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ultimate guide to sales funnel

Your ultimate guide to sales funnel stages

Mark Quadros
November 03, 2021

In this ever-changing world, where almost nothing is permanent, and everything is in a constant flow of change, wouldn’t it be just better to know what comes next? Being able to predict the future and outcomes of your sales strategies is tempting, isn’t it? 

This comprehensive guide will provide you with strategies to make your sales tactics stronger and attract more revenue than before. 

Having a sales funnel in place is an imperative tactic to conduct more effective and impactful sales and garner enough knowledge about future outcomes.

Without a sales funnel in place, you are essentially operating your business without any predictable engine to generate more sales, without knowing what is in store tomorrow for you, your customers, or your employees.

So, let’s get started!

What is a sales funnel?

The journey your customers take till they finally purchase your product is called the sales funnel. While this process seems obvious and natural, taking a closer look into the stages customers go through can provide more insight and understanding of ways you can enhance your reach, and hold on to more customers than you naturally do. 

As the name suggests, the sales funnel is a graphical representation of an inverted pyramid, wider at the top and keeps getting narrower towards the bottom. 

In the case of an actual funnel, every bit of liquid poured in at the top is expunged out from the bottom, but in a sales funnel, the number of customers keep flowing out at every stage. The “existing customers” might seem to be an undesirable outcome, but the truth be acknowledged, this is how it works. After all, not all consumers will end up buying your product. 

The brighter side to this is that a sales funnel can assure better end results or a larger chunk of buying customers in the end by strategizing each stage of the funnel and customizing it according to your business type.

A more accurate definition of the sales funnel would be the journey that converts a “Consumer” into a “Buying Customer”. 

 

Sales funnel

 

The sales funnel stages are based on a prominent and relevant advertising communication model proposed St. Elmo Lewis. AIDA is the acronym used to identify the four stages of advertising communication. Attention, Interest, Decision and Action. This exact model is the basis for a sales funnel with:

  1. Attention being the process of making your brand’s product or service known to the masses, to generate awareness about the presence of your brand. 
  2. Interest being the stage where the aware audiences show an active interest in your product or service.
  3. Decision being the stage where the consumer acts upon their desire and makes the decision to purchase your product or service. 
  4. Action being the stage where the prospect becomes the customer by finally purchasing your product or service.   

Why do you need a sales funnel today?

Having a good understanding of the journey that your buying customers take to finally reach out for their credit cards and make the purchase, or the acknowledgement of why the potential consumers drop out in the middle stages can help you to optimize your sales funnel, which can, in turn, have an immediate and lasting impact on your sales goals. 

For your prospects

We are living in the age of information excess. Type a word, and there are countless links for a single term, go out shopping, and numerous brands selling the same products and services under different names. Your prospects can get confused by the plethora of options available to them. 

Confused customers

A strategized and customized sales funnel, which helps to closely understand their needs and also act upon the same makes it easier for your prospects to choose a product of their choice. A sales funnel that has a better reach and subtle persuasion strategy in place can help your prospects save time and have a shorter list for potential brands to evaluate from. g

For your company

Just like your prospects have a plethora of options to pick from, your company, too has a heterogeneous mix of people with varied interests and needs to target. Targeting the entire population without understanding the demographics and needs of your prospects can lead to awfully unsuccessful sales. The sales funnel provides skillfully devised strategies to target your audience’s attention and generate effective sales. 

A sales funnel: 

1. Helps in attracting new leads

With a good content strategy in place, your sales funnel can help to attract new leads. Content is a significant contributor to your sales funnel; it helps in enhancing the value of your brand. 

The content needs to be:

  • Precise
  •  Catchy
  • Informative 
  • Should reflect what your brand stands for
  • Should answer a question or solve a problem that your prospect has 

The format used can be of value addition like an eBook, workshop, Online course, checklists, or online quizzes. 

2. Helps to focus on the right leads

Starting with a random selection from the population can never be fruitful, with the precise methods used for diverting the traffic, you can narrow down the focus to the interested prospects who are either willing to buy or who with correct information and persuasion tactics devised in your sales funnel can ultimately be converted into buying customers. 

3. Helps to sort and rank your leads

As we have already discussed, not all leads will convert into buying customers, so having noticed the patterns of behavior of your prospects can pave the way for the elimination of the leads that are less likely to buy. There will always be prospects who need immediate attention and few who require long-term nurturing. 

4. Streamlines your marketing

Marketing can be a bit overwhelming, although a good chart out plan can provide a focussed action towards the next step. It helps utilize the time better. 

5. Increases your conversion rate

Knowing which customers require immediate attention and who needs more time can help you avoid the chances of missed opportunities. 

 

Sales funnel conversion rate

 

6. Builds trust and relationship with leads

Constant engagement and value-adding information provided to the customers develop a bond of trust and familiarity with your brand making sure that whenever they want to purchase an item that your brand also sells, your chances of being their preferred brand is higher than other brands who sell the same product or service.

Stages of the Sales Funnel

While the AIDA model discusses the journey that a consumer makes till they finally purchase, the sales funnel needs to be looked at from the perspective of the organization in order to enhance its effectiveness. The sales funnel can be divided into three main parts, the top, the middle, and the bottom layer.  

The Top of the sales funnel

At the top of the sales funnel, a huge chunk of the audience is waiting to become aware of your brand. This chunk consists of people with a question or problem in mind for which they require a solution. Your brand may be the solution for their problem but for both of you to connect, you would need to grab their attention and make them aware of your existence in the market that is bursting with options. 

This segment of the funnel is crucial as the more attention you grab, the higher your sales will succeed. This phase is also known as the lead generation stage, as in this stage, your untouched prospects become aware of your brand, and contact is generated between you and them, eventually adding numbers to your list of leads. 

Content plays a significant role in initiating and nurturing this relationship; as mentioned above, the market is bursting with plenty of options that your prospects can choose from. For this very reason, identifying who your prospects are and what exactly they need is crucial to create customized content for them. 

 

Top of the sales funnel

For example, instant noodles is a common product that is produced by an abundant number of brands. However, identifying that your customers require an appetizing food product instantly that also caters to their health and nutrition as they are health conscious would allow you to customize your content and direct it towards the health benefits direction. 

This stage is where your customers are waiting to be educated and verbalize their interest; they would require content that would guide them and inform them of the topics that interest them. Video posts, social media posts, blogs, workshops, and webinars are some great ways to educate and engage with your leads. 

The middle of the sales funnel

By this stage, your leads are engaged but are now evaluating if they require the product or not. Your customers are gauging deep about the purchase. Engaging with them more and helping them understand why your product or service is the solution for the same will enhance the chances of pushing a higher percentage of people down the sales funnel. 

More than choosing between the various brands, consumers are pondering whether they even require the service or not. At this stage, the pros and cons, detailed information, and highlights that they cannot resist needs to be induced to their minds for positive results. 

Middle of the sales funnel

The bottom of the sales funnel

At this stage, your prospects are well equipped with the knowledge and are ready to act on their desire to purchase the same; hence, the question in their mind is brand-driven.  The best kind of content for this stage is a detailed FAQ page, blogs, and videos about the specifics of the product, live demos etc. 

Your customers focus on budget, relevance, and suitability of the product, highlighting the specifics of your product and matching it to their suitability should be the primary focus at this stage, which will eventually pave the way for the action or the purchase.

Bottom of the sales funnel

 

How to create your own killer sales funnel

The first and foremost important thing to be kept in mind to begin strategizing your sales funnel is that only a small percentage of people who enter your funnel will buy your product or service at the end, so having a large set of consumers at the top of the sales funnel is crucial for getting higher sales at the end.  

1. Identify your market

To direct your sale towards the market, you would first require a homogeneous mass with similar needs, desires, and demands set out to propose your sale to them. Understanding your product and its requirement will help you to put yourself in the shoes of your prospects. 

The next step is to draw the persona of your target audiences to identify your desired prospects. 

Key points to keep in mind while understanding your target audience:

  • What motivates them to buy your product or service
  • Their hopes, needs, requirements, and demands
  • Their concerns and struggles to find the desired product or service

2. Engage in marketing

You need to grab your audience’s attention and be in their visibility range; you can use various marketing strategies like content marketing through billboards, television advertisements, Google Ads, etc., but a few easy, cost-effective ways are: 

  • Social media visibility, like through video marketing on YouTube, Instagram engagements, collaborations, and guest appearances, can provide cheap and easy visibility to many audiences. 


Check out this guerilla marketing tactic used by Starbucks!

  • Collaborations and guest appearances in blog posts, videos, and shows can help you get the attention of a ready-made target audience of the brand you are collaborating with. 
  • Having social media pages dedicated to your brand which regularly inform and engage audiences with your brand provides a system for customized and up-to-date content creation for visibility.
  • Having YouTube videos and blogs dedicated to your service or product act as an automated system to engage your audience. With the help of the YouTube algorithm, which automatically connects its audiences and suggests to them precise information that they are looking for, the artificial intelligence does most of the work for you to connect you with the right leads while generating new leads as well.
  • Bonus advantage: With YouTube, you can have extra earnings through the number of views that you receive.

3. Lead generation and nurturing

Now it is time for you to provide the aware customers with a value-adding freebie in order to get in touch with them. The purpose of this step is to engage the audience by providing them value-adding information that hooks them for the service or product that you ultimately would like to sell. In return, you make them sign up for free to acquire new MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads). 

 

Once you have acquired contact with your leads, now is the time to nurture a good relationship with them. This is best pursued by an email drip campaign, by providing your leads with seasonal discounts, limited-time free access, product demos, etc. This fosters trust and healthy bonding with your leads, slowly pushing them down the sales funnel and turning them into buying prospects. 

4. Make a pitch

In this stage, your MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) are converted to SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads) with help of the sales representatives who pitch in the product or service through direct contact. The smaller the product’s price, the less direct contact would be required for persuasion leading to sales.

Phone calls and in-person contact are the best ways to be successful at making a pitch. The one-to-one contact subtly and unconsciously makes the lead feel valued and hence enhances the chances of success.

5. Close the sales

Finally, the most critical moment! The success of your sales are also very much dependent on the smoothness and ease that your prospects experience while passing through the sales funnel. So the last phase of payment needs to be completely hiccup-free. 

Any delays, glitches, or difficulties your prospects face in navigating through payments can result in reconsideration of the brand they pick up. In case of an in-person purchase, multiple payment options should be made available to your prospects like card, cash, digital wallets, etc. 

Ready to boost your sales?

Having a sales funnel in place is imperative to the success of your sale. We’ve provided you with a blueprint of what a sales funnel should look like, but to make it killer, you need to customize it according to your brand, product and target audience with help of the suggestions provided above. 

Remember, while a sales funnel can be automated to generate revenue even while you are asleep, it is not a static process. Change is the only constant. Revisiting the weaknesses and updating your funnel to suit the present market needs should be adopted from time to time. 

Apart from that, congratulations! You are already halfway through your journey to enhance your profits and secure your future sales. 

Run that final mile with a killer sales funnel today!



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