What Is a B2B Sales Funnel?
Your leads will usually follow a path from first becoming aware of your products and services, to purchasing them, to becoming a repeat customer. This path is called the B2B sales funnel.
It's also known by a few other names:
B2B conversion funnel
B2B marketing funnel
B2B lead funnel
Regardless of the name, the funnel contains the same stages and performs the same functions.
Why Do B2B Businesses Need A Sales Funnel?
Building the funnel for your prospects to follow is how you'll generate new leads, earn new business, and hopefully retain that business in the long term.
The funnel also keeps the sales process on track and helps your sales team guide their leads from one stage to the next.
Setting up a comprehensive B2B sales funnel isn't always easy, but it's always worthwhile. Without the funnel, you may lose potential customers at one stage or another because you don't have anything set up to keep them interested and moving through the funnel.
So the first key to building an effective B2B sales funnel is to understand each of its stages.
7 B2B Sales Funnel Stages
Any B2B sales funnel strategy must include at least six stages. We prefer to add a seventh.
This isn't always necessarily awareness of you and your products or services. A prospect may become aware of something they need that they can't do themselves—a pain point.
But the awareness of that pain point may come from you. For example, via blog posts, social media posts, videos or podcasts. Your ideal customer may not realize what they need until they learn the solution is available.
Once a potential customer identifies their pain point, they'll start researching how to alleviate it. At the same time prospects learn about solutions, they may also learn about specific products and services that can address their pain point. This can happen through product pages, white papers and even conventions.
This research may include looking into brands they're already familiar with, so it's possible your prospective customers may become aware of you by researching your competitors. For this, and many other reasons, it's essential to know your competition, and make sure you're in the same places they are, making your brand known in different—and better—ways.
For example, if your biggest competitor is attending a trade show, then you need to be at that same show—provided that's also where your audience is.
In this stage, the prospective client has learned about you and how you can fix their problem. Now they'll evaluate whether you're the best option.
You need to connect with your leads in some way and earn their trust. You might do this through case studies, testimonials or reviews.
In some cases, it can be beneficial to make direct comparisons between your product and your competitors', explaining the differences and how yours can solve their pain point better, faster, less expensively, whatever the case may be.
Here's where things really start to pick up. Your potential customer has reached out to your sales team in some way, whether by responding to one of your LinkedIn posts or filling out the contact form on your website.
You want to maintain that engagement, so you need to hold their attention. Your team can do this with things like a live product demo or a product discount. One of the best ways, though, is with a detailed proposal that will outline everything you can offer your potential client, and how your product or service will address their need.
Above all, you want them to know you and your team understand their pain point, and you're there to resolve it for them.
The (almost) end goal! Your prospect decides you're the best option to solve their problem or fill their need, and they become your actual customer. Money is exchanged, and now it's time to do your thing and show them how awesome you are.
If this sixth stage isn't in your sales funnel, you and your team will be constantly trying to win new customers for short-term gains.
It's not enough to be awesome that first time. You must consistently deliver and continue to help your customer keep that original pain point at bay. You may also discover new ones along the way, and help alleviate those.
It's all about letting your customer know they're important to you, and that you provide the same high level of service regardless of whether they're new or a long-standing client.
Bonus Stage: Advocacy
The best marketing—even in the digital age—is word of mouth. When businesses are happy with the work you do for them, they'll be more likely to spread the word to other businesses they deal with.
Advocacy leads directly to the first two stages, Awareness and Interest. They're making other potential customers aware of you and your services, and they're generating interest by sharing their positive experiences.
So in that respect, a B2B sales funnel can be an infinite, self-replicating pipeline. Not to mention, if your customers are happy enough to sing your praises, that's some marketing work you won't have to do or pay for. All the more reason to earn your customers' loyalty.
B2B Sales Funnel Example
Still not quite sure what this marketing tool might look like? Here's a B2B sales funnel example you can use to start generating leads and winning customers.
Let's say you're a landscaping company serving other businesses in your city, and you want to sell a new service you've just started offering.
Awareness: Your marketing team creates a YouTube video about the new service you offer—tree maintenance. The video shows your landscaping team doing everything from planting a sapling to sawing dead limbs off a full-grown tree. The video voiceover explains the services being portrayed, and invites prospects to learn more. The video description includes a link for that purpose.
Interest: When prospects click that link, they're taken to your new tree maintenance service page. The page contains more details about the service and discusses options such as one-time or ongoing services.
Evaluation: Farther down on that service page is a brief case study. Maybe one of your B2B customers had a beautiful, old tree on the premises that was sick, but that they didn't want cut down. Your case study outlines the measures you took to save their tree, which also saved them removal costs.
Engagement: Below the case study is a special offer. Because this is a new service, you decide to offer a free evaluation of a property's trees, or a discount on your potential customer's first service call. This section includes the instruction to paste the discount code into your contact form.
Purchase: The final section of that page contains a contact form where leads can book your services—and get that discount. You perform the service, your new customer pays for it, and there is much rejoicing. But you're not done yet.
Loyalty: You offer many more services than tree maintenance. So now that you have your new customer's email address, you add it to your email marketing nurture campaign. Your new customer receives emails about your other services, and other special offers throughout the year. You keep them coming back with your outstanding service and follow-through.
Advocacy: The business adjacent to your customer asks who does their landscaping because their property looks so fantastic now. Your customer is more than happy to share your business information, and perhaps even gives the neighbor your card. Now the neighboring business is aware of you and your services, and the funnel repeats. You can take this one step further by offering your customers discounts for referring business your way.
What is Proposal Software's Role in a B2B Sales Funnel?
The proposal is an essential part of the sales funnel in B2B dealings. It's your first opportunity to really shine for your prospect. It can be something you put together in a PDF or a Word document from scratch every time you create a proposal. Or it can be a templated, sleek, interactive document that allows full visibility and control into your proposal process.
You can only get that level of professionalism with proposal software. Not only will it help you draft an amazing-looking proposal, you'll be able to see when your customers open it and how much time they spend reading it. Then they'll be able to contact you right from the proposal to ask questions or give the go-ahead.
Proposal software will help you take control of your revenue with complete visibility into the proposal process. See for yourself.