A recent Gartner study noted that the B2B purchasing process is complex. While that might not totally take you back, you might be surprised to learn that 77% of B2B buyers reported that their last purchase was complicated. So, let’s take a look at your B2B sales funnel to simplify the buying journey for customers and your sales team. In this article, we’ll cover:
- What is a B2B sales funnel?
- Three B2B sales funnel processes you need to understand
- The basic stages of a sales funnel
- How to start above the funnel and solve the first-mile problem
- Ways to optimize your B2B sales funnel
What is a B2B sales funnel?
At its core, a B2B sales funnel is the process businesses use to go from awareness to purchasing a product or service. Sales funnels give you insight into where potential customers are, so you can connect them with the right resources that turn them from prospects to loyal customers.
Three B2B sales funnel processes you must understand
The world of B2B sales has nuanced challenges and opportunities, and you need to be aware of them. Your job is to make buying smoother for your prospects. To make it easier, you need to focus on three core areas: B2B buying, selling and marketing.
According to Gartner, the buying journey can be arduous and full of surprises. When it comes to B2B purchasing decisions, you will likely run into roadblocks because buying is a multi-step process with several layers of approval.
Gartner identifies four main steps to the B2B buying process:
- Problem identification
- Solution exploration
- Requirements building
- Supplier selection
Ultimately, B2B products typically cost thousands of dollars per year. As a result, businesses do not enter into these decisions lightly. You may experience long sales cycles, contract negotiations and other hang-ups while getting a company to sign a contract.
Businesses come in all shapes and sizes. If your company targets small businesses, the buying process will be simpler. There will likely be only one or two people to impress. On the other hand, enterprise customers require a more complex approach with new processes like RFPs (requests for proposals) or vendor surveys.
How your organization approaches the selling process is critical. You have to address fit, but it needs to be easy for prospects. Most B2B sales processes revolve around the demo. How you pitch your product will vary depending on who you are talking with.
For example, you may give a demo to a lower-level employee, demo to a manager/director and then demo to another executive at the company. Each demo needs to touch on different aspects of the product that appeal to that person. Lower-level employees (often the user) want to know about the bells and whistles that will make their lives easier. Executives (often the buyer) want to know how your product will save time or money.
By understanding the various layers of the selling process, your team will be able to sign more contracts.
Last, companies must understand the marketing process. What makes a person stop what they are doing to read your article, sign up for your free eBook or subscribe to your mailing list? Marketing is a numbers game requiring you to get in front of as many of the right people—your target audience—as possible.
Marketing has two main functions: paid and organic. Paid advertising can be a great way to prove market value quickly, but it can be challenging to sustain. Organic marketing helps your organization cut marketing costs while getting in front of more people. Organic marketing is best because it’s more sustainable for companies who want to cut expenses, but it does take time to establish. Unless you have name recognition offline, you’ll have to build your online presence from scratch.
The basic stages of a sales funnel
There’s no such thing as a “right” B2B sales funnel. Every company can—and should—build theirs in a way that best supports their customers and, ultimately, their business. Some sales funnels are simple and others are complex. But, it’s safe to say that many B2B sales funnels have these basic stages:
Before a company can find value in your product, they need to know that you exist. Awareness is essential to the funnel because prospects can’t turn into customers without this step.
Awareness is mostly a marketing function, but outbound sales reps might also take on part of this process. Marketing raises awareness by creating relevant content, hosting events and generating press. Outbound sales professionals develop awareness at a much smaller scale through one-on-one conversations with prospects they think will be a good fit.
After a person becomes aware of your brand, they start to consider what your organization can do for them. Prospects don’t always enter the consideration stage right away. They have to need your product offering first. Consideration happens as prospects are continually introduced to your company. Prospects in the consideration stage may reach out for more detailed information like whitepapers or demos of your product.
Next, buyers start to show intent, which means they do their final research to ensure you are the right company. Prospects might ask for more in-depth demos, pricing information and references for other successful customers. At the end of the intent phase, companies will let you know they are ready to sign a contract.
Now that a prospect has signed a contract, they have become customers. Many organizations offer a trial period or a money-back guarantee. Customers are testing your service, working with your success team and implementing your solution. Customers in the purchase phase are learning a lot and deciding their next steps.
In an ideal world, you can retain your customers. Creating a loyal customer base is helpful because it allows you to build your revenue sustainably. Customer retention also leads to more business because happy customers tell their friends and colleagues about your company.
Solve the first-mile problem in sales—above the funnel
At Rev, we realized there was a fundamental problem in the current B2B sales funnel, and it started at the top. When the wrong leads entered the funnel, every step after was wasted, draining companies of time and resources on leads that wouldn’t budge. Even worse, they were missing five-star opportunities altogether.
By knowing what makes your best customers fit and ready, you can focus your time on the prospects that are most likely to close. Wondering how to identify a customer that’s ready to hear your pitch?
Here’s how some of the best sales and marketing teams use our AI-powered Sales Development Platform to find their next best customer:
1. Start with a seed list
First, our stellar customer success team partners with you to compile and enter your seed list in our Sales Development Platform. The seed list is a necessary part of the process because it’s what our AI analyzes and pattern matches against. If you put in poor-fit companies, you’ll receive a target list that looks the same way. To avoid this, we sit down with you to go over your list and make sure it’s filled with the best companies.
Our customers often give us a list of their favorite or best-fit customers. Some of our customers are new or diving into a new market. For those customers, we work to determine who the best-fit customers are in their industry.
2. Build an aiCP
Once you’ve entered your seed list, our Sales Development Platform goes to work. It looks at the deep, behavioral characteristics of your customers, what we call exegraphics, and builds you an aiCP (AI-powered ideal customer profile). Unlike a traditional ICP snapshot often rooted in firmographics, the aiCP is dynamic and gives you deep insight into how a company operates.
Our Sales Development platform has data for more than 6 million companies and 500+ exegraphic lenses. This helps you understand your customers and prospects beyond headcount and headquarters location. When you use Rev’s exegraphics, you get robust information about what makes your seed list unique and valuable.
The exegraphic data you get from Rev would be stellar on its own, but we take it a step further.
3. Create a target list your sales team will love
Next, our Sales Development Platform uses the aiCP as a blueprint and looks for other companies that look and act like your best customers. It then builds a prioritized target account list based on the exegraphics you uncover from your seed list. Our platform looks for bullseye companies, or companies that exhibit the patterns and behaviors that show a high propensity to engage..
When you see your target account list, you’ll find more than just bullseye companies. Rev wants you to uncover the gamut of companies that could be a great fit, so we share companies with different layers of fit and readiness. Many of our customers use Rev data across sales and marketing. Sales take the best fit leads, while marketing warms up the colder opportunities.
4. Plug your list where you need it most
Sales are already complicated. We don’t want to make your life harder. We have a stellar list of integrations with companies you love, like Salesforce, Hubspot and Marketo. Once you have your list, you’ll easily be able to export the information to software your sales and marketing team members already use.
There’s no need to have your sales and marketing team undergo another training.
5. Rinse and repeat
Before Rev, understanding the ideal customer profile was a huge undertaking. There was so much data that needed to be collected and digested. Humans can only take in so much information. ICPs were often reaffirmed once a year or less, which made them outdated as products and companies developed. There is no reason companies can’t be flexible and agile when it comes to their ideal customer.
One of the best parts about Rev’s aiCP is that it constantly evolves. You can make changes to your company’s aiCP monthly or quarterly. As a result, your sales team can make better decisions, tap into companies that make sense at the moment and close more deals in the process.
Five ways to optimize the B2B sales funnel
While the B2B buying process can feel complex, there are specific things you can do to optimize it. Ultimately, your organization must be able to anticipate the needs of your audience. What information does your audience need to feel comfortable spending money on your product/service? By providing those details upfront, you can reduce buying friction.
1. Have a clear understanding of your ideal customer
One of the best ways to optimize the B2B sales funnel is to know your ideal customer inside and out. When employees understand the ideal customer, they can think like them. Getting inside your ideal customer’s head leads to better content, well-designed sales outreach and meaningful conversations.
2. Help sales and marketing professionals visualize the funnel
It can be challenging to optimize the sales funnel if your team doesn’t understand the value. Sales and marketing leaders must do the work to help their team visualize the B2B sales funnel. Why is it important? How do they contribute to the funnel? What pieces of the funnel does the company need to strengthen? Make using a funnel practical for all of your revenue operations and go-to-market team members.
3. Create straightforward, helpful content and collateral to improve lead flow
Content is the backbone of your B2B sales funnel. The content you create can push people through the funnel and make people more likely to purchase your product. Marketing and sales should collaborate to understand what potential prospects need so sales teams can sign deals.
You should use a mix of gated and ungated content to bring new prospects into the funnel. The gated vs. ungated debate has been raging amongst marketers for a while, but gated content does help your company collect more email addresses and MQLs.
4. Focus on credibility through reviews and case studies
B2B buyers talk within the niche, and everyone wants to keep up with the Joneses. If you’re going to optimize your sales funnel, start by leveraging your current customers.
It’s vital to leverage review sites like G2 and Capterra. These sites get millions of visitors every year. Your ideal buyers visit sites like this to get a sense of the players in your niche. You want to have a presence on these sites, so team up with your customer success department to drive reviews.
Another way you can boost credibility is by focusing on your case studies. Case studies are an in-depth look at one of your best customers. You can dive deep into their problem and how your product or service solved it. While potential customers realize that these are advertisements for your brand, a well-written case study can make the sales process much easier.
5. Look outside of your niche for brand inspiration
Is your brand a leader or a follower? Often companies get stuck in a cycle of being too late to trends because they spend more time following what others do. If you want to optimize your funnel, try something another company outside your niche is doing. For example, you could try some B2C sales strategies or find strategies that work for another B2B niche to see if they might work for your company.
Buying is fairly similar across the board, so it’s okay to do something that’s never been done in your niche before.
How is a B2B funnel different from B2C?
Last, let’s wrap up by sharing how B2B funnels differ from B2C funnels. While B2C buyers go through many of the same phases as B2B buyers, the funnel is typically sped up.
Consumers don’t have to spend nearly as much time going through each stage, and the middle stages of the funnel are often condensed. In a B2C purchase, there are typically far fewer hoops to jump through. For most consumer purchases, there is only one buyer, with the exception of larger purchases like a car or a house.
Overall, businesses do much more diligence when purchasing a product or service.
It’s time to build a better B2B sales funnel with Rev
At Rev, we’ve spent countless hours building a deeper understanding of the sales funnel. While traditional sales funnels can make revenue, something is missing. Rev helps companies like Oracle go above the funnel by addressing the fit and readiness of potential prospects.
If you’re ready to improve your company’s B2B sales funnel, contact us. We’d be more than happy to show you how our Sales Development Platform works and give you a sample list of targets for the exegraphics you care about most.