Here is another retro post from March of 2007.  This post was featured on Search Engine Guide back in March 2007.

B2B Marketing: The Buying Funnel vs. Selling Process

B2B marketing can be, and most often is, a complex process. However, a complex process doesn’t always require a complex solution. To me, complex means ambiguity and ambiguity means lack of clarity and direction. I find it frustrating when people take a complex process and make it more complex. Why not attempt to simplify the process? In the online world, B2B marketers often try to have elaborate and dynamic websites that feature complex navigation and URL structures with complex messages. Yet one of the most common things that I hear with regards to B2B sites is that there was not enough information or too much of the wrong information to help understand the company’s solution offering. Ambiguity anyone?

The way I see it is that when a business has a problem or issue requiring a B2B solution, they look for one thing: simplicity. For the most part, they are looking to “break-down” an existing problem to satisfy their needs. No one wants to read hundreds of pages of documentation, they want a bullet list of benefits and features or they want to see a demo or podcast of how the solution works. They want a website where they can build their own solution.

Forget the fluff, get to the stuff. Which brings me to the purpose of this piece, examining how the B2B selling process should be reflective of the prospect’s buying funnel.

With B2B marketing in 2007 we often forget some of the marketing fundamentals that should be practiced in order to achieve success. We all know the importance of understanding our target demographic and our own selling process, but how often do you try to marry the two in order to provide a clearer more simplified understanding of what your prospect (or consumer, or lead, or what ever you choose to call your target market) is in search of? While the selling process for B2B marketers is more complex than in the B2C world, tying the selling process into the buying funnel of your prospect can be a great step in understanding the true needs of your prospects.

Prospect Buying Funnel vs. B2B Selling Process

Throughout the selling process, B2B marketers need to be considerate of the process that the prospect is going through. While the prospect may have quickly identified a need, they may spend months on research and consideration seeking a solution that will satisfy that need. Throughout the process, B2B marketers need to be building a relationship, creating top of mind awareness while qualifying the prospect as a user of their solution. The more understanding B2B marketers have of their prospect s buying funnel activity, the chances of being considered as a potential vendor improves. As a reminder, the traditional buying funnel is made up of five components.

Buying Funnel

  1. Need – the process by which a need is determined and identified
  2. Awareness – determining what solution will satisfy the need
  3. Research / Consideration – gathering of information to proceed with a purchase. Determining which solution will best meet the requirements and satisfy the need
  4. Decision – finalizing the details, including pricing and solution support
  5. Rationalization – qualifying the purchase after the fact. Was the correct choice made in the selection process?

While the prospect may repeat steps during the process, B2B marketers can work through elements of their selling process to correspond to the buying funnel. While the prospect is going through the research and consideration phase of the buying funnel, you can establish a rapport with them and build a solid relationship with them.

Selling Process

  1. Prospect – finding and obtaining leads
  2. Rapport – building a relationship. For site owners this means ensuring that your site s content and appearance contain the right messaging for your target market. Use the language that your target market use (not necessarily the language that your company or organization use)
  3. Qualify – asking the necessary questions while continuing to build the relationship to determine and identify the best solution for the user
  4. Present – focus on the benefit(s) of your solution (and how they set you apart from other solutions available) and how they will solve the problems of the prospect who is seeking a solution
  5. Close – continue to build the relationship (think lifetime value) including asking questions, resolving concerns, offering payment solutions/options, guarantees etc.

Many B2B marketers tend to make the B2B selling process more complex than it needs to be. The five elements that make up the selling process can be used by B2B marketers to focus on the needs of their target market as they maneuver through the buying funnel. Ultimately however it is the prospect who determines how B2B marketers proceed with their selling process. If, for example, during their consideration phase you have not presented the prospect with enough benefit to consider you as a potential vendor then this “prospect” may not be a prospect at all and the process begins anew.

Retro Post: B2B Marketing in 2007: The Buying Funnel vs. Selling Process
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