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The B2B Funnel Demystified

Nov 22, 2021

Understanding the sales funnel and how it’s different for B2B is the key to success for any business-facing retail company. Even more important is actually utilizing it.

We spend a lot of time thinking about the sales funnel here at Avensia. It’s one of the foundations of any retail strategy, and should be considered before, during, and after any key decisions you make that might affect your business. 

But you already know this. 

What you may not know is that the sales funnel looks different when applied to B2B retail vs. B2C . It’s a very important distinction to make when you’re considering your target audience for everything from marketing to site design and even personnel decisions. 

Don’t worry, though. This article is all about demystifying the B2B funnel. By the end, you’ll understand how it fits into your strategy and your business’s goals. 

But first, let’s examine why the B2B funnel is different. 


Why Selling to a Business is Different

When you’re selling directly to a consumer, you’re dealing with a person who wants to buy something. Maybe it’s to fulfill a purpose within their household. Maybe it’s a gadget or something that they’re buying for entertainment. Maybe it’s a service that they want or need. Maybe they just really enjoy buying things and have some extra cash to spend. 

Selling to a business is kind of like selling to a part of a consumer. The individual you’re dealing with represents a greater whole. That is, they’re speaking on behalf of others within the business, rather than making a purchasing decision based on their own wants or needs. That right there is the key difference when it comes to understanding the B2B funnel. You’re essentially selling to multiple decision makers rather than a key individual. 

Another major difference is the motivation. Unlike consumers, businesses aren’t interested in buying things for entertainment or because they just enjoy buying things. Every purchase a business makes is a calculated decision that will somehow work to boost their bottom line. Even if a company buys a foosball table for their employees, it’s a decision meant to help the employees feel better and therefore continue to be productive. There’s simply no such thing as a frivolous B2B sale. 

You’ll need more comprehensive product information, educational materials, and supporting information on hand to help guide your B2B customers towards making the purchase.

The customer service needs also tend to be pretty different for B2B than they are for B2C. Consumers generally don’t want to talk to anybody when they’re making a purchase. They visit, browse, study, add to cart, and buy. It’s a journey from one end to the other without a lot of opportunities for diversion. 

B2B, on the other hand, is a longer and more complex buying process, though not as complex as it used to be. Traditionally, B2B buyers would require a heavy amount of interaction with sales reps throughout the buying journey. These days, however, they’re doing the product and service research on their own at an increasing rate. In fact, according to Gartner, B2B customers today are already 57% of the way down the sales funnel before they contact a sales rep. 

What that means is that you have to have the materials available to help potential customers conduct their research and reach their own conclusions. You’ll need more comprehensive product information, educational materials, and supporting information on hand to help guide your B2B customers towards making the purchase. 

There is even a chance that the client may ask for formal presentations and product demonstrations. There may be contracts involved. 

It’s all of these things that lead to a longer and more complex sales funnel for B2B, and it can be a lot to take in at a glance. 

Let’s look at the funnel itself now and break it down step by step.

The B2B Sales Funnel

The B2B sales funnel is broken up into six stages, each one representing a new phase of the sales process. The first stage is all about awareness. 

b2b-funnel1. Awareness

At the beginning of the funnel, the buyer is identifying a need or a problem and considering products and services to address it. 

It’s at this Awareness stage that the customer is exploring their options. If they’ve worked with a suitable vendor before and enjoyed the results, they’ll probably turn to the same vendor again. Past that, they’ll begin considering recommendations from colleagues. Word of mouth plays a major role in B2B marketing. 

If there aren’t any recommendations that pan out, or if they don’t gather any to begin with, there’s a very good chance that the buyer will turn to Google to begin exploring vendors and product solutions to find what they’re looking for. This is where all your marketing efforts have a chance to pay off. 

Great content marketing, PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are going to be the things that catch your potential customer’s eye during this Awareness stage. All that “top of the funnel” strategy is going to be what draws the buyer’s interest and brings them to your site. 

This brings us to stage 2, Interest. 

2. Interest

In the second stage, the buyer is on your website and ready to browse what you have to offer. It’s incredibly important that your website or landing page is fully optimized to sell your product or service in the first few moments of the buyer arriving there. 

That means you want them to know exactly what it is you’re offering right off the bat. Use clear language to explain your product or service in a way that’s immediately visible and offers clear selling points. 

For instance, if you sell office desks, the first thing a potential buyer should see should be something like “Sturdy office desks for serious work,” Or something of the sort. Don’t use that line exactly, you can do better. But the idea is that the buyer sees that line and immediately knows that you sell office desks. Hopefully the messaging about the desks being sturdy and for “serious work” will resonate as well. 

Too many companies use up that valuable interest with paragraphs about the company’s history or the product’s pedigree. That’s how you lose the buyer’s interest and send them on their way.

In short, lead with the product. 

Secondly, since you’re selling to a business, you’re going to want to have examples of glowing testimonials or other social proof available at a glance on that initial page. “Over 500,000 office desks sold around the world,” for instance, will establish credibility right away. 

Since B2B buyers are going to have to undergo a decision making process involving multiple people (probably), you want to provide them with as much up-front credibility as you can. 

Again, this is much more important than talking about your company’s origin story. That can come later in an “About Us” section on your site. 

Since B2B buyers are going to have to undergo a decision making process involving multiple people (probably), you want to provide them with as much up-front credibility as you can.

3. Consideration

Once the buyer has learned about your product and explored a little bit, they’ll likely return to the company’s stakeholders to share what they’ve learned and discuss your product as an option. 

It’s at this stage where they’ll start narrowing down their options, which probably means further exploring what it is you have to offer. This is where the strength of your product information and marketing materials will really be put to the test. 

Like we mentioned in the introduction, B2B customers are taking product research upon themselves more and more often. While this step would traditionally result in the customer reaching out to a point of contact at your company to begin discussing your product, it’s more likely these days that they’ll do the research on their own and discuss amongst the stakeholders. 

You may still receive some emails requesting price quotes and the like, so be prepared. 

4. Intent

After extensive research, the buyer will be narrowing down their options and, hopefully, landing on you as a potentially great fit to supply them with what they need. If the buyer did reach out and signal their interest in your product, this is time that should be spent on your end learning about the buyer and their organization. Then you can tailor a sales pitch to speak on precisely how your business will be able to help theirs should the opportunity arise. 

However, it’s possible that you’re still unaware of the buyer’s interest at this point and everything is still happening on their end. 

5. Evaluation

At this stage, the buyer has narrowed down their options even further and are weighing between your company and perhaps just one other. The stakeholders are weighing their options and preparing to make a purchasing decision.

There is nothing further you can do and it’s time to sit back and cross your fingers and hope to make a sale. 

6. Buy

This is it. The bottom of the funnel. If you’ve made it to this point, you’ve done well and the customer is now ready to purchase from your company. 

Contracts will be signed, arrangements will be made, and transactions will occur. The sales funnel has been completed and you can move on to the next customer! 

Except...not really. The thing about the B2B sales funnel is that it doesn’t really end. It’s cyclical in nature. That is, after you’ve made your sale, you want to stay in touch and offer support for your product. 

That’s because, in B2B, you’re not just looking to make a sale. You’re looking to establish a relationship with the customer. 

Remember what we said all the way back in the Awareness stage? B2B customers will turn to businesses they’ve had success with before they go looking for other options. That means the door is always open for them to return to you for future purchases. The more relationships you form with clients, the more returning customers you get, and the easier the sales funnel becomes each time they pass through it. 

So maybe it’s time we stop thinking of it as a B2B sales funnel, and maybe we should start calling it the B2B sales circle. 

modern b2b commerce

Let Us Help You Establish Your Funnel

You could have the greatest B2B product on earth, but if you’re not properly utilizing the sales funnel then you’re not going to get very far. 

At Avensia, commerce strategy is what we do. We’re experts on educating businesses on how to maximize their ROI with strong data-driven strategy. 

We believe in prioritizing customer experience, and that includes building a website that properly utilizes the sales funnel, both for B2B and B2C, to lead customers on a journey to purchase. 

Whether you’re looking to design your site to optimize the customer experience , or you’re looking to create an e-commerce marketplace from scratch, our expert teams of commerce specialists and designers can get you there, and then some. 

Contact us today for a free consultation and learn how we can help your business become the best version of itself.