What is a Sales Funnel?

What is a Sales Funnel?
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Published: April 6th, 2018

Sales Funnels – neither a kitchen implement nor ‘high-level’ jargon designed to sail over the heads of non-marketers. Sales Funnels are a useful and valuable tool in your business armoury if you sell products or services, or are involved in the process as a business prospect becomes a customer (and beyond!).

So what exactly is a Sales Funnel?

teresahwSalesForce[1] describe it as "the visual representation of the customer journey, depicting the sales process from awareness to action". Think of a traditional funnel shape – wide at the top and narrow at the bottom; In a Sales Funnel, numerous prospects are added to the broad ‘entry point’ of the funnel, but less emerge from the narrow, bottom end of the funnel as long term or repeat customers. This is a natural process, as businesses can’t convert all ‘window shoppers’ into paid and confirmed customers; those people who are legitimately interested in a product or service generally need to be nurtured or gently encouraged over a period of days or weeks (even years in the case of businesses who sell very expensive items) with email correspondence, captivating landing pages, engaging ‘call to actions’ and personalised ‘special offers’. All of this communication needs to reflect your brand ideals and values, and help to build a positive relationship between your business and the potential customer. This should help to improve trust, build rapport, and make it more likely that a customer will choose your business over a competitor’s.

Depending on the nature of your company (and industry), you could have one sales funnel working within your business, or if you have an ecommerce site with a broad range of product offerings, you could have a different funnel for every product and every customer demographic that your business deals with. But what is the best way to work out what your Sales Funnel should actually incorporate? How can you determine the best customer journey for your particular product or service? Daphne Sidor provided a very helpful tip in her 2015 article for Leadpages[2]work backwards. Sidor suggests determining what the ‘goal’ in your Sales Funnel is – be it a customer purchasing a specific product, becoming a ‘brand evangelist’ and referring new leads to you, or signing up for a long term service from you – and establishing what exactly needs to happen on a customer journey to lead them to that point.

I like to think of a Sales Funnel as a living, breathing and constantly evolving ‘being’, rather than a static and rigidly defined process. Customers are fickle and unpredictable, influenced by everything from colours[3]to perceived ‘corporate social responsibility[4]‘ – and those perceptions can change quickly. As a business, you need to know whether your Sales Funnels are working appropriately, and in order to do this, you need to ensure that you can effectively monitor the process with quantifiable statistics (i.e. from the time a customer spends in each stage of the Sales Funnel Process, to the percentage of deals closed). If a funnel isn’t working as you had wanted or expected, or starts to perform less well than it had previously done, you need to be able to be flexible with your funnel and trial new things – ideally, changing just one thing at a time so that the impact can be evaluated, rather than changing multiple things and then being unable to pinpoint what the ‘game-changer’ was!

Admittedly, when it comes to testing the efficacy of your Sales Funnel, the potential ‘tweaks’ that could be made are endless! You could be split testing landing pages or nurture emails until 2050, and there would probably still be a few eventualities that you hadn’t tested. This is why I like tools like Leadpages (I like them so much I have completed their Conversion Marketing Certification Programme), as they have extensively tested the Landing Pages that they offer to their customers, so you know that you are buying into a tried, tested and proven tool that can really help to patch up (or prevent in the first place) a leaky sales funnel.

So if you haven’t got one already, why not consider what your Sales Funnel(s) look like? What processes do you have in place to gently nurture and lead a potential customer from interest to purchase, and beyond? It’s time to think about the landing pages and email communications that you send out, as well as the offers and ‘follow ups’ that you need to gently persuade a browsing visitor to your website to sign on the dotted line and make that purchase.

[1] http://searchsalesforce.techtarget.com/definition/sales-funnel

[2] https://www.leadpages.net/blog/how-to-build-a-sales-funnel/

[3] Mubeen M Aslam (2006) "Are You Selling the Right Colour? A Cross-cultural Review of Colour as a Marketing Cue" Journal of Marketing Communications Vol. 12, Issue 1, 2006

[4] Matute-Vallejo, J., Bravo, R. and Pina, J. M. (2011), "The influence of corporate social responsibility and price fairness on customer behaviour: evidence from the financial sector." Corp. Soc. Responsib. Environ. Mgmt, 18: 317-331

About the author

Teresa Heath-Wareing is a social media and marketing consultant based in Shropshire and is the director of THW. She was also a guest speaker at The Business Event 2017 in Telford, organised by the Marches LEP.

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