, and inspiring buyers with new ideas. The ability to tell a convincing story is crucial in this stage, as it helps sellers drive and shape buyer needs while inspiring them to consider unfamiliar solutions.

For buyers, this stage is characterized by analysis, as they start evaluating their situation, pinpointing the sources of dissatisfaction, and considering their options. They may conduct their own research or seek input from business counterparts.

Stage 3: Solution Crafting

Solution crafting is the stage where sellers analyze the situation and causes of affliction before crafting a customized solution for the buyer. They must ensure that the solution is the best option for the buyer and tighten and clarify the impact case. This stage also involves preparing a presentation strategy, reviewing the proposal checklist, and finishing the qualification of the opportunity.

Top-performing sellers excel in collaborating with buyers deeply, influencing buyer thinking, and crafting compelling solutions. It is crucial to keep the buyer’s needs first and focus on selling a solution, not just a product or service.

For buyers, this stage is marked by intervention, as they identify options from various providers and compare them. The seller is just one of the options being considered at this stage.

Stage 4: Solution Presentation

In this stage, sellers present their solution and show why the buyer should choose them. The solution presentation should resonate with a compelling solution, differentiate by highlighting strengths and negating competitors’ advantages, and substantiate the message by providing proof and mitigating risks. It is important to solicit feedback and overcome objections during this stage.

For buyers, this stage is the selection phase, where they decide if a solution is a go or no-go. A strong solution presentation can make all the difference in winning the buyer’s commitment.

Stage 5: Win

The win stage is where sellers negotiate and deliver the price and terms of the agreement. It is crucial to capture maximum prices in line with the value provided. Sellers also need to attain verbal, written, or public confirmation of the sale and prepare to hand off the project to those in charge of implementation.

For buyers, this stage is the commitment phase, where they negotiate the agreement, make a commitment, and execute. They also begin the allocation of funds.

Stage 6: Account Development

The final stage of the B2B sales funnel is account development, where sellers ensure that buyers achieve maximum value from their purchase. This stage involves embedding current offerings, planning to grow the account, driving new opportunities, preventing competitive inroads, and creating brand evangelists.

For buyers, this stage is the implementation phase, where they evaluate the success of the purchase and determine whether to continue with the contract or seek another solution. Happy customers can become loyal, repeat customers and generate word-of-mouth referrals.

A Breakdown of B2B Sales Funnel Activities by Stage

  1. Prospecting
  2. Researching buyers
  3. Implementing an outreach plan
  4. Setting a meeting
  5. Planning for the first meeting
  6. Beginning a Sales Opportunity Plan

  7. Needs Discovery and Driving

  8. Driving: Inspiring with new ideas
  9. Telling convincing stories
  10. Influencing agenda and creating opportunity
  11. Driving and Discovery: Establishing rapport
  12. Uncovering needs
  13. Making the impact case
  14. Establishing possible new reality
  15. Outlining possible approaches
  16. Beginning to qualify the opportunity
  17. Assigning pursuit intensity

  18. Solution Crafting

  19. Analyzing situation and affliction causes
  20. Crafting the solution
  21. Ensuring the solution is best for the buyer
  22. Tightening and clarifying the impact case
  23. Preparing presentation strategy
  24. Reviewing proposal checklist
  25. Finishing qualifying the opportunity

  26. Solution Presentation

  27. Resonating with a compelling solution, impact and new reality case
  28. Differentiating by highlighting strengths and negating competitor advantages
  29. Substantiating the message and mitigating risks
  30. Soliciting feedback
  31. Overcoming objections

  32. Win

  33. Delivering executable agreement
  34. Negotiating
  35. Gaining verbal, written, and public agreement
  36. Handing off to implementation

  37. Account Development

  38. Ensuring maximum buyer value from purchases
  39. Embedding current offerings
  40. Planning to grow the account
  41. Driving new opportunities
  42. Preventing competitive inroads

Expert Tips to Help You Best Approach the Stages of the B2B Sales Funnel

To stand out and succeed across the B2B sales funnel, consider implementing these expert tips:

  1. Be the Beacon
  2. Engage buyers while defining the vision
  3. Inspire with ideas, drive thinking and agendas, and influence the overall process
  4. Collaborate on new ideas and the right path for realizing them

  5. Focus on Fit

  6. Develop a specific prospecting plan and campaign
  7. Keep bad-fit prospects out of your pipeline
  8. Scrutinize where in the buyer’s journey you were brought in

  9. Know Thy Competitors

  10. Run extensive competitive analysis
  11. Review lost deals to understand competitors’ advantages

  12. Automate Where Applicable

  13. Utilize automation to streamline repetitive tasks
  14. Consider using artificial intelligence (AI) for insights and reporting

  15. Train for Success

  16. Train sellers on the B2B sales funnel stages and their corresponding skills
  17. Refresh training on an ongoing basis
  18. Provide the right tools and aides for success

Final Thoughts: Work with a Sales Consultant to Optimize Your Funnel

If your sales organization is underperforming despite having a well-built B2B sales funnel, consider seeking the help of a third-party consultant like An honest assessment can provide valuable insights and identify missing pieces that were overlooked.

By understanding and implementing the stages of the B2B sales funnel, and leveraging expert tips, you can optimize your sales process and increase your chances of success in the complex world of B2B sales.

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