Revenue Generating B2B Sales Funnel Models for 2022
A B2B sales funnel is a visual and conceptual representation of the systematic journey a prospect takes to become a customer, beginning from the moment they’re captured as a lead.
A well-designed and optimized B2B sales funnel is the backbone of a successful sales organization.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the B2B sales funnel, including why they’re so beneficial to sales teams, a variety of potential models, and how to approach each funnel stage for maximum conversion.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What Is a B2B Sales Funnel?
- Sales Funnel vs. Pipeline
- B2B Sales Funnel Models
- How to Target Each Stage of the B2B Sales Funnel
- Benefits of a Sales Funnel Approach
What Is a B2B Sales Funnel?
A B2B sales funnel is a series of strategically-designed stages through which a prospect passes on their way to becoming a customer.
The best B2B sales funnels are created through collaboration between marketing and sales teams and are intended to nurture each lead through the buyer’s journey in a way that makes it impossible to say no to your offer.
Sales funnels make the sales process more predictable, more profitable, and more easily optimized.
They also help keep B2B companies competitive in today’s digital-forward sales landscape.
With company demographics, customer reviews, and valuable sales content all available online in abundance, buyers need less input than ever from sales professionals.
In fact, most B2B buyers complete more than half of the buying process before they ever initiate dialogue with a sales rep.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but B2B sales reps need to adapt to this shift and change the way they attract and engage with this kind of buyer.
The B2B sales funnel structures the buying process into well-defined stages that allow sellers to target prospects with the exact content that’s most relevant to them at each stage.
To add to this benefit, each stage of the sales funnel can be measured and optimized for success.Run a repeatable sales processTrack, analyze, and standardize what’s working
Sales Funnel vs. Pipeline
The sales funnel is often conflated with the sales pipeline, but they’re actually different concepts.
That being said, however, they are each best designed when they’re created with the other in mind. Though the sales funnel and the sales pipeline each serve their own distinct purpose, they should complement one another.
The sales funnel represents the considerations and decisions a prospect makes as they contemplate becoming a customer. It chronicles everything from the moment they’re captured as a lead to the moment they either remove themselves or sign a contract.
The sales pipeline, on the other hand, revolves around the salesperson’s interactions, use of resources, and deal stage.
Put simply, the sales funnel portrays the buyer’s side of the process and the sales pipeline addresses the seller’s.
B2B Sales Funnel Models
Though most sales organizations would unanimously agree that sales funnels are non-negotiable, the format they may take raises a more contentious debate.
There are many structures that can help sales teams pinpoint their priorities when it comes to sales funnels. Each sales team will find differences in the format of their optimized sales funnel; those differences depend on the needs, goals, and makeup of both the sales team and the buyer persona.
The most widely-adopted sales funnel format is the AIDA framework, which stands for Awareness – Interest – Desire – Action. Other popular frameworks include the Forrester model, McKinsey’s Loyalty Loop, the Heinz Bowtie, and the conversion funnel.
The AIDA Model
The AIDA sales funnel format is widely considered the “standard” for most traditional and many non-traditional sales funnels.
AIDA addresses the four primary thought stages a buyer travels through as they prepare to purchase your product: awareness, interest, decision, and action.
In the awareness stage of the B2B sales funnel, the prospect is searching for more information about the problem they’re facing. They’re beginning to understand that they may be able to or need to find a solution to their problem and the pain points around it.
In this stage, leads are inherently lower value. Not every lead who enters your funnel will ultimately follow through with purchasing your product. It’s low stakes on both sides. Sales content in this stage of the funnel should be educational based on the needs of your defined buyer personas, and will ideally involve little to no interaction with sales reps.
In the interest stage, prospects are more engaged with your brand. They are now convinced that they face a solvable problem and are aware that your product could potentially help them. They’re seeking additional information about how much value your product could add to their organization.
In this stage, prospects are evaluating multiple offerings. It’s up to your marketing and sales teams to design sales collateral that helps your brand stand out from the rest of the crowd. Prospects here are looking to build trust, and the right content and strategy can help you get there.
In the desire stage of the sales funnel, the prospect is almost looking for a reson to say yes to you. They’ve evaluated their options and are pretty sure that yours could be the best-fit solution.
Your content and interactions here will either push the prospect to close or give them pause.
The action phase makes or breaks the entire deal. Here, prospects choose whether to sign a contract with you, reconsider another offer, or shy away from solving their problem until a later date.
A post-purchase agreement that outlines what kind of service customers can expect during onboarding and beyond can help move the needle and convince the prospect to sign on.
The AIDA framework was developed by Elmo St. Lewis all the way back in 1898. Despite its simplicity, the model has stood the test of time.
Even modern-day sales funnel models that depart from AIDA base their adaptations on the AIDA stages. Some choose to add two additional stages: intent and evaluation.
One downside of the AIDA framework is that it can tend to ignore the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of buyers once they’re out of the sales funnel.
The Forrester B2B Sales Funnel Model
The Forrester B2B sales funnel model is structured similarly to the AIDA framework, but it considers the funnel more heavily from the consumer’s side.
This is a popular framework, but it’s important to note that the Forrester model is considered by some to be too similar to the buyer’s journey. The sales funnel is not necessarily meant to be from the buyer’s perspective, yet the Forrester model includes it.
It’s fair to say that this model offers a nice harmony between the marketing/sales funnel and the customer lifecycle or buyer journey.
The Heinz Bowtie Model
Many B2B sales organizations prefer to use the Heinz Bowtie model for their sales funnel. It addresses the journey that a company’s most successful customer takes after an extremely satisfying post-purchase experience.
These customers, according to the Heinz Bowtie, go on to become evangelists and ambassadors for your brand.
The benefit of the Heinz Bowtie model is that it encourages sales organizations to make customer success and lifetime value (CLV) a priority.
Even in sales funnels that don’t address it, there is still plenty of interaction between buyer and brand that takes place after purchase. The Heinz Bowtie attempts to capture those.
The McKinsey’s Loyalty Loop
Consulting firm McKinsey took the AIDA framework and created an additional primary component: loyalty.
McKinsey’s Loyalty Loop adds a subsection of customer experience that occurs after post-purchase satisfaction. These customers are then triggered to re-purchase (or accept a cross-sell or upsell), and then engage in a new round of post-purchase satisfaction — and so on, and so forth.
For companies that have optimized and prioritized customer success, the McKinsey Loyalty Loop is a solid framework.
That being said, it doesn’t take into account the unfortunate case of the dissatisfied customer. In extreme scenarios, unhappy customers can even become saboteurs of the brand. The framework does not address how to mitigate such circumstances.
The Conversion Funnel
A conversion funnel outlines an online customer’s experience. In that sense, it’s not always necessarily relevant to B2B organizations.
That being said, it’s worth discussing because this framework adds several unique stages that some of the more common B2B sales funnels don’t address: pre-awareness, trigger event, opinion/shortlist, and repurchase intent.
The conversion funnel is also designed with the assumption that any buyer can become either an ambassador or a saboteur; that risk factor is built into the funnel.
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How to Target Each Stage of the B2B Sales Funnel
Before you start considering how to target each individual stage of the sales funnel, it’s important to make sure that your sales and marketing teams have collaborated and agreed upon a well-researched ideal customer profile (ICP) and thorough buyer persona.
It’s also important to have a well-defined sales process before you start building a funnel.
From there, addressing the needs of each stage of the funnel gets a bit more complicated.
With so many different frameworks and so many different buyer personas to suit, it can be difficult to give sound advice on how to address each of these subsections.
With that in mind, many sales organizations choose to simplify their sales funnel by referring to three major but generalized subsections:
- Top of the funnel
- Middle of the funnel
- Bottom of the funnel
Regardless of the specific framework your organization chooses to follow, the TOFU – MOFU – BOFU can usually appropriately capture each lead’s progress through the journey.
Here are some ways to capture leads in each of the three stages.
For leads at the top of the funnel, your goal should be to raise brand awareness and visibility.
Although leads in this stage of the funnel are generally considered lower value, the opportunity for sales reps is high. The top of the funnel is where the largest amount of leads will come across your brand. That means your content for these buyers needs to be easy to digest but highly valuable.
You can also use quizzes to engage TOFU leads. These are particularly effective because not only are they interactive, but they also help you gather personalization data for each leads who ends up in your database.
Videos, infographics, and other self-manipulated online tools (like calculators or countdowns) are all also great options for capturing leads in the awareness stage.
In the middle of the funnel, prospects are ready to really dig into your offering. Buyers in this stage respond particularly well to compelling case studies.
Other effective engagement strategies for middle-of-the-funnel buyers include educational blog posts or how-to guides, ebooks, whitepapers, and other content that could potentially be gated by a lead magnet opt-in form. If you manage to capture leads’ email addresses, drip campaigns can be extremely productive and easily scalable.
Some companies are tempted to offer a comparative analysis of their product versus their competitors’. This can be highly effective, but proceed with caution — make sure any claims or assertions that you make about your competition’s offers are accurate.
At the bottom of the funnel, the focus needs to be on showing why your product is the best solution over the competition.
You’ll also want to focus on showing how your product has solved problems for similar customers through well-written case studies.
It’s also beneficial to show how your product can solve more than one problem. If you can demonstrate that your offer can address several of the customer’s pain points, that can be a major tipping point in willingness to close.
Remarketing is another effective way to convert BOFU prospects.
It’s important to note that, despite its simplified structure, the sales funnel does not always exist in a linear way. Prospects can enter and exit the funnel at any stage. Additionally, it’s important to note that a buyer’s needs will change quickly and multiple times throughout the funnel.
That’s why it’s important that each stage of your funnel contains a variety of marketing and sales strategies to improve your chances of reaching more prospects.
Benefits of a Sales Funnel Approach
There are several benefits to using a sales funnel approach. Each will have a different meaning and take different priority, depending on your company’s goals and operating structure.
Helps You Better Understand Your Buyer
One by-product that arises from the process of building a sales funnel is that sales and marketing teams develop a much better and deeper understanding of their buyer. Over time, as the funnel sees more and more leads pass through it, marketers and sellers can optimize the funnel to attract the buyers that are most likely to convert.
This deeper understanding of the customer helps improve the sales process in a variety of ways. Not only does it help you improve B2B lead generation strategies, but it also allows salespeople to personalize their outreach.
Personalizing your outreach can make a huge difference in overall performance. Emails that are personalized have a 14% higher click-through rate than generic ones and convert at a solid 10% rate.
Even beyond the performance data, customers make it no secret that they expect outreach and content that feels like it was made for them; over 70% of buyers expect personalization as part of the sales process.
Helps You Optimize the Sales Process
One of the biggest benefits of using a sales funnel is that it breaks the sales funnel down into smaller, more manageable phases.
This means that each stage is easier to track, analyze, and optimize. Optimizing the sales funnel helps not only conversion rates, but other important sales metrics and KPIs like average order value (AOV) and rate of referral.
Helps You Reach Maximum Buyers
Sales funnels are designed in a way that attracts large numbers of leads to the top of the funnel. They’re designed with compelling content that should reach large swaths of your potential target market.
What’s more, sales teams can also create multiple funnels that each address a certain subset of the target market, increasing the likelihood that every possible best-fit lead can be reached.
Does your team use a sales funnel? Which model do you find works best for your team? When was the last time you dug into the data? Spend some time with your team at the end of next quarter analyzing your current KPIs and see how you can improve the process.
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