B2B Sales Funnels: Everything You Need to Know to Connect with Prospects and Close Deals

Every company wants more customers.

Unfortunately, not every company knows how to get them—at least, not consistently. That's because most companies fail to understand the power of the B2B sales funnel.

Don't worry. After reading this article, you won't work for one of those companies anymore. Why? Because you'll know exactly what the B2B sales funnel is, how to build one to reach quality B2B customers, and how to optimize your whole sales process to drive more revenue.

That's right, I'm about to take you on a slow ride through knowledge city. Buckle up!

What Is a B2B Sales Funnel?

It's pretty simple:

A B2B sales funnel is a series of stages that every B2B buyer must go through to become a paying customer. Most B2B sales funnels have six stages, which I'll explain in a minute.

For now, know that each stage represents a different step in the buyer's journey. Your job as a salesperson is to guide potential customers through each one.

It's important to realize the difference between a sales funnel and a sales pipeline. As we just discussed, a sales funnel is a series of stages that turn strangers into customers. A sales pipeline, on the other hand, represents the steps that sales reps take to close deals.

In other words, the difference between sales funnels and sales pipelines is who goes through them. Sales funnels are customer-centric and focus on the buyer's journey, while sales pipelines are rep-centric and focus on the specific sales strategies that lead to conversion.

What Is a B2B Sales Funnel

The 6 B2B Sales Funnel Stages

There are six different stages of the sales funnel: awareness, interest, consideration, evaluation, purchase, and retention. Each stage represents a different piece of the buying process. In this section, I'll explain what happens at each stage and who typically owns it.

The 6 B2B Sales Funnel Stages


First up, the awareness stage.

This is where leads first connect with your brand. It can happen through an outbound sales strategy, such as a cold call, or an inbound marketing channel, like a blog post.

Either way, the awareness stage is all about brand recognition. Your goal is to introduce your company to potential customers and build relationships with them. You're not trying to sell.

The awareness stage is generally owned by marketing teams, who craft top of funnel content like blog articles and social media posts to attract quality leads. That said, sales teams can get in on the action, too, when they deploy cold calling and emailing strategies.


Next up, the interest stage.

Your lead isn't at the very top of the funnel anymore. They've progressed to the next level. As such, they've become interested in your brand and the specific things you sell.

This is where your company begins to deepen its relationships with potential buyers by helping them understand the challenges they face, and alluding to various solutions.

The interest stage is usually owned by marketing teams, who beef up their content efforts with email campaigns, ebooks, and whitepapers—in addition to blogs and social media.


We're now at the consideration stage.

This is where leads become legitimate prospects. Why? Because they fully understand the problems they face and have decided to fix them. To do that, they start looking for products and/or services that can help—products and/or services your company sells.

The consideration stage is typically owned by marketing and sales teams. Marketing produces product-focused content like blogs, emails, and case studies. At the same time, sales begins to engage prospects in product-related conversations.


The evaluation stage comes next.

At this point, your prospect knows the specific challenge they face. They just need to choose a product and/or service to help them overcome said challenge.

The evaluation stage is typically owned by marketing and sales teams. Marketing creates whitepapers, case studies, and in-depth webinars to reinforce the value of their company's offerings. Sales offers product demos, free trials, and pricing proposals to do the same thing.


Your prospect is now ready to make a buying decision—what will they choose to do?

This next stage is all about turning potential customers into paying customers. Because of this, it's usually owned by sales teams, who answer last minute questions, draw up and send contracts, negotiate pricing, follow up with prospects, and otherwise facilitate deals.

The key to success during the purchase stage is urgency. Sales reps need to convince prospects to buy now. If they don't, they may lose the sale altogether.


The retention stage is way down at the bottom of the funnel.

Your prospect isn't a prospect any more. They're a full-blown customer, who actually pays your company for the products and/or services it provides. Congratulations!

But remember, this is the beginning of your company's relationship with this person, not the end. To make sure your new customer is happy (and open to future purchases) you need to commit to customer success, which you can do via onboarding and support initiatives.

The retention stage is generally owned by sales teams, who check in with existing customers on a regular basis; and success teams, who answer questions and ensure satisfaction.

How to Build a B2B Sales Funnel in 5 Steps

Now that you know what a B2B sales funnel is, we can talk about building one for yourself. Just follow the five-step process I outline below and you'll be a funnel master in no time.

(Sales managers should pay close attention to this section, as they're usually the ones asked to build sales funnels for their departments. But salespeople can benefit from this info, too.)

1. Identify Your Goals

What do you want your sales funnel to accomplish?

I'll accept answers like, "better conversion rates," "greater average deal size," a "higher percentage of repeat sales," and even, "better customer satisfaction scores."

I will not accept answers like, "more sales" as this answer is too ambiguous. What does "more sales" actually mean? Create specific goals so you can measure your progress.

One more thing: you're allowed to choose more than one goal. This is especially true for B2B organizations that serve multiple audiences. You may want to boost conversion rates for Audience A and increase your percentage of repeat sales for Audience B. It's up to you.

2. Know Your Ideal Customers

Who do you want to reach with your sales funnel?

If you don't know who your target audience is, you'll never make enough sales to keep the lights on. So, before you do anything else, get to know your ideal customers.

You can do this by talking to current buyers, then looking for similarities between them. Or studying your company's website metrics. Or reading through popular forums in your niche.

When you have a good feel for your ideal customers, create buyer personas, i.e., fictional characterizations of your target audience, based on real world data. Your buyer personas should include demographic details, psychographic details, and specific customer needs.

3. Choose Your Preferred Channels

How will your sales funnel help you connect with B2B buyers?

There are a ton of channels you can use. Some of them are considered marketing channels; others fall under the sales umbrella. Your funnel should include a healthy mix of both. That way your company can hit every stage in the customer journey with the proper messaging.

  • Cold outreach: Salespeople can reach out to strangers via the phone and email. This will help you connect with prospective customers and build relationships. Just make sure you know how to source phone numbers and email addresses. Then follow our tips to make sure your outreach efforts are as effective as possible!
  • Content marketing: Marketers can create SEO-optimized content to build brand awareness and drive website traffic. If all goes well, the blogs, webinars, and podcasts they produce will bring in quality leads who eventually turn into paying customers. We'll talk more about the types of content to create for each stage in the next step.
  • Social media platforms: You might be thinking, "Wait… Isn't social media a part of content marketing?" Yes, it is. But since each social media site is its own channel, I wanted to separate them. Cool? Cool. Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc. will give you a chance to connect and build relationships with a ton of people at one time–aka social selling.

Embrace the power of AI for transformative content marketing – insights shared here.

4. Create Relevant Content for Every Funnel Stage

Now that you've chosen your preferred channels, you can create content for each stage of the B2B sales funnel. Here are a few ideas to get the wheels turning in your head:

The Awareness Stage

Content in the awareness stage should (surprise!) build awareness for your brand. You can do this by answering the questions your target audience has. Content ideas include:

  • Blog articles
  • YouTube videos
  • Podcast episodes
  • Social media posts
  • Infographics
  • Webinars

The Interest Stage

Content in the interest stage should help potential customers understand the issues they currently deal with. Content ideas include:

  • Blog articles
  • YouTube videos
  • Podcast episodes
  • Email campaigns
  • Gated ebooks
  • Webinars
  • Checklists

The Consideration Stage

Content in the consideration stage should explain and promote the benefits of the products and/or services you sell. Content ideas include:

  • Blog articles
  • Youtube videos
  • Podcast episodes
  • Email campaigns
  • Case studies + Testimonials
  • Product comparison guides

The Evaluation Stage

Content in the evaluation stage should encourage prospective customers to choose your products and/or services over your competition. Content ideas include:

  • Whitepapers
  • Email campaigns
  • Case studies + Testimonials
  • Product comparison guides
  • Free trials and/or samples

The Purchase Stage

Content in the purchase stage should encourage potential customers to buy now, not later. In other words, you need to create urgency. Content ideas include:

  • Landing pages
  • Email campaigns
  • Case studies + Testimonials
  • Free trials and/or samples
  • Limited time discounts

The Retention Stage

Content in the purchase stage should help new customers get value from your product or service—and, ideally, encourage word-of-mouth marketing. Content ideas include:

  • Onboarding processes
  • In-depth product training videos
  • Access to customer support teams
  • Fully-featured referral programs

5. Zero in on the Perfect Sales Pitch

Once you've created content for every touchpoint in the buyer's journey, you need to bring it all together with a killer sales pitch. That way you don't miss out on sales at the last minute.

The question is, how do you craft a quality pitch? Just make sure it has the right elements:

  1. Start with a question to understand your prospect's pain points.
  2. Use what you learn to craft a hook that grabs your prospect's attention.
  3. Address and empathize with the problem your prospect faces.
  4. Paint a picture of the perfect solution for your prospect. (Hint: your product!)
  5. Follow up your solution description by introducing your product to your prospect.
  6. Highlight the benefits of your product that you know your prospect will like.
  7. Offer proof that your product can do what you say it will for your prospect.
  8. Finally, present next steps so your prospect knows how to proceed.

Optimize Your B2B Sales Funnel with These Best Practices

You've created a B2B sales funnel for your company. But is it working as well as it should be? Probably not right off the bat. That's why you need to optimize it. These five tips will help:

Align Your Marketing and Sales Teams

You know you need to align your marketing and sales departments. Actually doing it, though? Yeah, that's a bit tricky. Unfortunately, it's also imperative to the success of your sales funnel.

Which department is in charge of lead generation? What's the difference between a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL). And when exactly does one become the other? You need crystal clear answers to these tough questions. That way your company's marketing strategy and sales process don't fight against each other.

The easiest way to create alignment is to prioritize communication. Marketing and Sales should talk to each other on a regular basis. This will ensure Marketing creates the right content and attracts the right leads so that Sales can close more deals and hit quota.

Optimize Your B2B Sales Funnel with These Best Practices - Align Your Marketing and Sales Teams

Focus on Your Most Qualified Leads

If all goes to plan, your company's B2B marketing funnel will generate high-quality leads for your sales team to close. But remember, not every lead you're sent is worth your time.

Focus the bulk of your efforts on the leads that are most likely to buy something.

How do you pick out these leads? Put on your Sherlock pants and investigate. Look for CEOs, department heads, and other decision makers, as these people will have buying power. Then study the metrics at your disposal to evaluate behavior. Leads that have visited your site multiple times, downloaded content, etc. are usually closer to a sale than others.

Quality leads will help you shorten your sales cycle and close more deals in less time. This almost always leads to higher revenue numbers and more success. Win!

Follow up with Prospects Consistently

I don't care how amazing your B2B sales funnel is. You won't close many deals after one conversation. Or two. Or three. In fact, 80 percent of sales require four or more follow ups.

It makes sense when you think about it. A percentage of the leads you engage with won't be in a position to buy. The ones that are will want to take their time and ensure they invest company funds into quality solutions. This is especially true in B2B circles, where the cost of products and services can reach the tens of thousands of dollars mark—or more.

So, plan to follow up with prospects multiple times, then focus on building strong customer relationships every time you reach out. Doing so will lead to way higher conversion rates.

Engage Customers After the Purchase

You connected with a quality prospect, led them through your B2B sales funnel, and finally convinced them to make a purchasing decision. Woohoo, you did it! Now what?

I tell you what you should not do: forget your new customer exists and give new prospects all your attention. While this strategy might help you close more deals, it will tank your revenue. Studies show that a five percent bump in customer retention can boost profits by as much as 95 percent. That's a lot of extra green. And all you have to do is engage existing customers.

To do this, simply send a few post-purchase emails to recommend specific product features. Or promote a second product to your new customer. Or invite them to a conference you plan to speak at. You can also send personal messages to make sure they dig their purchase.

There are a ton of options available to you. Pick a few of them to up your engagement levels.

Analyze Your Funnel on a Regular Basis

Last but certainly not least, study your funnel. Is it producing positive results for your sales department? If not, what's causing the lackluster performance?

Pay special attention to your conversion rates at every stage. This number will never be 100 percent—or even anywhere near that figure. But if you notice a significant dip from one stage to the next, you may need to adjust your sales strategy and/or the specific tactics you use.

Also, just because your funnel crushes it today doesn't mean it will crush it tomorrow. Customer preferences, competitors, and economic situations all change. Your sales funnel should change, too, in order to adapt to current market conditions.

As you focus on aligning your marketing and sales teams and analyzing your funnel's performance, tools like the Close Sales Funnel Calculator can be invaluable. This tool helps in visualizing and managing your sales pipeline, enabling you to identify and address potential leaks efficiently.

How a CRM Can Turbocharge Your B2B Sales Funnel

I've given you all of the information you need to build and optimize a quota-busting B2B sales funnel for your company. But that doesn't mean it will be easy to do.

Fortunately, the right B2B CRM will streamline the process. It might even make it enjoyable.

A CRM like Close, for example, will help you monitor digital marketing campaigns, store contact details, and study funnel metrics. Close includes automation tools, too, which can be used to automatically schedule email marketing efforts and handle lead nurturing duties.

Honestly, I wouldn't even think about building a B2B sales funnel without a quality CRM to back me up. That's why you should try Close right now. Sign up for a free 14-day trail and take the platform for a no holds barred test drive. I think you'll like what you find.

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