The Ultimate Guide to Managing B2B Sales Funnel and Optimizing Sales Pipeline

Managing b2b funnel

People don’t want to meet the sales representatives anymore, all they want is a tablet to check the reviews out. More and more people are coming online to make B2B deals. The market trends are evolving.

A source states that B2B eCommerce sales are projected to make up at least 12% of the B2B revenue next year, which is huge. These figures indicate how the b2b eCommerce markets are expanding.

So, if the markets have changed how the buyers want to buy, the sellers must change how they pursue it and implement it accordingly.

Sales as a process have to be very modern but also theoretical. It has to keep changing according to the trends in the market but it also has to keep the theories in mind. A Harvard Business Review study shows that companies that define and follow a formal sales process register an 18% increase in the growth of revenue.

It surely seems just in time to manage your B2B sales funnels and optimize the sales pipelines. A lot of different activities come together and make up an entire sales process, but managing the sales funnels and optimizing the sales pipelines are the ones that hold importance. A successful b2b business is made on the foundation of effective management of sales funnels and sales pipelines.

To help you in this process and aid you in bringing better sales to the organization, here is a detailed guide for you.

What is a sales funnel?

A sales funnel is a term used for each step that is taken by a person to either become your customer or a potential customer. It can also be described as the journey from your prospect’s first contact with the organization until a completed purchase.

It is important to visualize the sales funnels, it is a significant baseline. Let us discuss the five classic B2B sales funnel stages.

Five Classic B2B Sales Funnel Stages

Five Classic B2B Sales Funnel Stages

The five classic B2B sales funnel stages were said to be developed in 1898. Sales lead pour in from the top where the first step is awareness of the company or the brand. This model is like a step-by-step process of how a potential customer comes in and how that potential customer converted to a sale. These steps are vital in the process of optimizing sales funnels.

Stage 1- The Awareness Stage

This is the first stage of the process, where a customer first comes in contact with the company or the brand. At this stage, a customer is looking for answers in general. They have a few queries in their mind regarding the product or the service in consideration.

This will require resources, product training, various options, and data. The questions in the mind of the customer might be different for each.

Some might be looking for a new product, someone might have concerns about a new vendor for manufacturing or it might also be complex like software that integrates all the front-end and back-end operations.

This is the first stage, so the value of the lead is not very high. This is because there isn’t a guarantee that they will buy from your company or not. But the trick here is to provide as much information and content as possible to the customer.

At this stage, the customer is open to content and has the bandwidth to absorb all the details. Enough information will help you convert the prospect to a customer.

Stage 2- The Interest Stage

This is the stage where the interest of the customer is generated. The elevation towards the products or the services happens in this phase.

Customers begin to research about it and gain more information. The customer starts trusting in your brand and so it is important to nurture the leads in the right manner. 

Stage 3- The Evaluation Stage

This is the stage where you have successfully captured the attention of the buyer. All the information that you provided has been taken by the customer and he or she is now closer to making the purchase decision.

It is time to convince them about your brand and how it stands out from the other competitors in the market. Prove the worth of your solution to their problem.

For a long-term business relationship and to solidify their trust, discuss all the pros and cons of your product or service with them. Honesty, in such cases, will take your company a long way.

Stage 4- The Engagement Stage

Once your lead is in the stage of engagement, the customers will be interacting with your sales team. The sales representatives will have to give product demonstrations, sales pitches and make sure the communication is as effective as possible.

This will help the customer to make a purchasing decision. Trust and the time taken to close the deal are the two aspects that play a major role. Both of them have to be taken care of to get the desired results.

Stage 5- The Purchase Stage

The purchase stage might be the stage where products and money exchange hands, but it surely shouldn’t be the last stage. Post-purchase management is an integral part of optimizing the sales funnels and is also the key to making sure the customers keep returning.

A source also suggests 84% of the b2b sales begin through referrals and these referral leads convert 30% better.

Now that we’ve understood how we can optimize and manage the B2B sales funnels, it is important to optimize the sales pipelines too. We will be discussing various stages of the process and the best practices for sales pipeline optimization.

What is a Sales Pipeline?

Simply put, a sales pipeline is the systematic process of taking a prospect or multiple prospects as they advance through the various stages in the purchasing process. Sales pipelines give you insights into the various open deals that are available in the market and help you differentiate and prioritize the ones that require immediate action.

After an analysis that will help us determine these factors, the sales team can take charge. They can then try their best into converting them and meeting their targets. It can also be called the transition from a lead to a conversion. A well-analyzed and built sales pipeline brings you steps closer to finalizing the deal.

It will help your brand in-

  1. Having increased accountability.
  2. Predictions in business revenues.
  3. Step up the marketing strategies.
  4. Keeping a track of the lead generation.
  5. Have a simplified sales process.

Stages in B2B Sales Pipelines- A Complete Description

Stages in B2B Sales Pipelines

The process, the quality, and the effectiveness of your sales pipeline are said to be a reflection of your entire sales process. There are a few elements that tend to define it on a larger level and remain a constant throughout all the types of businesses and models. So, having a standardized B2B sales pipeline is always a great idea. All of these steps together make up a process that will help us optimize the sales pipeline.

Prospecting

Like the word itself states, to get the sales pipeline procedure started you need prospects. Prospects are people who might be interested in your product or service. To find this out, extensive research is conducted in which people or businesses might be interested in buying the product or service. This step will help the company figure where the target audiences are lying.

Qualification

Now, once the research process is done and prospects have been found it is time to start working on them. The sales engagement process needs to start.

 Sources state that only 27% of the prospects that are found are sales-ready so it is really important to have this process of qualification done where we can filter out prospects accordingly.

In this step, a lead can be defined, in terms of the paying capacity, their loyalty, etc. After the qualification of the prospects is carried out the allocation of resources will happen. The allocation of the resources will then be based upon the findings.

Proposal

Now that your lead has come to the stage of the proposal, they have a high chance of being a paying customer. The sales team should now start sending the sales proposals out to them. A standard proposal must have the right company details, the products, and the services available at their given prices, the turnaround time, and all such details that a customer would want to know about.

This proposal meeting can happen either online or offline as a physical meet. It is always better to have a lot of visual representations in a proposal so it gives the lead a clearer vision about things.

Negotiation

Negotiation might seem like the final stage of the process but surely isn’t. It is just a step closer to finalizing the deal. However, in this stage, the sales representatives have to be very smart and diligent.

It is advisable to plan and prepare for negotiation before actually having that conversation with the customer. Creating some attractive limited period offers for the clients is always a good idea and helps you close the deal faster. Negotiation is a very vital stage and needs to be taken care of meticulously.

Closing the deal

Now that both the parties have agreed upon a middle road where the prices are matching and suiting both, it is time to close the deal. Even at a stage like this, it is important to be careful.

The right post-purchase service and follow-ups have to be made. Feedbacks must be taken and immediate action must happen on them to keep the customer satisfied.

Retention

Customer retention is one of those significant stages that companies generally tend to skip out on. A good company will make sure that all the customers are loyal and come back to you time and again. To maximize profits, customer retention is important. It will also aid you in positive brand positioning and engagement.

Final Thoughts

Final thought

Inspecting a sales funnel and a sales pipeline is required. This will not only help you get better results but also help you identify the opportunities and the obstacles. The follow-ups will help streamline things to make sure everyone is working towards similar goals. Both funnels and pipelines are excellent tools that help you visualize the sales process, in general, deliver results. Once things are known, it will also help you implement new robust strategies to bring in better sales. Last but not the least, as a company you must always make sure that you keep refining the sales process often to keep inculcating new ideas and methods.

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