What is a B2B sales funnel?

A B2B sales funnel or pipeline refers to a sequence of stages that the archetype B2B users go through to complete a sales cycle. Its primary goal is to convert business prospects (leads) into paying clients. Its secondary purpose is to increase ROI. B2B Pipelines are specific for given products, but their general structure follows the AIDA buyer’s journey model (Awareness>Interest>Desire>Action).

Though it’s tempting to look at your B2B marketing sales funnel as a linear progression, in actuality prospects will go up and down in the funnel, linearly or non-linearly.

A B2B customer funnel takes a long time to optimize because it requires significant traffic to allow for conducting proper AB testing. If you have the traffic and the tools to test you should start doing it as soon as possible and keep doing it constantly.

This also entails following a strategy to sway prospects’ decisions in your favor so that more of them decide to become your customers. 

For small organizations with little traffic, the best approach is to find cracks or full-on breaks in the funnel and fix them. These are most often faulty forms, broken links, and missing stages for a complete user journey. This can be supplemented by applying CRO best practices that do not require testing. It’s also a good idea to apply the principles of customer-based marketing.

B2B vs B2C sales funnel

The difference between a B2B and a B2C sales funnel is the level of added complexity in B2B funnels as opposed to B2C ones. B2B funnels are more complex because the B2B sales cycle is longer than that of B2C. A longer sales cycle requires more mid-funnel stages for buyers to complete their evaluation of product-company fit.

Stages a B2B funnel has that a B2C funnel usually does not:

  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers
  • Product comparison tables
  • Thought leadership articles
  • Educational presentations
  • Video testimonials
  • A product tour or walkthrough
  • A live demo
  • Customized solutions
  • And more

Why are B2B sales cycles longer than those of B2C?

the length of a sales cycle is often determined by the cost associated with the product or service. A costly offer will in general take longer to decide on and make a purchase.

Since B2B products and services are more expensive than B2C their sales cycles tend to be much longer – the difference can be from 1 day for B2C to 6 months for B2B.

Another reason this is so is that the B2B buying process is many times highly structured as well as scrutinized.
Let’s explore the components of a classical B2B sales funnel, highlight the differences between a B2B and a B2C sales funnel, and encompass the true essence of customer-based marketing.

What are the stages of a B2B sales funnel?

Each B2B funnel is unique. A B2B SaaS funnel will not look like a B2B eCommerce funnel or a customized solution funnel. Each will require different specific assets to cover the essential funnel stages. That said all B2B marketing funnels share the same conceptual stages that go through the psychological and practical customer journey.

The basic B2B customer journey is made up of 6 stages:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Evaluation
  4. Engagement
  5. Purchase
  6. Loyalty
6 stage of a B2B sales funnel

1. Awareness 

In this stage potential customers become aware of pain or want. This can happen naturally or through your influence by running marketing campaigns across various advertising platforms. 

Prospects can also discover new brands by doing research on related topics, and this is how they are drawn into the awareness stage. You can position yourself to gain visibility in these instances by doing content marketing and SEO. 

If you have marketing knowledge you should start setting acquisition engines in place according to your marketing strategy, through PPC, SEO, Social media marketinginbound marketing, and so on. 

If you don’t have marketing capabilities, consider hiring someone to take on this endeavor, or hire an SEO agency.

B2B sales funnel examples for the awareness stage:

  • Informational blog posts
  • PPC landing pages
  • Social media posts
  • Youtube videos
  • Quora or Reddit answers
  • Podcasts

After becoming aware of their need they may be motivated to the next stage, where they seek a reliable source of information to discover more about the business and its products. 

2. Interest

As prospects move on to the Interest stage, they begin to look into resources to learn more about solutions to their need.

This is where they learn about your solution but not necessarily about your products or services. They may or may not be assessing specific solution providers, such as your company and competitors. Instead, they are seeking to answer general “who-to” and “why should I” questions regarding their need. 

In this stage, the prospects move from being Pain Aware to Solution Aware and finally to Product Aware (which is where they learn about your product or service). 

When they learn about your company they will most likely learn about your competition as well. Now begins the evaluation stage, where prospects try to decide if your offering is best for them.

B2B sales funnel examples for the Interest stage:

  • Product centric blog posts
  • Product pages
  • FAQs
  • White papers
  • Webinars
  • Conventions
  • Guest posting

3. Evaluation 

The evaluation stage is where you demonstrate how your solution is the best fit for the prospect’s requirements.

At this point, your principal aim is to establish a relationship with your leads to figure out what their final goals are. This is accomplished by providing the necessary content to address and remove fears and concerns, build trust, earn credibility, and clearly communicate your value add as opposed to your competition. 

You should also apply Voice of Customer (VoC) copywriting on your landing pages, develop a consistent brand voice, and perfect your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). All these should be gauged to your target audience.

B2B sales funnel examples for the Evaluation stage:

  • Pricing page
  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers
  • Product documentation
  • Product features page
  • Product comparison tables
  • Featured product reviews on known industry websites
  • Thought leadership articles
  • Video testimonials
  • Customized solutions
  • Client Brand logos
  • Customer Reviews 
  • Trust badges (G2, Capterra, Trust Pilot, etc.)
  • Awards
  • Security and compliance credentials and certificates
  • Privacy policy
  • Proper CTAs

Once you manage to convince prospects to try your product they cross over the next crucial step – Engagement.

The purchase stage is daily straightforward. It is the culmination of what could easily be months of hard work. When the prospect makes the purchase they become a client. Good for you. Now it’s time to deliver on what you promise. 

You may think it all ends here, but not really. If you deliver great value to your customers then you are very likely to add an additional stage to your funnel – Loyalty.

4. Engagement 

During the Engagement stage, your leads will interact with your sales team. The first step here is to qualify your B2B funnel leads based on where they are in the buyer’s pyramid (not to be confused with the buyer’s journey). This is usually done by an SDR. 

This first step is essential because having your salespeople spend time on a prospect that is not likely to buy can drain your valuable resources. 

Once a prospect is qualified, your primary aim at this stage is to build a personal connection with the buyer and demonstrate your offering’s best aspects. Most importantly, you should do what you can to establish trust and even friendliness between the buyer and your salesperson.

You’ll want to show how your business can adequately fulfill their needs if they invest in your products or services, and present the implementation process and what comes next. It’s imperative to clearly communicate your understanding of the buyer’s problem areas and offer specific solutions for them.

B2B funnel examples for the Engagement stage (assets and actions):

5. Purchase 

The purchase stage is daily straightforward. It is the culmination of what could easily be months of hard work. When the prospect makes the purchase they become a client. Good for you. Now it’s time to deliver on what you promise. 

B2B sales funnel examples for the Purchase stage:

  • Contact page
  • Telephone number
  • Subscription form
  • Saved items page
  • Cart
  • Cart abandonment automated email 
  • Payment page
  • Thank you page

You may think it all ends here, but not really. If you deliver great value to your customers then you are very likely to add an additional stage to your funnel – Loyalty.

6. Loyalty

The loyalty stage is the most important stage of the funnel. Post-purchase engagement is critical for building a B2B sales pipeline since it keeps clients happy. And happy clients will stay with you and endure more bugs than dissatisfied and ignored customers.

According to HubSpot, a 5% increase in customer retention can increase company revenue by 25-95%, and ultimately grow your customers’ Life Time Value (LTV). 

Enthusiastic customers are also most likely to become brand advocates, provide testimonials and leave great reviews. Build enough advocates, and you will position yourself as the go-to brand in your niche through word-of-mouth. 

B2B sales funnel examples for the Loyalty stage:

For your next step go here to learn some actionable advice on how to build a successful B2B sales funnel

Abut the author

Matija is a marketing and tech enthusiast, both on and off work. You can never bother Matija with “just one more question” when it comes to marketing. He likes to get scientific about marketing, performing research on various related topics – sharing his insights and interpretations with like-minded enthusiasts.