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Sales Funnel Stages, Definition, Process & Examples

When your industry focuses on the sales process, the end result is less of a pipe dream when the appropriate steps are taken. The system isn’t a pipe at all but a funnel. 

Conceptually, the sales funnel is intended for sales and marketing to filter traffic with prospective buyers or clients. However, when used incorrectly, the process can watch a legitimate sale circle down the drain. 

So why use a metaphor that’s been present in the sales industry for more than a century? Modernization in technology has come a long way with advancements in artificial intelligence and customer-relationship management (CRM), particularly in the vein of online sales. 

New innovations have only adapted to the process, which, in an ever-evolving landscape, is critical for business-to-business (B2B) and marketing teams working together to achieve the same desired result. 

The Sales Funnel

Traditionally, the sales funnel is an idealized representation of the ecosystem companies inhabit. It’s the space where they attempt to gain attention from prospects and convert them into actual customers. It’s also a method in which tracking of prospects is performed. 

For example, requesting an email when entering a retail website helps the brand know where the customer is in their sales funnel stage. To that point, they can access and guide the prospect through the funnel such that they can better align their marketing plan on a global scale, such as sales targets. 

It is fundamentally imperative to marketing and acts as a conduit for closing sales. This is why every business needs to utilize the sales funnel. At the very least, it will assist in generating sales leads. When pursued properly, those leads are ultimately converted to buyers. 

Sales Funnel for Business 

From the perspective of B2B industries, the sales funnel is a primary tool for raising brand awareness. Prospective customers nowhere near the funnel are introduced this way and are then determined to be qualified for participation. Awareness raises questions, which leads to interest and, ideally, a sale. 

Whether those paths be online or in-person, action-based steps are applied to discover what the customer needs and how the brand can solve the problem for that customer. 

It’s about tailoring the product or message to their needs and making it personal. There is no better way to introduce them into the funnel than awareness, and interaction is the way to open the door. 

The further down the funnel they go, the greater their awareness and desire balloons. This is the time in which you learn about the prospect’s interests and knowledge of your brand. You want to educate them while building excitement and working on impulse. If the timing isn’t right, the prospective customer loses impulse. 

The same goes for coming on too strongly with information, which can be interpreted as a facade for ulterior motives: i.e., there must be something in it for them that’s more important than what’s in it for me. Therefore, the process should be tread patiently and gently, moving the prospect through the funnel at their own pace while maintaining control of the sale. 

Studies show that nearly 80 percent of business buyers actively seek out salespeople capable of presenting themselves in a trustworthy light. Having extensive knowledge in the area, theirselling also makes the prospective customer feel safe. 

Working in Teams

Studies also show that sales and marketing teams that workin tandem are 24 percent more likely to grow over a three-year period, and 27 percent more likely to achieve growth in a three-year period. The most effective way to maintain a healthy working relationship between the two teams is to establish common language and terminology, shared programs, and a policy demonstrating service level agreement. 

Common ground such as these respective examples helps each team know where the customer is at in the funnel process. The consistent goal should be a mutual desire to keep the funnel active, actions that can circle back and affect the outcome of future campaigns. 

The Four Traditional Stages of the Sales Funnel

Awareness (The Widest Stage)

This is the stage when a prospect becomes aware of your brand and learns more about who you are, your background, and what you’re providing. 

More than likely, the customer is looking for something relevant to what you’re offering: answers, solutions, opinions, or data. Awareness leads to interest. 

Interest

This stage is when deeper inspection into the brand comes into play. If they’re using a website, the customer will likely be doing additional research about the brand, services, and products provided. 

Some of these customers will simply be “browsing,” while others have intent to buy. Others will reach the cart with items and abandon it, which is where direct marketing emails come into play to re-introduce impulse. 

Desire

The desire stage is crucial to the sales process. It is when the customer is genuinely interested and feels the impulse to buy. 

At this point, they are no longer browsing because they feel they’re making an informed decision that shouldn’t be passed up in the moment. 

Action (The Narrowest Stage)

The action stage is the final stage, meaning a sale has been made, and the funnel process has proven effective. 

Here, the funnel continues to act as a living entity, rotating the widest range of audiences through the process and discovering their knowledge level and needs along the way. 

Examples of the Sales Funnel

Netflix

Netflix has 203.7 million subscribers, making it one of the most popular online streaming services to date. Among its many traits, the service offers a risk-free cancelation period and a simple, easy-to-navigate website. 

Its funnel begins with the homepage, which states the latter information regarding its trial period. To put customers at ease, an emphasis is applied to the cancelation policy. Additionally, the service’s security features are highlighted, segueing into the premium plan policy automatically selected for customers. 

The Netflix sales funnel continues to work because it is now a household name that most people know, called brand power. Additionally, users are welcome to contact Netflix by phone, a trait seldom offered by other companies. 

Groupon

This brand is a celebrated example of using the power of email. An email address is requested at the first introduction to the website. It’s also how Groupon successfully compiled its initial group of faithful patrons. 

In addition to the email step in this brand’s funnel, Groupon offers a direct-response quality that personalizes its approach. Referrals also play a major role in maintaining and establishing new customers. By providing their email, audiences are introduced to additional savings pursuant to Groupon’s affiliations and purpose. 

Groupon’s sales model has been described as a giant email list with an incidental website attached to it. 

Event Marketing

Clearly, the internet has become a holy grail of sales and marketing tools, but in-person direct marketing can prove just as effective, albeit somewhat slower in performance. 

In-person marketing fills the gap in the funnel where audiences have needs but don’t know where to start looking. So direct marketers address the issue for them. 

For example, in Los Angeles, the internet and cable provider Spectrum works with third-party agencies to place in-person sales teams in stores like Walmart, where they approach customers about their internet preferences. 

In event marketing, this positioning is called an “event.”

Grasshopper

Aimed at small business owners, this virtual phone system helps them with setting up a designated phone number. The number can be used in tandem with existing landline or cell phone numbers. The steps in the Grasshopper sales funnel start at generating traffic through public relations, blogging, and ads.

Consumers are welcomed with a clear and concise homepage, which immediately offers a 30-day money-back guarantee strategy that continues to establish trust. Its pricing homepage is also easy to understand and features a “package” strategy, in which the most popular package is selected for them. 

In order to register with Grasshopper, you have to first choose a phone number. Additional options are provided here with local or toll-free numbers attractive to business owners.

The Grasshopper name and logo are both unique, but primarily the brand works because it’s easy to use and takes the headache out of getting a business-related phone number.

Conclusion

The absence of a sales funnel makes fine-tuning a target audience difficult. Every company should have a sales funnel process for customers to discover the services provided there. It will help you filter and control the flow of traffic within the funnel and aid in generating leads. 

Moreover, your sales conversion rate will reflect the effort it takes to produce a legitimate funnel process. Identifying the right targets will lead to the results desired of resulting traffic. 

The sales funnel is for growing. Gain the ability to identify your target audience and adapt your sales pitch to their interests, wants, and needs.  Leave the pipe dreams to companies not willing to achieve and set new goals. 

How Harper+Scott Can Help

Harper+Scott helps brands establish their voice in an increasingly saturated marketplace, and give them unique identities that accentuate their strengths and values. Our services include product research, trend forecasting, and product development. Our private label capabilities help cover the entire lifecycle of your product’s merchandising and branding goals. 

The future is bright, and Harper+Scott is ready to help you get there. Contact us today to learn how.

Sources

Newsroom | Forrester 

What is Event Marketing? Types, Role and Examples | Marketing91

Netflix – Statistics & Facts | Statista