What is the sales funnel?
Did you love chemistry in school? Not so much? Me too! (ssshh, that is a secret). But, do not worry we will not talk about it. We will only try to remember one experiment we used to do, which included a funnel, dirty water, filter paper, known as the filtration of water. That experiment is the best example I can think of relating to the sales funnel.
Dirty water can be the leads that contact your business, filter paper can be seen as the medium or your CRM plan, and clean water that comes out after filtration can be the qualified prospects ready to be your customers.
Now, can you relate that why your business is in need of a sales funnel? Before going much into the detail, let us first learn the definition of the sales funnel.
What is the meaning of the sales funnel?
In very simple words, a sales funnel is a visual representation of the conversion of your leads into qualified prospects or customers by undergoing a series of steps or events.
A sales funnel is a visual representation of the various stages that reflects the journey of your customer from being a lead to a customer for your business. Very broadly a sales funnel has three parts – a top, a middle, and a bottom.
Top: the total number of leads (business opportunities) that come in contact with your business
Middle: the portion of leads that are considering and evaluating your business products and services for themselves.
Bottom: Customers! This is what you get at the bottom of the sales funnel.
The top part is the widest with all the leads that reach out to you and the middle part shows the CRM process used to convert leads into customers and finally the lower part shows the ones who have actually made a purchase.
A sales funnel broadly has 4 working stages, let us have a look at them. However, depending on your business and depth of the sales team you may want to further define sub-stages for your team’s sales funnel.
Stages of a sales funnel
Every organization has its own processes and ways of managing their sales and customers, but there are some essential actions that every sales organization needs to undertake while managing a sales funnel.
Managing each customer that is passing through your sales process required requires a tailored approach from you, the marketer, or the salesperson. For each stage you will need to have a marketing and sales strategy, which will include what content you need to generate, how you need to pitch on your sales calls, and how you push your customer to close a business deal.
This is the start of your customer’s journey, at this stage, they discover or get to know about your business or we can say at this stage, we catch our customer’s attention. But how? Through Google search engine, maybe a tweet, or a Facebook Ads or post shared by a friend or maybe something else.
Your prospect is informed of your business and the products and services you have to offer.
Awareness step is more like wooing your date through your skills and abilities so that you can have a second date with them.
In this step, you are trying to create a place in your lead’s mind so that they come back to your business for buying your product or using your service.
At the top of the sales funnel, your leads want to learn about your business to get informed about your business and the products and services that you offer. This information will enable them to evaluate whether you are one of the options in the market that they can consider for their requirements.
When they want to learn about your business, it means they are interested. Their interest is what leads us to our next step.
When consumers take interest in your product, they start doing research, comparison shopping, and thinking over their options. This is the right time to come in with incredible content that helps them in keeping their interest but doesn’t necessarily push them to make the buying decision.
If you’re pushing your products or services onto your customer to make them take the purchase decision fast, you risk turning off prospects and chase them away. The purpose of the marketing and sales teams here should be to establish your expertise, help the consumer learn more about your brand, provide knowledge articles about your products, and offer to help them in any way you can and keep them interested enough in your business.
Be quick in responding to their queries, returning their calls, and helping them in what they need to continuously pique their interest.
This will help them in making a decision, which is the next stage in our sales funnel.
This is the time in the sales process to enable your leads to take the final purchase decision.
At this stage, your lead is finally deciding to buy from two-three options, which hopefully includes you too. Now is the best time to offer the best you can and make it irresistible for the consumer to stay away from your product or service.
Offer them what your competitors are not offering like free shipping when most of your competition charges, a discount code, or a bonus product. Whatever the offer or strategy you apply, make it so irresistible that your lead can’t wait to take advantage of it.
After they have taken the decision in their minds, they will finally take the action to buy your product or service.
At the very last stage of the sales funnel, the customer finally acts. They finally write the check or click on buy to purchase your product or service.
The two most important things that you must do at this stage are the following:
- Do not do anything that causes the customer to reconsider the decision. For example, many salespeople fall into the trap of overselling or cross-selling at this stage – which does no benefit and definitely the customer to go back into the thinking mode.
- Make it easy and quick to complete the purchase action. The check out process or the contracting and payment completion steps should be as simple and straightforward as possible.
Just because a lead has not become your customer, it does not mean that your job is over.
Most businesses rely on repeat business from their existing customers and hence it is important to keep a close watch your on your post-sales funnel for your existing customers. You not only want to convert your existing customer to come back and buy more from you but also want them to become your brand
In simpler words, you now need to focus on customer retention to make sure that your investments in sales and marketing give you long term returns.
How to build a sales funnel?
Now that you know what is a sales funnel and the different stages your leads go through to finally become customers. Let me also help you with building a sales funnel for your organization through some steps.
1. Analyze how your customers interact with your business
The more you know about your audience, the more powerful your sales funnel becomes. Again think about the role of the filter in the water filtration process – the finer the holes the clearer the water you will get.
Remember, you’re not marketing to everybody, you need to be marketing and selling to people that fit your ideal customer profile that you have for your business and who will ultimately buy from you.
Where do the leads click?
When do they scroll and what does not interest them?
How much time a prospective customer spends on a particular page of your website?
Do they share your product or service details with their friends?
All of this data (and more) will help you refine your buyer personas and set a target audience or the top of the funnel for your business.
2.Capture your audience’s attention
The only way your sales funnel is going to work is if you can drag people into it and retain them as they move through the various stages of the funnel. This means bringing up your content – both marketing and sales pitches in front of your target audience.
I would suggest you take the organic route and post lots of content across all of your platforms. Diversify your content with infographics, videos, blogs, and other types of content.
If you have a good budget, you can also run a few paid marketing campaigns to get more people into your funnel, quickly. The ideal platform to post advertisements depends on where your target audience hangs out. For example, if you are a customer are hanging our on LinkedIn more than Facebook, LinkedIn is likely to be a better place for attracting more people i.e. lead generation.
3.Build a landing page
Your content marketing and paid advertisement across various platforms would get your target audience interested, which would get them to come to your website or web store. This is where you need to get hold of their information so that you can put them into your sales funnel.
This is where a landing page or a contact form on your website comes handy. You can also provide your contact information such as email and phone number on which your prospects can connect with you.
For digital businesses, you ideally would want to direct your prospects to a landing page of your website with a can’t-miss offer.
Since these people are new entries into your sales funnel, your focus should be on capturing leads instead of pushing the sale. A good landing page should be so informative and attractive that it steers the visitors toward the next step.
You need a bold call to action that tells them exactly what to do, whether it’s downloading a free e-book or watching an instructional video.
4.Create an email drip campaign
Adopt email-marketing. Send your leads attractive and informative e-mails about your product or service. Do so regularly, but not too frequently. One or two emails per week should be enough. Inform them, not irritate.
Build up your sale by educating your potential customers about your products and services. You need to think about questions such as when designing the drip campaign.
How can you qualify your audience and move them to your sales funnel?
What product or service are they are most interested in?
What do they want to learn?
What obstacles and objections do you need to overcome to convince them to buy?
The goal of email drip campaigns is to help you nudge leads within your sales funnel into the next stage.
At the end of your drip campaign, make an irresistible offer. That’s the piece of content that will convenience your lead to become a customer and take action.
5. Keep in touch
Now that you have numerous new customers, don’t forget about your existing customers. Instead, I would suggest you to continue reaching out to them. Thank them for choosing you, offer additional coupon codes, and involve them in your social media sphere.
Why do you need a sales funnel or What is the importance of the sales funnel
Now that you know how to make a sales funnel and its stages, let us now see why a business needs to invest resources to manage a sales funnel to keep your sales engine delivering the desired results.
Marketing becomes simpler
When you have an effective sales funnel in your business, having an accurate view of how many leads enter your funnel as opposed to the ones that finally converts will become easy. This way will help you in the reverse calculation of how many more leads you would need to generate for your business to fill the top of your sales funnel to achieve your quarterly sales targets. You can then more efficiently invest your resources on the sources or platforms that offer more returns.
Sales forecasts will be more accurate
With a sales funnel in place, you will also be able to accurately predict how many leads you would be able to close and how much you will be able to sell next week, next month, or next quarter. Not only does this enable you to forecast your sales for the next quarter or year, but you can also start putting in efforts and resources to meet your projected sales targets for the next quarter or fiscal year.
Improved sales metrics and conversion rates
Maintaining a sales funnel helps you keep a close watch on your customer base and also refine your sales engines. A well-defined and maintained sales funnel means more and better-targeted marketing and sales campaigns that in turn generate more leads and hence revenue.
Another thing that a well-managed sales funnel will help you determine is where and why are you losing leads or business opportunities. If your sales to lead conversion rates are lower than your industry benchmarks, the funnel will help you figure out what is wrong so that you can take measures to fix them and improve your conversion ratios.
So in simple terms a sales funnel will help you increase conversions because your sales team would have a deeper understanding and a 360-degree view of how every lead passes through the sales process, the time it takes to become a customer, and the conversations that happen with your business. This helps them to personalize and refine their own sales pitch.
More accountability for your sales
Now there will be no more blindly reaching out to your leads and confusion during incentive time! You will know your best sources, your best selling products, the geography that has most of your paying customers, the social media platform that has given you the most responses, and even the salesperson of your sales team who has exceeded your expectations. Every single activity can be tracked when you have a proper sales funnel in place.
Clock in more revenue
Every benefit you read about above, in the end, directly translates into the one benefit that every business works towards the most. More customers!!
A sales funnel is a business management tool that will help you put together a manageable and repeatable sales process to help you close more deals and grow your business.
I know what you are thinking, you are thinking of making a sales funnel for your organization as soon as possible after reading this article!
Now that I have helped you and you are going to have more customers, please help me too.
Do share this article and help your colleagues, that will help me write more articles like this.
I hope you are safe at home and your loved ones are safe too.