Sales

B2B Sales Funnel Stages: How To Build and Optimize These 9 Steps

The 9 B2B Sales Funnel Stages and how to optimize them for your own sales process.

Gone are the days when the buyer's journey is a narrow and straight process down the funnel. Nowadays, your target audience can come from multiple directions, entering the funnel at different stages. And that’s why in this blog post, we’ll show you how to take a lead through the B2B Sales Funnel Stages and turn them into a customer.

If you are a marketer or a sales leader, it's important to understand this and optimize your sales funnel accordingly. Let’s get to it!

Breaking down the B2B Sales Funnel Stages: Sales Funnel vs Marketing Funnel

Before we proceed with defining the B2B sales funnel stages, let’s first talk about the difference between a sales funnel and a marketing funnel because many confuse these two.

The B2B sales funnel is a process that takes potential buyers through a number of steps, from awareness to purchase, and it's important to understand each stage in order to successfully close deals. This funnel is also tied to your sales process.

The marketing funnel, on the other hand, is the process of attracting strangers and turning them into leads, then nurturing those leads into customers. It works with your marketing strategy.

The B2B sales funnel is a subset of the marketing funnel, focusing on the specific steps that take place when a lead becomes a customer.

Introducing the B2B Sales Funnel Stages

When it comes to creating and optimizing your B2B sales funnel, the first thing to remember as a sales rep is that your sales funnel must work hand in hand with your marketing funnel.

What do we mean by this? It's that at each stage of your funnel, you have to know how far along they are in their customer journey. For example, are they actively looking for a solution? Have they contacted you personally to inquire about your services?

These types of leads don't need to go through the early phases of your marketing and sales funnel. You can jump right into a discovery call or a proposal call.

But as your leads move further down the funnel and become more qualified, you'll then want to switch to lead nurturing tactics such as email marketing or direct sales.

To help you better understand how all of this works, let's take a look at each stage of the b2b sales funnel in more detail.

Stage 1: Outbound or Inbound Lead Generation

Marketing funnel stage: Top of the Funnel - Awareness stage

The first step in your sales funnel is lead generation. This is where you generate awareness for your brand and attract leads into your funnel.

There are two main types of lead generation: outbound and inbound.

Outbound lead generation is when you actively go out and find leads. This can be done through things like trade shows, cold calling, or email marketing blasts.

Inbound lead generation is when you attract leads to your website through things like SEO, content marketing, or social media.

How to navigate this stage:

  1. Know where your prospect is coming from.

Ask yourself is this lead coming from my website? Did they come from our cold email campaign? Did they come from a referral? Or were they from our ads? Was it from our trade show?

You have to know where your lead is coming from and segment your lead accordingly. So, the first question to ask is, how did your lead discover you?

2. Segment your leads accordingly.

If your way of gathering leads is getting their email, you can segment your leads accordingly on your CRM or email marketing platform.

From there, you can track how your lead's journey has started and you'll be able to know in detail what specific pain point they're trying to solve or at what stage they may be in your funnel.

3. Create trackers for each of your customer touchpoints.

You can use tools like Google Analytics or Mixpanel to track these interactions. This way, you'll be able to see which touchpoints or marketing channels are working and which ones aren't.

4. Use lead magnets or gated content to track better.

A lead magnet is a freebie that you offer in exchange for a prospect's contact information. This can be anything from an ebook, webinar, or checklist.

Your lead magnets should also have clear calls to action to ensure that your lead moves further down the funnel.

B2B Sales Funnel Stages Content Marketing Funnel
The B2B sales funnel stages guide the prospects and you on what sort of activities to do.

Stage 2: Get-to-know Call

Marketing funnel stage: Top of the Funnel - Awareness stage

The connect call or get-to-know call is the first stage of the b2b sales process where you'll actually talk to your lead. This is where you'll introduce yourself and your company, and start building a relationship with your lead.

The main goal of this call is to qualify your lead and determine if they're a good fit for your product or service.

How do you get your prospects to get into a connect call with you? If they are on your email list, you can send them an email and invite them to go on a call with you.

Use an attention-grabbing headline, include a clear call-to-action, and make your intentions very clear.

How to navigate this stage:

1. Do your research.

Before you get on the call, make sure you do your research. This means looking up their LinkedIn profile, reading their website, and anything else you can find about them online.

2. Build rapport.

The best way to do this is to find common ground. This can be anything from where you both went to school, to shared interests.

3. Ask questions.

The goal of this call is to learn as much about your lead as possible. So make sure you ask lots of questions about their business, their needs, and their pain points.

4. Qualify your lead.

At the end of the call, you should have a good idea of whether or not this lead is qualified. If they are, great! Move them down to the next stage of your funnel. If not, then it's time to move on.

Take note, in this call, we're not problem-solving yet. Take this call to warm up your prospect and know how you'll navigate the rest of your sales funnel.

B2B Sales Funnel Stages from awareness to conversion
The B2B sales funnel stages take the customer from discovery to conversion.

Stage 3: Discovery Call

Marketing funnel stage: Top of the Funnel - Interest stage

The discovery call is where you'll start to get into the nitty-gritty of your lead's business.

You'll dive deep into their problem and see if there's a fit for your product or service. If you are in B2B sales, chances are you’ll always be in discover calls all the time. It takes practice to learn how to execute a good discovery call. and following a script will help you stay on track.

This is also the stage where you'll start to build trust with your lead. They need to trust that you understand their problem and that you can help them solve it.

How to navigate this stage:

1. Do your research.

This is especially important for discovery calls because you'll need to dive deep into your lead's business. Look up everything you can find about their company, their product, and their problem.

2. Build rapport.

As with the connect call, you'll want to find common ground and build rapport with your lead. But in this case, it's even more important because you'll need to establish trust.

3. Ask questions.

This is your chance to really get to know your lead's business. So make sure you ask lots of questions about their company, their product, and their problem.

4. Qualify your lead.

At the end of the call, you should have a good idea of whether or not this lead is qualified. If they are, great! Move them down to the next stage of your funnel. If not, then it's time to move on.

Stage 4: Proposal Call

Marketing funnel stage: Middle of the Funnel - Interest stage

The proposal call is where you'll present your lead with a solution to their problem.

This is your chance to show off your product or service and prove that you can help them solve their problem.

You'll need to have a solid understanding of your lead's business and their needs in order to create a proposal that meets their specific requirements.

How to navigate this stage:

1. Do your research.

As with the previous two stages, you'll need to do your research. This means understanding your lead's business, their problem, and what they need in order to solve it.

2. Build rapport.

Again, rapport is key in this stage. You'll need to build trust with your lead so that they believe you can help them solve their problem.

3. Create a proposal.

This is your chance to show off your product or service and prove that you can help your lead solve their problem. Make sure your proposal is tailored to their specific needs and requirements.

4. Qualify your lead.

At the end of the call, you should have a good idea of whether or not this lead is qualified. If they are, great! Move them down to the next stage of your funnel. If not, then it's time to move on.

demo call
A demo call provides your prospects information that will help them finally make a purchase.

Stage 5: Demo Call

Marketing funnel stage: Middle of the Funnel - Consideration stage

The demo call is where you'll give your lead a tour of your product or service. This is their chance to see how your solution works and how it can help them solve their problem.

You'll need to have a solid understanding of your product or service in order to give an effective demo. And, as always, rapport is key.

How to navigate this stage:

1. Do your research.

As with the previous stages, you'll need to do your research. This means understanding your product or service inside and out.

2. Build rapport.

Rapport is especially important in this stage because you're asking your lead to take a leap of faith. They need to trust that you know what you're doing and that your product or service can help them solve their problem.

3. Give an effective demo.

This is your chance to show off your product or service and prove that it can help your lead solve their problem. Make sure your demo is clear, concise, and informative.

4. Qualify your lead.

At the end of the call, you should have a good idea of whether or not this lead is qualified. If they are, great! Move them down to the next stage of your funnel. If not, then it's time to move on.

Stage 6: Champion Buy-In

Marketing funnel stage: Middle of the Funnel - Intent stage

A champion buy-in or influencer buy-in is when you get someone at your lead's company to champion your product or service.

This could be their boss, a colleague, or anyone else who has the power to make decisions about what products or services their company uses.

Getting a champion buy-in is important because it increases the likelihood of your deal being approved.

How to navigate this stage:

1. Do your research.

As with the previous B2B sales funnel stages, you'll need to do your research. This means understanding your product or service and how it can benefit your lead's company.

2. Build rapport.

Rapport is key in this stage because you're asking your lead to put their reputation on the line. They need to trust that you know what you're doing and that your product or service can help their company.

3. Identify the champion.

The champion is the person at your lead's company who will be responsible for pushing your product or service through the approval process. It's important to identify the champion early on so that you can build a relationship with them.

4. Qualify your lead.

At the end of the call, you should have a good idea of whether or not this lead is qualified. If they are, great! Move them down to the next stage of your funnel. If not, then it's time to move on.

Stage 7: Economic Buyer Buy-in

Marketing funnel stage: Bottom of the Funnel - Decision stage

Economic buyers are decision-makers who have the final say in whether or not a deal is approved. Taken from the MEDDIC sales qualification framework, the economic buyer has the final say in the decision-making process.

Getting their buy-in is important because it's the last step in getting your deal approved. Together with the support of your Champion/Influencer, you should be able to get your economic buyer on board.

How to navigate this stage:

1. Do your research.

Know what factors or metrics your economic-buyer or decision-maker is most interested in improving. This is key to understanding the make-or-break factors in the buying process.

This will help you focus your conversation and present your product or service in the best light.

2. Build rapport.

Rapport is key in this stage because you're asking your lead to make a decision about your product or service. They need to trust that you know what you're doing and that your product or service is the right solution for their company.

3. Qualify your lead.

At the end of the call, you should have a good idea of whether or not this lead wants to work with you. If they are, great! Move them down to the next stage of your funnel. If not, then it's time to move on.

Stage 8: Negotiation

Marketing funnel stage: Bottom of the Funnel - Evaluation stage

The negotiation stage is where you'll negotiate the terms of your deal with your lead. This is when they finalize the price and terms you both sign off on the contract.

This is usually done by their legal team doing their due diligence, but you may be involved in the process as well. You may be asked to provide more information about your product or service or to answer any questions that they may have.

Negotiating a contract can be tricky, but it's important to make sure that you get the best deal possible for your company.

How to navigate this stage:

1. Follow up with your lead.

After you've made your initial offer, follow up with your lead to see if they're interested in moving forward. Make sure you ask regularly during this process.

At any point that they say no, you'll need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new offer.

2. Keep the lines of communication open.

It's important to keep the lines of communication open during this stage. This means being responsive to your lead's questions and concerns.

3. Be flexible.

You'll need to be flexible during this stage, as there will likely be a lot of back-and-forths before you come to an agreement. Be prepared to make concessions and compromises.

4. Get everything in writing.

Once you've come to an agreement, make sure that you get everything in writing. This will protect you in case there are any issues down the road.

5. Close the deal.

After you have the deal in writing, it's time to close it! This is usually done by sending a contract to your lead for them to sign.

B2C vs B2B Sales Funnel Stages
The difference between B2B and B2C customer journey. Source

Stage 9: Closing the deal

Marketing funnel stage: Bottom of the Funnel - Purchase stage

Closing the deal stage or closing stage is the last part of the B2B sales funnel stages and it is when you finally get your lead to commit to purchasing your product or service. This usually happens after you've negotiated the terms of the deal and they've signed the contract.

The goal in this stage is to make sure that everything goes smoothly so that you can get paid and start working on your project.

How to navigate this stage:

1. Follow up with your lead.

It's important to follow up with your lead after they've signed the contract. This is to make sure that everything is on track and that there are no issues.

2. Get paid.

Make sure that you get paid before starting work on your project. This will protect you in case there are any issues with the project.

3. Start work on the project.

Once you've been paid, you can start work on your project. Be sure to keep your lead updated on your progress and deliver what you've promised.

4. Close out the project.

After the project is completed, close out the deal by sending your lead a final invoice. This is to make sure that they're happy with the work and that there are no outstanding issues.

5. Get a review.

If you've done a good job, ask your client/customer for a review or testimonial. This can be helpful in getting new leads in the future.

Congratulations! You've just closed your first deal.

Is paid advertising funnel the same as the sales funnel?

A paid advertising funnel is a process of using paid ads such as Facebook ads or Google Ads to generate leads and customers. There are several types of paid ad funnels, and usually, a paid ads funnel is more likely a marketing funnel and not a sales funnel especially for B2B.

A paid advertising funnel is usually used in B2C campaigns where you sell a product and they end up buying a product through the website.

B2B sales funnels, on the other hand, require more people in the process. You'll need a sales rep to follow up and close the deal, especially for B2B campaigns where you offer a product or service for a monthly subscription.

Moreover, you may use paid ads funnels to get more leads to your sales pipeline. As long as you have set a good target audience, relevant ads, and an effective landing page, it can be a good way to generate fresh leads all the time.

What's multi-funnel marketing?

Multi-funnel marketing is the process of using multiple marketing channels to attract and convert leads into customers. This could include paid ads, social media, email marketing, content marketing, etc.

For B2B sales, this can be a good way to generate new leads but it can be very overwhelming. If you're just starting out, it's important to focus on one or two channels and master them before moving on to others

What do we do with those that didn't move down the funnel?

Many times, you will encounter leads who will get stuck at one stage of the funnel, but this doesn't mean that you immediately let them go.

The important thing is to not give up on leads too easily. With a little effort, you can often move them down the funnel and turn them into paying customers.

Conclusion

The B2B sales funnel is a process that takes potential buyers through a number of steps, from awareness to purchase. By understanding each stage of the B2B sales funnel, you can better navigate each one and close more deals.

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of the B2B sales funnel stages and how to best navigate each stage. Remember to follow up with your lead, keep the lines of communication open, be flexible, and get everything in writing.

Good luck!

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