What’s a B2B sales funnel? And why is it like a pinball machine…? Just two of the questions we answer in this complete guide to creating B2B sales funnels that aren’t just bulletproof - but that eat bullets for breakfast! 😲
What has pinball got to do with B2B sales funnels… to find out read on!
Those two were mostly focused on B2C or sales funnels for fairly consumer product-like B2B services. In this blog, we’re going to explore the big differences between the B2C and full-on B2B ends of the spectrum.
We’ve narrowed it down to four fundamental points to help you focus your efforts.
Then we’ll look at the best tactics for armor-plating your newly forged bulletproof sales funnel!
How does a B2B sales funnel differ from a B2C one?
A quick recap on the basic AIDA B2C sales funnel model: It comprises four basic stages - Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action - with occasional variations splitting one or more of these up into more granular substages
The classic AIDA sales funnel
This model is very appealing to SaaS people because it holds out the prospect of automating every single step in the marketing and sales process! Just figure out what the ideal lead needs to know (or needs to be made to want...) to move from one stage to the next, give it to them, and sit back and watch the customers roll in, right? 😉
B2B tends to be more complicated. Why is that?
- B2B sales cycles are typically much longer than in B2C. According to Implicit, it takes an average of 84 days before B2B leads are ready to consider engaging
- B2B buyers will look at five or more pieces of your content before they’ll be ready to buy, according to Forrester
- As a result, there are loads more touch points required: Hubspot has found that 80% of B2B sales need five or more follow-up calls!
- There’s usually a lot more money involved, a lot more stakeholders involved, and more channels to engage across
- B2B leads tend not to follow a linear path through the funnel: they move back and forth, warming up and cooling off over time. Cience has a nice diagram of how tends to work in practice. Is the pinball image starting to make sense now…?
One quick clarification before we move on: a sales funnel is not the same as a sales pipeline!
A sales pipeline represents how your sales team’s actions influence a pool of prospective buyers as they are moved towards completing a deal.
So a sales pipeline will usually have numbers of leads and deal values on it:
So, what are the main characteristics of a B2B sales funnel?
B2B sales funnel big difference #1: You gotta nurture
96% of visitors to your website are not ready to buy and the average person will spend no more than 37 seconds researching each product they look into when they get to the “Interest” phase.
In B2B sales, you have to nurture leads - often over a long period of time - so that when they finally do get to that elusive buying place, your product is already front of mind.
The good news is that a lot of this can be automated:
- As well as personas for different types of potential users, you will also need to map out a variety of nurture pathways: current customers; ex-customers; people who won’t buy now but may in future; people who won’t ever buy but are enthusiastic about it nonetheless; influencers; etc. The content used and the best means of engagement will differ for each
- Once you’ve designed these pathways, set up email drip campaigns that provide valuable content to leads, building a positive brand perception and keeping your product in their thoughts
Forrester research has shown businesses that nurture well generate 50% more Sales Qualified Leads from their marketing than those that don’t.
The AIDA model doesn’t do justice to the importance of lead nurturing.
B2B sales funnel big difference #2: You’ll need to go face-to-face
Although buyers today spend less of their time meeting with potential suppliers than in the past - just 17%, according to Gartner - it still makes up a significant chunk of most B2B sales funnels.
Plus, that figure downplays the importance of the personal element in large B2B sales. 47% of the time, purchases are made by buyers who have been nurtured at every step of their sales journey. And the best way to make somebody feel nurtured is to show them personal attention that caters to their individual needs.
Indeed, the need to involve a sales agent in the B2B sales process introduces a lot of new factors to account for, compared to a fully automated funnel:
- The change of tone from marketing to sales needs to be handled very carefully
- A badly briefed salesperson can undo all the good work done previously, by being unaware of everything you’ve learned about the lead and their needs earlier
- As the sales pipeline concept mentioned earlier suggests, selling is an active process - leads need to be pushed, in a way that an automated funnel can’t
- Where large sums of money are involved, there will almost always need to be a final negotiation on price and terms
In recent times, a new tool has entered smart salespeople’s arsenal: video messaging. Video messaging has the power to get your voice and face past those all-important gatekeepers, enabling you to start building personal rapport with even the busiest executives!
- Video emails get significantly higher clickthrough than conventional emails
- People only retain about 10% of text messages but retain about 95% of video messages
- 74% of prospects given a chance to see a product in action on video will buy it
- And this is a big opportunity: only 32% of businesses currently use video messaging in their sales
Whether it’s a video sent out en masse as part of your drip campaigns or one-off personalized nudges from your sales team, Sendspark is uniquely equipped to help you make the most of video messaging. Sign up for free now and find out more!
B2B sales funnel big difference #3: Referrals are massive!
This figure may shock you: 84% of B2B sales originate from a referral to the buyer by a friend or colleague.
Not only that, but leads from referrals are between 3 and 5 times more likely to convert than leads from other channels.
So if you’re serious about building a bulletproof B2B sales funnel, you can’t declare “mission accomplished” at the point of sale or even when they renew their subscription. You need to keep nurturing your new customers to get them to a point where they will advocate for you.
Ensuring customer success is just table stakes. You’ve got to go above and beyond:
- By building personal relationships between your customers, your staff, and your brand. Invite their feedback - get them involved in brainstorming and beta testing new features; reach out with personalized messages (particularly video messages) to show that they matter to you
Nurture your best customer relationships, because referrals make a huge impact!
- By offering incentives for referrals. Many businesses have explicit referral programs: 78% found that customers obtained through them are more loyal than others!
B2B sales funnel big difference #4: You’ve got several funnels
This is something that all the other differences point towards. The B2B sales funnel is made up of three separate funnels, each with its relevant metrics, content needs, and skill requirements:
- Marketing funnel - which turns potential customers into Sales Qualified Leads (ie relevant people who are ready to start talking), possibly over a very long period of time
- Sales funnel - which turns SQLs into customers (or hands them back to marketing)
- Customer success funnel - which turns new customers into reliable revenue-producers and brand advocates who will feed more leads into the system through referrals
The transitions between these funnels are key.
Ever wonder why your salespeople complain about bad meetings with uninterested prospects with no budget? Hubspot has found that only 27% of the leads marketers hand over to sales are properly qualified. They’re the wrong person, they’re not ready to buy, or they don’t value the value proposition.
Acknowledging that these are very different helps avoid those perennial arguments between sales and marketing, and ensures everyone is accountable for their own work.
Making your B2B sales funnel bulletproof
OK, now you understand how and why a B2B sales funnel needs to be structured - and why a B2C approach won’t usually cut it. You’ve got loads of leads in play, all of whom need personal care and attention to keep them there until they’re ready to move. Leads will warm up or cool off, becoming more or less open to your efforts.
That’s why we think a B2B sales funnel is a bit like a pinball machine...
Become a B2B sales funnel pinball wizard with Sendspark!
So here are four killer strategies to turn you into a pinball wizard!
Segment and nurture
One-size-fits-all may work for ponchos and onesies, but it’s not a good strategy for B2B sales. Customers today expect their individual needs to be recognized, and you need to demonstrate that you’re aligned with their priorities.
As we said earlier, you should be segmenting your audience to follow different nurture pathways. That nurturing journey is as much about you finding out those unique things that make the lead tick so that when a salesperson gets involved they can deliver a pitch that hits all the right notes.
We’ve already mentioned how only a minority of businesses have figured out how to use video in their sales - so you have a chance to get ahead of the competition here.
Video has so many applications in B2B sales funnels:
- Introductory prospecting messages that stand out from everything else in leads’ email or LinkedIn inboxes
Sendspark video message via LinkedIn
- Delivering entire sales pitches or product demos, via a Video Sales Letter
- Sending appointment reminders that fight the 40% no-show rate for video calls
Use video messaging to improve meeting attendance rates
- Video testimonials from other customers - these have been found to be the single highest-converting content type!
- Re-engaging lost leads with a personal touch
Re-engage ghosts with video emails
By combining your voice and eye contact with the convenience of asynchronous communications, video messaging brings together the best of face-to-face meetings and automation.
If it’s not a part of your B2B sales funnel, it’s time to start using video messaging now!
Use lead scoring
You need to invest in decent CRM software to keep track of where all the leads in your sales funnel are.
There are loads of options - and a lot of good free ones - but if you’re running a B2B sales funnel, make sure the one you pick provides lots of flexibility in designing a lead scoring system that can be tied into your marketing automation.
Lead scoring is invaluable for serving up the right content at the right time and identifying that critical moment at which to turn up the pressure. If you apply the right weights to lead actions, your nurture campaigns will seem to be reading leads’ minds!
Track those transitions
If the handovers between the marketing, sales, and customer success stages of your overall funnel are not really tight, you’ll lose leads at those transition points.
- Make sure your CRM is configured to provide all the relevant information to each new team as they become involved
- Be clear on where one team’s responsibility ends and the next begins
- Be prepared for leads to move in the wrong direction, back from customer success to sales, or from sales to marketing - and apply the same rigor there
- Configure your analytics software to track all user actions around these critical points, study patterns of behavior, and test different hypotheses as to what will improve performance
B2B sales funnels are far more complex, far less linear, and they take far longer for a lead to work through than their B2C counterparts. In fact, with so many leads moving back and forth at once, a better comparison than a funnel might be a pinball game that’s gone multiball!
Sendspark is the ideal tool for creating videos for your B2B sales funnel.
You can use it to record yourself, distribute your videos via email, and make awesome landing pages that drive your prospects further through the funnel. Sign up now to start creating and sending videos for free!