A sales funnel is one of the most effective ways to generate predictable sales revenue. Yet, it is one of the most overlooked tools among smaller businesses. By crafting a sales pipeline, you’ll have an automated engine to attract traffic, convert leads, and close sales. Above all, a sales funnel is one of the best ways to create predictable revenue. In this guide, we’ll show you how a sales & marketing funnel works, provide some practical tips for creating content at each sales funnel stage, and get you started with a basic sales funnel template.

Sales Funnel Stages

Is a sales funnel necessary?

Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to understand why a sales funnel is necessary in the first place.

Every business needs sales. In order to generate sales, you need qualified leads. To earn leads, you need prospects. To attract prospects, you need traffic. Ultimately, there are a ton of moving parts in this process. If you’re not carefully managing each of these parts, your prospects can lose interest and leave.

You simply don’t have the time to personally connect with each prospect. Nor should you attempt to do so. 73% of your leads are not ready to be sold to. Therefore you should only devote your precious time to those leads that are ready to buy. Does that mean you can ignore those leads that are not yet ready? Absolutely not! Companies who properly nurture their leads see a 450% increase in qualified prospects. Those who take the time to nurture and grow those customer relationships, see 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost.

This begs the question, how do you know which leads are ready to buy? How do you make sure that all of your leads are moving closer to a sales-ready state without having to personally answer their questions and concerns? How do you grow your business without sacrificing your ability to nurture each lead? If you are asking any of these questions, you need a sales funnel.

A sales funnel for modern business

A sales funnel is a system to turn strangers into customers. Regardless of your industry, you need customers.

A sales funnel is a way for you to align your sales and marketing to the stages your prospect goes through as they become aware of a problem, consider their options, and decide on a solution. At each of these stages, you’ll need to answer common questions and concerns with marketing automation. In doing so, you’ll gain their trust and nurture them closer to a sales-ready state. In fact, lead nurturing emails get 4-10 times better response rate than standalone email blasts.

A modern sales funnel is primarily powered by your website and sales funnel software. Once built, the funnel is an automated sales engine that works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. From there, your time is primarily spent loading the top of the funnel with visitors, optimizing funnel systems, and closing customers at the bottom of the funnel.

Funnel stages mirror the purchase process

Modern psychology has shown that the human brain makes purchase decisions in a fairly predictable pattern. At each stage of the buyer’s journey, your prospect is attempting to check off a set of boxes. If it can’t check off a box, the prospect won’t progress to the next stage. By segmenting the sales funnel into these stages, it allows you to resolve your prospect’s current objections as they arise – not too soon and not too late.

The 3 major sales funnel stages

  • The Awareness Stage: During the awareness stage, a person becomes aware of a problem or opportunity. This the top of the funnel.
  • The Consideration Stage: During the consideration stage, a person considers the range of options that could solve their problem or opportunity. This is the middle of the funnel.
  • The Decision Stage: During the decision stage, a person decides on the one best solution to their problem or opportunity. This is the bottom of the funnel

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Awareness Stage

At the top of the sales funnel is the awareness stage. During the awareness stage, a person is becoming aware of a problem. At this stage, they are primarily focused on understanding and giving a name to their problem. Depending on your particular industry, it might not be a problem so much as an opportunity that a person is facing. In either case, they are not yet ready to hear about your product. Your role during the awareness stage is to get them into the top of the funnel by helping them find answers to their most pressing questions.

Awareness stage content formats

  • eBooks
  • Tip sheets
  • Whitepapers
  • How-to videos
  • Overview reports
  • Infographics

Awareness stage sales funnel template

Step 1: Attract visitors to awareness content

  • Plan a content calendar of blog topics based on awareness stage questions.
  • Publish 1 blog article per week that answers common awareness stage questions.
  • Promote blog articles on social media, leverage industry influencers, and guest post to amplify your reach.

Step 2: Convert visitors into prospects

  • Direct blog readers to a call to action at the bottom of every blog article that promotes a free premium content offer that answers awareness stage questions in detail.
  • The call to action leads to a landing page that describes and promotes a premium content offer. The landing page will include a photo of the content offer and a form.
  • The form asks for name and email. Place this form on the landing page. A visitor must submit the form to access the free content offer.
  • When the visitor submits the form, they are automatically added to your CRM as a “Prospect”. They are also sent to a “Thank you” page to download the offer.
  • The premium content offer is a resource that answers the persona’s most pressing awareness stage questions.

Step 3: Nurture prospects toward the consideration stage

  • The prospect is then enrolled in an automated email “drip system” workflow. The goal of the email workflow is to nurture the prospect through the awareness stage.
  • The workflow persists until either the prospect enters the consideration stage or becomes unresponsive.
  • Continue engaging prospect with awareness stage blog posts, social media, and email workflows until they enter the consideration stage.

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Consideration Stage

In the middle of the sales funnel is the consideration stage. During the consideration stage, a prospect has clearly defined and given a name to their problem. They are now actively researching all of the available strategies to solve their problem. Most prospects will use the Internet to better understand how other people have solved this same problem. Therefore, your website needs high quality consideration stage content to help nurture your prospects deeper into your digital sales funnel.

Consideration stage content formats

  • Buying guides
  • Case studies
  • Data sheets
  • Product comparisons
  • Pricing guides
  • Testimonials
  • ROI calculators

Consideration stage sales funnel template

Step 1: Engage prospects with consideration stage content

  • Plan a content calendar of blog topics based on consideration stage questions.
  • Publish 1 blog article per week that answers common consideration stage questions.
  • Promote blog articles on social media, leverage industry influencers, and guest post to amplify reach.

Step 2: Convert prospects into leads

  • Direct prospects to a call to action at the bottom of article that promotes a free premium content offer answering consideration stage questions.
  • The call to action leads to a landing page that describes and promotes a premium content offer. The landing page includes a photo of the content offer and a form.
  • The form asks for name, email, and 1 or 2 marketing-qualification questions. Place this form on the landing page.
  • When the visitor submits the form, they are automatically added to CRM as a “Lead”. They are sent to a “Thank You” page to download the offer.
  • The consideration stage content offer is a resource that helps the lead understand which solution is right for them.

Step 3: Nurture leads toward the decision stage

  • The lead is enrolled in an automated email “drip system” workflow. The goal of the email workflow is to nurture the lead through the consideration stage.
  • The workflow persists until either the lead enters the decision stage or becomes unresponsive.
  • Continue engaging lead with consideration stage blog posts, social media, and email workflows until they enter the decision stage.

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Decision Stage

A the bottom of the funnel is the decision stage. At this stage, a prospect has decided on an strategy that they believe will solve their problem. They are compiling a long list of all available products in their solution strategy. They could also be researching to whittle the long list down to a short list and ultimately make a final purchase decision. The decision stage is the right time to introduce your product and establish “one on one” contact.

Decisions stage content formats

  • Free consultations
  • Free trials
  • Product demos
  • Strategy sessions
  • Customized estimates

Decision stage sales funnel template

Step 1: Engage leads with decision stage content

  • Direct prospects to a call to action that promotes a free premium decision stage content offer.
  • The call to action leads to a landing page that describes and promotes a premium content offer. The landing page will include a description of the offer and a form.
  • The form asks for name, email, and 1 or 2 sales-qualification questions.

Step 2: Convert leads into opportunities

  • When the visitor submits the form, they are automatically added to CRM as an “Opportunity”.
  • They are sent to a “Thank You” page to establish expectations for when the decision stage offer will be delivered.
  • Deliver the decision stage premium offer. This is often the first non-automated touchpoint. Depending on your industry, this could be a free strategy session or guided product trial.

Step 3: Close opportunities into customers

  • Schedule a “recommendations call” where you’ll gather more information and provide a clear presentation of the value your product or service offers.
  • Present pricing and ask for the sale
  • Finalize the sale with a contract
  • Define them as a customer in your CRM
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