Brad is browsing online when he sees a pair of shoes at a discount, he clicks on the link and is directed to the website where he reads about the shoe and checks the price before he decides to make a purchase.
What has just been described here is a sales funnel and its different stages.
Every business needs to identify and know the stages because they have an impact on customer behavior.
Understanding every step can help a business increase the number of customers it attracts and eventually improve sales drastically.
Think of your business and what impact it would have on the business if every month you were able to triple the number of people that look at your products, or you succeed in doubling the sales every month.
Knowing your sales funnel stages and being able to manage them better can have outstanding effects on your business.
Another name for the sales funnel is the sales process, this probably makes it easier to understand. Brad, described at the beginning of the article, takes different steps before he chooses to buy a pair of shoes online. The business that made that sale had to attract a customer, qualify the product and then make the sale.
Whatever line of business you may be in, there is a similar process that leads to a sale in the end. That process is what is referred to as the sales funnel. Although there may be slight variations in individual businesses, there are common processes which include:
The customer journey has some similar stages across different industries. Whether it is a software company, fashion store, motor vehicle parts and so much more, the following stages will apply.
Awareness: This is the first stage where a person or business is aware of a problem and maybe asking themselves certain questions. For example, a business may be aware that their data is not safe on the server and they are asking why that is and what they can do about the threat. At this point, they become aware of the availability of a solution. Sometimes, however, they may become aware of a problem when they realize there is a solution.
Interest: At this stage, the prospect may carry out research about a problem and its solution. The prospect is now asking more direct questions like “How to improve server security” their intent is more definite and a business providing the service already knows what they are interested in.
However, they are still looking at solution options, not necessarily providers of the solution. They will weigh their options and probably consider several solutions if there are more to consider. At this point, a service provider needs to offer content that acts as a guide. For example, an article on how to secure data on the server with different options along with their pros and cons.
Evaluation: Now that the prospect knows what solution they want, their questions would shift to who provides the best service? They start to compare different service providers and what they may benefit from those particular providers. It is common to find a prospect clicking on top 10 articles and reading reviews about particular providers. You can attract such prospects with videos, FAQ articles, and comparison articles among others. These can help them make a decision.
Decision: With all the information they have gathered, prospects now zero in on a provider. They will contact the provider and look at proposals as well as carry out negotiations to get the best offer and terms. By this stage, you have won their business and can move on to the next stage.
Purchase: With all negotiations done, the prospect is now a client and they will make the purchase.
Reevaluation: In most cases, a customer will evaluate the solution or the product they have purchased. If for example, a B2B purchase involves the provision of server security, there will be a contract signed and towards the end of the contract, the business will evaluate the service before deciding to renew the contract.
Repurchase: If the service or product is good, there will be more purchases made by the customer. Every business needs to structure its sales efforts based on these stages of the sales funnel.
Now that you know what the sales funnel is, it is time to learn to build one. Do not be intimidated by the word build. This is more of a systematic process intended to set structures that will determine the sales flow from one stage to another. With the following steps, you can build a sales funnel.
Note that you have a specific target and so you need to have a strategy that targets them. To do this, you need to collect every available information about your target's behavior. There are tools you can use online to analyze audience behavior and create an accurate persona of your audience based on the way they interact with your site, how long they stay on particular pages, and so on.
You need to attract the attention of as many people as possible. If people know about you, they are more likely to contact you. Find various avenues to spread content about your business. Utilize all your available platforms to post content so that you can attract organic attention. Make sure you're using the right channels where your targets are. If you choose to spend on advertising, then you should ensure that you get it right with the right channels. Sometimes businesses discover they have been advertising on the wrong channels and therefore either attracting the wrong attention or not arousing any interest.
What happens after you have attracted attention? You need to get your audience to a place where they will be enticed to take the next step. A landing page doesn't have to be aggressive about making a sale, but it should be enticing enough to encourage a prospect to move on to the next step. A call to action is a must for this page. It can be coupled with an offer they cannot refuse. Giving out free stuff is also a good idea. It doesn't have to be very expensive; you can even invite them to a free webinar or Zoom conference.
Your landing page will have turned prospects into leads and now to get them to the next stage, a drop email campaign would be effective. Share incredible content with them to let them know more about your product or service. Consistency is important here but that doesn't mean you should bombard them with emails. Include content that addresses possible objections they may have. As the campaign comes to an end, provide an offer they would find appealing and move them to act.
Don't lose touch with your customers, continue to communicate with them. Let them know their support is appreciated. Share links to your social posts and keep them updated about new offers.
There are various examples of sales funnels that suit different industries. Sometimes it may take a bit of creativity to come up with one and other times you just have to look at what your competitor is doing and then tweak it to suit your need.
Free Trial Funnel: This works for many companies offering technical services. Its main appeal is the fact that many businesses do not want to spend on a service or product they may not be sure of. They are therefore attracted to a solution that they can use free and only purchase if they like it. Meanwhile, to sign up for the free trial, the person or business has to provide their email address and they become a lead that can be added to the top of the funnel.
Influencer Funnel: Social media is a great way to get onto your target’s radar. Sometimes you do not have to do a lot of the work on social media, simply get active individuals with a lot of followers to draw people’s attention to your funnel. Influencers are usually a trusted source of information therefore if they recommend your business, there is a high chance you will get many people coming your way.
Blogging Funnel: Content is an easy way to attract more leads while creating relationships with your audience. If someone finds a blog article they like, they are likely to want more of the same. Visitors to a blog can provide their email address so that they can receive related content and that is the start of a great relationship between your business and several interested leads. Starting a blog is one of the most common ways of creating a sales funnel. You simply need to do extensive research and provide content that your target is interested in.
You might find yourself in a situation where you attract a lot of leads and yet they never progress from that stage to a sale. Why is that so? In most cases, it is because you may not have mastered the art of closing deals.
You may know of some top salespeople who are referred to as closers and you wonder why they are succeeding and you aren’t. Well, here are a few suggestions to help you close more deals.
You are more likely to close more deals if you have more leads. The suggestions that will follow are dependent on your ability to have many leads that can be turned into customers. Target many people and you will have many opportunities to close deals. But you still have to be cautious about the leads you attract.
Bear in mind that not everyone is your target. As you create a sales funnel, ensure that it is designed to attract the right kind of people who are likely to buy. This is probably elementary, a person looking for running shoes is more likely to be persuaded to buy your sports gear than one who is looking for cutlery. So if you choose the wrong influencer, you can end up with the wrong people and never close. Choose your target carefully.
If you choose to offer a discount or free services, do not make it open. Add some urgency to the offer so that the prospect may realize it’s now or never. Your leads need to make up their mind as soon as possible if they want to enjoy the special offer.
At times all a lead needs to make a purchase is a prompt. Say you have been going back and forth providing them with information about your service or product, after a few back and forth emails, summarize the points you have agreed upon, and then ask when they would be ready to “sign the dotted line.” This can influence them to make up their mind and purchase.
Does this seem odd? It shouldn’t! Realize that your prospect or lead can be turned away by your over persistence. It is not good to appear as if all you want to do is make a sale. Instead, pay more attention to the lead, answer their questions and show you understand their problem, and let them understand how your service or product will be a solution.
The sales funnel is a model that is tried and tested. Many business experts have used it to gain a foothold in the market. Once you understand your business target, then you can create a persona that you will use to attract the right people and channel them through the funnel.