The goal of every marketing professional and salesperson is to make a prospect take action. That action could be: signing up for a platform, becoming a member of a networking platform, or making a purchase.
This is known as a conversion.
To guide visitors through this process, you’ll need a sales funnel, which is an essential part of any business to business (B2B) marketing campaign.
An effective sales funnel is vital to converting prospects into clients. It will give valuable insights into a prospect’s thought process, pain points, and buying decisions.
What Is A Sales Funnel?
A sales funnel is a visual representation of a sales process from start to finish. It embodies the purchaser’s journey – i.e. the first contact they have with your business through to the point where they decide whether to buy or not. It’s a marketing concept that maps out the client’s path towards making a purchase.
The reason it’s called a funnel is because of its tapering shape, and because it aids with filtering prospects into groups and converting them into clients. The funnel itself is a sequence of steps a visitor takes to become a client.
Imagine a real-life funnel – the top of the funnel has a wide opening that narrows down towards the end. A lot of potential clients will enter the funnel, with each stage of the funnel pushing qualified prospects on to the next stage. It filters out those who do not qualify for your product or service, and you will have to accept that not everyone who enters your sales funnel will become a paying client.
As prospects go further down the funnel, you’ll learn more information about them, and it’ll become clearer whether your products or services are valuable to them.
Why Are Sales Funnels Important?
As a marketing professional or salesperson, a sales funnel allows you to visualise your sales process.
Think of it as a client’s journey to conversion. With a visual representation, you can rapidly pinpoint the moment you lose prospects, and in doing so, you can develop your sales process, see what’s not working, and test any changes.
What Additional Reasons Are There To Create A Sales Funnel?
• You can attract the right leads and stop blindly selling to anyone who comes along: A well-structured funnel will help you talk directly to your defined ideal client.
• You can focus on the right leads: With a well-constructed funnel, you can gain insights into what leads to pursue. Each stage of the sales funnel allows you to learn more about a prospect.
• You can sort, appraise, and rank leads: Not all leads are equal. Some are easily converted, while others need more persuasion. A sales funnel will help to evaluate whether a lead requires developing, or whether they are ready to buy.
• You can forecast sales volume: Every marketing strategy aims to gain more clients. That said, a sales funnel gives you an understanding of how many prospects entered your funnel, and how many are most likely to buy. You can use this information to build a sales projection.
• Best of all, a sales funnel doesn’t just provide client intelligence, it also helps you to develop relationships. That’s why you need to understand how each stage of your sales funnel works, and by doing so, you’ll make the most out of your marketing strategies.
The Sales Funnel Stages Explained
From the moment your clients learn about your business until the point they purchase your products or services, they will pass through a stage of your sales funnel. Your goal is to encourage them to keep moving through the sales funnel towards conversion.
To help you make this happen, let’s take a closer look at each stage of the sales funnel.
Stage 1: Awareness Imagine a potential client who’s looking to solve a specific problem – for example, they may want more customers. So, they research the best way to generate leads.
During this early stage, your target audience wants to look at options. This is when they become aware of your product or service. Perhaps they found your website, met you while networking, or found you through a blog post, tweet, or social media post.
But here are some other ways you can raise brand awareness:
• Live events, including shows
• Social media advertising
• Media mentions
• Viral campaigns
Be sure to keep your business visible, so potential clients find it easy to discover.
Stage 2: Interest When your prospect discovers your product or service, they will start investigating – but at this point your prospect is still looking for answers to solve their problem. Therefore, aggressively pushing your brand through tacky sales tactics will only turn them off.
Consumers are constantly bombarded with adverts via many different mediums, and that’s why they’re harder to engage. As a marketing person, you don’t want to frighten away your prospect. You need to encourage them to learn more about your brand.
You’ll need to have content that will show the prospect how you can solve the problem they have. In doing this, you’ll establish your credibility through expertise by creating valuable and trustworthy content.
Using our previous example, the prospect’s question at this point will most likely be:
‘How do I generate meaningful contacts who turn into leads?’
From your perspective, you need to provide the prospect with all the information they require to make an informed buying decision.
Here are a few things you should offer them:
• Product or service checklists
• In-depth user guides
• How-to guides, or tutorials relevant to your business
• Relevant blog posts or social media content
During the interest stage, you want your potential clients to follow you on social media or subscribe to your mailing list. At this point, prospects will be unsure whether your product or service is the correct one to answer their problems – that’s why you need to build a relationship with them.
Stage 3: Decision
By this stage, due to the interest prospects have shown, and the information you’ve collected on them, they are considered qualified leads. This means they’re most likely going to buy your product or service, but they’re not ready to just yet.
Qualified leads will start comparing your product or service against your competitors, considering all their options.
• Client testimonials to inspire trust
• Reviews and product recommendations
• A ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page on your website
• A feature comparison between you and your competitors
• Free consultations
• Tutorial webinars
Your lead must feel confident in your offer. Most importantly, they must be firm in their belief that your product or service solves their problem.
Once you have the resources ready to convince your audience that your solutions are the best option, make your proposal to them and add a call to action. For example, you could offer a 14-day free trial, a free upgrade, or another special offer.
Stage 4: Action Well done, you are at the bottom of the funnel!
By this stage, your lead has closed the deal or made a purchase. They are now a paying client, but your job doesn’t end here.
You still need to nurture the relationship by continually engaging with them. For example, why not send them a follow-up email including resources they might need, or articles they will find useful.
Perhaps email them a survey, asking them about the product or service they have purchased. Ask them how useful it was – did they have any additional queries, and was there anything you could have done better?
Most importantly, your team should be available to provide support whenever customers have any comments or questions.
Why do you have to go to such lengths?
Because you want to turn one purchase into two, three, four, and more. Offering post-sales support helps you to grow your relationship with the customer, and will gain you referrals and additional testimonials.
It is always easier to keep an existing client than it is to gain a new one, which can be seen from the number of steps required to build an effective sales funnel.
When creating a sales funnel, you need to know your target client. Understand their pain points and anticipate any questions they might have. Most importantly, think from their point of view. How do they feel while going through the buying process?
From there, you can start to construct your sales funnel from start to finish.
One way to measure the success of your sales funnel is to keep track of your conversion rates. For instance, you can track how many prospects signed up to your email list.
Remember, your sales funnel will develop over time. As you learn more about your clients, your sales funnel will need modifications, and that is normal.
By properly optimising your sales funnel for your prospects, and by tracking how they respond to your funnel over time, you can use a repeatable step by step process to maximise your chance of converting strangers into valuable long-term customers!