After you have a good idea who your best leads are, the next step to defining your lead generation process is to define your sales funnel — knowing where a prospect is in his buying journey so that you can align it directly to your marketing and sales processes. Mapping your lead generation efforts to your funnel is extremely important as it dictates your campaigns, messaging, and expected metrics.
Private communities: This is a great way to establish a closer and continuous channel of communication between yourself/your company and your leads, as well as allowing them to interact with each other. You can create private communities to start conversations, gather feedback, or share updates and news. By starting a community, you are committing to being active and monitoring it regularly for the medium/long term, which can be very time consuming in future—so keep that in mind if you decide to go with this tactic.  

Or, in some businesses, there’s only one thing to purchase–you just have to do so often. For example, let’s say you own a dairy farm and sell milk at the farmer’s market every week. Your regular customers buy the same two gallons of milk every week. You can’t move them farther down a sales funnel to buy something more, because that’s all you have–milk.

Depending on your business and industry, you could have 1,000 prospects at the top of your funnel. However, towards the end of your funnel, you may have 25 qualified leads. While these 25 prospects are more likely to convert than the ones at the top of the sales funnel, at the very end, there may only be five customers who make a purchase and only two that go on to become repeat customers.
Presales: If you know exactly which product you want to sell but haven’t created it yet, then preselling might be something you should look into. There are several benefits to preselling including: generating revenue before your product is launched (which you can later invest in your product), testing different pricing points for your product, validating demand for your idea, gathering feedback about your product before it’s launched.  
A good practice when managing your sales funnel in a funnel software is to be consistent in updating the lead stage. As leads progress down the funnel, you must be able to analyze the number of leads by stage in order to ensure your funnel is always full to the brim with leads. It’s also important to know what stage each lead is at to know what to do next. So once the lead has been contacted, move the lead from new to contacted stage. Actually, the CRM can move it down the funnel automatically.
CRM software has features like event scheduling, case management, and task management that help you plan and execute activities that coincide with the stages of your sales funnel. This software makes it easier to implement your sales funnel by showcasing upcoming and overdue activities, which keeps you focused on the activities that matter throughout the entire sales process.
After you have mapped out your sales funnel and have a good idea of what happens to leads when they come into your system, spend time mapping your lead generation efforts to buying stages. You can define a buying stage by how close a lead is to making a buying decision — and it’s critical to create lead generation programs that resonate to where buyers are in their purchasing decisions.
Antonio Lucio, Chief Brand Officer at Visa, believes the solution is to shift the focus from the transaction to the relationship.  After exploring the Customer Decision Journey, his team developed what they call a Customer Engagement Journey.  In this model, transactions occur in the context of the relationship rather relationships in the context of the transaction.
Today’s online consumer is much better educated than the consumers of yesteryear. While they enjoy learning about new products and services from brands, they hate being sold to. They digital buyer’s journey has many different touchpoints, and different people follow different patterns. That’s why you need to invest in more than one middle of the funnel marketing strategy.
Caroline Donahue, CMO at Intuit, oversees numerous web-based products for which “the product and the marketing become one thing.”  The funnel changes because “with cross-sell and up-sell, you move from awareness to action instantaneously.” Instead of a Customer Decision Journey, her approach might best be described as a User Experience Journey into which opportunities for transactions are thoughtfully embedded.
Let’s be clear—leads won’t automatically move down the funnel. Sales reps have to continue to do their part of selling and allow the sales funnel software to update the lead’s stage in the funnel by completing certain actions. You can setup workflow automations in the CRM to change lead stages. For example, after you’ve contacted a lead, the CRM will automatically update the lead’s stage based on the last activity.
You gain the prospects interest through an email sequence. You begin to relate stories to them that tie into who you are and how you've arrived to this point in your life. Brunson, in his book, Expert Secrets, calls this the Attractive Character. Are you the reluctant hero whose journey happened almost by mistake, but you feel like you owe it to yourself and the world to convey something of great value?
There’s even a convention that meets to address the “flipped” funnel. In 2015, Terminus put together their first #flipmyfunnel conference. Their goal was to raise awareness around the new funnel and generate solutions for how to adapt to it. In the spirit of best practices for the new funnel, the conference was a lead generation and customer acquisition event in and of itself.
Sales funnel conversion rate – If you’re going to choose only a few metrics to focus on, make sure this is one of them. This metric tracks the number of prospects that enter your funnel at any point and how many convert into customers. As you make changes to your marketing strategy in the future, seeing this number improve will let you know you’re on the right track.
To help you get started, we’ve created a sales funnel template you can use to create something that works for your business. It’s a PowerPoint document with prompts that you can customize based on the specific stages you feel are the best fit for your customers. This template will help you think of each stage in your customer’s journey and what should happen in each stage. It will also help you map out your own sales funnel stages unique to your business.
Task management tools help you move prospects through the sales funnel quickly because they help you schedule and assign tasks that must be completed to move onto the next stage. Being able to quickly schedule important tasks like sending quotes or writing emails helps keep these tasks top of mind and reminds you that there’s an important deadline that you must meet to get closer to a sale.
Private communities: This is a great way to establish a closer and continuous channel of communication between yourself/your company and your leads, as well as allowing them to interact with each other. You can create private communities to start conversations, gather feedback, or share updates and news. By starting a community, you are committing to being active and monitoring it regularly for the medium/long term, which can be very time consuming in future—so keep that in mind if you decide to go with this tactic.  
Setting up your sales funnel is the key to creating powerful prospect experiences. It is important that you map them out ahead of time to ensure your sales process is in alignment with the customer’s journey. CRM software set up to mirror your funnel activities can then help you manage and stay focused on the most important tasks during each stage in the process.
If the deal is won, your sales reps move the deal to the won stage in the pipeline and begin onboarding the new customer. Some leads may slip through the cracks for reasons that are beyond the control of your sales techniques, like budget constraints. It is important to keep a record of the lost leads too so you can track the reasons why you lost them, and nurture those prospects in the future to win back their business and relationship.
Pro tip: The most effective sales funnels are illustrated with step-by-step corresponding sales and marketing activities. CRM tools like Salesforce Essentials can help you create visual funnels that align with your pipelines while helping you manage activities needed to convince your prospects to buy from you.Try Salesforce’s features with a free 14-day trial today.
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