8 Essential B2B Sales Stages: A Comprehensive Guide

10
Min
Created On:
April 21, 2023
Updated On:
May 8, 2024
B2B Sales Cycle

Have you tried everything in B2B sales and still not gotten any results?

It might be your sales cycle. A detailed, systematic sales cycle is everything in business-to-business deals. 

At Smartlead, our 8-stage sales cycle is primary in our sales process. It has helped our sales team convert leads in minimal time and triple our ROI in 6 months. 

The 8-step sales cycle is also great for training new sales/marketing hires and telling them our priorities. We have a monthly review meeting in which we use the sales cycles to track our leads left in the process and also our sales performance.

Keep reading to learn everything about the 8-stage B2B sales cycle. 

B2B Sales Cycle— What it is & 8 Stages

A B2B sales cycle is a process that sales & marketing teams follow repetitively to convert a lead into a customer. 

The sales cycle helps salespeople to know where a customer is within the cycle, how long it’s going to take to convert, and what to do to convert them. If an organization follows this for a long period, they are more likely to see steady growth. 

A typical business-to-business sales cycle has 5 stages:

  1. Prospect
  2. Contact
  3. Qualify
  4. Advise
  5. Offer Solution
  6. Overcome Objections
  7. Seal the Deal
  8. Follow Up

Prospect: Find Leads

The first step in any type of sales is finding leads. Unlike B2C prospecting, it takes a little time and effort in the B2B sales process. Here’s how you can find B2B leads:

👉 Create ICP (Ideal Customer Profiles)

Before starting any kind of lead generation campaign, it’s important to create ICP—Ideal Customer Profile. 

It’s a profile of your imaginary but perfect customer. An ICP should include 

  • Customer’s industry
  • Customer’s Business Size
  • Revenue
  • Funding
  • Location
  • Subscription plan/type they might be interested in
  • Who they cater to
  • Pain points
  • Solution they want

The ICP isn't the same for every B2B organization. You can always modify the key points in your ICP.  

👉 Identify Your Customer Base

After creating the ICP, it’s time to identify your target audience. Try to find out who they exactly are. Are they CEOs or managers or B2B sales representatives? 

👉 Find the Right Platform

Once you know who your potential customers are, it’s time to find out where they are most active. For instance, if your ideal customers are sales leaders like CEOs & COOs, they are most probably active on Twitter. 

Contrastingly, if your prospects are sales managers or team leads, or anybody from the sales department, they are most likely to be on LinkedIn. So, find the right platform. Make a profile of your product/business.

👉 Research

Many marketers create ICP and start launching campaigns right away but the most successful ones RESEARCH.

They try to find out more about their prospective customers. 

Contact: Connect with Your Leads

The next step after prospecting is contacting/approaching them or creating streams through which they can contact you. 

Here’s how you can get in touch with your B2B leads:

  1. Website: Creating SEO-optimized websites with proper service pages, pricing, and other stuff can land your website on top of Google’s search results. 
  2. Inbound sales strategies: Blogging and creating YouTube videos, guides, and seminars can catch the attention of your potential buyer, eventually bringing them closer to you. Inbound marketing works best in the long run. 
  3. Outbound sales techniques: You can do Google & Facebook ads, cold emails & cold calls, social media outreach, etc., to contact your customer base.  

Qualify Your Leads

Ads and outreach campaigns will bring you leads. The next step involves picking the best ones from them. 

If you get 100 leads from one campaign, consider that more than 50 of them aren’t the right leads for your business. Follow the below steps to qualify your leads. 

👉 Update Contact Record in CRM

Every lead doesn’t convert, and that’s okay. To find highly-qualified leads, find information about them. Find the name of their organization, website link, and contact details. 

Don’t forget to put all the information in the CRM. It will be helpful later on to create a B2B sales funnel. 

👉 Find the Decision-Maker

In a business organization, there are many decision-makers. For instance, a sales manager might decide which automated sales tools to subscribe to, but the same person may not decide whether to buy a Grammarly subscription. 

This is why it's better to find the right decision-maker. 

👉 Collect Information

Once you find the right person to talk to, it’s time to set meetings and collect the necessary information, such as

  • Their pain point
  • Their priorities
  • The features they want
  • Their budget, etc.

If the collected information provides any reason to believe that they are less likely to buy the product, put them out of your highly-qualified lead list. And focus on the leads that look promising. 

Advise: Help Leads Take Decision

Make high-quality leads your top priority. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the not-so-good leads. Anybody who has even a little chance of converting into your customer, keep them in the loop. 

In this “Advise” stage, all you need to do is play the “advisor” to your leads. No matter what happens, NEVER PITCH. 

Don’t try to push them to buy your product at any point in the buying process. Too much convincing can repel the B2B buyers. 

Provide materials—such as a buyer’s guide, videos, etc.—that will help them make the right decision. Empower them with the right information about their problems and their probable solutions.

Offer Solution

Once the potential clients know what their problem exactly is, its effects, and how they can solve it, it’s time to offer a solution. 

By now, you must know the prospect’s weak points. If they are short in budget, offer them a good discount that they might not find in the market. 

If they need a particular feature, try to add it (if possible) or offer a substitute for the feature. Make them an offer they can’t refuse. 

Overcome Objections

Most prospects would come with sales objections to your offers. They might say the following:

  • It’s pricey
  • The product doesn't offer enough value in comparison to the price
  • It’s too risky
  • They want more in the offer
  • They don’t like the terms & conditions in the contract,

Whatever they say, your job is to not back off. Stay right there in the sales cycle and try to provide social proofs to persuade them towards your offer. 

You can provide social proofs, such as customer reviews, product demos, video testimonials, awards, etc., that can convince them about your product. You can also adjust your offer if possible. 

Seal the Deal

After reaching this stage in the sales cycle, it’s time to seal the deal. The best way to do that is:

➡️Offer Incentives: For instance, if you are selling a cold emailing tool, you can add cold email templates or guidebooks for free. 

➡️Offer Free Trial: You can always ask the prospect to try the product for one week or so. If they are interested and the product is good enough, they will surely convert after the trial period.

➡️Sale: Creating a sense of urgency works both for B2B and B2C prospects. A “Black Friday Sale” or “New Year’s Eve” sale can help you seal the deal. 

Remember, a sale doesn’t happen by itself. You must direct the prospect toward buying your product.  

Follow Up

Once you close the sale, don’t forget to follow up. Your ultimate goal is to convert the lead into a loyal customer, not a one-time buyer. So, send emails saying, “Welcome to {company} family. Let us know if you need any help.” 

B2B Sales Cycle v/s Pipeline v/s Funnel

B2B industry-related terms are slightly confusing for beginners. This may confuse the B2B sales cycle with pipeline or funnel. 

No, these terms are not the same. 

The B2B sales cycle is the process that the B2B sales team follows every time they have a new lead. The process includes looking for leads and converting them into loyal customers. It generally has 7 to 8 stages. 

The B2B sales pipeline is a picture (visual representation) of where a prospect/lead is in the sales cycle/process. 

And, the B2B sales funnel, unlike the above terms, refers to a guide/model on the sales process. It depicts the entire B2B sales process in the shape of a funnel—how leads keep getting filtered as they go towards the opening (purchase stage). 

How to Create a B2B Sales Cycle for Your Business?

Take the 8 stages of a B2B sales cycle

  1. Prospect
  2. Contact
  3. Qualify
  4. Advise
  5. Offer Solution
  6. Overcome Objections
  7. Seal the Deal
  8. Follow Up

See which stages are not relevant for you. If you need, you can add one or two more stages in the cycle. 

Now, write down the steps and highlight “what works best” in these stages. For instance, if you contact your leads via email, you can highlight what subject lines work the best in the “Contact” stage. 

Next time, when you are trying to contact your leads, following the sales cycle will save you time and yield better results. 

Why Do You Need a Sales Cycle for Business Customers?

To Reduce Conversion Time 

A sales cycle highlights the DOs & DON’Ts. It showcases what worked with the previous leads and helps the salespeople make the right decision. An effective sales cycle can reduce conversion time dramatically. 

It Streamlines the Sales Process

A sales or marketing team consists of many working sales professionals. Without a sales cycle, the entire process can be utterly chaotic and not bear any results. 

This is why all B2B companies must create a sales cycle to streamline their sales process. It is also very effective for sales training.    

It Makes Tracking Easier

The number of leads increases with the size of the company. After some time, it gets difficult to keep track of leads. A sales cycle helps to keep track of the leads and the stages they are in the cycle. 

It Makes Evaluation Easier

An efficient sales cycle makes it easier to evaluate your sales process. If you aren’t getting any expected results, you can evaluate the process and make the necessary changes. 

Final Thoughts

The above reasons aren’t enough to create a sales cycle? 

Include B2B sales funnel in the leads. The funnel is a guide on the entire sales process that highlights what needs to be done at what point. 

Creating a sales cycle provides you with the information that you need to create the B2B sales funnel for your company. To learn more about the sales funnel, go there. 

If you dream of making money in the B2B industry, create the sales cycle immediately. Consider it as the foundation of your sales process. 

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Author’s Details

Rajnish Das

Rajnish Das is an in-house writer at SmartWriter and SmartLead. She writes product-oriented, data-driven content for B2B SaaS audiences and educates them on marketing and sales topics. Her expertise includes outbound marketing techniques like cold emailing and LinkedIn outreach.

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