How to convert more leads with an optimized B2B sales funnel
Richard is an accomplished sales professional with a strong track record and extensive experience in driving enterprise-level customer relationships.
Think of the B2B sales funnel as a maze that your leads navigate through.
At the entrance to the maze, you have a wide range of leads. As they progress, some may take different paths, encounter dead ends, or even backtrack before finding the right path to conversion.
This represents the sales funnel stage, and not everyone follows a linear path. Some may require more effort, while others may get lost.
In this blog, we’ll explore practical strategies and tips to convert more leads with an optimized B2B sales funnel. Engage prospects, nurture relationships, and increase conversion rates by aligning your funnel with the buyer journey.
What is the difference between a B2B funnel and B2C funnel?
Three key factors differentiate B2B funnels from B2C funnels: longer sales cycles, more decision-makers, and more touchpoints.
Longer sales cycles: It takes 2 months to complete a B2B sales cycle and these cycles increase as the deal size grows. B2B purchases typically involve higher costs, long-term commitments, and a need to address the business’s unique requirements. As a result, nurturing leads and building relationships over an extended period of time becomes crucial.
More touchpoints: B2B funnels aren’t linear. Buying jobs such as problem identification, solution exploration, and supplier selection may occur simultaneously. B2B buyers conduct extensive research, seek out information, and conduct thorough evaluations before purchasing. They may watch webinars, read white papers, interact with sales reps, and participate in multiple rounds of discussions and negotiations — all at the same time.
What is the difference between a B2B marketing funnel and B2B sales funnel?
The B2B marketing and B2B sales funnels serve different purposes in the customer journey, like different steps in a relay race.
The B2B marketing funnel is like the starting point of the race. Your goal is to build awareness and attract potential customers.
For example, your company provides cloud-based accounting software for businesses.
In the marketing funnel, you might create informative blog posts, offer webinars on accounting best practices, and run targeted social media ads. This helps you capture the attention of businesses struggling with financial management and positions your brand as a reliable solution provider.
Let’s pass the baton to the B2B sales funnel, which picks up where marketing efforts left off.
The sales funnel converts those leads into actual customers. This funnel details the tangible actions you take to convince people to make a purchase.
It involves personalized interactions, one-to-one conversations, product demonstrations, and addressing specific customer needs and concerns. The goal is to nurture these leads through the decision-making process and ultimately close the sale.
No 2 B2B sales funnels are the same. One company may ditch some stages while others add extras to suit their requirements For instance, a small furniture store providing office interiors might have a short 3-stage funnel, while a complex enterprise solution provider may have up to 6.
Let’s break down the most common B2B sales funnel stages: awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and purchase.
At the awareness stage, your target buyers know your brand and its offerings. Buyers may come across your brand through inbound marketing efforts like blogs, ads on LinkedIn, or podcasts.
Say you need some help writing B2B emails. You do a quick Google search and get the following results.
These results are all informative pieces that help you solve a problem. They’re not outright pitches — they aim to educate and inform, not sell. So even though you’re not ready to buy yet, these content pieces have made you aware of these companies.
Brian Hicks, the VP of sales at Belkins, for example, is an expert in building sales process for B2B. Brian creates content around industry trends and best practices to position himself and Belkins as trustworthy sources and expose the brand to more eyeballs.
You pique your target buyer’s interest and build credibility at the interest stage.
While they may not be ready to purchase, they’re interested in learning more about you. Potential buyers may explore your website, skim through case studies, or watch product demos.
If a prospect has just finished reading a blog, for example, you don’t want them to close the tab. Instead, you want them to dive in further and explore the different ways your company can help them.
We’ve added a simple CTA on our blogs like the one below to allow readers to sign up for updates and continue to educate them about our company and its offerings.
Alternatively, you can use programmatic advertising to retarget your website visitors with social media ads and email campaigns tailored to their interests. This helps you stay top of mind as they navigate the decision-making process so you’ll be first on their list when they’re ready to buy.
Now, your potential buyer knows they have a problem and they’re ready to explore solutions. Leads are qualified at this stage since they understand what you can offer and how it fits their needs.
Here’s where product-led content comes into play. Step-by-step product walk-throughs, video tutorials, white papers, and Q&As help potential buyers understand your product’s features and benefits.
You can also try case studies and video testimonials that detail how similar customers used your product or service to solve their problems. At Belkins, we’ve created case studies and video testimonials that allow visitors to filter them by industry and see the results similar businesses have gotten.
Discovery calls are most relevant at this stage. Remember, you want to solve their problems, not pitch. Invite them to a free trial that allows them to use your product as a sandbox and see how it can actually help them.
At this stage, buyers have made up their minds. They know they need a solution and they’ve expressed interest in exploring that further with you. If they’ve booked a call with you, they’ve likely booked a call with other vendors as well. Your job now is to ensure they choose you.
The most effective way to do this is by creating content that directly addresses their needs. This content showcases your product’s value compared to competitors. Podcasts, webinars, email campaigns, and videos can boost visibility and educate potential buyers on why they should pick you.
Belkins regularly creates webinars to educate our target audience and deliver value to them. These webinars position us as experts in the space and make our prospects more likely to sign with us.
You can also try comparison charts and white papers that compare your product to similar ones on the market. This way, potential buyers can see what sets you apart from the competition.
Now buyers have everything they need. They have the pros and cons, they’ve scoured the reviews, and they know how much each solution costs.
They’re right at the edge and ready to take the plunge. You just need to nudge them in the right direction.
Two things really come in handy at this stage: urgency and pricing. You need to highlight why it’s critical for your prospects to get the solution right away.
Remind them of the rising costs they’ll have to bear if they wait too long, and explain how your product is the most cost-effective solution for their business.
You can also offer discounts and special offers that make it hard for prospects to say no. Showcase customer reviews or case studies that highlight successful implementations of your product and answer any lingering questions they may have.
Here’s when the buyer finally makes a purchase. The buyer signs the contract and all you need to do is continue nurturing them with post-purchase content and customer success stories that showcase the value they’ve received from your product.
This helps them stay loyal to you for the long term, refer others, and leave positive reviews about your solution online.
How do you create a sales funnel for B2B?
You know that a B2B lead passes through several stages before purchasing. The burning question is this: How do you create a watertight B2B sales funnel that minimizes the risk of leads dropping out? Here’s how:
Build a solid sales pipeline
A sales pipeline is an internal map that outlines all the steps in your sales process.
Building a solid pipeline involves a strategic approach that focuses on generating and nurturing leads, qualifying prospects, and converting them into paying customers. Here’s a step-by-step process to follow:
Identify your target market: Define your ideal customer profile based on demographics, industry, needs, and preferences. This helps you concentrate your efforts on the most promising leads.
Lead generation: Employ best B2B lead generation tactics to attract potential customers, such as content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), paid advertising, referrals, and networking. Create compelling and valuable content to establish thought leadership and capture leads through lead magnets like e-books, webinars, or free trials.
Lead qualification: Not all leads are equal — it’s crucial to assess their fit and potential. Implement lead qualification criteria based on factors like budget, authority, need, and timeline (BANT). Use lead scoring techniques to prioritize and rank leads based on their engagement level, behavior, and demographics.
Nurture leads: Develop a lead nurturing strategy to engage and build relationships with prospects over time. Use email marketing, personalized content, webinars, and events to provide value, address pain points, and educate leads about your products or services. Stay top of mind with relevant and timely communications.
Sales prospecting: Actively prospect and reach out to qualified leads through methods like cold calling, email outreach, social selling, or attending industry events. Tailor your approach based on the lead’s profile and engagement history to increase the chances of conversion.
Sales qualification: Once you establish contact with a prospect, focus on understanding their specific needs and challenges. Conduct thorough discovery calls or meetings to qualify their interest, budget, decision-making process, and timeline.
Presentation and proposal: Customize your sales pitch or product demonstration to address the prospect’s pain points and showcase how your solution can solve their challenges. Provide a clear proposal outlining the value, pricing, and terms of your offering.
Follow-up and negotiation: Regularly follow up with prospects to address any concerns, answer questions, and negotiate terms. Build rapport and trust by demonstrating your expertise and responsiveness.
Closing the deal: Once the prospect is ready to move forward, formalize the agreement, handle paperwork, and ensure a smooth transition to the onboarding or implementation phase.
Post-sale activities: Don’t neglect your existing customers. Provide excellent post-sale support, maintain regular communication, and upsell or cross-sell additional products or services when appropriate. Satisfied customers can become valuable sources of referrals and repeat business.
Note: From our experience as a B2B lead nurturing agency, building strong long-term relationships with your potential clients and providing them with the valuable insights brings around 45% increase in conversions.
Allocate the right sales team members to different funnel stages
The sales journey is a diverse process, requiring different skills at each stage. You need to assign the right person with the right expertise and experience.
For instance, you wouldn’t want a junior sales rep taking over a high-value deal that requires specialized knowledge and technical know-how.
At the same time, don’t assign too many people to manage one lead. Too many cooks spoil the broth, and too many sales reps overwhelm your leads with too much information.
Sales specialization involves dialing down each detail of the sales funnel and assigning reps with different skills. For example, you may need data analysts at the research stage who can evaluate the probability of closing the deal. On the other hand, you may need project managers to handle delivery and customer service reps for post-purchase interactions.
Create buyer enablement content for each stage
Buyers need thought leadership and educational content to make purchase decisions. Demos, data sheets, and product information are the bare minimum — you need this content to at least be considered a viable solution.
Buyers today expect access to a wide range of relevant information. Information isn’t just about positioning your brand as a credible source — it simplifies the purchase process for buyers.
Gartner’s research, for example, found that customers who considered the information they received from suppliers to be helpful in advancing across their buying jobs were 3 times more likely to buy a bigger deal with less regret.
The solution lies in buyer enablement content that empowers your buyers to make an informed decision. Belkins, for example, offers an ROI calculator to help buyers understand how much they’d save by using our service.
Here are the content examples according to the stages:
Educational blog posts: Create informative articles that address industry trends, challenges, and best practices. This content helps potential buyers understand the broader landscape and identify areas where they may need assistance.
Case studies: Share success stories of how your product or service has helped previous clients overcome challenges and achieve their goals. Case studies provide social proof and demonstrate the value you can deliver.
Webinars or video tutorials: Host live or recorded sessions where you demonstrate how your solution can solve specific problems. This interactive content engages prospects and helps them visualize the benefits of your offering.
Comparison guides or whitepapers: Create in-depth resources that compare your solution with competitors or alternative approaches. These guides help prospects evaluate the different options available and make informed decisions.
Product demos or free trials: Offer prospects the opportunity to experience your product or service firsthand. This allows them to assess its features, functionality, and usability, increasing their confidence in making a purchase.
Consultative content: Develop content that addresses common objections, FAQ, and pricing information. This type of content helps prospects overcome any remaining doubts and solidifies their intent to move forward with the purchase.
Expert interviews or thought leadership articles: Position yourself or your company as industry experts by sharing insights, trends, and forward-thinking ideas. This content reinforces your credibility and trustworthiness.
ROI calculators or cost-saving analysis: Provide tools or resources that help prospects understand the potential return on investment or cost savings they can achieve by implementing your solution. This data-driven content aids decision-making and justifies the purchase.
Testimonials or customer reviews: Share feedback and testimonials from satisfied customers. Prospects often rely on the experiences of others to gauge the quality and reliability of a product or service.
Customer success stories: Showcase how your solution continues to deliver value for existing customers. Highlighting ongoing success can reinforce the buyer’s decision and build confidence in their choice.
Calculate conversion rates consistently
Your B2B sales funnel conversion rates speak volumes about the effectiveness of your sales process. Throughout the funnel, you need to track conversions at each stage and analyze average time-to-close and other B2B sales funnel metrics.
To calculate conversion rates consistently, you need to establish a clear and consistent method for tracking and measuring your conversions. Here’s a step-by-step process:
Define the conversion: Determine what action or event constitutes a conversion for your business. It could be a purchase, a lead form submission, a sign-up, or any other desired action.
Set up conversion tracking: Implement a reliable tracking system to capture data on conversions. Tools like Google Analytics, CRM systems, marketing automation platforms, or custom tracking scripts can help with this. Double-check that you’ve implemented the tracking accurately across all relevant channels, such as your website, landing pages, or email campaigns.
Identify the conversion funnel: Map out the steps or stages that lead to a conversion. This could include awareness, consideration, evaluation, and ultimately, the conversion itself. Understanding the customer journey will help you track conversions at each stage.
Calculate the conversion rate: Plug the numbers into the conversion rate formula and calculate the result. Multiply the value by 100 to express it as a percentage.
Analyze and iterate: Regularly review your conversion rates to identify trends, patterns, and areas for improvement. Compare conversion rates across different channels, campaigns, or periods to gain insights into what is working and what needs optimization. Adjust your strategies and tactics accordingly to improve your conversion rates over time. Consider all external factors such as market conditions, competition, promotional activities, and buyer behavior. Pay close attention to any drops in conversion rates — they could be indicative of underlying issues.
You should also track the performance of each content asset. Are your gated assets driving the desired actions? Are your webinars prompting people to take the next step in the buying process?
Monitoring conversion rates helps you identify areas for improvement and fine-tune your sales funnel. Note that not all prospects will make it to the end of the funnel. However, if there’s a glaring difference in conversion rates at each stage, it’s time to take a closer look. For example, if there’s a high drop-off in conversion between the first and second stages, you may need to rethink your lead nurturing strategies.
Align your sales and marketing teams
Modern buyers are demanding: Any cracks in your process can cost you potential deals. Aligning your sales and marketing teams is the best way to ensure buyers have a seamless experience with your brand.
Bring marketing and sales leaders together to create a multichannel strategy for customer learning paths. Letting customers lead the purchase process involves input from both teams.
The sales team should be able to provide feedback on areas where leads are dropping off, while the marketing team should be aware of any changes or gaps in content that might need to be addressed.
Dedicate responsibilities to each team and set measurable goals. For instance, the marketing team segments leads and creates content, while the sales team facilitates prospective buyers and the deal. With a shared understanding of goals, your teams can collaborate and work together to ensure a seamless customer experience.
What is a good B2B funnel conversion rate?
The ideal B2B funnel conversion rate can vary depending on various factors, including industry, target audience, product/service complexity, and the effectiveness of your sales and marketing strategies.
That said, as a rough guideline, a good B2B funnel conversion rate typically ranges from 3% to 5%. This means that out of 100 leads entering the funnel, 3 to 5 eventually convert into customers.
What to use for tracking sales pipeline?
CRM systems like Salesforce, HubSpot, or Zoho CRM help you track and manage your sales pipeline, capture lead data, and monitor deal progress. Additionally, web analytics tools like Google Analytics provide insights into website traffic, conversions, and user behavior.
What are the different models of sales funnels in B2B?
In B2B, different sales funnel models include the content funnel, lead generation funnel, webinar funnel, call booking funnel, and many more. Each of these models serves a different purpose. For example, the content funnel focuses on attracting and educating prospects through valuable content while the webinar funnel uses webinars to provide valuable information and nurture attendees toward making a purchase decision.
Create a bulletproof B2B sales funnel
A robust B2B sales funnel should be tailored to your target audience, product/service complexity, and industry. You need a seamless experience from the initial contact to the final sale to reach your revenue goals.
To ensure success, track and monitor funnel performance on an ongoing basis so that you can adjust or optimize key components such as market conditions, competition, promotional activities, buyer behavior, and content assets. A sales partner like Belkins, which specializes in B2B lead acquisition, can guide the process and optimize your sales. Get in touch with us today.
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Richard is a sales professional with a strong track record and experience in driving enterprise-level customer relationships and leading cross-functional teams. Since 2015, he consistently maximizes sales opportunities across SaaS, Software Development, Ads and Marketing, Engineering, and other sectors.