The concept of sales funnels might be deceptive. A true funnel is intended to catch and compress everything you throw at it, but not every prospect who hits the top of your sales funnel will become a buyer. There will undoubtedly be some spillage along the way.
That doesn’t imply you should settle for a trickle of conversions. Your company can create more leads at the top of the funnel and more deals at the bottom with the appropriate technique. The concept of sales funnels can feel misleading. A real funnel is designed to catch and condense everything you put into it, but not every prospect that enters the top of your sales funnel will come out the other end a customer. There’s bound to be some spillage along the way.
In order to fully answer the question “What is a sales funnel?”, we need to tackle the different steps of the funnel. While different organizations have their own ways of managing and naming the sales process and customer touchpoints, these are usually structured into three distinct stages.
Top of the sales funnel: Awareness and discovery
Early in their journey, your potential customers have a question or concern and are researching and learning about it, which is when they discover your business. Perhaps they received a cold call from a member of your team who was focused on prospecting, or maybe they found your site or contact information on their own.
At this stage, they’re still identifying their challenge. They have many questions as they’re trying to verbalize their problem and are looking for a trusted source of information. Here are some examples of questions they might have for specific industries:
- A customer support software. “Customer support industry benchmarks”
- A mattress store. “Why does my back hurt after sleeping?”
- An electricity provider. “Average electricity bill”
At the top of the sales funnel, your prospect wants to feel confident that your solution is the best answer to their problem. From a digital marketing perspective, prospective customers want easily accessible content that will guide them through the topics that matter to them, including blog posts, videos, and even quizzes. This is the part of the process called lead generation.
In this stage, your Untouched prospects turn into Contact made prospects. More precisely, they are now your Leads. It’s time for you, the sales rep, to ask relevant questions and qualify your lead to make sure they’re the right customers, which is what brings us to the next stage.
Middle of the sales funnel: Researching solutions
At this point, you’ve filtered your prospects and those still in the funnel should be “ideal customers.” Questions in the middle of the funnel are no longer generic, as your prospects have now named and defined their problem(s).
Using the same industries as in the previous section, these might be their questions:
- “How to provide good customer support over the phone?”
- “How to choose the best mattress for [condition]?”
- “How to break down an electricity bill?” or “How to choose an electricity provider?”
In the middle of the sales funnel, your lead is diving deeper into the specifics of the problem. At this point, they might not necessarily be evaluating solution providers such as specific companies and their products or services. Instead, they’re looking for the types of solutions available to them.
Read Also: Importance of Sales Funnel
In the first example, they have yet to decide if they will buy a software solution for in-house support teams or outsource support altogether. In the next example, they aren’t sure if they just need a mattress topper or if they should buy a new mattress.
As you get to talk to them and ask them questions to determine whether your offer is the right fit for their problem, your Leads become Qualified. The content that serves your leads best in this stage includes in-depth guides, comparison-style checklists and pros versus cons lists. These would make it easy for the decision-maker to move on to the decision stage.
Bottom of the sales funnel: Making an educated purchase decision
Finally, the bottom of your funnel is when your leads now know everything about their problem, the best type of solution for them and are ready to select the provider to purchase this solution from.
This is why their questions and concerns in this stage become vendor-driven and more specific, following the narrowing shape of a funnel’s bottom. So Their online searches, as well as their questions to you, might look something like this:
- “Does [provider 1] provide better support software features than [provider 2]?”
- “Who offers the longest and most complete warranty policy for mattresses?”
- “What are the electricity contract terms with [provider 1] versus [provider 2]?”
At this stage, long-tail SEO keywords can help lead users to information that enables them to make a decision that suits their exact needs, specific problems and budget.
The best content for the bottom of the funnel is frequently-asked-questions pages, videos about product features, live demos and side-to-side competitive feature analyses. These will reinforce their confidence in your offer as they keep seeing its fit for their specific problem.
This is when your qualified leads go through sales proposal and negotiation phases, after which you ideally win their business.
Sales Funnel Strategies With Examples
Let’s look at some sales funnel examples to further answer the question posed earlier: What is a sales funnel? They’ll show how a salesperson can guide the prospect from the moment they become a lead through to purchasing by understanding their key pain points and providing the right answers at the right time.
Example 1: Twilio
Twilio offers communication APIs, a service that developers can implement to embed voice calling and text messaging into a software application or a product. They know how important it is to communicate these specifics to their audience, and they’re really good at it.
- Twilio: Top of the funnel
Potential customers can easily find Twilio as their potential vendor when they search for a key term, “communication APIs,” for which Twilio ranks highly. Prospects can also find them on social media, through their blog or a self-paced game made for learning Twilio.
Once prospects see the fit for their needs, they can either create a free Twilio account or request to talk to a sales rep. Twilio even uses different call-to-action buttons to help guide prospects on where they want to go next.
The “Not ready yet? Talk to Sales” button tells prospects that they understand they may not be ready to buy yet, and are there to help simplify the process. When new users sign up, they either get a free account to start with (and eventually upgrade to a paid one), or they land in a sales rep’s inbox and wait to be contacted.
- Twilio: Middle of the funnel
Now that a website visitor has become a lead, the sales rep can leverage the information collected in the opt-in form, such as the company name, job title and the product that the lead is interested in, to drive a valuable sales conversation and ask the right questions.
- Twilio: Bottom of the funnel
Finally, the lead considers Twilio as their solution. However, they have questions about pricing, implementation and the return on their investment. This is where hyper-specific pages such as customer stories, in-depth documentation and use cases come in handy. The more relatable they are to the lead’s industry and scenario, the better.
If the sales rep can satisfactorily address questions and concerns at the bottom of the funnel, and convey the match between the lead’s problem and the solution, it’s highly likely they will convert the lead into a customer.
Example 2: Tricentis
Tricentis is a software testing tool with a suite of products that span across automation, integration, and optimization. They’re one of the most innovative tools for continuous software testing.
- Tricentis: Top of the funnel
Tricentis can easily be found when you search for a software testing tool. SEO-wise, they actually rank highly for related keyword terms. Because of this, they can easily build awareness with their target audience.
Potential customers who land on their website can get in touch with the company in several ways, either by requesting a demo or starting a free trial (top right) or having someone contact them (menu bar).
- Tricentis: Middle of the funnel
Once again, a sales rep has plenty of information about the lead, such as their job title and company name. This is a great foundation for starting a qualifying sales conversation. Furthermore, Tricentis has a huge resource library, which means that it can nurture its sales leads by sending incredibly specific content for the challenges its lead is facing.
Whether prospects require more information in the form of info packs, video demos or in-depth guides, a Tricentis salesperson can easily provide them with what they need and move them further down the funnel.
- Tricentis: Bottom of the funnel
When it’s time to make a purchase decision, Tricentis leads need more information and reassurance that the product is the right way to go.
This is where Tricentis sales reps can direct the lead toward their ROI calculator, their customer success stories and even perks like their Tosca Community. By matching their prospect’s needs and requirements, and by ensuring good customer service, they can easily win over highly qualified prospects.
Example 3: Anchor Fabrication
Our final example isn’t a software, app, or SaaS product, but a contract metal fabrication partner called Anchor Fabrication. You’ll find them at the top of the search results for “anchor fabrication” as they’ve optimized their website for those looking for metal fabrication contractors.
- Anchor Fabrication: Top of the funnel
Once they attract their target visitors, Anchor Fabrication makes the most out of each page to draw them further into the website and get them to take action that will turn them into a lead.
Not only do they reinforce the message of client-centered manufacturing with their certifications and the “Why fabricate with us” explanation, but they also offer invaluable resources for a range of issues their potential first-time customers may be facing. These user-centric features play the role of a lead magnet.
For example, right on the homepage, you can watch a video on the benefits of manufacturing outsourcing, get two free guides, as well as contact sales. These might be considered a lot for a homepage, but they’re able to showcase how good they are at what they do and they hit right where key customer problems are.
- Anchor Fabrication: Middle of the funnel
As you know by now, a sales manager or sales rep’s priority in the middle of the funnel is to qualify the lead as in-depth as possible. They do this by positioning themselves as experts and offering guidance the lead needs to build rapport.
Anchor Fabrication has built a comprehensive resource library for this exact purpose, which they can use to go beyond just answering the questions from their leads.
As sales reps answer their lead’s questions and build up Anchor Fabrication’s services as a possible solution, they can also spark new questions and get the lead to naturally progress deeper into the customer journey.
- Anchor Fabrication: Bottom of the funnel
Finally, the lead will want to know if Anchor Fabrication is the best and most reliable option to go for. This is where the sales rep can go through industry-specific case studies, their strategy in handling specific-use cases, the expected results, and the associated timelines.
Whether it’s about breaking down costs, the time that will be saved, or successful past projects, their salespeople can gauge which information will help push the prospect to sign up for their services. Thanks to the detailed descriptions of the services they offer and the industries they serve, they can do exactly that.
These examples show how sales and marketing work in perfect harmony to attract, nurture, and impact the decision-making process of a potential customer. Applying these insights would need taking a deeper look into your marketing funnel, meaning this is where you can see how well it aligns with your sales process.