How to build a B2B SAAS sales funnel in 10 steps
So you want to know how to build a B2B SAAS sales funnel? Here are ten critical steps that will guide you. But before we get there, what is sales funnel in the first place? A sales funnel is simply the number of steps, a customer takes from being unaware of your products to being your customer.
Industries and sales processes are different. But in B2B SAAS, they all tend to follow a common model. This model in particular is made up of 10 different individual steps.
- 1 The four stages of the B2B sales funnel
- 1.1 The top
- 1.2 The middle
- 1.2.1 The lead magnet and how does it impact your b2b SAAS sales funnel
- 1.2.2 The Nurture stage of the B2B SAAS sales funnel
- 1.2.3 The Engage stage of the B2B SAAS sales funnel
- 1.2.4 Develop
- 1.3 The Bottom of the funnel
- 1.4 Top, Middle and Bottom of the B2B SAAS sales funnel Summary
- 1.5 The Inverted segment of your B2B SAAS sales Funnel
- 2 Summary: TL:DR
The four stages of the B2B sales funnel
The four stages of the sales b2b sales funnel are simply the top, birds eye view levels. They help you get a quick feel for the sales funnel. They include;
- Inverted funnel
Each represents a unique stage the prospects will take towards being your customers and afterwards. Let us discuss them in detail.
This is the awareness level. In this stage, the customer is just coming around to the fact that they have a problem. But, they are yet to pick a solutions provider. The best way to describe this stage is rummaging through the dark. They are in the first step of the customer journey.
You goal here should not be to sell but rather get as many eyeballs on you as possible. If you manage to attract traffic via top of the funnel keywords, your focus should be on learning more about their pain points. This will enable you to position yourself as the perfect solution to their problem.
This is the salesmanship stage. The prospect has recognized that they have a real problem and a real need. In this phase, they are often mulling the available solutions and alternatives. Although it is good to mention, they are yet to form a definite buying decision. The goal here is to guide the prospect towards the right solution and keep contact with the prospect so that you are always at the top their minds. This forms a critical step on how to build a B2B SAAS sales funnel.
This is done through the various steps.
The lead magnet and how does it impact your b2b SAAS sales funnel
What is a lead magnet? This is simply value exchanged for a customer’s contact information and agreement to receive further marketing material. Often times it is important to get a prospect’s information because they will statistically not buy from you on the first visit.
So to capitalize on their visit, you need to entice the visitor to give you their contact information. This can be done via something simple as a downloadable brochure or a how to guide. Sometimes a discount code will work wonders
Examples of lead magnets
Here are some great lead magnets that work really well;
How to guide
This is an informative piece of writing that helps the prospect solve a particular issue. How to guides work well for prospects who have a DIY side to them. Am sure you are wondering, if I am going to tell them how to solve their problem, how do I make money from that?
I am going to tell you a little secret, anyone can watch karate movies, but that doesn’t mean you will be able to do Kung Fu. Most solutions have steep learning curves. They need a lot of time to figure it out. So the how to guide, is not a how to guide. Rather, it is a demonstration of your capabilities. It shows the prospect the actual depth and magnitude of the problem and the complexity of the solution. Once they see this, they will be more keen to hire someone else to do it. There is a good chance that someone else is you.
Everyone loves a good discount. But none more than business prospects. They will jump at any opportunity to keep more money in their bank account. A strategic discount will whet their appetite and they will definitely give you their contact information in exchange. The deal, monetary savings vs contact information is too good to pass up.
Industry data and statistics
We all need to make decisions. But making good decisions is hard without concrete data. This data is often hard to come by. If you have some industry secret data, this can be a great exchange for customer information.
Sometimes all someone needs to give you their information or to even directly buy is case studies. They want to know how your solution was used to help others. If you can create compelling case studies on how you were able to solve the prospects problem for someone else, you can easily get the contact informaiton.
The Nurture stage of the B2B SAAS sales funnel
After you collect their contact information I am sure that you are going to be excited. But this is just the beginning. The prospect is not going to buy from you, not yet. You are going to face a problem called inertia and status quo. Researching a solution is one thing, but upending your previous systems to install another one is not an easy endeavor. It is easy to fantasize about the solution but actually taking action is quite difficult.
So in this stage the focus is to gently nudge the prospect towards the buying direction. The emphasis is on gently. You don’t want to come across as a used car sales person. The secret here is to show the prospect, that indeed your values align and you have the same goals.
This you can do through a drip feed marketing strategy. Occasionally you can send them marketing communication through their preferred channels.
So what type of marketing collateral works well in this stage?
This will give them a chance to observe your solution. The truth is that no one wants to be the first to try out something. Sure, there are first adopters, but they are often few and in the fringes of society. These are crazy people who don’t mind the risk of being first. Many want to see how the solution works out for others before making the commitment.
If you have a genuinely good solution this is your time to shine. As long as you are telling the truth, it is advisable to throw modesty out the window. You need to scream your achievements from the very mountain top.
If you manage to help a certain client save money, its time to send an email to your mailing list detailing your achievement. If you manage to cut time spent on a certain process, mass email time. Your prospects will watch with their jaw dropped as you perform these seemingly feats of magic.
They will be breaking your door to buy from you soon enough.
Sometimes you have good solution, with the right pricing that solves the problem. But because businesses come and go, most enterprises, especially the more established ones, don’t want to risk dealing with a fly by night firm. They want a partner who will not go belly up after they install their system.
As a result, part of the nurturing campaign is to demonstrate your financial capability. For example if you manage to raise a funding round, you should definitely tell your prospects. This will increase confidence in you and signal that you are actually a real firm.
Awards and competition wins
Awards and competition wins are important because they give your prospects something to gauge you against your competitors. For example, if you win a best solutions provider award that your competitor was also competing for, you have just demonstrated that there is something you are doing better than them.
This helps you stand out in very competitive fields and arenas.
Business is drab and boring. Lets face the truth. Often times, it is good to send them material that is not business related. Something that helps brighten up their day. You know what they say, people often forget what you say but rarely forget what you made them feel.
A good example is someone like Richard Branson. Sometimes he posts tidbits about his life and his ambitions. I like that because, it shows there is a real person behind the business. Someone who in a way, is just like me.
The Engage stage of the B2B SAAS sales funnel
At this stage, they are often already reaching out to you with question and requests. If you send out how to guides, sometimes they may get stuck on a particular step and require your assistance. You need to be there for them. For example, if they leave questions on your social media, it is very good of you to answer them.
Although, that being said, time management is critical. You need to create a dedicated department for this or block out some time during the day for this purpose. 10% your working day should be sufficient. So what is the best way to engage your prospects?
This allows you to engage a lot of people in a very short time. Just the simple act of answering questions and providing solutions will put you miles ahead of your competitors
Live Q and As
If you are getting a lot of phone call and emails, I thing its time for a Q and A. There are plenty of platforms you can use to go live. From there, you will have direct one on one discussions and help solve the pressing needs of your customers.
This means essentially trying to determine whether your solution is the right fit for your prospect. Its all about really understanding what your prospect is trying to achieve. In the event your product isn’t a good fit, this stage seeks to modify offerings to try and best achieve the prospect’s goals. Sometimes this leads to entire company pivots. Whereby a company changes its main offerings to better suite its customers. More often, it leads to the creation of new departments and divisions to cater to this unmet need.
This stage forms a crucial part of B2B business growth. It forms part of the evolution lifecycle and constant integration that have come to define B2B SAAS. The Develop stage seeks to answer the question, will the solution that I have actually help you? If not, how best can we modify to help you solve the problem? If the modifications are too complex and expensive, you need to figure out as a B2B SAAS operator whether it is economically feasible to create an entirely new solution or to hand over the lead to a competitor that is better suited. Or rather, if you are struggling to get customers for your current offering, you could pivot to addressing this newly discovered problem.
The Bottom of the funnel
This is the ever delicate stage where you convert the prospect to customer. It is delicate because a million things could go wrong. On top of that, the customer could wake up one morning and pull the rug from underneath your feet. Sometimes they rushed to get the solution and they discovered that they need more time, of the department head could have the budget yanked from their hands.
It is very advisable to be clear headed and proceed with a lot of emotional intelligence.
Immediately after the develop stage, the times has come to close the sale. Often times, you also need to guide your prospect by holding their hand and walking them through the individual steps.
This step is critical.
Sometimes as B2B SAAS providers, we get to excited about the sale we forget, the customer still needs help to use our platform. They may require help with systems integration or training.
This is the process whereby your system is integrated to their existing systems and processes. In addition to that the old system needs to be phased out and the data migrated to your new solution. Successful adoption of your solution requires that, this stage goes off without a hitch. Some tips;
- Make sure you are open and upfront about all the requirements that your customer will need in order to successfully deploy your solution. This prevents headaches and unnecessary clashes with your new client.
- Watch the data and avoid messy migration. Data is delicate. Don’t fumble this process. Their existing data may be messy and difficult to work with, but you should strive to ensure it is properly cleaned up and ported to a format that is compatible with your systems
It is good to assume that they are not going to know how to use your systems right off the bat. You need to provide a mechanism for training and the means of actually showing them how to operate your systems. This can be in the form of live training sessions or training videos.
This is the stage where they often have all the questions in the world. They are coming off their old system to your new system and thus may get stuck or be unfamiliar with the layout for example. You need to be available almost 24/7 to answer their questions no matter how trivial. Even finding buttons and menu items may prove to be challenging because they are not yet familiar with your systems.
Top, Middle and Bottom of the B2B SAAS sales funnel Summary
You have done it. The prospect is now your customer and has successfully deployed your solution. It is time to celebrate, you have achieve a significant milestone.
The Inverted segment of your B2B SAAS sales Funnel
The sale is just part of the customer journey not the destination. There are other steps that you need to take to ensure your success and the success of the customer. These steps will result in a delightful experience for your customers. This will lead to increased customer loyalty. Something we all definitely crave.
This mirrors the assisted close. The very principle are the same. Understand that the process is difficult. Switching from their previous ways of doing things and incorporating your system is a very painful process. You job here is to alleviate the pain and to make the process even enjoyable.
After you have successfully deployed your system and everything is perfect, now is the time to ask for referrals. You are still close and they are yet to get lost in their world. If you delay asking for referrals at this point, you run the risk of them being too busy to give you referrals later.
Referrals are important because they help feed the leads machine. You get to pitch and demonstrate your platform to more and more people. This increases the chances of sales.
A good tip is to make the referral request upfront, direct but polite. You will be surprised, most of them will gladly tell you of others who could use a solution like yours. Most people tend to know others in their industry. Marketing managers are often friends with other marketing managers. CEOs know many other CEOs. Their networks could prove valuable to your top line.
Surprise. There is something I have mislead you all this time. You see. The word customer journey or sales funnel implies that at some point there is a destination. A sort of goal post. But there isn’t one. These days competition is stiff. Just because you have convinced someone to use your platform does not mean that they will keep using it.
People have increasingly more and more options. And because it is always easier to deal with people you have done business before, it is important to keep your business relationships alive. Customer success will help you in;
When someone signs up for your SAAS platform and leave after a while, that is churn. Churn rate is an important metric. The power of SAAS is the compounding nature of its revenue. But the biggest threat to this is churn. If the number of people opting out of your service is the same as the number of people signing up, then you are not really growing. If the number of people opting out of your SAAS is more than the people signing up, then its only a matter of time before your business implodes.
A good customers success strategy will help you maintain your existing customers and ensure that they are always happy and delighted with you.
Robust account management
Customer success is generally more robust than traditional account management. You Customer Success team manages the relationships between you the provider and the client. This functionality often works in parallel to the technical support and other technical teams. The customer success team works with the customer to ensure the customer best utilizes your SAAS platform capabilities, expound on them and increase them. They are responsible to ensure the renewal and expansion of contracts and usage.
They are the customer’s champions within your organization.
A key metric of success here is the NPS, the net promoter score;
What is the NPS
The NPS measures the customer experience and can be used to measure the growth of the company. It provides a great anchor and can be used to get a birds eye view on where your organization is headed.
You can do a small study with your customers and group them into the following cartegories;
Promoter – These are loyal customers who will keep buying and will always refer you to anyone who needs services close to yours
Passive – These are rather satisfied customers, but they can be easily seduced by competitor offerings
Detractor – Very unhappy customers who are always complaining about you and can severely damage your brand and hard won reputation
After you have grouped your customers, you are then able to come up with strategies to deal with your situation. If you have a lot of detractors, it is time to analyze you offerings and delivery to see where the weakness is. Sometimes, detractors are often a result of skipping the “Develop” stage of the sales funnel. Whereby you sign up customers who are not really a great fit for you. Or customers who don’t really need your offerings.
The Upsells stage of the B2B SAAS sales funnel
Upsells are a very profitable way of boosting your top line. What makes upsells remarkably profitable is that there is no customer acquisition costs related to it. They are essentially “free” sales. How it works is that you essentially invite your existing customers to purchase more expensive items and upgrades.
You essentially do this by helping them visualize the value they will get from ordering the next top tier in your SAAS offerings.
This only works if you have a very high Net promoter score.
A disclaimer; Ethics are important. It is quite unethical to mislead the customer into purchasing a higher tier product if it does nothing to help them move close to their goals. This will in fact damage your Net Promoter Score and result in a lot of complaints. You may even lose the existing customer.
Importance of Ethics
In addition, it is unethical to mislead a customer by telling them a certain tier will solve their problem but in fact they will need to purchase another tier. This is annoying and highly infuriating. Especially when it took a lot of effort to migrate to your systems. What happens is that, the customer may be strong armed to buy more but as soon as they are able, they will jump ship. And not only that, they will bad mouth you to everything they encounter with a pulse.
You will lose a customer and severely harm your reputation. This will make it even more difficult and expensive to acquire more customers in the future, severely hampering your growth prospects as a company.
If you are a B2B SAAS executive, it is paramount to keep your eye on your sales representative and watch the kinds of promises they make to your prospects. Some of them may perform these unethical actions just to get the commissions.
That is how you build a B2B SAAS sales funnel. Let us do a recap for those who didn’t manage to read the entire article and also for me to elaborate on a few things. The sales funnel is the steps a person takes from basically being unaware that you even exist to being your customer and unofficial sales person. This means promoting you to their networks.
There are four stages.
- The awareness stage
- Nurturing stage
- Assisted close
- Customer success, referrals and upsells
Again, it is good to remember that there is no end to the customer journey. Its all about maintaining the relationship by solving the customer’s problems and addressing their pain points. Then leveraging that relationship, in an ethical manner to upsell and get referrals. If you perform well, this should not be a problem. Also remember to be ethical in all your dealings. Word travels fast. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being shady and dodgy. Don’t join the dark side, there is plenty of money to be made being an ethical business.
For reference, study companies like salesforce and Hubspot. They have done really great in building their sales funnels.
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