How to Define and Create a Sales Funnel for Your Business

Samantha Pratt Lile
September 28, 2022
 min read
How to Define and Create a Sales Funnel for Your BusinessHow to Define and Create a Sales Funnel for Your Business
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How can sales teams track their leads as they progress to customers? What steps make up the customer journey as prospects engage with a brand before making a purchase, and how can sales reps optimize this process to close more deals? The secret to almost any successful sales strategy lies in building an effective sales funnel, illustrating the stages leads will pass as they prepare to buy a product or service.

What is a sales funnel?

What exactly is a sales funnel? It’s more than mere marketing jargon. A sales funnel, also known as a purchase funnel, is a model that illustrates the steps involved in a customer’s journey from lead to purchase.

An effective sales funnel involves multiple defined stages that comprise the top, middle and bottom of the shape, although the exact steps will vary depending on a brand’s sales model. The top of the funnel signifies the marketing efforts that initially attract leads to a brand, while the funnel’s middle area features steps in the sales process that nurture those leads. The funnel concludes with a final purchase, whether that involves customers paying for purchases at a register or website visitors entering their credit card details.

The sales funnel gets its name from the shape the customer journey forms: The largest number of leads enter the top, and the group decreases in size until the smaller group of purchasers exit the bottom. Of course, the goal is for all leads to fall out of the funnel’s bottom by making a purchase. However, prospects often exit the funnel without making a purchase through earlier “holes.” They might do this by rejecting the product, service or brand through a hard no or by “ghosting” sales reps with persistent avoidance.

Why are sales funnels important?

What makes sales funnels so important to brands hoping to close more deals? At their core, sales funnels are infographics, and they help teams understand prospects’ behavior and decisions at each stage of the buying journey.

Tracking customers in a sales funnel allows reps to visualize the process and identify any gaps where leads drop out of the funnel without making a purchase. Plotting the sales journey through a funnel infographic provides valuable insight into how a sales strategy can be improved. Likewise, sales leadership can make better decisions about how best to optimize their sales strategies and invest in the right marketing efforts.

What are the sales funnel stages?

The sales funnel begins with the first moment a prospect learns about a brand, product or service, and it ends when they make a purchase. The sales tactics that occur in between can vary greatly from one brand or sales rep to the next, but almost every lead will pass through four primary stages before converting to a customer.

The four stages of a sales funnel include:

  • Awareness – Typically a result of some type of marketing effort, the awareness stage occurs when a prospective customer first learns about a brand, product or service.
  • Interest – Once a prospect learns about a brand, they will decide whether it’s of interest to them. Do they have a problem to which the brand offers a solution?
  • Decision – Armed with information about a brand and its products or services, a prospect must decide whether they want to make a purchase. The lead might compare and consider multiple options that would meet their needs.
  • Action – The sales funnel concludes with an action, whether it’s a customer completing their purchase, a prospect opting for a competitor or a lead deciding against any purchase.

How can teams create sales funnels for business?

Before teams can track customer behavior and engagement through a sales funnel, they need prospects to trace and analyze. That’s where early marketing strategies come into play. Once some leads start progressing through the customer journey, sales teams can identify their level of engagement at each stage and determine what steps in a sales process are working.

The specific sales funnel that works best for each company will vary, but the following steps will help teams build a successful model:

Collect and analyze target audience data

It’s important for sales teams to understand their ideal target customer before creating a sales funnel. The more data gathered about a target market, the better the resulting sales funnel. What challenges can your product solve for your ideal customer? What are their goals for making a purchase, and what solutions have they already tried? The answer to these and other relevant questions can help teams create effective content for each stage of the sales funnel.

Capture audience attention

How do sales teams entice leads to enter their sales funnels? They must capture their target audience’s attention with content, whether that content be a television commercial, a blog post, an email or even a sign. Audience attention can be captured through organic means (the free kind) or paid methods. Even cold calling is a way to capture audience attention.

Create a landing page

After prospects become interested in a brand, product or service, where do they go for more information? What happens when they click a link in an ad, choose to sign up for a webinar or opt to download an e-book? A landing page clearly communicates information such as a company’s identity and the benefits a brand can provide. A landing page also can collect additional data about prospects that can be used to further nurture the leads.

Offer something of value

Ideally, sales teams want a way to further communicate with a prospect in order to nurture the lead. But how do they get these vital contact details? Brands must offer their audience something of value in exchange for their email addresses or telephone numbers. A lead magnet, such as a downloadable e-book or a coupon code, is often valuable enough to entice many leads to supply their information.

Communicate with and nurture leads

What happens after a prospect becomes aware of a brand and requests additional information, either directly or by requesting a lead magnet? When a lead moves to the interest stage of the sales funnel, it’s time to provide them with additional information and scope additional needs. Regular communication is simple to accomplish when leads have already supplied their emails or phone numbers. Some sales teams might break this stage into multiple stage funnel parts, each symbolizing a different sales strategy.

Close the deal

It’s time for a call to action! To complete the sales funnel, reps should make their best offers to prospective customers. This stage might include selling tactics such as offering product demonstrations, free trials or special discounts. If teams have properly educated their leads and nurtured their prospects, closing the deal should be simple.

Continue the process

Just because a customer has reached the end of the sales funnel, that doesn’t mean the selling process is complete. If the customer makes a purchase, sales reps should continue nurturing the relationship, engaging the customer and building trust in the brand, to retain the business and encourage additional buying behavior. For prospects who decide against a purchase, sales teams can continue offering them valuable content to persuade a future purchase.

Optimize the funnel

Sales leaders can create a sales funnel, but it won’t be effective until it’s tested and optimized. At what point of the sales process did prospects decide not to buy, and how could those strategies be enhanced for a better outcome? The more leads who enter the sales funnel, the better teams can optimize their strategies, so coordinating with marketing is a must.

How can sales leaders get teams on board with a sales funnel?

Sales leaders can build an excellent sales funnel, they can optimize it based on results, but how do they get their teams on board with the process? If sales reps understand each stage of the sales funnel and how prospects progress from awareness to close, they can apply applicable strategies to close more deals. One of the easiest ways to educate teams about a sales funnel is through data visualization.

Various diagrams can be used to illustrate a sales funnel. The most obvious infographic to choose is, of course, a funnel. A funnel diagram is a great way to showcase a sales funnel since the models most closely resemble one another. Other infographics that can also be customized to detail the stages of a sales funnel include targets, pyramids and process diagrams.

Sales leaders don’t need to be skilled designers to illustrate their sales funnels with an infographic. users can customize a host of Smart Slide templates, including a variety of infographics. Just choose your preferred data visualization, enter your data and watch in amazement as artificial intelligence creates an infographic in perfect proportions. Sales funnel diagrams even can be personalized with custom fonts and colors.

Samantha Pratt Lile

Samantha Pratt Lile

Samantha is an independent journalist, editor, blogger and content manager. Examples of her published work can be found at sites including the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, and Buzzfeed.