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  • Writer's pictureMatt Atkinson

What is a Sales Funnel

A sales funnel describes and depicts the journey from marketing through to sale and renewal. The funnel starts with reach, how many people you can market your product or service to, this is the widest part of the funnel. The narrowest part of the funnel will then be based on how many of these people you can keep following down the funnel and eventually convert into a sale.

The Sales Funnel

  1. Creating Awareness

  2. Marketing Qualified Lead

  3. Sales Qualified Lead

  4. Sales & Discovery Calls

  5. Pitch & Consideration

  6. Renewals

Sales Funnel: Creating Awareness

Creating Awareness as a Sales Professional

Creating awareness is a requirement for both your sales and marketing departments. In sales, there's really only one way to do this... Prospecting. Most sales professionals hate picking up the phone, but if done correctly, it can be one of the greatest channels to get in front of the right people and create awareness of your business. Many sales professionals have also made use of channels such as LinkedIn to connect with prospecting targets.

Creating Awareness through Marketing

Marketing has a greater task when it comes to creating awareness for your business, service or product. There are many channels available for your marketing department to explore and while attribution can be difficult to measure, your marketing efforts should be looking to produce the best Return on Investment (RIO) for both the money and also importantly the time invested. Here are some of the avenues available for creating awareness:

  1. Website. Ensure you have an up-to-date website, focusing on functionality and performance. While it is important that your website looks good from a design perspective to draw in visitors, websites that aren't functioning correctly or loading slowly will have an incredibly high bounce rate.

  2. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Having an all-singing, all-dancing website is one thing, but what is the point if no one can find it on Google? Optimising your website to appear higher on the Search Engine Ranking Page helps gain more traffic and visibility. You can do this by ensuring you have Meta Titles and Tags on your website and that your content itself is targeting your desired keywords. You will also need to build backlinks and ensure your content is relative to build domain authority over time.

  3. Video Content. Video content is a great way of producing shareable content. YouTube is no longer just a video streaming platform, it's now considered to be the 2nd largest search engine behind the industry leader, Google. When producing video content you should ensure it is educational and information that people will find easy to share with friends, family, colleagues or someone within their network.

  4. Organic Social Posting. Organic social media posting is a great way of growing an audience. Be wary that to gain favour with the almighty algorithm you must post frequently and more importantly, consistently for your chosen platform to promote your posts. Avoid posts which are solely for advertising your products or services - your audience will struggle to share this type of content - instead create engaging posts, talking points and educational content surrounding your business and industry.

  5. Pay-Per-Click Advertising. At this point, it is nearly as old as time in internet terms, pay-per-click advertising is the equivalent of paying to jump the queue at a theme park straight to the front. Pay-per-click will allow you to bid on keywords or search terms to appear at the top of Google's search results.

  6. Paid Social Advertising. The best analogy I have come across for Paid social media advertising is it is the equivalent of an estate agent's billboard outside of a house for sale. You are posting your billboard on social media in the hope that it will be seen by someone that needs or wants the product and service you are advertising.

  7. Guest Blogging & Posting. Getting featured in an article or guest posting on blogs is a great way to get in front of another business's audience. A lot of the time this can be done for free, with it just taking time to seek out posting opportunities. Guest posting or being featured in an article is also a great way to build your backlinking network, helping your SEO.

  8. Create an Online Community. You can build an audience via an online community such as a forum or online webinar series. The content you put out into the community must be educational and engaging to ensure you can keep the community interested enough to come back and contribute themselves.

Sales Funnel: Marketing Qualified Lead

So the initial stage of your sales funnel has created a lead, what next? Well, you need to find out whether this is a legitimate selling opportunity. If the lead shows some interest but isn't a sales-qualified lead you don't want your sales team to spend too much time nurturing what in all likelihood won't be a sale.

So should you just throw the lead away? No, you should still keep that lead in your database and continue to market to them until they are ready to go ahead. Often this will be down to the prospect needing your service, but for whatever reason, it isn't the right time for them to move ahead with the purchase or they don't currently have the budget.

Sales Funnel: Sales Qualified Lead

A lead has come in, it's red hot - it is a readymade sale. You know it, I know it, but Geoff has just marked it as marketing qualified lead and isn't planning on spending too much time nurturing this one. This is something that happens all too often in sales, spending too much time on the wrong leads and not enough time on the right ones. Lots of sales professionals are all too happy to find someone who will listen to them waffle.

So the next time Geoff gets a lead what do his questions need to identify during the initial conversations with the prospect? In my opinion, qualifying a sale can be broken into four elements, each one as important as the last:

  • Need. If the prospect does not have a need or at least a want/desire to have your product or service then it's not a sale, many sales professionals with the gift of the gab will brush straight past this one if they are able to talk people into products. However, I've got news for those people, if they do talk a prospect into a service or product they don't need or want buyer's remorse is going to kick in quickly after the purchase.

  • Budget. For some unknown reason, some sales professionals avoid talking about the budget until the last possible moment. The budget should be one of the first things on the agenda. There is nothing worse than spending a month nurturing a lead, demonstrating services and products, and drawing up proposals and contracts, only to find out the budget was never there to begin with.

  • Authority. You need to be engaged with a decision-maker when making a sale. Ask the question, is there anyone who can veto this decision? If the answer is yes, you're not speaking to the correct person.

  • Motivation. The last qualifier surrounds motivation and urgency - is now the right time for them to purchase? You can identify whether now is the right time for the prospect to move forward by asking questions such as 'what impact do you think this has had on your business in the last 6 months?' or 'what would change in your business over the next 6 months if you went ahead with the purchase?'. These types of questions and the prospect's answers will give you a good indication if they will follow through with a purchase.

Sales Funnel: Sales & Discovery Calls

Questions, questions, questions! While you don't want to make the prospect feel like they are on trial fact-finding during this stage of the sales funnel is arguably the most crucial step. The purpose of a discovery call is to identify customer needs and determine if the product or service being sold is a good fit for the customer. The discovery call is an important step in the sales process, as it helps the salesperson to determine whether the customer is a good fit for the product or service, and if so, what specific needs the customer has that can be addressed by the product or service.

Sales Funnel: Pitch & Consideration

The pitch is the salesperson's presentation of the product or service to the customer. The consideration step is when the customer evaluates the product or service and decides whether or not to make a purchase. At this stage, the salesperson should provide the customer with all relevant information about the product or service, such as price, features, benefits, etc. to help them make an informed decision.

Sales Funnel: Renewals

If you are a Software as a Service (SaaS) or recurring revenue business, you will need to factor renewals into your sales funnel. Having a strategy to ensure customers keep renewing with you at the end of their term will play a deciding factor in whether your business grows or hits a plateau.

If customers aren't renewing their subscriptions or contracts, your business will inevitably be chasing sales to replace the lost revenue. Customer Acquisition Costs will then continually eat away at the margin available on your products or services.


Need help with your sales process? Get in touch today for a no-obligation consultation.

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