If you’re a business owner, sales manager, or involved in any way with sales, this is for you. This article will explore the secrets that will help increase sales and improve the process your (future) clients (will) go through.
Before jumping in, let's answer a few questions first:
- Does your company have a B2B sales funnel?
- Do you track and review each sales stage?
- Have you chosen the tools to automate the sales process?
- Is the team well trained?
If you answered ‘no’ to at least one of the questions above, this article will help you. You’re in the right place to learn how to turn things around.
Here are a few things we will talk about:
What is a B2B sales funnel, and why is it important?
How to create an impressive sales strategy for each stage
Automation tools for marketing and sales
B2B sales funnel strategy is not just for salespeople and business owners. Everyone can learn how business relationships work, how the sales reps manage to get a client from one stage to another, and how one can increase productivity when working on their own tasks, even though they may not be closely related to sales.
B2B Sales Funnels or Paths?
Before we begin, let’s review essential terms related to the topic:
Lead: any person that has interacted with the company either through email, website chatbot, phone, or offline;
Prospect: a lead already validated by the sales team, about to start the negotiation phase. This person can also be considered an MQL;
Suspect: The opposite of a prospect. This is the person that does not have the intention to buy at all, or someone who is just checking around for information;
MQL: Marketing Qualified Lead - the lead that went through the marketing stages that qualify leads for your sales team;
SQL: Sales Qualified Lead - MQL qualified by the sales team; real opportunities;
ToFu: Top of the Funnel is the largest pool of people. Anyone who is in contact with the organization might be a lead. The ToFu is the stage with most people in it;
MoFu: Middle of Funnel is the second stage, the phase when the person has already been evaluated and is qualified (MQL);
BoFu: Bottom of the Funnel is the last stage when the lead has already become a prospect and is about to close the deal.
The funnel is essentially the client’s journey through the stages of sales. We can sum it up as the path the lead goes through from the first touchpoint until the deal is closed.
The funnel is usually represented by an upside-down pyramid or a round funnel. Whichever depiction a company chooses, the goal of the sales funnel is to drive people from ToFu to BoFu.
And make money!
This journey involves a lot of joint work with the marketing team to create and optimize strategies such as:
Cold Email Marketing Campaigns
Social Media Marketing to generate prospects
Content creation to increase online presence through SEO
How to Create a Killer B2B Sales Strategy (By Using the Funnel)
Now we know what the funnel is, what it looks like, and what it represents in sales (and for sales), so let’s walk through the strategies to use it in your business’ favor.
It’s all about understanding behaviors, creating ways to solve problems and fulfill desires, and winning new clients.
The more committed you are to a strategy, the higher are the chances to have a very efficient sales funnel (and process).
Let’s see how to create a brilliant strategy for your team, convert traffic into leads, and close deals.
Clients’ (or Customers’) Journey
Understanding the customer journey is essential for the creation and optimization of the sales funnel, mostly because the journey is continually evolving, and so is the funnel.
Some marketers and sales professionals believe the funnel is no longer an upside-down pyramid, but instead a path with many entrances. The most important detail about it is that the customer journey goes beyond the sales - it’s about an experience even after the purchase.
Long-term business relationships depend on a well-designed customer journey and its touchpoints.
To have a better understanding of your customer's journey, you need to analyze how your customers behave and ask some fundamental questions.
What are the problems they are facing?
What are their needs?
What are the bureaucratic processes they have within their company?
Creating B2B Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is a fictional profile of the ideal customer. It’s used to help the sales and marketing teams understand who the person they are talking to and reaching out to is.
A few things that can determine a persona:
Position in the company
- Their responsibilities
Preferred communication tool/method
- Tools they use on a daily basis
- The challenges they face
- Their method of learning and gathering information
- Company size and industry
The more detailed the questionnaire, the better! The idea is to create a character that represents the perfect customer. You need to learn as much as you can about the person who would love to buy your product and try to understand the reasons why they would.
Just remember that this persona can, and it should be created based on the data you collect from current clients, not only based on assumptions.
Define Sales Funnel Milestones
After learning about the customer journey and the buyer persona, it’s time to create milestones you need to hit during the sales process. This means that you have to come up with triggers or checkpoints to drive the client from one stage to the next.
These checkpoints are based on everything you know about the ideal customer, on how they want to be approached, what they like, and what they need. Add them to a timeline.
You can ask yourself questions such as:
When will my lead need to implement the solution?
What kind of content should I send and when?
Can they get to the next sales stage by themselves?
The answers to these questions will help you create the milestones (to-dos) for the sales process.
Check for Stage Performance
Here we must go back to the definition of Tofu, MoFu, and BoFu. Every one of these stages are very important for the whole process and have different aspects that influence the approach you decide to take.
At the Top of the Funnel, we’ll find all website visitors and people that came across the brand through social media and other sources.
The more the merrier. However, some of these people are not good leads as they might be just doing research or reading about the product. That’s why it’s very important that you have a great screening process (usually done by the pre-sales team, called SDR, which we’ll talk about it later).
What to offer?
People who are in the ToFu don’t exactly know what they need, but they do know that they have a problem.
What is your company’s role in this? To educate the visitor and lead through documents, rich content, ebooks, infographics and other marketing materials that teach them about a specific theme.
This is not sales yet! This is the stage where you offer them knowledge, gather their contact information, and run a screening process. It’s a great opportunity to filter people based on the persona you’ve created.
A lot of sales teams have created the Sales Development Representative role to work in the ToFu, as a person who qualifies the leads.
They only send good prospects to the salesperson who will close the deal and help to seed out suspects.
This stage is full of prospects, people who had some contact with the company and its product, and who have a real interest in learning more about it.
These people were already validated by the SDR team and are considering the purchase. This is when the sales reps need to work on addressing their doubts and showing them that you have the solution they are looking for.
How can you increase their interest?
By sharing more content. However, at this stage, you should offer advanced information, tips, and techniques, all through case studies, white papers, and videos. Build and strengthen your credibility to help drive them down the funnel.
You’re finally there. You drove that client all the way from the ToFu to BoFu. Congratulations!
But what now?
This is the final stage, the one where people are about to close the deal, and the lead already became an opportunity and is about to finally become a CLIENT!
Get ready to pop the champagne, but first, you have to make sure these potential clients understand that you can help them solve the problems they are facing.
In this stage two things can happen:
They need help to negotiate the purchase internally. Some potential clients will need your assistance to go through the bureaucracy of defending the purchase internally and will need help with the signing of the contract. Since you’re their reference, you should help out with any information and advice they might need.
They are not ready to purchase right away. In this case, it’s highly recommended that you offer a free trial or discount. This usually happens when the purchase is not approved and they need more time to convince a boss or the team about it.
Share product materials with this lead.
Once the contract is signed, it’s time to close the funnel and send that lead - who’s now a client - to the customer support or account management teams.
Tune Up Your B2B Sales Funnel
After creating the sales funnel, you should think about strategies that will optimize each stage and convert leads into clients. This process is called ‘funnel optimization’, and it has become an important term for marketing, product and sales teams.
To optimize the funnel, it is necessary to choose indicators and track them. It’s highly recommended to focus on 2 macro indicators: people and processes.
People: track individual conversion rates and productivity. It is important to make sure the sales team is well trained and knowledgeable about the product and the sales process.
Processes: To measure the success of the processes, you need to focus on each stage’s conversion rate, ROI for marketing tools being used, and also check how the salespeople are performing in each step.
If you manage the team’s productivity and keep track of their results, it’ll be a lot easier to understand training needs and individual gaps. Plus, if you have a record of achievements, it’s simpler to create new sales goals based on what people can actually achieve.
To make a sales funnel grow exponentially it’s important to train people and create tools and materials for them to use (and also measure the impact those materials have).
But how to measure everything and sell at the same time? Let the Business Intelligence department take over this part. You’ll just have to brief them about your needs and update the person in charge of the commercial data.
Let’s see what data can do for the sales team!
Commercial Business Intelligence
Data is the ally of sales strategies and the evolution of BI (Business Intelligence) has been very helpful in gathering and analyzing numbers to give powerful insight on where to improve.
A BI team can help measure the conversion in each stage’s, as well as analyze other data that will put the company ahead of the competition and in some cases, even help reduce operational costs.
Creating strategies not based on history and real achievements is not healthy for the long term plan. For instance, check the image below and how the information can actually help create goals for each sales funnel stage.
Source: What are average conversion ratios in the sales funnel?
The image above shows an example of average conversion rates for each stage. It was made according to research conducted with a few sales teams of different companies and these numbers can be used as a reference.
We highly recommend that you measure your own company’s conversion rate for a better and more real business overview. Focus on your reality and your team’s needs.
Important sales funnel data
The average time the lead spends in each stage
% of conversion per marketing materials on each stage
Collect data, analyze, measure and do that all over again. It’s the only way to come up with strategies to improve.
Improve the Sales Forecast
Another benefit of a commercial BI strategy is that the information they gather and analyze can help with a better sales forecast, which might be hard for some salespeople.
The sales forecast is the act of estimating deals revenue and it should consider internal data, but also an industry overview and economic analysis. The forecast can be short and long term, but it must be reviewed periodically because the scenarios might change according to the market.
Tools to Easily Manage a B2B Sales Funnel
Choosing the right tools will help the team perform well. There are so many options, which makes it difficult to choose, but once you read over reviews and evaluate software functionalities, you’ll see that some tools can help out through the entire process.
And why do you need software?
Inside sales are all about optimizing time and getting to talk to as many people as possible in one day, and useful tools help track the work and assist with deals management.
It’s not only about keeping the clients’ data saved and updated, but the team also needs tools to help with many aspects of the sales process. For example:
Generating Leads on Social Media, like extracting emails from Linkedin
Nurturing Leads and Prospects Through Email Marketing
Creating Content to Engage People
How can you do all of these? Pick a leading SaaS software to generate leads. Here are a few examples:
For prospecting new clients
Find business emails and verify them to only reach out to valid ones;
Enrich emails and create customized messages;
Customized chatbot installed on the website to convert traffic into leads;
Proof notifications installed on the website to increase conversion rates;
Increase the likes and shares on your LinkedIn status through B2B Exchange.
For client nurturing:
Create automated email campaigns, including follow up emails;
Automatically generate unique content from Youtube subtitles;
Daily articles written by artificial intelligence.
And what to do with the information after you activate the lead? Send it to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.
Keep Track of Your Customers
The SaaS software will generate the lead and after that, the team can move the information to another platform, usually a CRM tool like Pipedrive and SalesForce.
There are also other options that have easy integration or available API that can be used such as Zapier.
Customer Relationship Management is used to manage the sales pipeline, which is all about closing deals. We can think of the CRM as a tool for business development and the lead generator SaaS software as part of the Sales Development stage.
But remember, CRM is not just a tool, it’s the whole relationship with the new client, so it’s quite important to keep track of everything since the beginning and the ideal CRM has options such as:
Benefits of a Well-Structured B2B Sales Funnel
You already know that having a funnel is a must for sales success. It’s a vital part of the commercial process and its strategies, plus it helps create better sales forecasts and goals adjusted to the team’s reality and capacity.
If you create goals that are not realistic and based on historical data, they won’t be achieved and the team will be demotivated. The average turnover of sales teams’ is 34.7%, so make sure you understand the salespeople's performance and their capacity, and if necessary, hire more people to meet the goals.
Enjoy the Ride - Planning is Fun and Enlightening!
Take advantage of the sales funnel creation process and its review because it is quite eye-opening and great insights can come out of it. It helps discover which actions are necessary to increase sales and improve the company's processes.
If you follow a few tips mentioned, you’ll create a well-structured team, but if you really want to have a sales machine you must be very detail and data-oriented throughout the entire process.
Don’t waste any more time, go get those leads and close deals.