b2b sales process, b2b sales funnel, inbound marketingWe’re all familiar with the sales funnel: the process through which a complete stranger becomes a client for your business. Well that sounds simple enough, but there is a TON of work involved between those two stages, and if you want to gain clients, your company is responsible for it.

You may be thinking “I’m a sales pro! I know this funnel like the back of my hand,” but things have changed. Buyers have done a complete 180 on us. They no longer want to be pushed through the B2B funnel by your sales teams. They want to take their own time going through that funnel, with occasional guidance when and where they need it.

If you’re still confused about how this new funnel works, let us give you an example.

Someone requests a free whitepaper from your website. This is where the funnel starts. With the old model, we would jump at this opportunity.

“They’re requesting our free download! They want to do business with us! Let’s call them!”

The new sales funnel takes an inbound approach. 

  1. We thank them for their request and give them exactly what they asked for. Nothing more, nothing less. If they sense any pushing or prodding this early on, they won’t hesitate to send your e-mail straight to the trash folder, and then you’ve lost that prospect forever.
  2. Once they’ve downloaded that content, we will send them an e-mail suggesting a company blog or two, and give them the option to subscribe. We are putting it out there but leaving it up to them to make a decision.
  3. The next day, we’ll send another e-mail inviting them to attend a webinar. Again, a simple suggestion based on what they’ve downloaded thus far. We are doing our best to guide them to a solution and avoiding any talk of sales.
  4. Several days later, another e-mail will be sent. This one containing an opportunity to download our newly published e-Book. With each piece of content you send their way, prospects should grow more and more open to at least hearing what your company has to say.
  5. Our final step is to invite them to have a conversation with an actual person, an opportunity to talk to one of our pros and get some real answers.

Are you noticing a pattern here? This is called nurturing your leads. The goal is to get prospects through the sales funnel by educating and guiding, not by selling and definitely not be harassing. If they decline that final conversation, don’t push. Don’t call in three months with a “friendly” reminder that you’re ready to do business. They are aware. You want to tread lightly and never intrude where you are not welcome. This will help in establishing the trust that all prospects look for in a business relationship.

The new B2B sales process revolves around respecting the buyer and their ability to make their own decisions. You want to assure them that you’re ready if or when they need you, but it’s up to them to make the final call. The old funnel and new funnel are essentially the same idea, but they function in completely different ways. While the old funnel was focused on getting people through that purchase process as quickly as possible, the new funnel lets them complete the journey on their own. The end result of the new sales funnel is a longer-lasting, higher quality relationship between the company and the prospect. Sales teams should still be working to get prospects through the funnel stage by stage, but that work should involve a totally different approach and set of tactics.