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?
Awareness and Friend: This stage covers all leads who might know you’re your company is but that are not known in their database. The company understands that a lead might be visiting their website or downloading an ebook, but has not formally identified himself. These leads are curious about your organization; they are often brought in through inbound marketing efforts such as social media and content.
A sales funnel reflects the prospect’s journey or path that takes them from awareness to becoming a customer. It encompasses actions you take to create this journey or experience. The sales pipeline, on the other hand, is the specific stages that a deal or opportunity moves through in your sales process from the salesperson’s perspective. See our article on the eight sales pipeline stages every sales team should have.
Sales funnel is an illustration of the stages that a prospect goes through before becoming a customer. It resembles an inverted pyramid—it starts with a lot of your potential customers at the top. And, as your sales reps start engaging with them, only your most qualified prospects move to the next stage, and ultimately towards the close. So, at the bottom of the sales funnel are your most committed customers.
According to Pardot, 70% of buyers turn to Google at least 2-3 times during their search to find out more about their problems, potential solutions, relevant businesses, etc. Many people also turn to social media and forums for recommendations. At this point, they aren’t looking for promotional content; they’re looking to learn more about potential solutions for their need.
But, once you have enough experience to be eligible (and are likely itching for a promotion), they start marketing to you. It might be email marketing or an email list-based retargeting campaign, but these graduate programs do their level best to get back on your radar. It’s a long-term play, but it’s one that works incredibly well because the schools know exactly when their students are “ready to buy” again.
Adopting a CRM with sales funnel management capabilities positively impacts sales teams’ performance. But what most users fail to realize is that it is not just a customer database; it’s also the most beneficial tool for managing the sales funnel and pipeline. It helps you define your sales process, identify leaks in the sales funnel, and streamline the conversion process to bring leads down to the bottom of the funnel.
Entry sources – Monitoring the sources from which people are entering your funnel can be useful data to track, as it gives you ideas for expanding the reach of your marketing campaigns. If, for example, you see that a large number of your prospects are coming from a single guest blog post you did, you can upgrade and expand on it, add a free consultation opportunity on that blog post, and/or find similar guest author positions.
Now sales start its own screening process where they start calling up the lead and asking them for requirements. The pre-sales team starts analyzing their actual requirement and how good of a fit they are for the business. The best way to do this is to have a lead scoring tool, which will let you assign scores based on lead activities. Once pre-sales deems them as good leads, they now get passed on to the sales team
Make sure you consider intent when writing posts. In other words, write posts for people who intend to buy whatever you’re selling. If you’re a hair salon, you might get a ton of social shares if you write about DIY hair color on your blog, but if they’re interested in DIY color, they probably aren’t interested in coming into your salon and paying for service.
Use website links that have embedded web analytic codes. You can do this through your website provider or with a free Google Analytics account. Make sure each strategy uses a different link, so you can track your most successful lead gathering strategies. Most web analytics programs will automatically mark down leads that come from major search engines.
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.
While that might make it sound like key stages of the buyer’s journey are now out of marketer’s hands, just the opposite is true. Modern marketers now have unprecedented access to the customer journey at every stage. They no longer have to obsess over acquisition and can instead focus on a dynamic approach that can reach customers at any and all stages.
“Time is money for a rep,” said Tony Rodoni, Salesforce EVP, Commercial Sales, and Market Readiness. “You need to know the most important thing to do right now, and what to do next. If you’re not clear on which opportunities are accurate, you’re relying on your memory to know which ones need work. As you take on a bigger book of business, with more opportunities, quarter after quarter, relying on your own memory means mistakes and wasted time.”
To better understand the concept of a sales funnel and just how you can implement it in your own business, let's look at the following image from Shutterstock. On the left side of the image, you see a magnet. That magnet is attracting customers, which happens a number of ways. From blogging to social media to paid ads and everything in between, how the visitors arrive to your website has some impact on the success of your funnel.
At the start of this article, I talked about making customers, not finding them, but you can only make customers out of leads. Because your sales funnel only works if you put people in the top, let’s look at some tips to help you find more leads. Not everything will work for every business. Choose the methods that work best for you in terms of your available resources and what works for your audience.
First, try some cold calling. We’ve all gotten those dreaded calls from telemarketers, and while the number of hang-ups sales reps get is enough to make some people quit, this does still work. If it didn’t, people wouldn’t be doing it. The key to success with cold calling is to make sure you have a list of qualified leads. If you’re selling a product for men, for example, make sure your list is primarily male.
SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving your content’s visibility in search engines. Or, in simpler terms, SEO is about getting traffic to your site from sites like Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines (this type of traffic is known as organic traffic.) For that to happen you have to try to rank your content in the top positions of the search results for specific terms or phrases (known as keywords.) Something you should keep in mind about SEO is that it’s not a fast process. Pursuing SEO early can have a huge pay off down the line—when you start getting free and consistent traffic from search engines—but if you are just getting started and need traffic right away, I recommend that you look into immediate sources of traffic while you work on SEO.
This is VERY important (as you can see above)! You can use a simple spreadsheet to make this happen quickly. Tracking your leads will help you understand where to tweak your funnel AND understand what is working. For me, it took me almost a year to realize my best deals were coming from one deal source. Once I realized that, I leaned in hard to that one source—my business exploded and my time to vet leads plummeted!
After you’ve mapped out your prospect’s experience, make sure they align with your team’s pipeline stages. You can do this on paper or in CRM software like Salesforce Essentials. Sales pipeline stages are stages in your sales process, while your sales funnel stages are the stages in your customer journey. Refer to our article on how to create an effective sales plan for more information about pipeline stages and how they relate to your sales strategy.
For different types of businesses, buyer needs at the problem/need recognition stage – top of the funnel (TOFU) – are different. If you’re running a consulting business, for example, then your clients already realize that they’re having certain problems around your service area – like a high cost per lead (if you’re in marketing) or disorganized spending (if you’re in accounting).