Q: How do you optimize a B2B sales funnel?
A: You should optimize your B2B sales funnel by personalizing it to the greatest extent possible. If you adjust your strategy based on the unique business you’re targeting, you’ll experience the greatest chances of success.
The world of B2B sales is changing quickly in 2022.
According to a recent study, 73% of millennials are participating in the B2B sales process today – relying heavily on their connections and networking skills to generate results.
Another study suggests that face-to-face meetings have fallen out of favor, with just 16% of B2B sales departments in the UK still conducting their business in person.
These trends point towards a more digital, remote-focused approach to B2B marketing – one that relies on newer methods like social media networking and video conferencing.
If you’re attempting to build your very first B2B sales funnel in the modern era, you need to keep these trends in mind.
For countless years, businesses of all sizes have been striving (and often struggling) to optimize their B2B sales funnels.
Let’s find out.
What is a sales funnel?
Let’s start with the basics:
What exactly is a sales funnel, anyway?
Forget about the B2B aspect for a moment and simply focus on the core concept.
A sales funnel represents the journey customers take. For most basic sales funnels, this journey can be summed up with the acronym “AIDA.”
It starts with something we’re all familiar with:
A need. A want. The demand for a specific type of product or service. A problem that the customer needs to solve.
Once the customer becomes aware of this desire, they will start searching for potential solutions.
This is when the sales funnel truly springs into action.
For a customer to enter your sales funnel, they need to become aware of your company. This is the first stage of every sales funnel:
Companies make leads aware of their brand with various marketing strategies. In the modern era, the most popular strategies involve digital marketing methods, such as:
- Social media
- Email newsletters
- Paid ads
- YouTube channels
- Affiliate marketing
- Branding strategies
The goal here is to make sure that consumers are aware of your existence.
Of course, digital marketing isn’t the only way to generate leads, and many companies move in a completely different direction.
For example, the well-known Italian fashion house Bottega Veneta has completely deleted all of its social media accounts – generating an aura of exclusivity and mystique that serves the brand well.
Word-of-mouth marketing can be just as effective as more direct digital marketing methods. Realistically, word of mouth can be much more effective than virtually any other form of marketing.
Of course, a lead won’t automatically buy your product just because they become aware of it. To convert the lead, you must get them interested in whatever you’re selling.
This is the “interest” component of AIDA.
At this point, your goal is to describe your product or service clearly while highlighting all of its best features. Slogans, strong advertising, and excellent branding can all help generate this interest.
Many people fail to see the distinction between interest and desire – but there is a difference.
The statement “I like it” sums up interest, while “I want it” sums up desire.
The difference might be subtle, but it’s there. Someone might like your product – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re willing to buy it with their hard-earned cash.
For example, you might like a Porsche Carrera, but you might want a Honda Type R.
The key here is to trigger an emotional “switch” that occurs in every successful buying decision. You’re taking your customer from simply appreciating your product to realistically considering a purchase.
This stage is self-explanatory, and it represents the end of the sales funnel for most businesses.
When a customer takes action, they purchase the product. However, this stage might not be as easy as it appears.
During the action stage, you need to make the purchasing process as easy as possible. This means a streamlined, pleasant experience as they hand over their cash, enter their credit card number, or write you a check.
Any problems during this crucial final stage could cause the customer to abandon the sales funnel entirely.
Another important aspect of the “Action” stage is the call to action – also known simply as the “CTA.” This simple sentence might be as simple as “grab yours today,” but it must push the customer towards the end of the sales funnel.
If you’re already a marketing pro, the AIDA acronym might be old news. Regardless, it’s worth reviewing because many of the same basic lessons apply to B2B sales funnels.
And if you’ve never encountered concepts like sales funnels or AIDA before, know this:
Whether you’re aware of it or not, your leads must go through a sales funnel before they become paying customers.
You might have a sales funnel in place without even realizing it. Many sales funnels occur within the space of a single, persuasive conversation with a prospective client.
These conversations are quite common in the B2B world, where high-level executives meet with each other to discuss new sales and deals.
What makes a B2B sales funnel unique?
In many ways, B2B sales funnels are virtually identical to normal sales funnels.
If you’re trying to make B2B sales, your leads must go through the same process to become paying customers.
That being said, B2B entrepreneurs don’t use the same strategies as people running hot dog stands or thrift stores.
This is because their target market is not the end consumer but rather entire businesses.
This means that when you attempt to generate awareness and desire for your products or services, you’ll be reaching out to high-level executives, business leaders, and major decision-makers.
Often, you’ll need to win over an entire team of these individuals to make your enterprise sales.
As you can probably guess, this is a little more challenging than convincing someone to buy a hot dog.
On the plus side, however, the rewards for a successful B2B sale can be tremendous. The B2B world is typically associated with longer business cycles and high-level orders.
If you make a successful sale in the B2B world, you won’t have to worry about generating income for a long time.
This is because B2B customers are entire businesses, and it’s in their best interests to pick long-term partners to cultivate long-term stability.
Additionally, these businesses aren’t interested in buying a few products a year. They want to order large quantities of whatever you’re selling to increase their profit margins.
Here’s a B2B sales funnel example: Let’s say you’re selling computer chips that work with video game consoles. Let’s say your client is Sony, and they need a new chip for the upcoming Playstation 6.
They’re going to order entire crates of your computer chips because higher quantities come with lower prices.
Let’s consider a B2B SaaS example:
You might be selling some kind of online service, such as a new app that allows businesses to send and optimize email newsletters. A successful sale might be a million-dollar contract that allows businesses to use your service for the foreseeable future.
The key point is that if you’re focusing on B2B sales you might only need to make a few sales per year to generate profits. In contrast, a hot dog stand needs to sell a lot of hot dogs every single day to remain profitable.
Here are some of the key differences between B2B sales funnels and B2C sales funnels:
- B2B sales funnels take longer to optimize
- B2B sales funnels require significant AB testing
- B2B sales funnels involve a longer overall sales cycle
- A B2B sales funnel involves more mid-funnel stages
The longer overall cycle of a B2B sales funnel is one of the key distinctions here. It might take months or even years to convince a company to use your product.
During this longer sales cycle, you might have to use methods such as:
- Live demos
- Case studies
During this longer sales cycle, your B2B leads might go up and down the sales funnel many times. For example, they might flip-flop between “interest” and “desire” many times – committing to a sale before backing out again.
It is your job to remain patient and continue with your mid-funnel strategies as you attempt to convince them to take action.
Because of this “up-and-down,” non-linear pathway through the pipeline, a B2B sales funnel is typically more complex than a B2C sales funnel.
While the general rules of AIDA still apply, a B2B sales funnel may have a few extra stages:
As you can see, there are a few different B2B stage funnel stages in this modified version of AIDA, with the only three familiar terms being awareness, interest, and purchase (action).
Let’s explore the additional three terms:
During this stage, your job is to customize your product or service to your customer’s needs. Because each business has unique needs, you’ll need to cater your product to these needs to establish a productive working relationship.
Another important aspect of this stage is building trust while presenting yourself as a preferable alternative to the competition. During the evaluation process, you can make use of whitepapers, case studies, video testimonials, and more.
After you have successfully evaluated how you can cater to your customer’s needs, it’s time to engage with them.
This involves direct communication and even more trust-building. Friendliness goes a long way in the business world, as B2B networks are built on close interpersonal relationships.
The goal is to convince your customers that you have what it takes to offer solutions to their unique solutions. Live demos can be especially effective at this stage.
Skipping past the purchase stage, we have one of the most important aspects of any B2B relationship: loyalty.
Make no mistake – this is the single most important aspect of the entire B2B sales funnel. If your B2B customers aren’t loyal, they will abandon you and force you to look for new leads.
Going back to square one is never a good thing – especially when you’ve invested months and untold resources into your B2B sales funnel.
According to recent studies, a mere 5% increase in customer retention can increase revenue by a staggering 95%.
The key here is to maintain regular engagement with your B2B clients after they make their purchases. Never give the impression that you’re going to disappear once you have their money.
Instead, make your B2B clients feel as though they’ve become part of your business family, and that you’re there to offer continued support for the foreseeable future.
A Live Receptionist who is available to receive calls during peak business hours is a solid choice here, as you’ll never make clients feel like they’re being snubbed.
As long as your customers see that you’re making an effort, they’re unlikely to jump ship – even if there are significant issues with your product or service that need to be addressed.
A range of strategies can help you maintain loyalty, including:
- “Nurture” email campaigns
- Regular check-in calls
- Post-sale user interviews
- Product updates
- Events and webinars
How to build your B2B sales funnel
Now that you know what makes a B2B sales funnel unique, it’s time to build your own.
The first step is to review your business plan, your objectives, and your target audience.
Who are you trying to reach with your marketing strategies? Who is your ideal customer?
The next stage is to review your marketing team and improve specialization if necessary. While a B2C sales funnel might target a wide range of customers, a B2B sales funnel is usually much more targeted.
Marketing team members with specific specializations that match these targets will help you achieve your goals. For example, team members who specialize in gaming technology will be extremely helpful if you’re targeting companies within the gaming industry.
You should also keep in mind that your target audience is likely a business executive of some kind – possibly a CEO. According to recent statistics, the average American CEO is in their early 50s, and 80% of them are white.
Make of that what you will, but the key point is simple:
B2C methods that target young adults might not be very successful in the B2B world. For example, an Instagram ad isn’t going to achieve much if the 55-year-old CEO of your target company doesn’t even have the app installed on their phone.
Some of the most common B2B deals occur via very traditional methods, such as phone calls, in-person meetings, and good old-fashioned networking.
The truth is that your B2B sales funnel can occur within the span of a single conversation, so you might want to hire marketing experts who have tremendous negotiating and interpersonal skills.
Regular communication is important at every stage of your B2B sales funnel, including the post-purchase loyalty stage.
According to Forbes, data should also play an important role as you build your B2B sales funnel. They point out that only 20% of companies have adequate insight capabilities.
Using the insights provided by data helps you learn more about the behavior and characteristics of your target customers, giving you an edge over the competition.
Customer service is also incredibly important as you build your B2B sales funnel. You might make lead generation calls to prospective businesses, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be available at that specific moment.
These businesses almost always need to call you back – and if you’re not there to pick up the phone, you might lose them.
This is why a Live Receptionist service should be a key component of your B2B sales funnel. With service providers like Alliance Virtual Offices, you can enlist the help of a trained customer service professional who works remotely.
These individuals are available to receive calls 24/7, and they can help your clients connect and book appointments.
Moving forward with your B2B sales funnel
At the end of the day, the same basic principles of AIDA apply to B2B sales funnels.
The only real difference involves customization, longer sales cycles, and more interpersonal communication.
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While it might take months or even years to nail that crucial B2B sale, the rewards can be tremendous – providing income for the foreseeable future.
This is why it’s always important to persevere and be patient as you build and optimize your B2B sales funnel.
For more information about Live Receptionists and other business-focused services, reach out to Alliance Virtual Offices today.