Table of Contents
- What Is a B2B Sales Funnel?
- The Difference Between B2B and B2C Sales Funnels
- The 6 Stages of a B2B Sales Funnel
- A Breakdown of B2B Sales Funnel Activities by Stage
- Expert Tips to Help You Best Approach the Stages of the B2B Sales Funnel
- Final Thoughts: Work with a Sales Consultant to Optimize Your Funnel
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 Funnelpreneurs.com, 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
- Researching buyers
- Implementing an outreach plan
- Setting a meeting
- Planning for the first meeting
Beginning a Sales Opportunity Plan
Needs Discovery and Driving
- Driving: Inspiring with new ideas
- Telling convincing stories
- Influencing agenda and creating opportunity
- Driving and Discovery: Establishing rapport
- Uncovering needs
- Making the impact case
- Establishing possible new reality
- Outlining possible approaches
- Beginning to qualify the opportunity
Assigning pursuit intensity
- Analyzing situation and affliction causes
- Crafting the solution
- Ensuring the solution is best for the buyer
- Tightening and clarifying the impact case
- Preparing presentation strategy
- Reviewing proposal checklist
Finishing qualifying the opportunity
- Resonating with a compelling solution, impact and new reality case
- Differentiating by highlighting strengths and negating competitor advantages
- Substantiating the message and mitigating risks
- Soliciting feedback
- Delivering executable agreement
- Gaining verbal, written, and public agreement
Handing off to implementation
- Ensuring maximum buyer value from purchases
- Embedding current offerings
- Planning to grow the account
- Driving new opportunities
- 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:
- Be the Beacon
- Engage buyers while defining the vision
- Inspire with ideas, drive thinking and agendas, and influence the overall process
Collaborate on new ideas and the right path for realizing them
Focus on Fit
- Develop a specific prospecting plan and campaign
- Keep bad-fit prospects out of your pipeline
Scrutinize where in the buyer’s journey you were brought in
Know Thy Competitors
- Run extensive competitive analysis
Review lost deals to understand competitors’ advantages
Automate Where Applicable
- Utilize automation to streamline repetitive tasks
Consider using artificial intelligence (AI) for insights and reporting
Train for Success
- Train sellers on the B2B sales funnel stages and their corresponding skills
- Refresh training on an ongoing basis
- 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 Funnelpreneurs.com. 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.