Your job (or, more aptly, the job of your sales funnel) is to nudge these prospects to the end of the funnel so that they make a purchase and become repeat customers.
So, what’s a sales funnel again?
A sales funnel, also called a sales process, is a marketing strategy that allows you to move your customers through the process of not having a clue who you are to eventually making a sale.
No, you can’t rely on cold calls or hope that by creating a fancy website you can expect visitors to make a purchase from you.
There are specific steps that you need to take to push your customers forward (also keep in mind that your strategies will be different based on where a customer is in the funnel).
If you’re like many other small businesses, your funnel likely consists of spreadsheets, cold calls and perhaps even messages that were never responded to – in other words, it’s a mess.
That’s assuming you have a sales funnel at all – many businesses don’t.
Makes sense, right?
This entire process is often visualized as a funnel; the top of the funnel is wide. You have a lot of prospects but only a few will go on to make a purchase.
That’s the nature of the funnel.
People drop off for a variety of reasons, as you will see below. Identifying the leaks in your funnel is one step in creating an effective funnel.
Also keep in mind that sales funnels vary based on the type of business. An e-commerce sales funnel may take just a couple of minutes for someone to add an item to their card and then proceed to pay for a transaction.
In contrast, it could take months for someone to travel through the sales funnel.
Alright. So, you’ve got the basics. The rest of this blog post will talk about the importance of sales funnel in more detail, how to incorporate sales funnels, a basic overview of how to build one and a few tips and tricks.
The Power of Sales Funnels
As you saw above, most of the visitors on your website are not ready to buy. That’s why purposefully engaging them (i.e. lead nurturing) through the sales funnel is so important if you want any of them to go on to eventually make a purchase.
Consider the following: nurtured leads produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads.
The power of sales funnel is pretty clear, right? An effective sales funnel takes someone who doesn’t know anything about your business and turns them into a customer (and eventually a repeat customer).
Here’s a more in-depth look at the benefits of sales funnels:
- Attract new leads
An effective sales funnel will attract targeted leads to your business.
Remember, new sales opportunities are important.
Consider, for example, the following research by HubSpot: 72% of companies who have less than 50 new opportunities every month don’t reach their revenue goals.
That’s pretty scary, right?
- Nurtures leads automatically
No more wasting time on cold calls. Sales funnels will do a lot of the nurturing for you so you can focus on closing the sale (more on this to come). This is done through automation.
- More sales
Ultimately, a sales funnel results in more sales. One way it accomplishes this is by building relationships (and trust, specifically) throughout the funnel.
For example, an effective funnel will have communicated the features of your product or service along with the benefits, testimonials and through communicating regularly (but not enough to the point that you push the customer away).
This entire process creates trust; it’s sort of abstract, but it works.
Not only will your sales funnel result in more sales but it will also help you to predict what sales will be made in the future as well.
Now on to a more in-depth look at how to move prospects down the funnel.
Overview Of The Sales Funnel
As you saw above, you need to have different strategies depending on where your prospects are in the funnel. Simply put, you speak differently to those who don’t know a lot about your business than you do to the ones who already know about your products or services.
The sales funnel is often depicted as encompassing four different stages as you saw above: the awareness stage, the interest stage, the decision stage and the action stage.
And, again, it is your job to implement certain tactics at each stage to move the prospect further down the funnel.
Stage 1: Awareness
The first stage is all about generating awareness about your business and/or your products. You can do this through many different ways, from ranking in search, blogging, social media and pay-per-click campaigns.
But don’t limit yourself to online forms of marketing; you should also aim to incorporate good ol’ public relations as well, whether print publications, direct mail, advertising and so on.
When it comes to creating an effective sales funnel, the key is to remember that the purpose of the entire funnel is to solve your customer’s problem. Once you know your customer’s problem, you can then create content around that particular problem (more on this to come).
But before you can do that, you need to create awareness.
As your leads move through the funnel, your strategies are going to become increasingly personalized, as you will see below.
Stage 2: Interest/Engagement
Once your prospects are aware of your business, the next stage is to build interest or engagement. The goal during this particular stage is to get the prospect’s email address.
The reason is because it allows you to send them more information about your products/services through things like email campaigns.
One of the best ways to capture leads is with a lead magnet, like an e-book.
However, any kind of lead magnet that allows you to answer your prospect’s questions will be effective.
These small (and free) commitments like these ones eventually lead to bigger commitments like actual purchases.
Here are a lot of other lead magnet ideas.
Of course, in order to get people to click on your lead magnets, you need to have effective call-to-actions.
Effective landing pages are also important during the interest/engagement stage. Remember, landing pages are designed to resolve a particular problem and are complete with a call-to-action and a form designed to capture contact information.
Content upgrades are another relatively newer way to capture contact information. If you’re not familiar, content upgrades are bonus pieces of content embedded in a blog post (on a topic that related to that particular blog post).
For example, perhaps you’re writing a blog post on “How to Incorporate Sales Funnels to Boost Profits.” You might then add a content upgrade somewhere in the middle and end of the post on the topic of “15 Sales Funnels Tips and Tricks.”
But, in order to access this piece of content, the visitor has to give you their email address in order to do so.
Stage 3: Decision
Getting potential customers to make a decision won’t be easy. But there are some things you can do to help them along.
A lot of customer reviews and testimonials can be very powerful.
Social proof, in general, is also very powerful – leverage this whenever and wherever you can, whether in the form of testimonials and customer reviews as mentioned above or through customer logos, trust seals and so on.
Facebook and Google retargeting can also be used to keep awareness and maintain interest. If you’ve ever visited a website and then had their ads come up everywhere, that particular business is trying to get you to act.
You were being targeted, Liam Neeson style. In the words of Neeson himself, “I will look for you. I will find you…(and, we know how that ends).
Stage 4: Action
This is the part where you close the deal.
How To Put Sales Funnels Into Practice
For the sake of providing a broad overview of sales funnels, we will take a quick look at how to actually build a sales funnel.
At this point you know why you need sales funnel. But where do you start?
Here’s a basic overview of what this process looks like.
Before you do anything, you have to have an idea of who your ideal customer is and, more importantly, what their needs are. You then have to qualify them – that is, determine if that ideal customer has the potential to become an actual customer. This is all business 101.
Next, remember that the foundation of any successful funnel is having clearly defined stages; again, this will look differently for every business based on your products and services, but the idea is to start thinking concretely about these stages (awareness, interest, decision, etc.) and your marketing efforts in each of these categories.
For example, what are you doing to attract new prospects? What are you doing to stimulate interest?
Write everything down; this will give you a clearer perspective. Look at your analytics to see if any of these efforts (if any) are working.
Tips And Tricks For Incorporating Sales Funnels
1. Use More Than One Marketing Channel
To attract potential customers to your business in the first place, it’s a good idea to use more than one marketing channel. This could be a combination of pay-per-click advertising, SEO, direct mail campaigns and so on, but the ideal situation is to include a mix.
However, there’s a caveat here. It’s also important to test which marketing campaigns are the most successful and stick with these.
2. Focus On Your Landing Pages
Once a potential customer clicks on your ad, the most critical turning point in your sales funnel is the effectiveness of your landing pages.
Above all, your landing page has to deliver on the promise contained in the ad. If your ad was all about getting 50% off, your landing page (and the headline message) should also reflect this. This is only the beginning, but it gets you thinking.
Here are the basics of creating a high-converting landing page.
3. Optimize: A/B Testing Is Critical
We say it a lot at Yocale (and you’ve definitely heard us say it before if you’re a regular reader), but A/B testing is critical for just about every aspect of your business. Never should a day pass where you’re not testing something.
The same is true for your sales funnel.
When it comes to moving potential customers through the funnel, testing out the most effective variations of your call-to-action buttons, landing pages, sign up forms and so on is critical.
These are the smaller entities that will propel potential customers further along, so they need to be optimized in order to be effective.
If you want the mouse to eat the cookie, you have to give him a glass of milk first. But not just any glass of milk will do; it has to be cold, creamy and, preferably of the chocolate variety.
In other words, you have to optimize the milk.
4. Content Is Still King
This is probably fairly basic stuff for most of you out there, but it bears repeating. Content remains one of the most effective ways to attract new customers. But you can also use content during the interest/engagement phase as well.
For example, analyze your website’s analytics and your help desk/knowledge center to determine which questions your visitors are asking. Doing so will allow you to create content that provides them with useful information and ultimately propel them further down the funnel.
5. Find The Cracks
Another important consideration when incorporating your sales funnel is to determine where your leaks are coming from; this can happen at any stage of the funnel.
There are a lot of reasons why people will trickle out along the way, but some common ones have to do with the rate at which you’re interacting with prospects.
- Slow Lead Response Time
Many sales reps simply aren’t quick enough, but you have to strike when the iron is hot.
Leads are 9X more likely to convert if you follow up with them within 5 minutes of expressing interest. This is according to study coming out in partnership with MIT.
If you wait more than 30 minutes, guess how much less likely it is that you won’t make the sale?
21X less likely.
But, how can you answer within 5 minutes?
Automation, of course (automation is always the answer).
As soon as you have captured a lead, you should send a personalized email via your sales automation platform.
- Inconsistent Follow Up
Related to the issue above is also inconsistent follow-up, which also happens to be a relatively easy fix.
It may be tempting to follow up on particular inviting lead instead of calling a old one yet again, but with automated emails it’s no longer a question of where you should spend your time.
For SaaS companies, the onboarding phase (during a demo) is one example of a great opportunity to use automated in-app messaging to check in and propel the user toward becoming a paid subscriber.
- Dismissing A Prospect Too Quickly
Another source of leakage is that many sales reps simply dismiss prospects too quickly.
Just because someone objects to your pitch, doesn’t mean that they don’t see the value in your product or service. Perhaps they just don’t have the time. If this is the case, you should never throw in the towel – not yet.
You can then develop targeted campaigns developed around this objection and provide a solution.
Re-target visitors to your website who don’t end up converting just like we talked about above.
The Bottom Line
There you have it, folks – an overview of sales funnel for the beginner.
Above all, a sales funnel will attract new leads, automates much of the process and increases sales.
Yocale is the top scheduling software on the market today. We also offer a free suite of business management and marketing tools. For more information, click here.