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What should a B2B sales funnel look like, and how can you convert leads to opportunities faster?

Just how does a B2B Sales Funnel work? What Lead Conversion Channels are most effective at which purchasing stage? Learn what converts and what doesn't.

Inbound Marketing   |   Sales enablement

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James Self

strategicabm 550 60

Feb 12 2018 - 4min Read Date published: Date modified: 2018-02-12


How can you streamline your B2B sales funnel for improved conversion? Which channels should you consider - and how does this change throughout the buyer's journey? 


The B2B sales funnel depicts how marketing and sales teams see the journey of the buyer from an initial visit, through converting as a lead, and progressing all the way to a customer. There are many steps to nurture a buyer though - and the key to ensuring this process runs smoothly sits in having a sales funnel that is considered in conjunction with the buyer’s journey.

The buyer’s journey describes the 3 purchase stages buyers go through; Awareness, Consideration and Decision.

Related: 5 Inbound Marketing Lead Nurturing Tactics To Boost ROI

Understanding whereabouts a prospect is on that journey allows the selling strategy (from tactics to messaging to the angle and type of content you share with them) to be tailored specifically to suit their needs and challenges. After all, the last thing you want to do is send an in-depth webinar (a more decision stage piece of content) to somebody who has only just realised their initial pain point (so, someone who has just entered the consideration stage).

Related: How to Map Content to Every Buyer's Journey Stage

How Long Does it Take to Convert at Each Buyer's Journey Stage?

When we look at a B2B sales funnel there tends to be a correlation in that the further through the funnel a lead progresses, the quicker the conversion process between stages.

According to this infographic by Implicit, it takes an average of 84 days to convert a lead into an opportunity with a conversion rate of 13%, but only takes an average of 18 days to convert opportunities into deals. However, here the conversion rate drops to only 6%. These statistics emphasise how important it is to have an effective strategy; one that considers which conversion channels are contributing to best results at each stage of the funnel.

Of course, how effective a particular conversion channel (such as email, social, organic, paid, referral) is, will vary from business to business. As such it's important to always review how your own channels are performing, to optimise spend and maximise results. Below, we take a look at some general statistics and points on which conversion channels to consider at each funnel stage to enhance your strategies. 

Related: Inbound Marketing ROI Calculator

Which Conversion Channels Are Best at Each Stage?

If we break down the sales funnel into stages (lead, opportunity, deal), we can identify how conversion channel effectiveness differs between each stage. 

For example, Implisit’s statistics suggest that:

  • When converting a lead into an opportunity, the most effective conversion channelis your website at 31.3%. This may be because typically, leads here will be at the awareness or consideration stages of their buying journey. So they will be looking at your website to firstly outline and understand their challenges, and secondly to look for early-stage solutions/ content. Other effective channels at this stage include customer referral at 24.7%, webinars at 17.8% and social at 17.2%.
  • In comparison to the previous funnel stage,when converting an opportunity into a deal the most effective channel is customer referral with a 14.7% conversion rate (according to Implisit). This may be because buyers here will be further through their purchase journey - typically at the consideration/decision stage of their journey. So, they have identified their challenge and will be evaluating solutions (and supporting customer success stories) in more depth. Other successful conversion channels at this stage are social at 8.5%, and email nurture campaigns at 7.8%. Since these statistics show a lower conversion rate at this stage, it emphasises the importance of recognising the individual buying stage of your prospects, and tailoring your channels, content and messaging appropriately. 

According to Kissmetrics, some of the most effective channels to include in a digital marketing plan in 2017 (across all funnel stages) were; website (63%), email (52%), social media (49%), organis search (31%), paid search (29%), mobile (28%), display ads (24%).

Which Channels Should You Focus On?

From the above, we see that it's wise to consider conversion channel effectiveness in relation to funnel stage. So when reviewing your strategy, it's best to look at which channels are contributing to conversion early on in the funnel, which are performing further through the funnel, and ideally, which channels are delivering the highest quality conversions. You should then be able to identify any gaps or blocks in your funnel, and see where to optimise processes.

Reviewing the relevancy and quality of leads and opportunities converted should be a priority. If you can convert more relevant leads early on, you'll stand a better chance of improving conversion through other funnel stages.

Some channels are easier to convert to opportunities, but it does not mean that they generate more revenue. 18% of webinar attendees are converted into opportunities, but only 2.5% of these opportunities will close. Similarly, 31% of website inquiries convert into opportunities, but just 5% of those close. On the other hand, email campaigns have a 0.9% conversion rate from lead to opportunity, but that dramatically rises to 7.8% when used in the context of an email workflow to nurture a deal. - Implisit

Ultimately channel effectiveness is very much influenced by context. If you are able to identify and apply the appropriate channels for your business, at the correct stage of the funnel, then you will end up with a very effective strategy.