From the outside looking in, sales looks like a fairly straightforward and easy to grasp field.
You get in there, make some calls, schmooze some prospects, and rack up the commission, right?
Well, once you get in, you’re suddenly bombarded with all these terms you’ve never heard of.
Soft close, account-based selling, churn, gatekeeper, positioning statement, pipeline, and the one that’s on your mind right now:
The sales funnel.
What is a sales funnel, and why does your manager keep going on about it?
That’s precisely what we’re here to answer.
This article will teach you everything you need to know about sales funnels, including why they exist in the first place, how you can create a good one, and how to avoid common sales funnel failures often made by the less-than-experienced.
We’ll also teach you how to use monday.com to create a high-performing sales funnel.
What is a sales funnel?
Let’s start simple.
A sales funnel is a metaphor for the stages that a potential customer has to take in order to become an actual customer.
Why is it called a funnel?
The funnel metaphor was adopted to represent the idea that you’ll start with a wide pool of leads, which will only narrow from there.
That’s because prospects drop out of the sales funnel at various stages, either because they realized the timing wasn’t right, or they found another solution.
What does the sales funnel look like?
There are several different ways to conceptualize the sales funnel.
Simple examples have just 3 stages:
More complex funnel models, like this one, flesh out those 3 stages to more accurately represent the micro-steps your buyers take.
Why is the sales funnel important?
As a concept, the sales funnel is a great metaphor for your customers’ buying journey.
But, does it deliver benefits other than an arbitrary representation of that path?
The answer ultimately depends on how you apply the sales funnel metaphor to your actual business operations and sales processes — as well as marketing efforts directed at driving new leads into the funnel.
We’re going to get into the specifics of this very shortly, but at a birds-eye view, the sales funnel is important because it helps you:
- Understand exactly what your customers go through before purchasing
- Track where your leads are in the funnel
- Create better, more targeted marketing
Do you need a sales funnel?
In truth, this is a bit of a redundant question.
You don’t have any say in the matter. The sales funnel exists whether you conceptualize it or not.Whether or not you dedicate yourself to understanding the journey your buyers take doesn’t influence the fact that they do take that journey. The question to really ask is this: is developing your own sales funnel model based on your customers actually important?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes. It’s critical, not only to upping your sales performance, but to knowing how to construct a sales pipeline in your Work OS, like this one in monday.com.
So, let’s dive in a little deeper.
The 4 stages of the sales funnel
We’re going to take a look at a simple example of a sales funnel with 4 stages.
Stage 1: awareness
The awareness phase is where your prospect has just learned that your company might be able to help with a problem they’re facing, often through some form of marketing activity.
Marketing efforts at this stage should focus on education and providing value.
Want a real-life example? Check out the monday.com stacks!
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Stage 2: interest
In the interest stage, prospects are actually interested in what you’re about and motivated to learn more.
In today’s world, this is often a result of insightful content — which you’ve provided to them at no cost.
At this point, you should continue to educate the prospect with valuable content. It’s how you prove that your company is the best option.
You can see this concept in action through this monday.com webinar on sales pipelines.
In short, you’re demonstrating that your brand is an expert in your field.
Stage 3: decision
At this stage, your prospect has narrowed their decision down to just 2 or 3 options.
In other words, it’s the point in the buying process where you can create an offer for your prospective customer.
This isn’t always a direct sale, though.
In fact, there are a few other techniques you can use to soft close the deal in the decision phase:
For example, we like to offer a free demo to prospective users to really show them just how monday.com can solve their specific challenges.
Stage 4: action
The action stage is where your customers commit to a purchase.
Not much needs to be said for this stage, other than to mention that the process doesn’t stop here.
More than ever, the conversion funnel needs to focus on a fifth stage: the post-purchase stage.
This should involve, at the very least, some form of post-purchase follow-up. In sales circles, it’s not uncommon to ask for a referral here.
How do you create a sales funnel?
Here’s how to create a model of your sales funnel in 6 steps:
Step 1: analyze customer behavior
Before you even think about targeting new leads to add to your sales funnel, you need to thoroughly investigate, research, and understand the behavior of your current customers.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I know about my customers in terms of demographics, interests, and shopping preferences?
- What do I not know about my customers that I need to find out?
- Why are my current customers with our company? What made them choose us?
Answer them to the best of your understanding, but also consider interviewing your current customers to find out everything you can.
Remember, they are busy and don’t owe you anything.
To that end, you should consider ways to incentivize the process, such as:
- Discount on future purchases
- A rebate on their latest bill
- Vouchers or gift cards
It doesn’t have to be much, but it should be something.
As a final point, consider interviewing your non-buyers — the prospects that were part of your sales funnel that didn’t end up buying.
This can shed some light on parts of your sales process that could be improved. It’s also a good way to identify leads that aren’t a good fit for you early on.
A simple and easy way to execute this process is by creating a survey form. monday.com makes this a breeze and gives your survey a clean, professional appearance.
Not only that, but it will plug all of the survey results right into a dedicated monday.com board for you to analyze.
Step 2: build a landing page
Once you’ve got a strong understanding of who your ideal customers are, it’s time to start attracting new prospects.
Before you start running ads and screaming about your services from every rooftop in town, you need to be prepared with some kind of lead capturing device.
For example, if you’re focusing on digital marketing, you’ll want to build out a landing page.
A landing page is a specially built page on your website — often not navigable from other places on your site — where you’ll send prospects to provide them with an offer.
Remember: you’re looking to capture their details — often an email address — so your landing page needs to be set up to accommodate this, and incentivize the prospect.
Here’s an example of an actual monday.com landing page.
Take note of a few important features in the above image:
- There is an incentive for prospects to hand over their details — a 15% discount.
- There is only one offer. Multiple offers and promos make the user experience difficult and hurt conversion rates.
- The landing page is short and to the point, just 2 folds long.
This way, your leads can be plugged straight into your sales pipeline to track those deals right through the sales funnel.
Step 3: capture customer attention
Now is the time to start ramping up your lead generation efforts and generate a bit of awareness.
This is the beginning of the 4-phase sales funnel, the Awareness phase.
In the online world, there a quite a few ways you can capture customer attention, such as:
- Display ads
- Social media advertising
- Influencer marketing
- Google Adwords
- Cold email marketing
- Podcasts and other forms of content marketing
Whichever you choose to focus on — you’ll probably be working several avenues simultaneously — you should ensure that all leads are directed to that high-converting landing page we built earlier.
Before you begin, though, you and your team must dedicate some time to planning out your marketing activities for the next quarter at a minimum.
For example, if you’re planning on going hard on the content marketing front, you could download the content calendar template for monday.com to plan and track all of your content creation and distribution.
You should also take the time to set up some key metrics for lead generation — ones that you’ll track regularly and measure against a benchmark set during the planning stages.
Common sales funnel metrics for digital marketing activities include:
- Traffic: the raw number of new visitors to your website.
- CTR: click-through rate — the percentage of prospects who click through to your website after viewing an ad.
- Conversion rate: the percentage of prospects who, once on your landing page, actually follow through with the desired action.
It’s also worth noting that this is a great opportunity to start influencing buyers who might have previously bought from a competitor.
Recent global events — you know the ones — have influenced a number of changes in buyer behavior. One such change is a decrease in brand loyalty, with 36% of consumers giving new brands a shot.
Step 4: nurture your leads
You’ll remember from our discussion above about the Interest phase, that now is not the time to ask for the sale.
Now is the time to nurture your leads.
65% of businesses say lead generation is their biggest challenge in marketing. That means it’s important that when you do find success in generating leads, you treat them delicately and bring them through the sale funnel.
So, how should you go about this?
Often, lead nurturing takes place through an automated email sequence.
There is a wealth of software platforms that can assist with this, such as Mailchimp and Hubspot, both of which integrate flawlessly with monday.com to ensure everything is up to date across all platforms.
You’ll want to spend some time regularly analyzing the effectiveness of this nurture campaign. Implement some A/B tests to determine the best cadence for your company’s leads.
Often, marketers will supplement email nurture campaigns with targeted social media ads to maximize visibility throughout the customer journey.
As you move through the Interest stage of the funnel and into the Decision phase, it’s time to move in with a soft close.
A soft close is a sales technique designed to get the customer to say ‘yes’ without agreeing to buy from you.
For example, a software company might offer a free trial or demo of their platform at the end of the lead nurture cadence.
This is easy to implement automatically at the end of your email nurture campaign, using a monday.com automation recipe.
Step 5. close the deal
We’ve made it to the bottom of the funnel, the Action stage.
This is where your sales rep gets involved — if they weren’t already — and asks for the sale, handling any objections that may arise.
Just like the lead nurture sequence, this step needs to be carefully optimized in terms of timing to maximize conversions.
Again, monday.com automation recipes come in handy here. You can modify this recipe to say, “When the nurture status changes to complete, notify the owner”.
This will prompt your sales rep to jump in and close the deal.
Step 6. review and optimize
It’s not over yet, though.
Your sales funnel needs to be constantly reviewed and adjusted. Your customers are probably changing as time moves on, so you have to change with them.
Remember, you’re never going to get the sales sequence perfect right off the bat. Nobody is that brilliant (sorry).
Remember your key metrics:
- Conversion rates
You should also be tracking benchmarks such as total MQL and SQL (marketing and sales qualified leads), conversion rates at each funnel stage, cost per lead and per sale, and customer lifetime value.
All of these sales funnel metrics will allow you to set realistic targets and compare performance against them, providing an opportunity to identify leaks in the funnel and plug them appropriately.
You can easily track this using a monday.com sales dashboard:
5 sales funnel fails and how to avoid them using monday.com
Before you jump right into building your own sales funnel, take heed of these 5 rookie mistakes, and avoid them at all costs.
Fail 1: not following up
This is probably the number one mistake that beginner salespeople make: not following up on their leads.
It’s easy to understand why: you’d rather focus on newer opportunities that seem more likely to close, right?
Here’s the thing:
60% of customers say no 4 times before they will say yes. The kicker is that 92% of salespeople give up after 4 sales calls.
And you don’t even want to know how many salespeople don’t even make it that far.
So, learn from their mistakes and follow up on your leads.
The easiest way to make sure this happens is to create a Status Column in your monday.com board with 5 different statuses (Call 1 Completed, Call 2 Completed, etc.)
Just add a Status Column, like this one, and customize it to your needs.
Fail 2: giving up too quickly
44% of salespeople give up after getting just one “no” from a prospect.
That’s nearly half, and we know from the previous sales funnel fail that you’re going to need another 3 no’s before you get the sale, on average.
The point here is to develop a certain degree of resilience and acknowledge that you’re going to get pushed back.
Fear of rejection is the number one thing that holds salespeople back, although sales is, by and large, a game full of rejection.
Learn to overcome that fear, and you’ll master your sales funnel.
No software system can make this happen for you. It’s entirely up to your mindset. However, the best thing to do is create a custom report on monday.com that tracks the number of calls your salesperson has to make in order to make the sale.
This should give some numerical proof to the concept for all of those analyzer personality types.
Fail 3: responding without urgency
The 3rd sales funnel fail is in the same vein, as it has to do with sales communications as well.
This mistake, though, is about urgency.
Too many salespeople fail to respond to their leads promptly, and as a result, they lose the opportunity to act on that urgency.
If you get a response to an email or a voice message, the general rule is that you should respond immediately, or, ideally, within around 5 minutes.
Because your prospect is:
- Free now (they’ve just taken the time to respond to you)
- Expecting a quick response (we’re all pretty entitled these days)
- More likely to close, or to move along to the next stage in the funnel
Again, ensuring this actually happens comes down to individual action more than it does a system, but there are a couple of things you can do to embed urgency into your sales process.
For example, if you’re a sales leader, you can set up an automation rule to notify you when a salesperson receives an email reply or a lead’s status changes.
This can be a monday.com notification, or you can set up text notifications by way of a Twilio integration.
Fail 4: not keeping the funnel full
Ask any salesperson, and they’ll tell you the part of their job they love the most is closing.
They’ll also probably tell you that the part they love the least is generating new leads. In fact, 40% of salespeople say it’s the most difficult part of the process.
As a result, they often focus on the fun part — the leads at the bottom of the funnel — and neglect to spend time keeping the top of the funnel full.
Reps will spend a month closing deals, then the next month not closing anything. That’s because they have nothing left in the pipeline and have to spend most of their time creating new opportunities.
One way around this as a sales leader is to enforce periods of lead generation — perhaps one day a week.
You can track how long your sales reps are spending on this with a monday.com Time Tracking Column.
Another popular method is to split your sales rep’s role into 2, with junior reps focused solely on generating new leads and senior reps focus on closing.
This common split requires 2 roles, the SDR (sales development rep) and AE (account executive). This setup is quite common within software companies.
Fail 5: poor reporting protocols
The final sales funnel fail is neglecting to set up efficient and insightful reporting methods.
Both individual reps and team leaders must have access to a sales reporting dashboard, so they can analyze performance and make adjustments as necessary.
Your sales CRM should make this simple to implement and give you the ability to create your custom dashboard, like this one in monday.com.
It’s time to build your own funnel
By now, you should be an absolute expert in sales funnels and pumped to go forth and create your own.
Remember to take the time to plan accordingly, and to implement measures that will allow you to report on and analyze the effectiveness of your funnel.
Oh, and you’re going to want a good pipeline platform for tracking all of those leads, right?
Well, why not get started with this sales pipeline template for monday.com?