In sales, there are two types of leads – nurtured leads, and non-nurtured leads. A company can nurture leads by engaging with them along every step of the buyer’s journey and gently nudge them closer to a sale. Any lead that doesn’t experience this engagement is considered a non-nurtured lead.
Does it matter whether you nurture your leads or not? Several studies suggest yes. According to one study, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases. And according to Forrester Research, businesses that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales, and at a 33% lower cost.
If you haven’t paid attention to your sales funnel yet, you’re not the only one. According to Salesforce, 68% of companies haven’t identified or attempted to measure their lead nurturing process. So, how can you start nurturing your leads and reaping these benefits? The answer lies in developing an efficient sales funnel.
What is a sales funnel?
A sales funnel is the journey through which your business steers its customers. It starts wide at the top, where you gather in a lot of prospects, and finishes small at the bottom, where a few become customers. Each stage of the sales funnel is designed to push prospects further down the bottom, until they ultimately come out the other end.
Whether you’ve paid attention to it or not, your business already has a sales funnel. You have a method for gathering leads, for pitching to them, and for closing the deals. The point of mapping out your sales funnel isn’t necessarily to create a sales process, but rather to optimize it. By paying attention to your sales funnel, you can find ways to improve it and spot the areas where you’re currently losing customers.
What are the stages of a sales funnel?
There are 3 main stages of the sales funnel: the top of the funnel, the middle, and the bottom. This graphic helps illustrates how a sales funnel works:
The top of the funnel consists of the Awareness stage. This is the part of your business where you simply make customers aware that you exist. The middle of the funnel is the Interest & Evaluation section, and the Desire section. Here is where you start evaluating your prospects and getting them interested. Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, you want them to take an Action. This action is typically becoming a customer, but your business may have a different goal in mind.
The sales funnel explained: How does a sales funnel work?
Let’s dig a little deeper into how each of these stages work, and how they interact with one another.
Stage 1: Awareness
First, we have the Awareness stage. At this point, you’re not doing any hard selling to your prospects. This stage is all about getting your name out there and catching the attention of potential customers.
There are many ways to do this, including:
- Creating helpful content as a part of an inbound marketing campaign
- Putting an ad in a local newspaper
- Sharing unique content on Facebook or Twitter
- Running a television commercial
This stage is all about increasing brand awareness. In some cases, you may find that the person you reached is ready to buy right there and then, but this isn’t your goal. Rather, you just want them to know about you so that they will keep you in mind down the road.
Stage 2: Interest
During this stage, customers are doing research to see which products might offer a solution to their problem. They’re comparison shopping, saving information to read later, and just generally thinking things over, as they’re not ready to buy yet. However, since you’ve made them aware of you, you’re on their list of businesses to consider.
At this point, you don’t want to push too hard. Instead, you should focus on being as helpful as possible and demonstrating your value.
To do this you could:
- List your qualifications on your website,
- Provide quick customer support options, such as a live chat feature,
- Show prominent companies who have used your product/service,
- Or have useful guides on your website, to demonstrate expertise and provide help
Stage 3: Decision
If you do this well, you’ll bring back plenty of prospects once they enter into the Decision stage. This is the phase when they are ready to make a purchase, and they’re going to decide between different options that they were considering. This is the critical stage, so you’ll want to look for ways that you can put your business on the top of their list. For example, you could give out a limited time discount code. The goal is making your offer impossible to pass, especially when compared against your competition.
Stage 4: Action
Finally, at the end of all this, your prospect takes the desired action – they become a customer. You gained their attention, didn’t push too hard when they were just considering their options, convinced them to go with you during the Decision stage, and now they’ve clicked the “Buy Now” button on your website. You successfully guided them through each stage of your sales funnel and generated a sale for your business.
However, you’re not done yet. Now that you’ve gotten this prospect through your sales funnel, you want to make sure they keep coming back. This is where you’ll want to focus on keeping your customer – ask for feedback, provide high-quality customer service, and always look for ways to improve your product or services.
How to build a sales funnel fast?
Now that you’ve seen how a properly functioning sales funnel works, you’re probably eager to get started. Luckily, it’s easy to build a sales funnel fast.
The first thing you’ll want to build are landing pages. A landing page is the first page your visitors will see after they click on your link someplace else. The goal of a landing page is to turn someone’s curiosity into a potential sale, and you do this by capturing their contact information. For example, let’s say someone reaches your site after performing a Google search. They’ve only just become aware of you, so you’re not looking to sell to them. However, on your landing page you offer to provide them with a free demo, all they need to do is sign up with their email address. If they sign up, you’ve now taken someone from the Awareness stage to the Interest stage.
Once you have a method for capturing leads, you need people to actually visit your website. The more traffic you drive to your site and its landing pages, the more leads you’ll gather. There are several ways to drive traffic to your site, but let’s focus on a few quick ones.
Start by making sure your website, including the landing page, is optimized for search engines. You want to appear as high as you can in search results because according to one study over 70% of user clicks go to the first page of search results. The keys to an optimized website are speed, keywords, and backlinks from other sites. You can learn more about getting started with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) here.
Next, become active on social media. Use your social media accounts to interact with other people within your niche, promote your products, services, and blog posts, and share other relevant articles that you find. Make the social media account for your business a must-follow within your industry.
Finally, if you have the resources available, run some paid advertisements online. Advertising on Google and on social media platforms is a great way to increase your brand’s visibility. With the tools that companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter provide you can easily target your exact niche and display ads that they’ll find relevant.
Start Contacting Your Leads
With a decent amount of traffic reaching your landing pages, it’s only a matter of time before you start generating new leads. This is when you’ll want to start contacting them, to get them from the Interest stage through the Decision stage, and hopefully inspire them to take action.
A great way to contact your leads is through an email marketing campaign. Email isn’t too intrusive, so you won’t scare your prospects away. With a drip-email campaign, you can send out a set of emails on a defined schedule that will guide your prospects closer to a sale.
For instance, your first email could simply be a welcome email that provides some basic information about your company or product. A few days later, you could send another email that provides some customer testimonials and additional information about your company. Finally, your third email focuses on making that hard sell, and could even include a discount code.
Another way to contact your leads is by having your Sales Development Reps (SDRs) call them. Your SDRs could gauge their level of interest and see if they’d be willing to schedule a meeting with an Account Executive. By having your SDRs make the initial phone call, rather than the Account Executive, they can determine the quality of the lead before passing it on.
However, you decide to contact your leads, remember that at this point you’re not looking to convince them just yet. Instead focus on providing more information, answering their questions, and walking them a little closer to the Decision stage.
Track and Improve Your Sales Funnel
If you do all the above, you should have a decent sales funnel in place. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. There are always things you can do to improve your sales process, and the only way you’ll discover what they are is if you’re tracking your progress.
Throughout your sales funnel you should track every piece of data you can. For example:
- How many people are visiting each landing page?
- What’s the most popular referral source for each page?
- What percentage of landing page visitors give you their contact information?
- Which emails have the highest open rate?
The more data you collect, the better decisions you can make. A great strategy to use here is split testing. Split testing (or A/B testing) is when you create two almost-identical versions of something and see which gets the better results. So, if you wanted to run a split test on your landing page, you could create two versions, but each one uses a different call to action. Then, when a new visitor arrives, they are randomly shown one of the two versions. After getting a large enough sample size, you can then see which CTA performed better.
You can run split tests on article titles, email links, calls to action, email subject lines, and much more. Use these tests to try out new things, see what works, and then make improvements.
What is an example of a good sales funnel?
A great example of an effective sales funnel comes from the company CoSchedule. CoSchedule is a tool that helps businesses manage their content calendar. Here’s how their sales funnel works.
First, they raise awareness through their social media channels. They use sites like Twitter and Facebook to provide valuable information regarding content and email marketing. Their posts contain links back to the site, but even if people don’t click them right away, these posts are still serving a purpose. They’re introducing themselves as a company that deals with content and email marketing, and showing that they can provide some value to their customers.
When someone does click the link, they are brought to helpful pages on the CoSchedule website. CoSchedule knows at this point the buyer is still in the Interest stage, and so their goal is to simply provide helpful information. CoSchedule even offers some free tools that visitors can take advantage of without having to pay for the entire product.
By this point, CoSchedule has raised awareness about their products and provided enough value to generate some interest. On these pages are lead capturing elements, and if their prospects fill them out, CoSchedule can then move them closer to the decision phase. One way they do this is through a free trial offer. Prospects can try out their product for 14 days without having to commit to anything.
After the free trial is over, the prospect reaches the Action phase. They can choose to either continue on with the product or decide that it isn’t right for them.
This sales funnel shows the importance of providing value to your prospects, while not pressuring them into a sale. At each step along the way, CoSchedule focuses on helping their prospects and trusts that their product is good enough to win them over in the end.
Increase Productivity with our Free Sales Pipeline Template
When you pay attention to your sales funnel, you have more control over how your customers behave. By learning about the stages of the sales funnel, and how to best approach each one, you can guide more visitors towards your desired action. Creating an efficient sales funnel isn’t something you can do overnight, but once you have a system in place, you should immediately start to see the benefits.
If you need some help getting started with your sales funnel, please use our free sales funnel Excel template found below.