Have you ever stood at a luggage carousel helplessly waiting for your suitcase when one oddly-shaped piece of baggage has obstructed the rest of the luggage from emerging? The problem is usually resolved when an airline employee or some designated luggage carousel “fixer” from the airport comes along and gets the obstructing piece of luggage out of the way.
A sales funnel can similarly help you to identify and eliminate the factors that obstruct your sales prospects from becoming customers. It does so by giving you visibility into where leads are falling off or where you are losing them.
So what exactly is a sales funnel?
A sales funnel is essentially a diagram that offers a visual representation of your sales process. You basically draw up an inverted pyramid with all the leads that you touch base with at the top and the ones that turn into paying customers at the bottom.
A potential customer who chances upon your LinkedIn post or an advert, or clicks on an email marketing CTA will be placed at the wide top of the funnel. Leads that power through all the way down to making a purchase stand at the narrow bottom of the funnel.
Sales funnels enable sales process optimization because you tend to improve your moves based on where you’re seeing customers drop off. For example, maybe the sales team is fantastic at lead generation, but there is a competitor who is pricing far below to take market share, resulting in potential customers dropping off when the price discussion begins. Or maybe website visitors are having a hard time navigating the homepage or the landing page after a recent site revamp - resulting in you losing new leads even though they are interested.
In situations like this, a sales funnel gives you the visibility needed to avoid losing leads. Ready to try it out? You can get started by structuring your own sales funnel. Let’s start by looking at the various stages of a sales funnel, along with which one would best suit your business.
Sales funnel examples on the basis of structure
A sales funnel may have four stages or six stages.
4-stage sales funnel
As the name suggests, at this stage of the funnel, the sales prospect hears about your product and its benefits for the first time. This might happen because they saw an advertisement or interacted with the product thanks to a peer purchasing your product (or through a referral), or maybe they chanced upon your website.
Sometimes referred to as the discovery stage, this second portion of the sales funnel is typically when the prospective customer will gather more information (because now you’ve captured their interest).
An efficient sales rep will capitalize on this interest and get information about the prospective customer’s needs or the gap that the product is supposed to fill.
This can be quite a challenging stage because you’re so close and yet so far. The potential customer will evaluate the product against its price (they’re asking themselves if it is worth it) and will also measure it up against competing products or services. This is when questions around prices and discounts, payment flexibility, and “what else can you throw in” will pop up.
If your product or service is priced at a premium, your sales prospect might ask you to justify the higher price tag before they make a purchasing decision or might simply tell you to match a more competitive offer that one of your peers has put on the table.
This is when you’ll use freebies, add-ons, and value adds to entice the customer and draw their attention away from the price. A lot of salespeople also swear by customer testimonials and case studies to keep the lead focused on the value proposition rather than the price. You want to spin that buying decision in your favor.
You’re in for the win! Lots of salespeople will tell you that this is precisely why they’re in sales: for the adrenaline rush that they get when the sale goes through, and they have a new customer to their name.
Like scoring a goal!
Or shooting a basket.
Like winning a race.
Or catching stuff before your cat manages to swipe it off the table.
But while you’re riding that high, don’t forget to make the purchase process completely smooth. Lots of salespeople - even today - forget that they might need to approach this customer again in a few months. They hand them over to customer care (who might not care very much) or to some onboarding department that might not identify with the blood and sweat you’ve put into bagging the sale.
Stay in touch with your prospect-turned-customer and jump to the rescue if they face any roadblocks in product or service delivery. This caveat about the purchase stage is why some sales teams prefer to use the six-step funnel.
6-stage sales funnel
In this avatar, you have two additional sales funnel stages, namely an intent stage between evaluation and purchase and a loyalty stage after the purchase stage of the funnel.
- The intent stage of the funnel - or stage 4 - is very pertinent in today’s context, where the whole world is migrating to software. During the intent stage, leads are fairly certain that they intend to make a purchase. They want to test your product or service to be sure that it is all they hope for. You might also call this the free demo stage.
- The loyalty stage of the funnel, which is stage 6, is the stage where you remain in the prospect’s network. You might want to add them on LinkedIn and like relevant posts every now and then (don’t stalk them either - you don’t want to set off their creep radar accidentally.)
You must ensure that paying customers get all the assistance they need at all times and offer value adds where possible. Companies try to stay in touch and remain valuable to customers by sending out newsletters that offer best practices or by inviting their customers to webinars. They might share white papers, cheat sheets, or statistical data. Sales reps can enable this by ensuring that the correct contact information is passed on to relevant teams. Staying in touch with paying customers - especially on a platform like LinkedIn, helps you track their professional movements and update their contact information. (It's not a bad conversation starter either - it's easy to re-start a conversation with a lead saying, “How’s your new role treating you?”)
Whether you use the 4-stage or 6-stage sales funnel template you need to put customer volume or numbers at each phase so that at any point, you can see where the maximum drop-offs are (or where drop-offs are suddenly increasing). Once you see where the problem is you move to fix it.
While we’re delving deep into the concept of sales funnels as a means to better conversions, it is also important to consider some related concepts just to cover all your bases.
- The sales flywheel is similar to the 6-stage sales funnel where the prospect-turned-paying customer is always a prospect. The point is to increase the sales team's focus on retargeting, upselling, and customer loyalty and retention.
- The marketing funnel is similar to the sales funnel and consists of awareness, opinion, consideration, preference, and purchase. A marketing funnel uses a slightly different set of names for the stages but is essentially the same and is to marketing teams what sales funnels are to sales teams.
- Sales pipeline is the process or roadmap that your sales process follows. It is more like the sales funnel without the prospect volumes or the numbers of customers attached to it.
Sales funnel examples on the basis of process
You can also choose a suitable sales funnel from various popular examples that are differentiated from one another by the approach that they follow (although all follow the same 4-stage or 6-stage process overall).
Website-based sales funnel
In this type of sales funnel, you might draw prospects to your website in the interest stage and then convince them to push through the funnel by showing them your benefits and competitive pricing, maybe even customer testimonials.
Netflix is a good example of a brand that sells using a website-based sales funnel. Leads hear about Netflix from friends or adverts (awareness stage) and might visit the Netflix website (interest).
They might check out the pricing and what they get at different price bands in the evaluation stage.
They might check what competitors Amazon Prime and YouTube Premium have to offer during the evaluation stage (this is also part of the evaluation stage).
Many will opt for the free trial (intent).
Clearly, a lot of Netflix prospects go through the purchase phase since it is one of the most popular streaming platforms globally.
Netflix sends notifications like “New season of Locke & Key - coming soon” as you may have noticed, and you also get recommendations based on your watched history. That’s Netflix acing the loyalty stage of its sales funnel.
When to use this sales funnel: For this type of sales funnel to work, you might need search engine optimization, online advertisements, email marketing, or an existing reputation to begin with. E-commerce sites cannot afford to do without this type of sales funnel because they need to drive traffic to their websites.
Why it helps conversions: When you are getting results (and leads) through your SEO efforts, or when prospects come to you because they saw a peer using your product or service - you’re talking to people who are already interested. You are focussing your efforts on a more likely-to-convert audience that is either interested in or already likes your product.
Social selling sales funnel
In this sales funnel, you will use social proof to create awareness and interest, and usher leads through these two stages of the sales funnel in one go. Maybe you convince an existing customer or industry-specific influencer to post a testimonial or case study on LinkedIn if you are a B2B product. B2C brands might have an influencer post a picture using their product or service on Instagram or Facebook. Maybe, you can use TikTok if your audience is very young.
Social selling also includes creating a voice and identity for your company on business networking platforms like LinkedIn, finding leads, connecting with them, building familiarity (we talked about liking a few of their posts or comments) - and then touching base to talk about your product.
In the evaluation stage of a social selling funnel, users might visit your website, or they may read reviews about your product or service on third-party websites.
Upselling might look a little like what Amazon does when you choose an item: “customers who bought this, also bought XYZ”.
Maintaining loyalty and interest might mean continuing to target the lead-turned-customer with the kind of content that prompted the first purchase.
When to use this sales funnel: You need a decent follower-base on social platforms and a properly curated identity on social media before you can use this type of sales funnel. It helps when you need to build brand awareness.
Why it helps conversions: Like the website-based sales funnel, here too, your case is already made for you either by the influencer talking about your product or by the content that goes into creating your brand identity. Familiarity built by interactions with your brand or with you also helps lead the prospect to the shiny tip of the sales funnel.
Cold calling sales funnel
As much as some salespeople dread it, for a lot of products and services, you can’t completely eliminate cold calling from the mix even though social selling is becoming more and more popular.
This is the hardest sales funnel to study because it's all you. Drop-offs might mean that you aren’t getting something right. Thankfully, there are tools to help you. Let’s say you realize that you’re losing people right at the top. Maybe it's the way you’re going about the first call? You might be going in with the best of intentions, but perception is a powerful thing. A sales tool like Wingman lets you listen to your own call recordings so that you (or you and a mentor) can figure out how you can do better.
Wingman also gives you live in-call cues to help you ace your conversations with sales prospects. You also get a talk-to-listen ratio for all your calls. It's only natural to talk nineteen-to-the-dozen when you’re excited or enthusiastic and also when you’re nervous. That’s a very typical cocktail of human emotions linked to a sales call, so it would certainly help if there were someone telling you when to pause and let the prospect get their two cents in. There is someone. Your Wingman.
When to use this sales funnel: This sales funnel works at all stages of the business cycle. It's your best bet if you’re still creating a name for yourself or trying to get your brand recognized in the market.
Why it helps conversions: You can judge the prospect’s needs in real-time. You can also recalibrate your argument in favor of your product or service in response to any objections that the prospect might have right then and there.
Onsite sales funnel
This type of sales funnel plays out when you join an expo or a B2B exhibition. Picture this: there is a tech expo where companies are showcasing AI & ML, Saas, Networks, and another tech that corporations need.
You are there with your Saas solution, and you meet corporations who could derive value from your service (alongside your competitors doing the same). The awareness stage happens when they visit your stall. Hopefully, you manage to build interest with your presentation. Two stages down! Two birds with one stone.
It would be best if you could close a deal right then and there, or at least set a meeting for later. Evaluation - or at least some degree of it - is going to happen as your prospect visits other exhibitors who offer competing products and solutions.
You are able to direct your prospect to the intent stage in some cases because you might be able to let them try your product or service on the spot or offer them a demo of some sort.
When to use this sales funnel: This sales funnel can be part of other sales tactics - such as digital marketing and cold calling - that you might utilize.
Why it works: There’s nothing like a face-to-face chat and a touch-and-feel experience to convince a prospect that your product or service can fulfill their requirements. You also get new contacts for your email list.
Wingman helps you improve your sales funnel and, consequently, your conversion rate
Every sales team has its ace - the deal-cincher, the hero, the salesperson who can be relied on when the team is struggling to meet a target or when a prospect is being difficult.
Wingman lets you listen in on the sales star’s calls, break them down, and analyze them so that the whole team can benefit from their acumen.
Besides that, live on-call cues give the team the assistance it needs without eating into the precious time of the management team. When mentors and managers do want to get involved, pre-recorded, insight-based call recordings help them to help the team better. These call recordings also come in handy when you want to remember why the trail went cold with a specific prospect.
Wingman also provides you with crucial sales metrics such as talk : listen ratio and likelihood of conversion. These insights into your sales calls and deals can be a game-changer, because, let’s face it, who couldn’t use some help, right? And that too, when it is data-driven, and promises high conversion rates!
Go on and get those leads with whichever sales funnel example suits your present context. Improve your conversion rate with ease. Wingman has your back.