Those who have been working with complex sales are already familiar with the term Sales Funnel.
It is basically the path your lead takes from the moment it is generated (either through an Outbound list or Inbound actions), until its closing.
Some companies go a step further, adopting a funnel model suggested by Hubspot that they conceptualized as a flywheel. In this model, Marketing, Sales and Customer Success/Service work within the same funnel.
In this article, we will focus on building a B2B sales funnel, but already viewing your lead/customer as a long-term partner of your business.
Companies like Amazon and Zappos teach us the importance of seeing the sales process not only focusing on closing new customers, but as a complex chain where the important thing is not just to sell, but to exceed customer expectations, and to feed the Marketing machine with recommendations and, of course, generating new revenues.
Another great challenge that companies face today is adapting the funnel to the reality of their business (and not copying what some competitor or expert is saying is correct).
Throughout this article we will show you the best way to structure a B2B Sales Funnel focused on the particularities of your company and customers.
How important is the B2B Sales Funnel?
With a well-designed funnel, it is much simpler for the sales manager to understand the bottlenecks in the process and be able to propose improvements, as each step becomes much more predictable.
An example: if at the stage where your salesperson must contact the leads they are accumulating in line, this could mean that you need to hire new salespeople.
If you monitor the sales cycle and stay aware of the volume of existing leads in the funnel, it is easier to predict how many of them will be closed in the next days/months/quarter, and how much new revenue will be added to your base.
In addition, the team will also be able to plan how much commission they will receive given the volume of business that exists at each stage and its closing rate.
In other words, all sides win!
Changes in the Sales Funnel
It is important to note that a sales funnel must remain constantly evolving. Whenever there are changes in the way your persona makes decisions, you also need to change your sales funnel.
Another important point to note is that processes also change.
Imagine the following situation: you are a salesperson in 1980. As part of your process, you need to visit your leads in person.
If these leads were in another city, you would, for example, need to buy a bus or plane ticket, so your sales funnel would need to cover these steps. That is, it would be necessary to have steps such as "tickets approval" to give more visibility to the negotiation scenario for the management, and also to explain how the process would be executed for the team.
An example of what a part of this funnel could look like is shown below:
With the emergence of videoconferencing tools in the 2000s, many of these trips became unnecessary. Therefore, the sales funnel had to be redesigned to no longer include the travel stages that became more sporadic than part of the process.
How to build a B2B sales funnel in 3 steps
That said, we've broken down the process of building a B2B sales funnel into 3 simple steps:
• Process mapping
• Choosing a tool to implement your funnel
• Simplification over time
This is the starting point for anyone who wants to start building their own sales funnel. Mapping your sales process, and more importantly, your buyer's decision-making process, is vital to building a funnel that really mirrors reality and is understood by your sales team.
Always remember this: If your sales funnel does not represent the reality of your process and buyers, the probability of your salespeople not engaging with your funnel is very high.
In order of importance, you should focus on how your lead makes decisions and then focus on how your internal processes work.
We will simulate a scenario to demonstrate the best way to map your process.
Imagine that a company experiences the following scenario:
• There are two ways to capture customers: Inbound and Outbound
• Sells to small and medium-sized businesses
• Cannot speak easily to decision makers
• Offers technology software to the market
• The average ticket is between $ 2,000 and $ 5,000
The steps in this case would be:
1 - Let's think first about the stage where we still haven't contacted the leads and they still don't know about your company. This will be the step where you will register all the leads from your Outbound lists. The name we suggest is "Outbound List" or Smart Leads.
2 - Afterwards, we have to evaluate what you want to follow in your process, taking into account the moment that your lead still hasn't answered you. Particularly, one suggestion is to keep track of how many companies you are trying to connect on a daily basis. The name would be "Connection Attempt".
3 - Next to that, it is also important to assess how many responded to you, regardless of whether it was a hot or cold answer. This is also where highly qualified Inbound leads will fall. The step would be "Connected" or "Connected Leads".
After these first steps, you can already take into account the way your lead makes decisions.
4 - As the company in the above scenario sells a SaaS (Software as a Service), it is necessary to do a demonstration so that the lead can see how we can help him and show the tool working. The stage can be named "Demo".
At this moment, the lead typically follows two paths if they saw value in your solution:
• Try to schedule a next meeting with the company's decision maker so that your team can present the solution and verify that this decision maker also sees value in it;
• Attempts to show the value of your solution internally to the decision maker directly.
In both scenarios, if the decision maker believes that it makes sense to evolve, we move on to the next step, which is the solution design.
5 - This step consists of presenting a proposal to the lead, either in a meeting involving the decision maker and/or influencer or even structuring the proposal internally to send. The name of this step can be "Submitted Proposal".
6 - If the lead responds positively to the proposed value, this lead will go to the forecast stage, where it will stay until the bureaucratic procedures are resolved and it is possible to officially start the partnership. The name we suggest is "Forecast".
Summarizing the funnel described above, we then have the following steps (which respect both the lead purchase process and internal bureaucracy):
Outbound List → Connection Attempt → Connected Leads → Demo → Proposal Submitted → Forecast.
Below is an example of this funnel:
Remember that having a structured sales funnel will also make it easier for your company to track KPIs.
Choosing a tool to implement the sales funnel
Today, there are several free solutions that can help you, but the ideal is to choose the one that best meets your needs.
We recommend working with a system that provides at least the possibility to see the funnel in Kanban format, as this will make the management routine much simpler (since you just drag the leads to the desired stage). With this view of the sales funnel, it is much simpler to follow the evolution of your business and know the steps that have been performing well and those that need more attention.
Another important decision when choosing your CRM is to look for a solution that has native integration with marketing automation tools and after-sales systems. When we talk about native integration, we refer to those that do not need developers to be made, and can be performed by professionals who are not in the technical area.
Another very interesting solution for those who want to integrate non-natively connected systems is to use Zapier. It allows you to perform some of the developer's work in a simpler way, without the need for technical knowledge. This way, your company will save a lot of time and money.
It is vital to adopt this approach to centralize all your leads' information in the CRM, thus optimizing your team's work throughout the sales funnel.
Implementing a funnel in a CRM tool is often quite simple. Most CRMs give you the possibility to create stages and change their respective names in a few seconds.
Make your funnel as simple as possible
In this article, we gave an example of how a change in the market dynamics affects the shape of a sales funnel. This is a very high impact change. It's hard to imagine, but VoIP solutions take more revenue from airlines than you might think.
However, even small changes, whether in your internal processes or in your leads and customers routine, can impact your funnel.
An example of minor impacts: Imagine that a company has a contract with more than 10 pages, with several clauses. One of the longest steps in this company's sales process is negotiating with the lead's legal department to withdraw or change clauses. After all negotiation, the contract is sent for physical signature.
Let's assume that this whole process takes around 3 months and there is a stage in the sales funnel just for signing a contract, right after the Forecast.
After some time of analysis, this same company realizes that it was never necessary to add the clauses that are in the contract and it can be greatly simplified. Instead of 10 pages, it is reduced to one page and the entire signing process becomes digital.
With this change, the signature cycle was reduced from three months to two days.
With this in mind, it was verified that the contract signing step was no longer necessary and therefore, it was cut from the sales funnel.
Did you notice how internal changes in your own process can simplify your routine? We only cover the end of the funnel in this example, but you can do this moviment in all stages of the funnel.
In summary, it is important to remember that the simpler your process and funnel are over time, the greater the adherence by your team to the strategy, the faster your contracts will be closed, thus guaranteeing the manager greater control of the processes and growth of the company as a whole.