The concept of a B2B sales funnel can be a bit misleading. After all, an actual funnel is designed to catch and pour out any liquid you put in it. But not every lead that enters the top of your sales funnel will end up as a customer the other way – there may be a few losses along the way.
On the other hand, that doesn’t mean your sales and marketing teams should have a slow conversion rate. With the help of the proper B2B sales techniques, your industrial company can win more leads at the top of the B2B sales funnel and more deals at the bottom.
What is a sales funnel?
Sales funnel strategy is a visual roadmap of your customer’s journey. The funnel concept has been used in B2C marketing activities for a long time and is based on the AIDA model. One of the oldest marketing models, AIDA is a four-stage sales funnel model that shows the customer’s journey from initial awareness to final purchase.
As industrial markets broke their shells and opened up to the world with the impact of technological developments, the B2B sales funnel model began to be implemented for B2B lead generation as well.
History of sales funnel definition
The sales funnels’ origins date back to the early American marketing pioneers nearly a hundred years ago. Funnel diagrams appear in a range of marketing models and are referred to by various names. Often, the terms customer funnel, sales cycle, purchasing funnel, prospecting funnel and buyer journey are used to define the funnel system similarly. This diversification results from the term’s use in various fields of research, as well as the inclination of individual marketing approaches.
Along with the diversity of models, there is no agreement on what should or should not be included in the funnel. For example, marketers define stages of the B2B sales funnel as the path a consumer takes from awareness to decision for a specific product (good or service).
The same is true for subsequent purchases or expansions (loyalty to a brand). Meanwhile, some salespeople view it as the precise number of actions necessary to convert a prospect to a customer.
Sales vs marketing funnel
There is considerable misunderstanding in that area. Many individuals believe that sales and marketing funnels are two distinct concepts. Just to be clear here I want to state that there is a solitary funnel. This funnel is simply shared by marketing and sales, that’s all.
However, the two departments are in very different positions. Marketing is mainly concerned with the top of the funnel, whereas sales is primarily concerned with the bottom.
If that is the case, why do we have two terms for the same thing? Due to the fact that the context of use is distinct. When a funnel is employed in a marketing environment, the term “B2B marketing funnel” is used. When utilized in a sales context, this is referred to as a B2B sales funnel.
In other words, marketing generates interest, and its bottom funnel corresponds to the top of the sales funnel. As a result, the sales funnel is fueled by marketing activities that raise awareness and drive demand for the product.
The customer discovered your product or solution
The customer started to be interested in your products
The customer decided to purchase your product
The customer purchased your product, sales closed!
Customer satisfaction and after-sales activities
Two distinct segments of the marketing funnel
B2B lead generation entails the development of marketing strategies aimed at increasing brand awareness. Trade exhibits, inbound marketing, technical content marketing, social campaigns, online advertisements, direct email marketing, and whitepapers are all utilized to promote the brand.
After a potential customer expresses interest in a product, the next stage is lead nurturing. The prospect is presented to the product (good or service) with customized sales content designed to encourage them to make a purchase.
Authority of sales and marketing departments
Persistent interest eventually pushes the prospective customers into the B2B sales funnel, where the sales department assumes control. The sales funnel is what takes the potential customer from the moment of marketing takeover through the point of sale.
In the sales and marketing professions, there is a raging controversy over who actually controls the entire funnel. As consumers’ reliance on online content to inform their purchase decision has grown in recent years, B2B marketers have taken on increased responsibility for the funnel.
5 stage B2B Sales funnel – based on the AIDA model
- Awareness: The potential B2B buyer first discovers the existence of a product or service.
- Interest: B2B Buyer actively expresses interest in the product or service.
- Desire: B2B Buyer decides to buy the product or service.
- Action: Finally, the purchase takes place, and the potential customer becomes a real customer.
- Loyalty: In this phase, it is about customer satisfaction and ensuring the continuity of trade.
The action (purchase) stage is the last phase in a conventional funnel. The purchase order is determined or the purchase commitment is approved. However, simply because payment and product exchange hands does not indicate that the B2B sales funnel has come to an end.
Not only does post-purchase interaction keep the customer happy, it also supports the funnel and is critical for creating a B2B sales pipeline. That’s because the vast majority of B2B sales processes begin with a referral from a good customer, and referral prospects convert 40% more effectively.
Of course, not every prospect goes through the AIDA process all the way through. Sometimes, lead conversion does not happen. For example, hundreds of people may pass in front of a roadside restaurant. Still, only a few are interested enough to stop and read the daily menu. The number of people who go in and eat is even less.
The same goes for the B2B sales funnel. The number of people in the funnel naturally narrows at each stage of the funnel. Therefore, this process –customer journey– is visualized as a funnel.
Sales funnel enables you to understand your customers
A well-defined B2B sales funnel should enable your industrial business to understand customer expectations better. Likewise, identifying the potential customer’s journey in the funnel can show how interested they are in your products or services. In addition, tracking leads as they go through the funnel can help technical sales professionals determine how best to approach them.
Knowing how to treat a potential customer –lead– at every stage of the sales process is critical to success. You don’t want to lose a potential customer by trying to force a sale while they’re still at the top of the funnel. Instead, the goal is to guide the lead from one stage to the next gently. If the B2B sales funnel model is implemented correctly, it will help you gain these customers instead of losing them.