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The Basics of Sales Funnel

Many clients and readers have always reached out to me trying to understand the concept of the sales funnel. It sounds complex and seems like a lot of technical work but we want to break it down with this article.

What is sales funnel?

Some call it purchase or purchasing funnel. Sales funnel is an illustrative representation of a customer’s journey towards the purchase of a good. Sales funnel gives you insights to be able to predict a customer once they come in contact with your lead.

A successful sales funnel will be able to retarget a customer even if he or she fells of the radar. For example, a customer may have ended up not making a purchase because the payment didn’t go through or because they changed their mind as a result of something; sales funnel gives you insight into the next action to take like giving them a discount, targeting an ad of a better product and so on.

When the customer eventually makes a purchase, the sales funnel can be said to have converted.

Every sales rep can develop sales funnels that are peculiar to there business model. What works for Firm A may never work for Firm B. While sales funnels may usually share some similar concepts their operations can be different.

Why Funnel?

You may be wondering why it is called a sales funnel, why not sales process or something else. Why funnel?

Just as the name indicates, a sales funnel is usually broad in the beginning but keeps narrowing down to specifics till it’s ending. Each level in the funnel leads to the next stage and breaks the processes down to specifics. Imagine a funnel that has filters in different layer for filtering out unwanted stones and allowing fine sands to pass through.

For example, a prospect visits an online store and search for shirts, a specific selection has been made and this means he has gotten down the funnel a bit. If he goes further to look at a specific brand of shirt and a specific design, he has gotten even much farther down the funnel.

Would there be a need to retarget this prospect again in the case that he ended up not making a purchase, you would obviously target him with the same product he has looked at or something similar while offering him a discount or whatever would make him reconsider buying. Depending on the options in your sales funnel, you may even show him other brands that are similar to what he wants.

How did the prospect come in contact with the website in the first place? You’ll usually see this on top of the funnel. The funnel can be wide enough to catch more prospects. The prospect may have come through the search engine, target ads, words of mouth, and so on. Using analytics you can monitor how your business is being discovered online.

The funnel also doesn’t lead every single person to the end of the process, it drops those who are not qualified for your offer so that you don’t waste resources targeting them.

For example, you have a product designed for young people who live in Lagos, Nigeria. Out of the millions of people around Nigeria, your sales funnel will filter them out remaining those who reside in Lagos, then your sales funnel will filter everyone out except young people. This process will continue till you get to those specific people your product has been designed for.

Your customer’s journey is divided into phases and these phases can be well suited from the top of the funnel down to the bottom. To make good sales utilizing sales funnel, you must be able to do the following

  • Create and deliver the right message that addresses the needs of your prospects. This could mean taking full control of how your business appears on the search engine, how your ads are shown, and the message they must pass across.
  • Predict sales processes and meet targets.


Preliminary Stage – Research Planning

Most sales rep skip this process but it is very important. Before starting out with the rest of the stages, you need to know who your target audience is, how and where you can attract them. We have discussed this extensively in our previous publications on brandseries. You also need to understand your own brand well and know what your core values are.

The reason it is important not just to know who your target audience is but to also know your brand well is that it will help you create a more compelling message that makes your prospect connect with you and build a relationship with you. Your core values and mission will tell your prospects why it is you they should buy from among other competitors.

First Stage – Awareness

Awareness is the top of the funnel because it is that stage where you work and improve the visibility of your business or brand. The essence of awareness isn’t just to make the product known but to also generate leads. In other words, awareness gives you more contacts. For some brands, they must target their product to specific kinds of people and for some other brands, they may want to reach as many people as possible.

It is like fishing in the sea and casting your net! Most fishers would catch not only one type of fish. The mistake a lot of people make at this stage is not knowing what to present to people. It is usually important that the first thing you show people is your brand.

You can focus on giving out solutions and some helpful resources. For example, if you sell bags and shoes, you may not necessarily need to throw bags and shoes to people’s faces, you can decide to write articles on how to make a better choice of shoes and bags for different occasions. Here are some ideas of what you can do at this stage.

  • Optimize your website for search engines.
  • Sponsor tweets and social media posts.
  • Create podcasts and video content.
  • Organize online free classes or webinars
  • Collaborate with content creators and External blogs with linkbacks.
  • Organize personal events including product reviews.

You need to know where your target audience is and meet them there. We discussed more of this previously. Less informative content will obviously result in lower conversions.

One very important thing you must not miss here is implementing something that will lead your prospects to the next stage. This may be a call to action button on your landing page, a newsletter sign up, account registration on your website, a social media following, and so on.

Stage Two – Consideration

The first stage can be said to have successfully converted once people have indicated interest in knowing more about your brand or products. You have converted your visitors into subscribers or followers as the case may be. These are people who have engaged with your ads and probably clicked on your links to know more. You need to bear in mind that interest doesn’t automatically show readiness to buy, it simply shows they are interested or inquisitive.

You need to be careful at this stage so as not to chase your prospects away. The target here is to develop a good relationship with your leads. How do you keep in touch? Here are some things to do:

  • Newsletters
  • Blog posts
  • Product ree trials or demo
  • Retargeted Ads
  • Automated Messaging

At this stage, you should be able to study and know what your prospects are reading or clicking or what content they engage most with. This way, you can correctly predict the solutions they are looking for. Don’t leave them hanging, always reach out when they want to make inquiries even if they don’t sound like they are ready to buy.

Most people may not interact the first time they see your ad or they may not sign up to your email list until the second or third time. Offering free trials or product demos and retargeting your ads to those who have interacted with your brand before will slowly but steadily lead to the next phase.

How you treat prospects when they weren’t ready to buy will determine if you’ll be their choice when they want to buy. If they ask you for more information about your product 10 times, answer them 10 times.

To make it easier, create a website page or Facebook post where frequently asked questions (FAQ) are addressed and when they ask, give them the link.

If you are tired of interacting with prospects, you are showing signs of a terrible sales rep.

Stage Three – Desire

The moment anyone makes it to this stage, congratulations as there are higher chances to make sales. The desire stage means that you’ve been able to win that person’s attention and they are likely to buy from you.

There is something holding them from making a purchase though. They have indicated an interest in your product but they haven’t decided if they are really going to buy or not. This means that they may still need to go through your various products to see your full options and know if you’ve got a product or service that truly meets their need and not just their need but their budget.

They may also be looking out to see if there are other persons that have used your services or products and what those persons are saying about it. Here are some things you need to implement on your sales platform whether it’s a website or social media so that you can sustain your prospect’s desire.

  • Customer Reviews
  • Product Page
  • Discounts / Coupons
  • Portfolios
  • Product Recommendations
  • Live Support
  • FAQ Page

With all the things listed above and more, your prospects can see your products from the eyes of those who have used it, the product page can offer more information on the product specification and pricing and there could be discount codes for new sign-ups!

When your prospect is checking out products, there can be other recommendations where you upsell or down-sell.

What does this mean? Upsell means you are recommending products that are higher in price probably because they have superior features and downsell means you are recommending a more affordable option for the product they had looked at. This way, even if they can’t afford the product they had in mind, they can decide to go for the cheaper option.

In some cases, depending on the kind of product or services you render, you may also offer free trials or demos. All you need at the moment is to earn the loyalty of your customers.

Stage Four – Action

This is the essence of all the stages we had discussed earlier. In fact, if at the end of everything your prospects don’t get to this stage, then you may need to review all the other stages to know where you have missed it.

However, this stage is not as straightforward as just making sales. If your entire intent is to make sales you may lose your customers after their purchase. The action stage should also be that stage where you keep educating your customers on how to use their newfound solution.

At this stage too, you can ask for feedback and reviews after a few days to know how their problems are being solved by the solutions you’ve brought to the table. This is also that time when you must ensure you respond to each of their complaints.

Another important thing you can do in this stage is to upsell a product. For example, if a prospect ends up buying a trouser, you can recommend a shirt that will match the trouser or you can upsell a bundle package with discounts. These bundle packages in the case of our example can be a pair of shoes, socks, a belt, and a shirt at a discounted rate.

Another way you could upsell is to make your recommendation before they checkout. For example, a prospect is about adding a shirt to cart and you recommend a bundle package instead which includes that same shirt, a trouser, pair of shoes, and a belt all at a discounted rate. Your prospect may prefer to purchase the bundle since it gives him better value.

Here are things you may want to implement:

  • Product Recommendation
  • Product Manual
  • Special customer-only contents
  • Product tutorials
  • Follow up Emails

Don’t spam your customers with emails and adverts so that it doesn’t turn them away. Only deliver meaningful content to them and keep in touch to know how they are using your products and if they would need any form of assistance. You can create a to-do list that reminds you of a schedule when you have to call your customer.

If you run a bigger firm and have a large customer base, you can automate some of these processes. You can also assign each of your customers to specific customer care.

Step Five – Re-targeting

To be able to retain your customers, this stage is very important. No brand will ever do well without the loyalty of customers and many times, if you are able to win the hearts of your customers they can always recommend your product or services to others.

When you are able to retain your customers it means your profit is likely to increase. One way to always retain your customers is by keeping in touch with them and creating content they can always engage with. Because they already bought your product doesn’t mean you should leave them hanging.

Many times, it is also important to turn your customers to affiliates by offering special discount and payments for anyone who refer another person to buy from you. You may need to implement the following on this stage

  • Retarget ads
  • Upsells
  • Email campaigns
  • Social media posts
  • Affiliate Links
  • Product usage hacks and tricks

As long as you keep in touch with your customers in a relevant way, you’ll certainly earn their loyalty.

Whatever you are implementing in your sales funnel, ensure it is something your audience truly wants and if something doesn’t seem right, you may need to make some slight adjustments on your implementations.

Let’s get your feedback on the comment section.

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