In today’s digital commerce world, understanding the sales funnel is the key to success. When selling to a business, the individuals you’re engaging with are dealing on behalf of others within the business, rather than making a purchasing decision based on their own wants or needs.
A major difference between the B2C sales funnel and the B2B sales funnel is the buyer’s motivation. Unlike consumers, businesses aren’t interested in buying things for entertainment or enjoyment. Every purchase a business makes is a calculated decision that it will work to boost their bottom line. Even if a company buys a foosball table for its employees, it’s a decision intended to help improve the employee experience and encourage workers to be engaged, productive, and, hopefully, loyal. There’s simply no such thing as a frivolous B2B sale.
Customer service needs also tend to be vastly different for B2B than they are for B2C. Consumers generally don’t want to talk to anybody when they’re making a purchase. They visit, browse, study, add to cart, and buy. It’s a journey without many opportunities for diversion.
Alternatively, the B2B sale is a longer and more complex buying process. Traditionally, B2B buyers would require a heavy amount of interaction with sales reps throughout the buying journey. These days, they’re doing product and service research on their own at an increasing rate.
What this means is brands must have the materials available to help potential customers conduct their research and reach their own conclusions. You’ll need more comprehensive product information, educational materials, and supporting information on hand to help guide B2B customers towards making the purchase. There’s a longer and more complex sales funnel for B2B, and it can be a lot to take in at a glance.
Let’s explore the six key stages of the B2B sales funnel process:
Stage #1 – Awareness
It’s at the “Awareness” stage that the customer is exploring their options. If they’ve worked with a suitable vendor before with good results, they will likely turn to the same vendor again. Or they may consider recommendations from colleagues; word of mouth plays a major role in B2B marketing.
There’s a good chance that the buyer will turn to a search engine to begin exploring vendors and product solutions to seek what they need. This is where your marketing efforts have a chance to pay off. Great content marketing, PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can help catch a potential customer’s eye during this Awareness stage, drawing them to your website.
Stage #2 – Interest
In the “Interest” stage, the buyer is on your website and ready to browse what you have to offer. It’s incredibly important that your website or landing page is fully optimized to sell your product or service in the first few moments of the buyer arriving there.
That means you want them to know exactly what it is you’re offering immediately. Use clear language to explain your product or service in a way that’s immediately visible and offers clear selling points. Too many companies squander that valuable interest with paragraphs about the company’s history or the product’s pedigree. This is a good way to lose the buyer’s interest and send them on their way.
Second, since you’re selling to a business, it’s vital to have examples of positive testimonials or other social proof available at-a-glance on that initial page. Since most B2B buyers must undergo a decision-making process involving multiple stakeholders, you’ll want to provide them with as much up-front credibility as possible.
Stage #3 – Consideration
It’s at the “Consideration” stage where the B2B buyer will start narrowing down their options, which typically means zeroing in on what you have to offer. This is where the strength of your product information and marketing materials will really be put to the test.
While this step would traditionally result in the customer reaching out to a point of contact within your company to begin discussing your product, it’s more likely today’s B2B buyer will do the research on their own and discuss among the stakeholders. You may still receive some emails requesting price quotes and the like, so be prepared to support these requests.
Stage #4 – Intent
After extensive research, the buyer in the “Intent” stage will narrow down their options and, hopefully, identify your business as a potentially great fit to supply them with what they need. If the buyer did reach out and signal their interest in your product, your business should have mobilized to learn as much as possible about the buyer and their organization. This will allow you to tailor a sales pitch to speak on precisely as to how your business will be able to help them should the opportunity arise.
Stage #5 – Evaluation
At the “Evaluation” stage, the buyer has narrowed down their options even further and the decision is likely between your company and perhaps just one other seller. Company stakeholders are weighing their options and preparing to make a purchasing decision. There is nothing further to do except cross your fingers and hope to make a sale.
Stage #6 – Buy
This is Go Time! Contracts will be signed, arrangements will be made, and transactions will occur. The sales funnel has been completed and it’s time to move on to nurture your next customer. But take pause because the B2B sales funnel never really ends. It’s cyclical in nature. After you’ve made the sale, you want to stay in touch the buyer and offer them support for your product.
B2B customers will turn to businesses they’ve had success with before they go looking for other options. That means the door is always open for them to return for future purchases. The more in-depth relationships you form with clients, the more returning customers you will have, and the more streamlined the sales funnel becomes each time they pass through.
You may have the greatest B2B product on earth, but it’s paramount that to align your sales and marketing efforts with buyers’ needs at all stages in the sales funnel.
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