What if you could schedule sales meetings like a speed dating event personalized just for you?

You’d walk into a room full of excited, qualified leads who want to buy from you; all you’d need to do is connect in a genuine way to seal the deal.

Well, this is pretty close to how a sales funnel works for your marketing team.

See, sales funnels help you close more deals by strategically leading prospects through your brand’s buying process without you or your team needing to hold their hands. By the time your lead makes their way through your funnel, they’re already in the buying mood so selling becomes a cakewalk.

#SalesFunnels help you close more deals by strategically leading prospects through your brand’s… Click To Tweet

You’re probably already using some version of a sales funnel in your marketing strategy, but if you’re not seeing results such as a growing subscriber list, more social media followers, and higher conversions, you may want to consider starting over with the basics we’ll be covering today.

And if you’re a little shaky on the details about how sales funnels actually work, have no fear. We’re going to show you the ins and outs of sales funnels so you understand why your marketing plan cannot afford to go without one.

Bonus: Use this free template to map out, organize, and build your company’s ultimate sales funnel today!

 

What is a Sales Funnel Exactly?

Funnels are designed to move material from point A to point B as easily and cleanly as possible. As far as your marketing goes, your sales funnel will be moving people or potential customers.

Specifically, a sales funnel is a marketing plan that guides potential leads from your website to your content and eventually through your buying process.

You’ll welcome a large group of potential customers into the widest part of your funnel and as they wind their way down to the narrowest part, you’ll naturally weed out the tire kickers and those outside of your target audience who may never buy from you.

The result is a fully-automated lead-vetting process that literally works while you sleep, or in your case, while you’re busy doing all 146 tasks on your to-do list on any given day.

Check out this visual concept of a sales funnel using simple numbers to put this all in perspective:

Sales Funnel Chart

Image source

Notice how there are 1,000 potential customers (leads) at the top, but only 10 real customers down at the bottom of this funnel. You’ll always attract more leads than you’ll acquire as customers — but it doesn’t mean you’ll need to waste time pitching to all of them.

When you think about it, your website and marketing efforts will attract all sorts of leads for your company, such as:

  • Qualified prospects who need your product or service and can afford you
  • Leads who don’t know they need your product or service yet, or who are using other providers, but who can be convinced to choose you after you prove your value
  • Unqualified leads who enjoy your product or service, but have no need or budget for you

Now, you only want to spend time selling to the most qualified leads instead of wasting time on those who will never convert. After all, it’s easier and more efficient for your team to work on selling and appealing to 100 quality prospects rather than all 1,000 leads.

Plus, once you get your sales funnel rocking, it practically runs on autopilot, working seamlessly with your content marketing strategy to maximize your brand’s awareness and conversion rates.

You can see why it’s super helpful to have a sales funnel pre-qualifying leads for your team. So let’s talk about how to create one.

 

How Do I Create A Sales Funnel?

Use these four steps to build your sales funnel today:

1. Attract Your Audience with Stellar Content

As part of your plan to grow your business with content marketing, you and your team will need to turn out high-quality content for your site on a consistent basis.

This is your opportunity to show potential customers why you’re worth listening to. You’ll start to build a loyal following of newsletter or email subscribers if your content hits the mark and engages with your target audience.

2. Launch a Can’t-Miss Freebie

Content marketing shows us that email addresses are just as valuable as currency, if not more so, because when you have an email address you can stay in touch with your target buyers and create repeat customers.

The three easiest ways to snag email addresses through your website are:

  • Email newsletter signups, which will come as a result of your awesome content because your tribe members won’t want to miss out on your posts
  • Content upgrades, which are extra resources that accompany your content, but require an email address to unlock. They usually go hand-in-hand with the theme of your content and put the theories you describe into actionable steps your reader can use.
  • A lead magnet can be anything from a worksheet or e-course/e-guide to instructional video demos and whitepapers. Its sole purpose is attracting leads by offering helpful and informative advice in return.

Besides generating free content for your audience, upgrades, and lead magnets show off your company’s best assets and skills.

Consider this more like an act of good faith and less like you’re giving away free expertise. In order to prove your company’s value, you’ll need to show potential customers that you not only know what they’re struggling with most but that you know how to help them best.

In order to prove your company’s value, you’ll need to show potential customers that you not… Click To Tweet

As we discussed in our article about why your business needs education-based marketing, when you give your target audience the steps to overcome their obstacles, they’ll turn to you when they need help with the bigger, more complicated issues a simple blog post can’t tackle.

Choose a topic that your target audience seems to struggle with universally. Then outline an easy-to-understand, step-by-step process your reader can follow. They may not have all the resources or tools they need to solve their issue, but they’ll at least know what the process entails thanks to your help.

You want your leads to finish your free resource and feel as if you’ve taught them valuable information they can use whether they choose your product or service or not.

3. Continue to Engage Without the Hard Sell, But Start to Introduce Your Product or Service

Here’s where most marketing efforts sabotage the sales funnel process: You cannot start the sales pitch too early in your relationship with your new subscribers and fans or else they’ll tune out your content just like an annoying ad.

Instead, focus on creating at least one piece of content every week that resonates with your audience. You’ll become an authority figure in your niche quite quickly, which will draw tons of new followers who will be interested in your product or service organically.

Sweeten the pot for your subscribers — who have already proven that they like your content enough to hand over their email address — by offering them another freebie, except this time connect it to the product or service that you sell.

For example, if your team is going to launch a new paid email course, give your subscribers lesson one for free. Add a cherry on top by also giving them an exclusive discount code to use when your product comes out to thank them for their loyalty.

Bonus: Don’t forget to snag your free template to build the ultimate sales funnel today!

 

4. Segment Your Email List for Follow Ups

Using our previous example, have interested subscribers opt-in with their email addresses again for their free lesson so you can segment your subscriber list even further.

Not all of your newsletter subscribers will be interested in your product or service yet. But the more you whittle down your potential leads to qualified prospects, the higher your chances are of closing.

When interested subscribers opt-in for the first free lesson, you and your team know that you have a qualified lead on your hands; this is who you’ll be selling to moving forward.

Using an email automation tool like HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, or Infusionsoft to set up automatic triggers when your subscribers perform certain qualifying actions. (We use primarily use HubSpot).

So let’s say you have a list of subscribers who took you up on your free lesson. Now you can send them discounts, promotions, and other offers to move them to your customer list.

Just don’t send sales emails too soon or you’ll scare off your leads. Your subscribers should never feel pressured to buy from you so let them know that it’s totally cool to hit the “unsubscribe” link if they’re not interested. Your team doesn’t need a huge list of tire kickers anyway.

As you can see, when you create an efficient sales funnel that works with your content marketing strategy, you and your marketing team will be able to attract more leads, educate your potential customers and establish your brand as an authority in your niche, and convert more prospects — all while you’re off the clock.

Once you set up your sales funnel to work on autopilot, it’s like having a slew of qualified leads just waiting for you and your team to seal the deal. What could be better than that?