Sales isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it and nobody would have to worry about getting new business. But what’s the most effective and efficient way to make sales? Turns out, it’s the sales funnel… but what is a sales funnel - besides the answer to your lead generation woes?
In its simplest sense, one sales funnel definition is: the step-by-step sales and marketing process that identifies potential customers (aka. leads), qualifies them, and then converts them into customers. This conceptually simple flow can be expanded upon significantly. For example, you could re-engage lost leads or also upsell existing customers on new services. The potential benefit to digitizing this process with a customer relationship management system, also known as a CRM, is creating better intelligence around your sales process: e.g. why did one customer not buy, or what customers might be a good fit for a new offering?
Why the sales funnel works
There are many different approaches to advertising, marketing and sales. Plenty of people will tell you that the three concepts are separate from each other and should be handled as such, while many others will tell you that they all depend on one another for success, and that your company should treat them as an integrated system.
Sales and marketing departments have traditionally been in dispute for decades, with salespeople blaming marketers for failing to provide good leads, and marketers blaming salespeople for failing to close the leads they’ve been given. The sales funnel effectively closes that gap, helping marketers channel better, more engaged leads to sales people, and helping the salespeople to more easily and effectively close the deal.
It does this by taking all the potential leads and driving them through a qualification process, that weeds out the lookie-loos, casual visitors and semi-vaguely-not-really interested people. This helps your sales team save time, by reducing time spent to leads unlikely to buy. The result is that those reaching the final stages will be interested, engaged and ready to purchase, rather than leading the salesperson through endless cycles of information-gathering with low success.
How the sales funnel works
The sales funnel is typically a five-step sales process that provides you with several sales opportunity stages. While we will go into the five stages in more detail in next month’s post, here is a quick overview:
Stage 1: Awareness
This is where you build brand awareness and make potential leads aware of your existence and offering.
Stage 2: Interest/Investigation
In this stage, people who are interested in or in need of a product or solution like your spend more time finding out about you.
Stage 3: Decision
During this period, your potential customer is making decisions about whether to invest in your product or service, and whether to choose you as their provider.
Stage 4: Action
For one-off sales, this is the final stage, where the purchase is made.
Stage 5: Repurchase
The pinnacle of success, when customers are happy with your product or service, and come back for more.
There are some who say that there are actually seven sale pipeline stages, and that the extra two are Evaluation, immediately following Interest, and Re-evaluation, immediately following Action. During these evaluation stages, potential customer and potential repeat customers are comparing your product or service to competitors’ or simply judging the quality of your offering.
In our standard model of the sales cycle, we consider there to be six steps. In another article, we break those steps down in more detail and talk about the role of content marketing in the sales cycle. This is the secret, if you understand what moves your buyer from one stage of the funnel to the next, and if you’re able to set their buying criteria early, you can outsell your competition every time.
How have you been approaching your sales? Are you using the funnel approach, or are you still stuck in outdated methods? Leave a comment below.
Need some help creating and channeling your sales funnel? Get in touch and we’ll help you create second-to-none content marketing.