Revenue Operations Sales Execution Sales Funnel Sales Process

The Sales Funnel: What It Is, How to Build One

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Clari Team



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Stylistic illustration of a sales funnel labeled with a dollar sign
Stylistic illustration of a sales funnel labeled with a dollar sign

As a salesperson this should be your top priority.

We are talking about a B2B sales funnel. If you don’t know what a sales funnel is, then you might be shooting arrows in the dark as you go about your selling efforts. 

A sales funnel is responsible for managing the efficiency of your sales process. It gives the sales rep insights into challenges and the corresponding changes that they call for across the sales process. In doing so, a sales funnel optimizes your strategies and increases your conversion rate! 

What is a B2B sales funnel?

A sales funnel refers to a sequence of marketing and sales interactions with customers that are engineered to accelerate the customer journey, from first touch to closed-won.

A B2B sales funnel is a B2B buyer's journey from being a complete stranger to a brand to becoming a loyal B2B customer of that brand.

It is not very different from a B2C sales funnel as far as its stages go. B2C and B2B funnels would instead be unique from one another in the actions that salespersons would take at each stage of the funnel. 

Every stage in the marketing funnel informs the sales rep about the prospect’s likes and dislikes. Technically speaking, a B2B sales funnel shows the conversion rate in each stage. And thereby gives you an idea of how fruitful the currently adopted strategy is at each stage.

sales funnel and pipeline stages.png

The concept of sales funnel and sales pipeline go hand in hand. While a sales funnel measures the success and failure of the actions taken by the salesperson, a sales pipeline is a road map of these actions. 

Importance of a sales funnel for B2B sales

A B2B sales funnel is as important as your business model. Just like you would not start a business without figuring out your manufacturers and supply chain, it would be a poor decision to start selling your product without creating a marketing funnel.

A B2B sales funnel helps you accelerate growth by identifying the weak stages, or the stages where you are losing prospects. The very fact that the sales funnel is an inverted pyramid means that you will lose leads at every stage - the point is to identify where you are losing more leads than you should or to try and push the number of conversions by identifying where you can do better. 

Tip: A sales funnel tailored to your business and sector helps you achieve more and faster!

Now let’s dive deep into the sales funnel and explore each stage.

1. Awareness

A crowd of cold prospects is standing at the mouth of your sales funnel, ready to start their customer journey. 

The key point here is that the prospect is completely unaware of your brand. They have no clue that a service exists which can alleviate their pain point. 

There might be some who don't even know how to define their pain points. 

At this stage, you have to identify the cold prospects that could derive value from your product. Don’t worry about making sales in the brand awareness stage. Your goal is to only identify the potential customers.

Start off with solid research and case studies. You should have a clear idea about your own brand values and products and then go on finding the ideal customer who is in need of them. Use social media, LinkedIn and count those interactions on your landing page and apps.

Creating a B2B buyer’s persona helps in building a mental picture of your prospects. Some will argue that you should not generalize or stereotype people. But the truth is that a B2B buyer’s persona helps you to get a general idea of what the mindset of the majority of your target audience is. It gives you an idea about the kind of prospects you should be searching for. 

When you feed the sales funnel with the right leads, you improve your chances of higher conversion rates at later stages in the sales funnel.

You can either go out there and find leads or create content that will lead them to you (although it might be best to try a combination of both approaches). Finding leads involves going through the company’s database to find potential B2B buyers and then cold emailing or calling prospects

Apart from email marketing, content creation, on the other hand, is like leaving bread crumbs on the road for your prospects.

You can leverage content marketing and write informational blogs, quizzes, videos and content related to the topics that matter to them. The aim should not be to advertise your product but rather to solve their pain points while you position your product as a good solution to eliminate their struggles.

The people who interact with your content and website are also potential B2B buyers whom you can contact. You can include a form where people leave their contact details in return for a free download of something useful like a cheat sheet, white paper, or market research. 

When you do talk to prospects, be sure to ask questions so that you ensure that you have found your (sales funnel) match!

Who owns this stage: Sales development and/or marketing

Potential tactics: Social media, SEO, PPC, live events, speaking engagements

Buying intent: Low

Why the prospect may leave at this stage: The customer may realize that they aren’t ready for a solution yet. Perhaps it’s too complicated or expensive. Or, after they learn more about the issue, they may decide to fix it themselves or put off a proper solution indefinitely.

Sales team! Remember, that this stage is devoted to lead generation. Developing an interest in your product comes in the next part.

2. Discovery

You have your lead, and they are ready to listen to you. At this stage, you have to nurture the lead. Engage them with the information that they will find genuinely useful. It shouldn’t be so hard if you took our advice and asked questions in the previous stage.

This is the first time when the sales rep actually has a conversation about the product. You have a ready opportunity to develop interest.

The prospect already knows that they are experiencing a pain point. The sales rep should focus on specific problems and try to solve these instead of just rattling off product benefits and offers.

You should be able to build trust. You don’t want to create the impression that you are yet another salesperson shoving products down their throat. Show some empathy towards their pain points, or at least put your most empathetic face on. Keep your conversation relevant, focused (on solving their problems), and honest.

This stage provides a genuine solution to the prospect’s problem. Throw in a demo or get on a discovery call to convert the lead into a prospect.

3. Evaluation

The prospect has been listening to you and will now compare and negotiate. Some salespeople take offense at this. But evaluation is natural. When you aren’t wearing your salesperson's hat and you are buying things, don’t you compare prices? Heck, you even do that when comparing clients; you know, landing big fish is a higher priority than closing smaller deals. Remember to hold on to that empathetic face we talked about in the previous stage. 

It is possible that the prospects have been hearing sales calls from different businesses. It is only natural that they will compare your offer with offers from your competitors.

What will make you stand out? To be honest, we don’t want either ‘B’ in a B2B to book a loss. Thus, you should keep the financials of your prospect in mind. Provide an offer that is tailored to their needs and also their pockets. Allow them to get a taste of the value you bring to the table by inviting them to start small if they lack budgets (or simply aren’t willing to go all in. 

When the prospects find that the solution will be able to work out for them, then they will develop an intent to purchase. 

Who owns this stage: Sales

Potential tactics: Product pages, demonstrations, product videos, studies, reports

Buying intent: Medium-high

Why the prospect may leave at this stage: If you or the customer decides you aren’t a fit, or if another vendor feels like a better fit, they’re likely to leave your funnel. They could also decide to postpone their purchase as they gather more data.

4. Intent

They are interested, and they have an intent to buy. You are only one step away from converting a prospect into a paying B2B customer. It could still go either way, though: buy-buy-buy or bye-bye-bye.

Just because the prospect shows an intent doesn’t mean they will definitely make a purchase. You need to work together with the customer to fulfill their requirements. These could be timelines, payment flexibility, scalability, or mode of delivery.

Based on the satisfactory results of this discussion, the prospect will either make or not make a purchase. No pressure!

Who owns this stage: Sales

Potential tactics: Sales support, product information, testimonials, case studies

Buying intent: High

Why the prospect may leave at this stage: The customer may choose another vendor.

5. Purchase

The cold lead has turned into a paying B2B customer. They are ready to buy and what they are looking for is a seamless transaction. 

You cannot afford to have a shaky mode of payment. Ensure that they don’t face any inconvenience while understanding the instructions to make a payment. There should be sufficient options available for them as far as modes of payment go.

Once they make the payment, then it is your responsibility to make a timely delivery that goes through without a hitch. The last stage tells you why.

6. Loyalty 

Loyalty pays dividends to salespersons in the long run!

Existing B2B customers are a major component of your marketing strategy. They are the testimonials of your product who will put in a good word for you. This can be used as an incentive to generate new customers for you. They can also be re-targeted. But only if they had a good experience working with you in the first place. 

Now it must make sense that timely delivery is necessary. And not just that. The relationship that you have built goes a long way. You need to maintain that trust. 

Make follow-up calls to ensure that they are not facing any issues with the product. And accept feedback gracefully. Work to improve your product if serious complaints emerge.

Customer experience is the key to maintaining a healthy customer relationship. High-quality customer support and assistance ensure that they don't have trouble using your product. 

You may not have any control over how dedicated your customer service team is, but you can be responsive and open if your prospect-turned-customer is not getting the support they need. You need not do the work for the customer service team. But maybe you can pull some strings internally to ensure that your customer’s needs are met.

Your customers are not a closed chapter after you have made a sale. It is your responsibility to maintain a long-lasting bond with them.

Take advantage of the sales funnel for your business

Ideas and templates for sales funnels can be found online, but a generic funnel is unlikely to drive good results. Ultimately, the type of funnel you design depends on your customers, their pain points, and the topics or content pieces that will keep them engaged at every stage of the funnel.

Here’s how to design a sales funnel for your business:

  1. Map the typical customer journey for your product.
  2. Design a series of touches that accelerate that journey. 
  3. Create content needed for each touchpoint.
  4. Define and measure your conversion points.

Map and design your funnel

Start by figuring out what your touch points should be. To do this, you need to understand your ideal customer’s journey as they move from awareness to decision. 

  • What catches their attention?
  • What features or messaging are they most interested in?
  • How long does it take for them to request a demonstration or conversation?
  • What types of information did they need to overcome objections and answer their questions?
  • The answers to these questions are essential for understanding how to design your funnel. They’ll guide your decisions on how to engage your target at each of the four sales funnel stages. 

They can also help you optimize your website for the funnel. This is key, because your website should point your target audience toward the funnel entrance. 

  • Pop-ups or banners that promote your lead magnet
  • Conversion-optimized landing pages
  • Links to important pages and information

You may need to tweak your messaging, layout, and design to support your sales funnel 

Content for each funnel stage

As people move deeper into your sales funnel, they need different types of information. Because of that, you’ll need to develop a variety of content types. Here are some types of content that work well in sales funnels.

Content at the awareness stage 

Awareness stage content needs to capture your target’s attention and drive qualified traffic to your website. This content should focus on the prospect’s problems and issues, not your product.

SEO articles. Publish articles that are optimized for keywords your prospects are searching for. You don’t need a lot of articles to generate results with SEO, but you do need to be able to rank well, so your audience can find your content in search engines.

Social media content. Another way for audiences to discover your company online is through social media. This type of content must be optimized for social media algorithms so your target audience will see and engage with it.

High-value content. High-value content, such as guides, checklists, templates, and ebooks, make good lead magnets. Be sure it communicates your message, values, and methodology. This content should also push the prospect to the next stage of the funnel. Include a clear call to action at the end.

Content at the interest stage

At this stage of the funnel, you need to focus on providing actionable information that your users can apply right away. This establishes you as an expert they can trust. 

Email marketing. This is one of the best strategies for moving prospects from Stage 1 to Stage 3 of your funnel. Create an email campaign to educate the prospect, nurture relationships, and share quick tips and useful links. 

Informational content. Create a wide range of content that helps your target solve their problems: blog posts, podcasts, videos, social media posts, and infographics. You may link to any of these in your email sequence.

Templates, guides, and checklists. Train your audience to look to you for solutions. Provide resources and tools that give them quick wins. These are good resources to share in a nurture sequence.

Presentations and events. Webinars and events position you as a thought leader. They also help prospects feel they know you. Create a regular cadence for these types of events, and send prospects a link to a live event or a recording.

Content at the evaluation and consideration stage

Prospects understand what you do by this stage of the sales funnel. Now, they want to know how you do it: How does your product work? How does it fit into their workflow? How easy is it to implement? How will they get started? 

Demonstrations. Prospects likely want a live demonstration, but they may also appreciate a recording they can refer back to or short videos that highlight specific features. 

FAQs. Answer the most common questions your prospects ask. Be sure to address the objections that surface most often.

Implementation guides. Prospects want to understand what it takes to get started with your product and how long it will take to see results. Implementation guides can help them evaluate your onboarding process and compare it to the competition.

Spec sheets. Prospects may want to see the specifications, especially if your product is technical or complicated.

Case studies. Can you deliver as promised? Create case studies and video testimonials to demonstrate results.

White papers and reports. Provide studies, research, and statistics that back up your systems, technology, and processes.

Content at the decision stage

At this stage, the prospect may have some lingering questions and objections that need to be addressed. It’s a good idea to have a content library that addresses these issues and provides peace of mind. Here are a few ideas:

  • Testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Third-party articles that validate the features or benefits you offer
  • Researched articles developed by your content team
  • Stories of customers who are similar to the prospect
  • Building content for every stage

As you build your sales funnel, start with one primary piece of content at each stage of the funnel. You may create new content or recycle existing content. Just match the content to the appropriate stage of the funnel.

Look to your customers to know which content pieces to use. Track their questions and concerns. Prioritize the issues that arise most frequently or that result in a closed lost deal. 

Define and measure conversion points at each funnel stage 

Sales funnels don’t focus solely on bottom-of-funnel conversions. On a website, you may have multiple top-of-funnel conversions, known as micro-conversions, as the prospect moves through the funnel. 

A good funnel asks for micro-conversions throughout the journey. For instance, in Stage 1, you might ask prospects to download a PDF. In Stage 2, you might ask them to click through to a case study, sign up for a webinar, or register for a demonstration. 

Micro-conversions are a strong indicator that your funnel is effective. Ideally, your funnel will drive action at every stage, moving leads quickly toward your final conversion.

Here are key sales metrics for tracking your funnel’s performance:

Lead source: Track the number of leads entering the funnel by its source:

  • Google ad
  • Webpage
  • Email 
  • Cold call

Conversion rate: The percentage of people who take the action you’re asking for at each touchpoint. Track the conversion rate for every micro-conversion within the funnel.

Leads generated: Measure marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs) based on their behavior within the funnel. 

Closed-won deals: This is the ultimate conversion, signaling that your sales funnel is a success. 

Cost: Track cost per lead, cost per opportunity, and cost per sales. This data determines the ROI of your funnel.

Sales velocity: How quickly do deals move through the funnel and generate revenue? When you know your sales velocity, you’ll be able to forecast revenue from your funnel more accurately.

Shared source of truth

A successful funnel is a coordinated effort by marketing and sales teams. All stakeholders must approach measurement and tracking with the same yardstick. They must also agree on what a sales-qualified lead is, when it’s handed off to sales, and who owns content and data.

A new Revenue Operations strategy has been developed to keep everyone on the same page: the shared source of truth. This is a system that consolidates every possible data point that all stakeholders agree on without question. 

As you build your funnel, start with the four sales funnel stages. With that in place, you can focus on building and optimizing your sales funnel and achieving optimal results.

Let Clari Copilot do the job!

Our AI-powered sales platform is made to walk you through your B2B sales funnel. It helps you with actionable insights like sales metrics, conversion aids, and more. Your Copilot does the measuring and insight-building for you.

Clari Copilot can accelerate the sales process with real-time analysis so that you make better decisions on your sales call. It can be integrated with important business tools such as CRM, dialer, and Slack. 

We are not stagnant; we are constantly evolving, right in step with your business and prospects evolving. 

Convert your prospects on your first call when you use Clari Copilot. Book a demo today!