What is a Sales Funnel? How You Can Use it to Grow Your Business
When we grow a business, we quickly identify all the ways we can acquire a new customer. It might be word-of-mouth marketing or a referral, Google ads, newspaper ads, or just a lucky moment when a lead stumbles upon your brand. Having a diverse set of ways to close a sale is a great way to build a strong foundation. But you could also be missing out on a lot of sales without the right plan.
Think of your sales model as a funnel. It has a large opening at the top and it gets smaller as it goes down. If you don’t have a process in place, you are going to miss a lot of leads that don’t land inside the funnel. If you are missing a piece of the funnel, you will also miss potential customers.
By developing a clear and effective way to acquire customers, you’ll know exactly who you are selling to and where they are coming from. Most importantly, you will optimize your sales model for maximum results.
Together, we’ll go over what a sales funnel is and how we can use it in our own business.
“Wealth → marketing → sales funnels”
― Russell Brunson, from Traffic Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Filling Your Websites and Funnels with Your Dream Customers
What is a Sales Funnel?
Every business has a sales funnel whether they know it or not. An unplanned funnel is probably disorganized and is missing potential. If a company isn’t converting sales, then there is probably a missing piece to the funnel. If a business designs and develops an intentional funnel, then it will see better results.
Sales funnels are visual representations of your customers’ buying journey. It identifies the first impression you make with a customer to the moment they decide to purchase your product or service.
There are two ways to envision the funnel. There is the traditional sales funnel that includes the buyer’s journey, but then there is your unique funnel that describes the exact processes to capture your audience.
Below is a traditional funnel you can use to develop your own.
A Traditional Sales Funnel
As you can see, you probably already have a natural form of this. The benefit of putting it on paper and visualizing it through a funnel is that you can improve on it and specifically identify types of customers and successful conversions.
This is the first step into your marketing. How can you get the word out? How can you spread the message of your brand and the value you offer?
For your business, it can be several things. Make sure to track where they are coming from so you can analyze your buyer’s journey and sales funnel. You can invest more into the platforms and mediums that work best for you.
This is the most powerful form of marketing. In the sales funnel, you likely have referrals or people that like to spread the word. They are excited to tell their friends about you and what you have to offer.
To increase awareness, you need to expand your reach. You can do this through digital ads all over the internet. Depending on the platform, you can easily set criteria to target people similar to your current customers. This highly targeted method lets you refine your audience and increase your effectiveness for ROI.
While traditional methods are fading away, they are great to get the word out fast. Through radio, billboards, direct mail, newspapers, you can get your name out there. This is great for localized awareness.
Social Media Marketing
People spend most of their online time on social media. It’s important to meet them where they are and engage. The more you do, the more their friends will discover you.
Social Media Communities
People crave community. Facebook Groups, Reddit subreddits, and other communities are powerful. Just one good post about you in a group could bring many customers to your door. For example, when someone posts about a handyman to their neighborhood group, that person can get multiple jobs. It starts with actively engaging and representing the brand in those key groups.
Emails are still one of the most powerful ways to connect with your customers. But how do you get more? By adding easy sharing features to your emails, encouraging others to spread the word, you can increase your awareness. You can also add incentive programs with platforms that make it simple for someone to win a prize when a certain number of subscribers join from their referral.
Showing up in the community, face-to-face is a great way to connect with others on an intimate level. Use this method to increase your brand awareness and get real-time feedback.
Creative partnerships also help with awareness. Think of how Starbucks and Spotify partnered for a creative experience for customers getting coffee. Music and the cafe experience go hand in hand. Each brand increases its reputation and awareness. You can do the same with another brand that isn’t competition but serves the same type of customers.
These are great ways to raise awareness. There are many other options and finding the right fit will help you increase your reach.
Interest & Consideration
Once your customers are interested, you need to have the system in place to move them further down the funnel. Think of it like an onboarding process to purchase. Now that they are interested, you need to nurture them.
This will heavily depend on your branding and communications. Hopefully, after they discovered you, you pushed them to take some sort of action. They followed you on social media, signed up for your list, maybe downloaded a free ebook.
Once you have a way to communicate with them, you can begin to show them value. What does that mean? The more information you can give away, the better.
For example, if you are a mechanic, you can tell them your secrets to maintaining a long-lasting car. At first, it might feel weird giving away information. You might think you’ll lose business. But it’s the opposite. When people see how much value you give, they’ll wonder how much greater it is when they pay for it.
The easiest way to imagine it is by thinking of Ernest Hemingway’s saying, “Show, don’t tell.” He pointed to the way he writes. For example, if I were to write about a horrible argument that my two main characters had, what would be better? “Stacey and Phil had the worse argument they ever had.” Or “Stacey screamed to the top of her lungs as Phil backed into the dark corner, shadowing his face.” One tells you what is happening, the other makes you feel it.
When you give value away, you make customers feel it. And that drives them to the consideration phase. You present something to purchase. They are already interested and now you have proven your worth.
The customer thinks “I like what I see so far, I want more.”
Intent & Evaluation
Once customers have considered your offer and they have decided to purchase, they will act. This is the intent process.
You want to make sure everything is straightforward. Is it easy to contact you or put the product in checkout? Is it fast? Any barrier will prevent sales from happening.
Once they have made the next action, they will evaluate whether or not they will take the plunge. At this point, you’ve done almost everything you can. Analyze the entire journey and ask yourself what gut feelings a customer might have before they hit purchase.
It’s often things that would be “an offer you can’t refuse.” Think of money-back guarantees, easy returns, easy ways to try on the product first (like when purchasing glasses online), etc. Things that could cause hesitation to buy. When the customer is making that final evaluation, she will go back to these things before purchasing.
The buyer’s journey is a very human process. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Ask yourself if it is a journey you would take too. Then refine the journey and create a funnel made to host it.
Your customer purchased the product, hurray! You did it. You worked hard on that sales funnel and now you are seeing it in action.
But it doesn’t stop there.
First, you want to evaluate those customers. How many of the leads you captured converted? What was the difference between the ones that did and the ones that did not? Information like this is essential to improving your funnel.
You also want to fulfill these purchases. What can you do to make the experience remarkable? Is there something you can include that they didn’t expect? If you go the extra mile, you increase your chances of creating super fans that will spread your brand to others (which puts more people into the funnel through awareness!).
Make sure to also get feedback and ask for reviews. The more credibility you get, the higher chance for more purchases.
A strong sales funnel is an essential part of a growing business. You can use this method to improve your company today.