You might be able to get by or fake it ‘til you make it in a sales meeting or with your elevator pitch. But if you don’t have a handle on your sales funnel, it won’t be long before you’re running short on sales conversions. So this is the sales roadmap you and your teams need to guide your efforts.
Winging it with sales might sustain you for a bit. But if you don’t have the knowledge or skills to back up your talk, well, let’s just say there are plenty of other people out there who do. And as soon as they figure out what you lack, they will be all over it like flies on honey… or shit.
You know the sales funnel is important. But you can’t begin to implement best practices, or sales funnel improvements if you don’t have a comprehensive understanding of what it is and how it works.
What Is the Sales Funnel?
Let’s start with the basics. Don’t get overwhelmed when you sit down to develop your sales funnel. It’s just a process where you track your progress in attracting potential customers throughout the different stages of the buying process. There are several factors that can determine how long it takes for someone to move through your sales funnel and these stages will be tailored to their needs. If you’ve been diligently following along in our blog series, you likely already completed this critical step when you first created your buyer personas and carved out your buyer’s journey. Now you need to transition this customer path into a timeline where you can assign sales steps for each phase along the way.
Meet Frank: Frank’s dry cleaning service is a big hit with individuals. But he needs to chart a course for selling to the offices and company clients, offering his pickup and delivery service for commercial dry-cleaning accounts. Some of his potential corporate clients are hard to reach. Other offices have strict bidding processes for new company vendors. What he needs to do is develop a sales funnel to provide clarity to his efforts and help him stay on point with selling to those various commercial entities.
What Makes a Sales Funnel So Important?
You might be wondering why you really need a sales funnel, especially if you already have your buyer’s journey laid out in detail. But the funnel is where you assign actions to each stage, dictating for yourself and anyone else who sells for your company, what your to-do steps are. And you can then manage your sales progress.
Understanding your funnel can also assist you in locating the holes in your funnel — those places where prospects abandon and never convert. You won’t be able to optimize your sales funnel if you don’t understand it. We’ll get into the nitty-gritty of how the funnel works shortly. For now, keep in mind that you have control over how visitors progress through the funnel and whether they convert as a result of your sales approach.
The Holy Grail Acronym for Any Successful Sales Strategy
If you started your business with a little sales experience under your belt already, you might not be too stressed out about creating the sales to-do list. But many business owners venture into entrepreneurship with a passion for their business and not so much the sales side of things. Regardless of your comfort level with sales, here is a framework to help get you started.
It could just be the absolute holy grail of acronyms to add to your memory bank.
A – I- D – A
AIDA is a marketing technique that can be used in many different ways. The most common use of AIDA is to increase the awareness of your product or service and then convert that audience into paying customers. It’s essential for any business to understand how this process works so they can optimize their sales funnel and get more people through it. We will go over what each step means, as well as how you can use it in your own business for the sales process.
Attention: The very first stage of the sales funnel is understanding what your customer wants and needs – this is usually done with outreach and research.
Interest: The second stage is using this information to create a proposal or solution set – this is done by defining and refining who they are and what they want.
Desire: The third stage is presenting them with the proposal – this often happens when meeting one-on-one or in groups, face-to-face or remotely, over the phone or via video chat.
Action: This is the stage of your sales effort that turns a prospect into a converted buyer. Your target becomes inspired to make the purchasing decision, primarily because of how well you executed the earlier engagement steps in the process.
Refer Back to Your Buyer Personas & the Buyer’s Cycle
You need to understand how your audience behaves so you can then speak to their pain points intelligently. Know how they make decisions by using your buyer personas, so when you do engage, everything you say or do is relevant to their preferences. The more you know about your potential buyers, the more effective your sales funnel essentially becomes. You’re not going to sell to everyone, remember. You’re only selling to those who are a good fit for what you offer. So, you’ll rely on those previously developed buyer personas and buyer’s cycles in developing your funnel, especially to identify who those limited audience targets really are.
Leverage Every Sales Tool that Makes Sense
Look at each phase of the sales funnel and you can predict just what a potential customer needs to hear or see to move to the next stage. For example, don’t try to sell windows to a guy who rents. Likewise, don’t try to sell an extended car warranty to someone who’s driving a ten-year-old beater. Instead, get smart about the tools you have and use them when they make the most sense.
Ask yourself, which of these sales-related mechanisms are most applicable to a buyer who just now has become aware of your business? Showing interest? Ready to make a decision? Taking action?
Your Sales Story: How can your story move your potential buyer into the next phase of the funnel?
Social Media: How can your company social media answer FAQs or engage for prospect feedback?
Email: Are you using your email to send new promotions or follow up with prospects?
Proactive Phone Calls: Are you making the necessary phone calls to schedule prospect appointments?
Case Studies: Can you be leveraging your greatest case study success stories to convince others?
Samples & Demos: Are you allowing prospects to sample your offerings or view your solutions as demos?
Networking: Are you leveraging every networking opportunity to drum up new leads and referrals?
Probing Questions: Are you asking prospects those probing questions to identify pain points?
Digital Marketing Outreach: Are you leveraging every digital outreach channel to bring awareness to your product or service?
Printed Sales Collateral: Can you be leaving behind printed collateral that reiterates your sales pitch?
Trade Shows: Can you be attending trade shows to sell to a captive prospect audience?
Team Selling: Can you be team selling to bring different faces to your story during the sales process?
Consultative Selling: Are you consultative selling your offering as a customer solution?
Proposals & Presentations: Are you structuring professional proposals and presentations to impress, educate and convince prospects to opt-in?
Facility Tours: Are you asking for facility tours to better familiarize yourself with your prospects’ needs?
Special Offers: Are you offering special promotions when they uniquely apply to prospects in your funnel?
Ultimately, you’ll want to take stock in the sales tools you have and make sure you’re effectively using them when they are each most applicable to your prospects in the funnel. In a way, it’s like heading into battle with your fighter jet loaded with weapons. And if you don’t use those weapons correctly or at all, then you won’t complete your mission.
Meet Abby: Abby’s pizzeria needs to put together some sales collateral to help sell corporate lunch service and office catering. She knows that social media is an excellent way for her to attract the local families for pizza night. But these business customers need a different sales approach altogether. So she carefully sifts through the various engagement channels at her disposal and decides free samples, printed collateral and team selling are great ways to introduce her delicious pizzas to the business community.
Sales Funnels Are Great for Accountability, Prospecting & Forecasting
Diets sometimes fail because it’s easy to cheat with a candy bar when no one’s around to catch you. Diets work best when there are others involved to help maintain your accountability, keep you focused on the goal and predict what steps you still need to take to get there.
Your sales funnel acts like those diet pals. It charts the path of success from cold prospect to buying customer, taking the guesswork out of how to get there. It can tell you exactly where you failed or what step you missed if you rushed ahead. And it can help you forecast potential sales to keep you on target.
Step-by-Step Actions to Build Your Sales Funnel
If you don’t have a sales funnel now, here are the actionable steps to take to help get a framework started.
Analyze Your Customer Behavior
What do your potential buyers do when they need your product or service? Do they research first or ask their social media connections for recommendations? Are they driven by pricing, or do they care more about overall value? Where do they click? When do they scroll online? How much time is spent browsing through each page of your website? All of this information will assist you in developing a better sales funnel because it will tell you where they are and what they need from you.
Capture Your Audience’s Attention
The only way your sales funnel will work is if potential consumers are lured into it. This implies that you must expose your content to the people you wish to reach. Take the organic method and post a lot of material on all of your platforms. Diversify with infographics, videos and other kinds of content. Go where your prospects are and provide the details that they need using the channels that they prefer.
Create Accessible Entry Points
Whether you design online landing pages or print tri-fold brochures, share your company offering in places that your prospects can find and reference them. Entry points in the sales funnel consist of messages that encourage potential customers to take that first step into learning more, exploring further or seeking answers. Calls to action here, for example, might be “click here to learn more” or “explore our services.” You’re not asking for the sale. Instead, you’re asking a now-aware buyer to opt-in to your sales funnel. This is a great time to point to case studies or offer a sample and demo.
Keep Them Moving Through Your Sales Funnel
Once potential buyers become aware of your company offerings, they’re officially on your radar. Now you have to manage every step of engagement that will walk them through to taking the next steps. Remember AIDA and devise messages and sales outreach that inspires interest, creates a desire and prompts buyers to take action. These steps, of course, will vary depending on the nature of your business. You might have ten steps, and another sales funnel might only have five steps. Know every step of the process and develop a sales strategy for each.
Follow-up Strategies at Every Step
If a potential buyer doesn’t take the next step, you don’t just stop talking to them, right? Develop a sales funnel strategy that addresses everyone who doesn’t opt-in or essentially drops off the radar. This follow-up plan should include a timeline, like email check-ins at 30 days of no action or a phone call the week after your prospect goes radio silent. Whatever your buyer’s cycle is, outline to-do steps for each follow-up attempt to prevent potential prospects from falling off of your sales funnel altogether.
Every business needs a sales funnel. But not every business uses the same sales strategy to leverage those funnels. In the next segment, we’ll talk about some of the results-driven sales strategies company leaders are using right now to close more deals. And if you still need help developing the most effective sales funnel right now, let Awareness Business Group help!