Top 5 B2B Sales Funnel Strategies for 2021

What is a B2B Sales Funnel?

A B2B sales funnel is defined as a marketing and sales concept tool used to visualize and plan lead capture and their conversion into successful B2B customers. The funnel begins with customer awareness of your company and its products/services and ends with the potential buyer either making a purchase or dropping the purchase intent.

The goal of the funnel is to plan and map potential customer interaction and experience, such that the best effort can be made to ensure successful buyer conversion.

This funnel can have many stages based on depth of planning, but typically at least map 5 key stages: 

Stage 1. Product/ service awareness: At this stage the potential client/ buyer is aware of your products/ services but has not had any direct engagement with the company.

Stage 2. Customer contact: At this stage the company and buyer are in touch with each other. If inbound marketing techniques (organic search ranking content, social media posts etc) were used successfully, then the customer found the company; whereas if the technique used was outbound (like email, digital ads etc), then the company targeted and reach out to the potential B2B customer. 

Stage 3. Product evaluation: This is the stage where the B2B buyer has shortlisted your product and is already evaluating your products/ services to check for requirement-fulfillment, compatibility/ integrations with existing products and platforms (especially in case of industrial goods and software), pricing and other associated factors. This is very likely going to happen on the side of evaluating your competitors. 

Stage 4. Product purchase: This is the stage where the customer has selected your product from a potential pool of competitors, and is in the process of making the purchase. 

Stage 5. Post-sales engagement for resell/ upsell: The customer’s journey, and hence your sales funnel, cannot and does not end once a purchase has been made, in fact, the purchase should be seen as the start of a new relationship, also known as the customer lifetime value. This is an estimate of what a potential customer can buy from you across the lifetime of being a customer. This includes resell of products and services the customer has bought before and the upsell to better packages or higher value products and services. 

An example of B2B sales funnel strategy would be:

Let’s say Company X is a B2B software company. This company seeks to generate leads through ebook downloads and intends to use these leads for sales. The B2B sales funnel for this company will look something like this:

  • Branding to generate buyer awareness
  • The buyer makes first contact by reading a blog on the brand website which they found through a Google search. 
  • The blog then leads the customer to the download page of the ebook on the related subject. 
  • The potential buyer then downloads the ebook, thereby signalling a strong intent in the subject/ solution.
  • The buyer is then contacted by the sales representatives based on the phone number or email shared while downloading the asset. 
  • The buyer is at the product eval stage where he’/she is now evaluating products in the same bandwidth of features and budget.
  • Once finalized, the potential buyer makes the purchase and becomes a customer. 
  • The company now needs to deliver excellent customer service and experience to ensure they retain/ upsell to this customer. 

Top 5 B2B sales funnel strategies for 2021

B2B sales funnel strategies depend on your technology stack to track prospects and availability of data that helps facilitate lead generation and closure of the deal. 

2020 has led the world towards a more digitized form of communication, as is apparent after the lockdowns from Covid 19. Below are the top 10 sales strategies you can explore to ensure a post-Covid secure B2B sales funnel for your 2021 plan:

  • 1. Invest in accurate audience/ prospect segmentation

Accurate prospect segmentation into a specific funnel stage requires you to segment them based on engagement and resultant intent data. For example, if you have 500 entries in your email database from prospective customers, as a marketer/ sales enablement executive, you will need to understand the stage in which each potential customer currently is. To conclude this, various analysis can be done, such as, number of email engagements (opening an email, clicking on the link etc), website engagements or social media engagements for instance. 

Email engagement based audience segmentation is the easiest to do, since most email marketing platforms like MailChimp or Hubspot provide this data at basic licenses for email campaigns. To track website level interaction to be mapped to individual prospects will require identity resolution solutions and/ or site pixilation or login to company owned portal. 

Typically businesses may segment their customer database by simple metrics such as hot to signify sales-ready prospects, warm to signify leads that are in the evaluation stage and are engaged with the company, luke-warm to signify prospects who have shown interest in the company’s online/ offline assets and content resources, and finally, cold to signify contacts who have either become unresponsive or have shown less than required engagement/interest. Segmenting your prospects allows you to take a more personalized and contextual approach to marketing messaging, prevents customer drop-out due to sales pitches delivered too soon and reduces strain on lead-qualifiers (since only ‘warm’ or ‘hot’ leads will be pitched for sales). 

  1. 2. Map customer journeys for an optimized funnel experience

Customer journey and experience mapping doesn’t just begin from a purchase, a customer’s brand experience begins even when they are just a prospect. 

Customer journey mapping aims to predict customer engagement touch-points and plans an optimal experience. This includes marketing content, product/ service demos, purchase, product/ service use-experience and post-sales experience. The goal of customer experience planning is to take a proactive approach to plotting brand journeys for buyers, rather than being caught off-guard and delivering a sub-optimal experience, potentially leading to loss of business or losing a prospect.

Since B2B companies have a limited pool of prospects compared to B2C companies, a B2B sales funnel can be made much more effective by investing in customer experience planning.

  • 3. March towards data centralization and management

Data centralization is the tech-based process of putting all your customer and prospect data into one database from where various marketing and sales activities (including automation) can be fueled. This is against customer data lying in silos (such as in unsynced software platforms) and redundant copies. Typically a CRM tool is used to ensure data centralization to a large extent, however, data management platforms (DMPs) are much more advanced investment, typically recommended for very large B2B companies. 

Data centralization is also key to various customer communication automation and personalization efforts from marketing and sales. For example, if a B2B company wants to send automated weekly newsletters to prospects based on their interest, which in turn needs to be drawn from each prospect’s web-content consumption on their blog, then data from the following sources must be pooled into one database:

  • Data on prospect’s browsing behavior on the blog pages from cookies and login data
  • Data on name, email address and basic contact details

This data will then need to be fueled into the marketing email automation platform and recommendation engine to send personalized newsletters to each prospect based on their preferences and unique stage in their purchase journey.   

  • 4. Augmented reality and videos for B2B product demos

Product experience/ demonstrations have been a key marketing/ sales conversion technique to convince prospects when they are at the evaluation state of the B2B funnel. This is where the company gets unhindered customer attention only for the purpose of delivering a product experience that will give them the edge over competition and finally (and hopefully) see the prospect turn into a customer.

With Covid lockdowns pushing businesses and sales processes indoors and online, demand for augmented/ virtual reality is on the rise. While in-person purchase experience is limited or non-existent for some businesses, B2B buyers still need the right information, experience and demonstration needed to make a final purchase call. To deliver this, companies need to invest in creating clear and crisp videos that substitute for the in-person experience to an extent. 

To make this virtual experience more immersive, another tool for product/ service marketing is augmented reality. This is because while videos provide a 2D experience, augmented reality gives viewers a 3D experience of the product, which is especially key for industrial goods. However, even SaaS/ software product models and their workings, which can be tricky to explain to all customers, can be better delivered with 3D virtual reality. Of Course, the condition and assumption here is that the buyer will need to have a VR set available.

  • 5. Invest in organic search/ SEO as a free and continuous lead source

Unlike B2C customers who can undertake marketing/ branding in public spaces like roadside banners and traditional media advertising, B2B businesses depend on more targeted marketing to fuel their sales funnel. This includes lead filtration at the source itself to clearly verify intent and interest and not waste money and time on false prospects. 

Organic search works on the basis of user’s search inputs, which alone verifies intent based on the search strings, called keywords. In other words, rather than writing content and then marketing it, organic content marketing focuses on writing content for a search engine audience, based on already existing search patterns. 

For example, a manufacturer of X B2B product, may find considerable searches for a keyword closely related to their business, such as, ‘best X manufacturers in Texas’, or ‘buy X online’ etc.