Introduction to Sales Funnel
Also known as sales process or revenue funnel, sales funnel is like a real-world funnel that’s wide open at the top and narrow at the bottom. Sales funnel can be defined as the buying process that businesses lead their customers through. The process covers the entire buying journey from prospecting to lead generation and final purchase and leads potential buyers to becoming paying customers.
Anatomy of a Sales Funnel
A typical sales funnel is made up of four tiers
- Suspects: People who may or may not be interested in your products/services
- Prospects: People who might be interested in buying what you have to offer
- Leads: People who are likely to convert
- Customers: People who actually made a purchase and have converted
The process can be divided into several phases including:
The Awareness Phase: prospects or potential customers become aware of the product/service on offer
Interest Phase: Prospects show interest in the product/service or carry out their research
Evaluation Phase: Prospects compare different solutions and move towards choosing the product/service they think would work best for them
Decision Phase: Prospects make a final decision, this phase also covers negotiation
Purchase or Action Phase: The phase in which the products/services are actually purchased and a transaction is carried out
Reevaluation Phase: The customer enters the reevaluation phase mostly at times when an existing contract is about to end. He/she goes through the cycle again to decide whether or not they should buy/renew the product/service again. This stage is more relevant to B2B businesses and renewable contracts
Repurchase Phase: The customer repurchases the product/service
Let’s suppose you own and manage a small restaurant. Everyone who passes by the restaurant is a suspect who may or may not be hungry or interested in trying out what you have to offer. Since it’s practically not possible to reach all the ‘suspects’, you’d want to determine people who might be interested in eating from your restaurant (prospecting).
From there you’ll start noticing people who signal interest in eating from the restaurant, which includes people who stop by and browse the menu or people who pulled up on your parking lot with their families. When a prospect enters the restaurant and starts checking out the menu, he/she essentially becomes a lead as you know they are certainly interested in trying something out.
When they finally order something and pay their bills, they become the customers. Whether or not they’ll repurchase or reorder depends on how happy and satisfied they left your restaurant.
What Makes Sales Funnel So Important?
Sales funnel is one of the core concepts in marketing especially digital marketing and can make or break a business. We now have people who specialize in implementation of sales funnel and their whole career revolves around it. The multi-module and multi-step process is designed to turn prospects into buyers.
Being an important marketing strategy, sales funnel is an art that helps transform prospects into buyers. The funnel is wide open at the top where potential customers or prospects enter and narrow at the bottom where committed customers are. No one really knows who the customers are at top of the funnel and it’s up to marketers how they lead the customers through their sales journey.
A carefully designed sales funnel can do wonders for businesses, especially online-focused businesses. Most prospects don’t tend to buy online at the first glance, especially during the awareness phase. Sales funneling is more of a psychological process that aims to turn prospects into buyers, ideally repeat buyers.
Top Middle and Bottom of the Funnel
Businesses and individuals can leverage their email subscription lists and social media presence to get people to top of the funnel. A professional website with stellar landing page helps turn random visitors into subscribers and also serves as a repeated pointed of contact.
The middle of the funnel is where relationship building happens and customers start to feel comfortable with your brand. Carefully crafted messages can help a lot here, but you need to give prospects some incentive to stick with you. Communications with the prospects on a regular basis is the key here, which is essential in gaining their trust.
It’s important not to let your customers go at this stage or you’d have to repeat the process all over again. You might want to offer a free service or a big discount at this stage, which is essentially the cost of acquiring customers.
Customers who start to trust you usually make it to the bottom of the funnel. At this point they have a sense of your brand and are probably ready to make a decision. Now it’s time to offer them something of great value (e.g. low introductory price) and end the communication with a call to action.
Building a Sales Funnel
While success of a sales funnel depends on many factors, how the visitors arrived to your online store/website matters a lot. Let’s start with each phase of the sales funnel to better understand how you can create and use a sales funnel that drives conversions.
1. Awareness Phase
The awareness phase begins after a prospect has actually arrived at your site and is possibly interested in what you are offering. A prospect can enter a sales funnel through different means such as email newsletters or another enticing offer. But the ultimate goal should remain to solve their problem and offer something of value.
Solving customer’s problem requires deep understanding of what the problem actually is and how your product/service can solve it. Creating awareness begins right after a customer enters the funnel, but depending on how they arrived into the funnel, it can be a lot of work. Prospects who landed through a paid ad might perceive your funnel differently than those who reached you through a search engine.
That’s because a customer who reached your site through an organic search would perceive your site as being more authentic and authoritative. Prospects enter into a funnel with a different mindset if they believe that not only you are relevant, but would also offer great value.
Regardless of the channel prospects use to land onto your site, the ultimate goal is to move them through the awareness phase to action phase as swiftly as possible. But you need to establish a relationship with them to build up their interest.
Moving a prospect through the sales funnel is much more than grabbing their email address. People are smart and it takes some serious effort to convince them to whip out their credit cards. Unless you can convince them that you are offering immense value for their money, they might not be in a position to take a favorable action.
You’d have to create a strong relationship with the prospects when communicating to build value by being honest, relatable and transparent. Creating awareness isn’t about bombarding prospects with specifications and other product details. You need to relate your product/service to them and focus more on how it solves their problems or improves their lives.
2. Interest and Evaluation Phase
So you finally gained the interest of a prospect by relating them to your product/service. Now it’s time to develop interest and position your offering, which involves developing stories, conveying them and deciding at what drip-rate are you going to convey those stories.
Your sales pitch has to be consistent and based on the truth. Sending the first one or two emails on the signup day is fine, but how frequently are you going to send emails afterwards? That’s actually a subjective matter, but a single email per day or one in a couple of days should be fine. Training prospects to click on links is very important here, whether those links take them to a blog or directly to the product/service you are offering.
3. Decision Phase
A lot of customer reviews and testimonials can really help in convincing the prospects to make a favorable decision. Interest levels can also be kept high through paid online advertising such as Facebook and Google Ads.
4. Action Phase
Getting to the final phase is not easy and requires effort and tracking. Sales funnel software can help in this regard and reduce the headaches to some extent, but there is still a lot to be done, including copywriting and email communication. Implementing hacks or taking shortcuts never works in the long run and you’d have to scale out an offer that’s highly-converting and value-packed.
Convincing prospects to take action is no easy feat. The sales funnel streamlines processes and helps ensure consistency in sales pitch. A lot needs to be done to optimize each phase of the sales funnel, but in the end all that effort can be worth it. This post focused on the basics and tried to clear up the core concepts behind sales funnel. However, there are many specialized software available that make the whole process easier. But you still have a lot to create and manage yourself, including the value preposition and communications.