What Is a Sales Funnel?

The sales funnel is the best model of the selling process there is. It reflects the challenge of converting the many who hear about your brand into a few, paying customers. The market is crowded. Customers can pick from any number of customers, no matter what business segment you’re in. How can you corral these masses? You can try to increase the intake funnel. Or you can work on better aiming the funnel, capturing more qualified prospects. Another strategy is increasing the conversion rate as people move through the funnel. Then you don’t have to double the number of visitors to a website or audience for your commercials. Instead, you’re investing in increasing the number who visited your site after seeing your ad or those passing stores into paying customers.  

An Overview of the Marketing and Sales Funnel  

Marketing and sales have long been seen as two separate departments. They had different goals and teams that rarely interacted with each other. In modern times, the lines between these two disciplines have blurred. Marketing your product and promoting it to potential customers links directly to the actual transaction that makes them a customer. The process of turning potential clients into paying customers is called conversion. The percentage that becomes paying customers is the conversion rate. No business has a 100 percent conversion rate, so the number moving through the sales process falls until only a few reach the final state. This is best exemplified by a funnel.  

The top of the marketing funnel is wide. Marketing typically casts a wide net trying to bring in as many would-be customers as possible. You can have multiple marketing funnels, each aimed at a particular customer segment or seeking to funnel in customers from very different sources.  

As potential customers move through the funnel, you weed out those who have little to no real interest in the product. Weeding these weak prospects out as soon as possible means you don’t waste time selling to people who aren’t really interested. Then you verify that prospects are interested or give them the reasons to buy your product over the competition, knowing that some choose someone else. The funnel tapers down until there is an actual sale, the conversion to paying customer. There are several variations of the marketing funnel, typically due to differences in how industries market and convert clients. However, in every case, the goal is to draw in anyone who may want or need your product and convince them to buy what you offer. Let’s look at the most commonly recognized stages in the sales funnel.  

Awareness  

This is where they’ve heard of your business, your product or your brand. The intent is to inform anyone who may be interested in what you need or sell to have heard of you.  

Interest  

This is the step where you generate interest. You provide information to them to generate interest in the product or create a relationship with the potential client. This step is often called lead nurturing. At this point, you can qualify their real level of intent. Are they really interested in buying?  

Evaluation / Consideration  

This step is where sales funnels vary widely. In some cases, there’s a quick action to verify customers or help them make a decision, followed by closing the sale. In other cases, there’s a long-drawn-out verification of the customer’s ability to buy or detailed research on their part before they pick what they will buy and from whom. In all cases, you’re still nurturing the lead and aiming for the sale.  

Conversion and Sale  

This is the final step. They buy the product or service and are converted from prospect to customer. The conversion approach can vary from product to product. Some sales funnels have additional steps after this.  


But what are the successful steps to ensure that whatever prospect pipeline you use is successful? Here are four factors that lead to an efficient and productive sales funnel.  

First, target the right client. Many companies fail to target the right clients. One of the most common mistakes is to think that everyone is a potential customer. An effective sales funnel will aim at people who stand to benefit from what you offer. Then you’re marketing to people who are most likely to spend money on your product. You may not get as many visitors and casual readers, but you’ll have pre-screened interested prospects.  

Second, always aim for quality over quantity. Five hundred interested, qualified leads are worth more than five thousand people who’ve heard about your company. Qualifying candidates can take many forms, but it should involve offering an incentive to move them further down the sales funnel. In e-commerce, this can take the form of signing up for a newsletter or downloading a white paper. In person, it could be filling out an application or for your newsletter in exchange for free swag.  

Third, remember that the end goal of the business is working with people. No matter what you sell, no matter what tools you use to analyze data about people, at the end of the sales funnel, it is people choosing to buy your product or not. If you can’t make them want the product or convince them this is the right solution for them, they won’t buy it. Personalization and deeper engagement are ends to this goal.  

Fourth, focus on the end goal of converting prospects to paying customers. Don’t post product descriptions and forget to close the deal with a clear option of buying it then and there. Give them a call to action to buy the product at the end of your article. 

Summary  

Regardless of what you sell and the industry you’re in, everyone can learn from the sales funnel model to increase their sales. Understand how you’ll go from brand awareness to paying customers. Know how many people move down the sales funnel so you know where to improve conversions. And you’ll end up improving your business’ bottom line. 

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