You’ve built your B2B sales pipeline to systematically track each stage of your sales process. Great! Now your (bigger) challenge is never letting it go dry.
We can’t emphasize how important it is to have a repeatable lead generation strategy to keep a steady supply of new leads flowing and to fill the sales pipeline at every stage. These four key stages of the B2B sales pipeline — prospecting, qualification, meeting, and negotiation — work systematically to turn a prospect into a paying customer.
4 stages of the B2B sales pipeline
- The prospecting stage, in which businesses source and identify potential customers who fit their target audience.
- The qualification stage, in which businesses nurture and engage with potential customers to determine which ones are qualified leads.
- The meeting stage, in which businesses schedule meetings with qualified leads to provide more detailed information and answer any questions they may have.
- The negotiation and closing stage, in which businesses strategically discuss a deal and eventually agree on the terms of the sale
By understanding and managing each stage of the sales pipeline, businesses can maximize their sales success and keep each stage of the B2B sales pipeline full.
Let’s first think of the challenges your marketing and sales strategy must address. We’ve summed up the main obstacles into these three categories: timing, data, and resources.
Challenges in keeping your B2B sales pipeline full
- Timing: Volatile buying cycles and market conditions, especially for B2B tech, causing fallouts or leads to not convert at the forecasted close rates
- Data: Challenges in accessing valuable lead opportunities, and lack of timely insights to push leads to every next stage
- Resources: Not having enough high-quality content or staff to attract the right prospects, and effectively nurture them
One of the most powerful and effective ways to overcome these challenges is to leverage the demand generation services of a trusted agency — particularly an agency that specializes in your B2B tech industry, and one that’s capable of getting you a steady and dependable flow of new leads.
We’re going to break down each stage of the B2B sales pipeline, and explain how to take advantage of proven demand generation services that keep your sales pipeline really full.
Prospecting Stage — Source for new but targeted leads
The prospecting stage is where you introduce your company, products, and services to ideal prospects who fit your ideal customer profile. You might also think of this stage as “awareness” or “top of the funnel.”
This is the first step in the selling process, and it’s crucial to create meaningful opportunities for further engagement down the line. That’s why it’s so important that you look for qualified prospects with a good chance of becoming your customers.
These are leads who:
- are in your target industry and size range
- have relevant needs
- are actively searching for solutions like yours
- have an interest in hearing about what you have to offer
- and have the authority to make purchasing decisions within their organization.
Tactically, the prospecting stage requires you to get your target audience to notice your brand and what you have to offer, and find a way to gain access to them.
Prospecting can be done in many different ways like:
- Cold calling
- Networking events, such as trade shows and conferences (with a vendor booth)
- LinkedIn and other social media platforms
- Cold emailing and direct mail campaigns
- Advertising, such as SEM, PPC, and paid content syndication
- Inbound sales prospecting, such as using SEO, offering content downloads and events
- Outsourcing to B2B data providers
However, if we’re talking about prospecting strategies that work with your biggest challenges — i.e. time, data and resources — consider leveraging an existing database of leads from a B2B lead generation agency.
The reason why this is so powerful is that the agency has already done the hard work of building the database with high-quality leads like segmented prospects who are ready to buy.
There are two primary strategies that can help boost your inflow of new leads at the prospecting stage — email marketing and deploying lead magnets via content syndication.
Strategy 1: Amplify your messages via email marketing
Email marketing for lead generation is the process of reaching out to a database of leads via strategic emails. Your messaging will typically be to introduce your company and tell your brand story, drive top-of-funnel engagement, or even make them a specific offer.
Done right, email marketing can help you fill your sales funnel with a consistent fresh supply of qualified leads.
Many B2B technology companies are taking advantage of ViB Emails to achieve this goal. They are getting their messages out to potential customers outside of their known database and in front of a community of millions of IT professionals.
The main perks of ViB Emails over other B2B contact lists are:
- Prospects are highly qualified and verified as in-market for new technology through an opt-in model
- ViB sends the email on each client’s behalf, so there’s no hassle with list scrubbing and email deliverability optimization
- Emails can be deployed and sent in a matter of days
- Affordable services made possible with a community-based approach
One example is where Nutanix created a power channel that reliably builds pipeline with the service.
Read the customer story: Manager of global email marketing leverages ViB Emails to increase conversions and build pipeline
Strategy 2: Expand readership with content syndication
Content syndication is the art of maximizing your existing content assets. By republishing your original content, such as reports, ebooks, and infographics on other sites and content syndication platforms, you expose your work to a broader audience, build brand awareness, and attract new leads.
Content syndication can be a valuable lead-generation strategy when you want to increase the reach of your marketing content beyond what you’re able to accomplish on your own organically. It is proven to be a fast and effective way to stand out from the crowd.
ViB Syndication has already helped many companies amplify their content within its vast community of millions of engaged professionals.
A great story we always share is how Siemplify, now part of Google Cloud, generated 4x more pipeline with content syndication.
Read the customer story: Security operations platform generates 4x more pipeline with content syndication.
Qualification Stage — Turn leads into sales opportunities
In the qualification stage of the B2B sales pipeline, potential customers assess their need for a product or service and determine if it is a good fit for their business. They may conduct research to learn more about the product or service and compare it to similar offerings from competitors.
At this stage, the customer is trying to determine if the product or service will meet their needs and if it is worth pursuing further. This stage typically involves gathering information and making decisions about whether to move forward with the evaluation and purchase.
At this stage, it’s important to accurately assess if your leads are both qualified and thoroughly nurtured, and plug the gaps appropriately. Doing this will help prevent the risk of prematurely advancing them to a sales pitch before they are ready.
Strategy 1: Use primary market research to design conversion-oriented content
Content is king here. But we’re referring more specifically to original, conversion-oriented content that offers unique value and brings leads through their evaluation processes.
In this qualification stage, your potential customers are looking for information and answers to their questions about a product or service. Creating evaluation-focused content — such as guides, videos, and case studies — is a great way to provide timely value, build trust and position your product or service as the solution.
We like conducting primary market research here because of its double benefits. Primary market research involves collecting data directly from potential customers through methods such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
Conducting primary research can:
- provide valuable insights into the needs and preferences of potential customers,
- be used to create content that is tailored to their specific interests and needs, increasing the chances that they will engage with it and take the desired action.
Fortunately, churning out fresh data isn’t as challenging as it sounds. ViB offers a B2B market research lead generation service that helps companies conduct their own research quickly and affordably. ViB Research builds custom surveys that are pushed to business professionals from the ViB community.
Generated insights become valuable sales intel and can be repurposed into high-impact content anywhere to keep the qualification stage of your B2B sales pipeline full. For example, after creating the state of industry report through ViB, a cybersecurity company successfully built a new content library and generated $5 million in content-attributed pipeline.
Read the customer story: ViB Research Generates $5M in Pipeline for CyberSecurity Company
Strategy 2: Hold product-focused experiences and track post-event actions
Similar to content marketing, holding product-focused experiences — such as virtual roundtables, recurring product demos, or focus groups — and tracking post-event actions can influence the qualification stage of the B2B sales pipeline in several ways.
By providing potential customers with an engaging hands-on experience with the product or service, businesses can better help customers determine if the product or service is a good fit for their business and move them further along in the sales pipeline.
Tracking post-event actions, such as poll results, follow-up emails, or calls, can also provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of the event and the level of interest among potential customers. This helps you capture which leads are ready to be moved down the sales pipeline and handed over to your sales team.
While traditional virtual events and webinars rely on one-sided conversations with little audience feedback, ViB’s Virtual Networking Forum adopts a focus group concept that’s a powerful way to connect with your target audience and obtain valuable feedback.
If you’re tackling events in-house, check out our guide on how to come up with virtual event topics with 4 simple questions to ask yourself.
Meeting Stage — Meet with qualified buyers who are ready to talk
The meeting stage of the B2B sales pipeline is the stage in which a potential customer has expressed interest in the product or service and wants to schedule a meeting with a sales rep to further evaluate the offering. It’s the result of your prospecting and qualification stages leading to conversions.
However, it’s simply so hard to get meetings with B2B tech prospects.
Here’s a common scenario: Your team has a massive sales-qualified lead goal and not enough prospects from the top of the funnel. Or you could’ve built a strong sales pipeline but have a poor close rate because your leads are taking too long to buy.
The best way to overcome this challenge is by adding a marketing support service that can help you meet your sales quotas, especially if you’re crunched on time.
Strategy 1: Accelerate your sales success by setting up appointments with hyper-qualified accounts
While lead nurturing is an important stage of the sales process, you often need to aim straight for the sale when you have too many slow-moving leads.
This is where B2B appointment setting services can help businesses accelerate their sales success and meet monthly sales quotas in less time. Vendors typically use a combination of research, outreach, and follow-up to identify potential customers who are interested in the product or service and schedule appointments on behalf of the business.
Outsourcing the critical phase can save time and effort for the internal sales team, allowing them to focus on engaging with qualified leads and closing sales. Additionally, by providing businesses with a steady stream of qualified leads, appointment setting services can help them consistently meet or exceed their monthly sales quotas.
Keep in mind the quality of the appointments you’re getting when you’re evaluating various appointment setting vendors and sales engagement platforms though. Consider some of the following factors like:
- The vendor’s experience in your industry: Look for vendors who are familiar with your industry and have access to accounts who fit your target audience. Read up on their case studies or even ask for references from other clients.
- The vendor’s research and outreach methods: Ask the vendor how they identify potential customers and how they schedule appointments. Look for vendors who use targeted research and personalized outreach methods to ensure that the appointments they schedule are with qualified leads, such as ViB’s community-based approach.
- The quality of the appointments: Research the vendors’ track records, and further monitor the quality of the appointments they provide once you start working with one. As a handy benchmark, Ermetic worked with ViB Appointments and estimated $100K average opportunity size from the 50% of appointments that converted to opportunities.
- The vendor’s follow-up and support: Ask the vendor how they handle follow-up and support after appointments are scheduled. Look for vendors who provide ongoing support and follow-up to ensure that appointments are kept and to help you maximize the value of each lead.
By considering these factors, businesses can choose an appointment setting vendor that will provide high-quality appointments and help them keep the sales pipeline really full, even where it’s the toughest.
Recommended reads: 7 messaging secrets to “sell the meeting” and book more discovery calls
Strategy 2: Employ a team of outsourced SDRs
Employing a backup sales team of outsourced SDRs (Sales Development Representatives) can supplement an appointment setting strategy in B2B sales by providing additional support and resources to help businesses generate and qualify leads. These SDRs can tackle a broader range of tasks, including conducting research, reaching out to potential customers, and qualifying leads.
Consider this carefully if your product or service is highly specialized and technical, which can affect your outsourced SDR’s team performance in a few areas:
- Scalability: Depending on the size and needs of the business, it may be difficult to scale a team of outsourced SDRs up or down to meet changing demand. This can make it challenging to maintain a consistent flow of leads and meet sales quotas
- Quality: The quality of the leads generated by the team of SDRs will depend on the training and expertise of the team members. If the team is not properly trained or lacks experience, the quality of the leads may be poor, which can negatively impact the sales pipeline.
- Cost: Hiring and training a team of outsourced SDRs can be expensive, especially if the business does not have an existing sales team. This may not be feasible for businesses with limited budgets or resources.
- Time: Building and managing a team of outsourced SDRs can be time-consuming. The business will need to invest time and effort in training and managing the team, which can be a significant undertaking.
Discover the features and benefits of ViB Appointments and how it tackles these common challenges.
See how Jon drove 67x ROI with ViB Appointments
Negotiation Stage — Use customer feedback to close each deal
We’re finally down to the negotiation stage, where our goal is to finalize the sale and move the potential customer to the closing stage of the B2B sales pipeline.
Here, potential customers and sales reps discuss and agree on the terms of the sale. This may include hashing out product features, pricing, delivery, and any other relevant details. The negotiation stage is an important part of the sales process, as it is when the potential customer and the business come to an agreement on the details of the sale.
The most common challenge across so many companies we see is that the post-appointment process isn’t always informed by data.
It can be nearly impossible to know why your meetings with leads convert or don’t convert. Is it their budget, the product features, lack of rapport with the salesperson, or some other reason?
For example, after your appointments with prospects, you’ll have a lot of questions, such as:
- Was the prospect interested in the product or service?
- Was the prospect’s budget sufficient to cover the cost of the product or service?
- Was the prospect available to move forward with the sale within the desired timeframe?
- Did the prospect have any specific questions or concerns about the features or capabilities of the product or service that I should address?
- What is the next best step in the sales process to try to close the sale?
- If the prospect was not interested, what are the reasons for their decision?
Strategy: Access unbiased prospect feedback from a third-party post-appointment survey — and close the sales loop
That’s why we came up with a solution, Post-Meeting Intelligence, where we directly survey attendees after each appointment.
That’s why the ViB Appointment Setting service includes a post-appointment survey add-on, where we directly survey attendees after each appointment to get their primary feedback. We do this as a third-party, to collect their honest responses that they would otherwise seldom share with the reps.
The zero-party data that’s culled directly from your prospects helps you get into their minds and understand what is preventing them from making a purchase commitment. It’s invaluable for our sales team to have before they follow up. With actionable insight in hand, you can continue to take the right actions with each prospect — promptly and appropriately.
Leverage our expertise to keep your sales pipeline full
At ViB, our top priority is to help you achieve the demand generation results you need by creating meaningful connections between your brand and our community of millions of in-market IT professionals and decision-makers.
Whether you’re building a new sales pipeline for a new product or closing the gap in a territory, we’ve got your back with our proven B2B lead generation services — including email marketing, content syndication, virtual events, appointment setting, and market research.
With our engaged community of fresh leads and proven lead generation and sales services, we help ensure that your brand message reaches the right people — and supports your sales pipeline at every critical stage.
Get started with a free personal consultation on how to keep your sales pipeline full for your business needs.