My sales funnel has got a hole in it (then fix it, dear Henry)
A sales funnel exists whether you visualise it or not.
It’s called a customer – or buyer – journey.
And if you don’t understand how it works you drastically limit your chance of efficiently converting leads into sales.
Let’s look at how you can best understand your sales funnel, deploy your understanding and fix it when it breaks down.
As ever, we’ll start with the basics (dear Henry).
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The sales funnel basics
A sales funnel is a visual representation of a journey: It starts when your prospect first makes contact with you and it ends when they make that purchase.
There are more people filling your funnel at the top (the first touch point) and far fewer as it narrows at the bottom (the purchasing decision).
As prospects journey through the funnel they become greater qualified – until they become a converted lead and are left in the welcoming hands of the sales team. But, along the way, many will drop out – and those who do not fit may receive a helping shove to leave the funnel.
The stages in the sales funnel
As with the customer journey, the sales funnel is usually divided into three broad stages (although these can be further fine-tuned if required).
Understanding these stages means you can effectively address customer’s needs and accurately forecast future sales.
The stages are:
Awareness and discovery (TOP)
Researching solutions (MIDDLE)
Making purchasing decisions (BOTTOM)
1. Awareness and discovery (TOP)
This early in the customer journey, prospects are still identifying their challenge. They are asking questions and more aware of pain points (or symptoms) than they are the problem itself. At this stage they are looking for authoritative information.
They want content that will guide them through a topic – think blog posts, videos and guides.
2. Researching solutions (MIDDLE)
By now the prospect is a lead – they have a name and you probably know about the sort of organisation they work for and the position they hold.
Your named lead has by now named their problem. They are no longer just feeling it, but actively looking into solutions for it. The bird’s eye overview will not suffice – they need granular detail. They may not yet be comparing specific companies but they are looking to understand the range of options available for them.
The content that serves your leads best in this stage includes in-depth guides, comparison-style checklists, pros versus cons lists and case studies.
3. Making a purchase decision (BOTTOM)
At the bottom of your funnel your qualified lead already knows exactly what the problem is, has decided on what is the best solution for them and is ready to make a purchase.
Their questions and concerns here are provider-driven. It may be to do with specific benefits, support packages, payment options and so on.
The best content for the bottom of the funnel are frequently-asked-questions pages, service/product features videos, live demos and side-to-side comparisons with competitors.
What a sales funnel brings to the table
A defined sales funnel benefits both your prospects and your sales.
A sales funnel helps you deliver the right message at the right moment. It smooths the customer journey and avoids frustration.
A sales funnel enables sales and marketing alignment by ensuring you can understand the stage a customer is at and always deliver the best information.
A sales funnel creates trust and commitment. It helps you to create a meaningful bond early in the sales process and to build trust from day one.
A sales funnel measures your company’s future opportunities and forecasts the revenue that you will make in the months ahead.
A sales funnel ensures you save time by dismissing unqualified prospects and focusing on leads likely to convert.
A sales funnel helps you progress leads into next stages quicker. You come to understand the best tactics for moving prospects and leads on – and exactly when to apply them.
A sales funnel is the best way to concentrate on key metrics to drive efficiency. These include: number of deals in your funnel, average size of deal, close ratio and sales velocity.
How to fix a sales funnel that has got a hole in it, dear Henry
As with all things in life, the source of your greatest successes can also be the sources of your greatest frustration.
A broken sales funnel is one that leaks or has become clogged. You are losing leads, winning too few of them or they simply are not flowing through as you would expect.