February 12, 2021
Updated: February 17, 2021

The Stages of the B2B Sales Process

The B2B sales process is fundamental knowledge to any sales rep. However, the exact stages of the process can be hard to peg down and define, which could negatively impact your reps’ selling efficiency and effectiveness.Ensuring that the salesforce has a thorough understanding of the B2B sales process is crucial to sales enablement and departmental success.

To help guide your training and coaching efforts, let’s break down the stages of this process at a high level, as every organization will have its own interpretation. Broadly, the stages of the B2B sales process are:

1. Lead generation

Every sales pipeline needs to be continually replenished. This is done through lead generation and prospecting, which are nearly synonymous. While lead generation may not be every rep’s favorite task, it’s an essential part of the B2B sales process. After all, how can you sell to customers if you can’t find them in the first place?

There’s a vast and persistent misconception that lead generation is exclusively cold calling prospects. While cold calls are indeed one method of lead outreach, they are by no means the only. Modern salespeople have a whole playbook from which to work when attempting to generate leads. They can utilize:

  • Social media
  • Inbound marketing
  • Referrals
  • Website forms
  • Email campaigns
  • Direct marketing
  • Events (e.g., webinars, virtual/in-person conferences)
  • Artificial intelligence solutions for automated lead generation

2. Discovery call

Once the leads have been assembled, it’s time to take their temperature and see how warm they are to your pitch.

A discovery call acts a way for salespeople to lay this groundwork for buyer engagement. Typically, it’s not a setting for a heavy pitch, but rather an introductory conversation. Ideally, reps will use this time to ask questions that help them fill out the profile of the lead: what their business is, what their drivers are, what their pain points are, what their needs and wants are, etc.

However, reps should also come fully prepared for this call. That means researching the lead’s business leadership, culture and recent news. The goal of this connect call isn’t to clinch a sale, but to begin nurturing the lead and setting the stage for an eventual conversion.

3. Lead qualifying

Not every lead will be worth pursuing. You’ll want to ensure optimal resource allocation by only investing time and effort in selling to those leads most likely to become customers. Without a dependable framework for doing this, however, your sales team might lose focus — and revenue.

That’s why lead qualifying is so important. Once you have information from the discovery call in hand, it can be combined with all the other intelligence you have on a lead to score them on purchase-making intent and fit with your customer personas. Sometimes this step is handled by marketing, which will pass off leads to sales once they’ve been qualified. 

4. Engagement and opportunity

Now that your reps have targeted leads with which to work, they can start making concrete progress toward a sale. However, don’t jump immediately into a deal. There’s still much ground to cover in terms of establishing a relationship, an understanding and a superior buyer experience.

This transitional stage is the time to impress value upon the buyer and engage them on a deeper level. Laying this foundation early on will help establish trust and enable your reps to more intimately understand the buyer’s needs, pains and motivations — insight they can use later on to drive a deal.

5. Product demo

Only leads who are interested in a sale will actually want to see your product or service in action. So when you reach the product demo stage of the B2B sales process, your reps should act like they have a lead hooked, but not entirely reeled in. 

A product demo is a chance to really engage leads on what they are considering buying. You can go through all the features, use cases, applications and other specs to really make the case and immerse buyers in the experience. Once they have that taste, hopefully they’ll want the whole thing.

6. Negotiation

This stage is when new reps could use coaching. While a tenured salesperson may have the experience to inform a negotiation process, newer reps may be less accustomed to the give and take of deal making.

Negotiations are a critical make-or-break stage. Given this, it’s all the more important that reps have the knowledge and tactics to deploy in negotiations to help close the deal and create revenue for the business.

7. Deal closing

Once the particulars have all been agreed to, nothing is final until signatures are on the dotted line. The closing stage is more about finalizing all the associated agreements and items, but there is still room for error.

To avoid the risk of deals falling apart, take the time to coach up your reps on all the technicalities of deal closing that might go overlooked. Ensure that they know how to draft contracts, use document signing software and deploy various closing techniques to fit the situation.

8. Follow up

A buyer doesn’t stay a lead forever, some of them convert to being customers. It’s up to your sales team to then focus on retention and customer satisfaction to nurture a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

Be sure to schedule regular follow ups to stay top of mind and be available to answer any questions or troubleshoot issues when needed.

Rely on Showpad throughout the B2B sales process

Considering the numerous touchpoints in the B2B sales process, it’s essential that your reps have the tools and know-how to efficiently drive revenue and keep the cycle going. Showpad is the platform for all the sales enablement capabilities you can think of, from coaching and training to content solutions and onboarding.

Contact us today to learn more or to request a demo.