Throughout the Biscred website, we use terms like "sales pipeline," "lead pipeline," and "sales funnel" to refer to where someone is in their journey to purchase goods and/or services in the commercial real estate industry.
The definition of "pipeline" in B2B sales refers to the people, processes, and tools a company uses to attract and convert buyers.
As you seek to grow your commercial real estate-related business, it helps to understand the B2B sales pipeline. Also known as the B2B sales funnel, the terms give you a visual representation of how potential buyers navigate the path toward becoming customers.
How Many Stages Are in the B2B Buying Journey?
The typical buying journey is represented by three stages and a somewhat linear flow.
1. Awareness: Build your audience, generate leads
The first stage of the B2B sales pipeline creation is often referred to as the awareness phase. It is where a potential customer becomes aware of your existence as well as a need for your products and services. It's the widest part of the sales journey because it includes non-leads or people who will drop off because they buy from your competitors or simply found the information and had no intent to buy.
These are people who have some sort of need that align with the goods and services that your company offers. You might have basic info on them, in the form of a mailing list, email database, or social engagement.
During the awareness phase, your content and communications should answer very basic questions:
Who are you?
What do you sell, make, or service?
What sets you apart from competitors?
Where are you located and where do you do business?
What is your reputation? (Customer reviews, for example)
How does someone find more information?
It's during the awareness stage that you want to educate, inform and even entertain your audience. You want to build a positive impression of your brand, even answer basic "what is" and "how to" questions that relate to what you do.
2. Consideration: Convert leads into prospects
In the middle of your sales funnel are people or companies that have shown an interest in your company. They've moved from a lead to a prospect by sending you an email, requesting information, subscribing to a newsletter, or some other action. Why is the funnel narrower here? Because some leads simply don't convert; they fall off for a variety of reasons, including your competition.
At this point, a potential customer has a clearly defined problem, and they are actively researching options to find the best solution. They are gradually narrowing their list of potential sellers, and you should be on the list. How do you get on the list? At this stage, your content should answer questions like:
How much do you charge?
How long does it take?
How can I see examples of your work or a demo?
It's during the consideration stages of business-to-business pipelines that your prospects have shown some level of interest in you or what you offer. Your communications to them should let them know you understand them, you have what they need, and you're ready to talk.
3. Deliberation: Converting prospects into customers
During the deliberation phase, the customer has likely narrowed his or her list down to your company. They might want a free trial, a proposal, and recommendations from satisfied customers. They want to know that your products or services are going to address their needs, and they will become a paying customer.
Pros and Cons of the B2B Sales Funnel
The advantage of understanding the meaning of the business pipeline is that you can create an outreach and content strategy that helps to engage and build your funnel at all stages.
Two problems exist with the sales funnel model: First, the sales funnel model suggests that once a customer converts, your sales and marketing team's job is done. We all know is not reality. Second, the buying journey is far from linear. In fact, in today's day of information overload, buyers have very complicated journeys that look more like this:
The B2B sales pipeline is significantly more complicated than the B2C sales pipeline for several reasons. Some of the biggest reasons include:
More people involved in the buying process (the "buying committee")
B2B sales cycles tend to be longer
B2B products and services tend to be more complicated than consumer goods and services
B2B Buying Journey Is Not Linear
The B2B buying journey is rarely linear. Sometimes, customers pass between specific stages multiple times before they make a purchase. Also, far more people are involved in B2B buying decisions than in typical B2C buying decisions.
According to Harvard Business Review's “The New Sales Imperative,” an average of 7 people are involved in typical purchasing decisions in the B2B world. When there are more people involved in the decision-making process, and when multiple departments need to sign off, the B2B pipeline becomes significantly more complicated.
For example, a potential buyer identifies a problem and then explores multiple solutions. They might come across a solution to a problem that they did not know they had. As a result, they could go back to the first stage, identify new problems, and then change the requirements for the solution they choose. They could even end up with multiple suppliers, each of them addressing a different problem. And then, they've got to run it up the purchasing chain!
8 stages of the B2B buying process
Therefore, the B2B buying process for companies doing business with commercial real estate might look like this:
Recognize a need or a problem that needs to be solved: "I need a commercial cleaning company to service my newly acquired office buildings."
Commitment and search: "Commercial cleaning companies near me" and "Reviews for XYZ Cleaning Company"
Evaluate and consider: "I've narrowed my choice to 3 commercial cleaning companies. I'll request proposals from all three. I'll also consider whether I should hire a team to do cleaning rather than outsource. "
Commit to a solution: "I've compared my options, and the better option is to hire an outside agency to clean my office buildings."
Selection: "I'm choosing XYZ because they are near me, they've got a good reputation, and their price is right."
Justify the purchase: "I've spoken to my tenants and so far they are happy with XYZ. They've given some feedback, which I'll pass along, but so far the price has been right for the services provided."
Post-purchase action: "I am also interested in XYZ's disinfecting services for my life sciences tenants."
Repeat: At this stage XYZ's inside sales team would manage their relationship with you, and offer incentives to renew and refer them to your peers.
Putting it All Together: Why the Sales Pipeline Is Important
Why define the pipeline in business and why is the sales pipeline important to understand? The bottom line is so that you can understand your potential customers' needs at any given time, so you can show up when they search for answers. When you answer their needs, they'll be more likely to reward you with their business.