Why is a sales funnel called a ‘funnel’? Basically because it is much wider at the top than at the bottom. The CO— website run by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce notes that, at the top of your company’s sales funnel, “you’ll likely have many more prospective customers, known as leads, than prospects who come all the way through the funnel to become customers.”
The sales funnel is made up of three key stages: those of lead generation, prospect nurturing, and customer conversion. Naturally, you want to herd as many prospects as possible through each of these stages. However, actually succeeding in doing so will require you to reliably predict how prospects react at each stage — as, otherwise, you could risk essentially missing an open goal.
Fit Small Business explains that “the sales funnel outline typically starts by identifying prospects and introducing them to your business, solution, or offering.”
The word ‘identifying’ there is practically mentioned in passing — but, if you are endeavoring to sell a specific product or service, it is important that you carefully research your target audience so that you can figure out which members of it would likely be most inclined to buy the offering.
Those people you do identify as likely to become customers are known as leads. Over time, you will be able to ascertain the approximate proportion of leads you tend to convert into customers — and thus how many leads you would need to generate for achieving a certain tally of sales.
Once you have attracted attention from leads, you need to educate them on the company as well as the product or service. At this point, the onus is on you to make clear how they would benefit from becoming a customer of your company.
The nurturing phase will end when the prospect indicates whether they will make a purchase or instead just walk away. However, the more insightful and persuasive you are when nurturing a prospect, the likelier they could be to not only say ‘yes’ but also do so with little hesitation.
Still, regardless of how long it takes you to get the prospect to make a decision, you could particularly benefit from engaging in email marketing, making phone calls, and even holding meetings and events as you strive to make your offering more tempting.
Though you obviously don’t want to come across as pushy in your interactions with prospects, one risk with nurturing is that you do it for a little too long. This can happen when you expect them to proceed with buying from you without you prompting them beforehand.
You therefore need to think carefully about when exactly you ought to ask the customer to make a purchase from you. If you run an online business, you could opt to place this call-to-action in an email the prospect receives or on a webpage they load. Either way, the prospect should see the message after having made their way almost to the end of the sales funnel.