What Is a Sales Funnel? One Definition To Rule Them All!

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I hated that first desk.

It was cheap and the edges were sharp. When I leaned against it, typing and clicking away, it dug into my skin.

But I also took pride in it. It was the first purchase the company made with the money from our first sale.

Trouble was, I had to deal with the discomfort of that desk for longer than I would have liked. 

Why? Because our first year in business there was this disconnect between MONEY and TRAFFIC on our website.

I couldn’t connect the dots or see where the hole was. All our leads were coming from word of mouth, but I knew that to grow we had to figure out an online marketing system that brought in a steady stream of leads, almost automatically.

At some point, during a blogging spree, the idea of a “sales funnel” popped into my head.

I searched Google for examples but there was nothing, at the time. Zip.

So I put together a resource based on what I’d observed — and it grew so much in popularity that it completely changed the course our business to this day.

So what is a sales funnel?

Working in sales funnel optimization for the past 6 years, it’s a question I get a lot. And yet, it still doesn’t surprise me when people ask it.

There are so many definitions thrown around that it’s easy to be confused. If you’re just dipping your toes into online marketing you have probably already run into 101 definitions, different names and case studies about the elusive sales funnel…

I don’t know about you, but I love simplicity.

That’s why I want to give you ONE clear definition of a sales funnel to rule them all.

I’m also including two examples of highly successful sales funnels and enough information to help you judge if your website is a sales funnel.

So let’s get going, young padawan.

 

Here’s a Standardized Definition of a Sales Funnel

A sales funnel can seem complicated, especially if you’ve laid eyes on my master sales funnel template (coming soon). However, if you start at the bottom it’s simple.

Once you understand what it is supposed to do, the in-between of how it works becomes a lot clearer.

So here’s the definition:

A sales funnel is a series of steps designed to guide visitors towards a buying decision. The steps are composed of marketing assets that do the work of selling, like landing pages and emails.

Yes. A sales funnel has one purpose: to drive customers to make buying decision.

But there are different stages to the funnel that can either “upsell” or “downsell” them based on where they are in the buying decision.

But, let’s not complicate it just yet.

Instead, let’s explore the “buying decision” which is the purpose of every sales funnel.

What’s the “End Goal” Of A Sales Funnel?

A well designed funnel does not start and end with the sale – unlike a traditional ad or sales letter. There are a lot of stops in between ‘here’ and ‘there’. 

A sales funnel works to influence, nurture, persuade and nudge by building a relationship with the customer.

I’ll explain how this happens for your customers.

The process starts with a person or “prospect” coming to your website.

When they get there, your website’s job is to get them to take action. This can mean everything from opting in to your newsletter to requesting a quote. This turns them into a “lead.”

Every step after is set up to push the “lead” towards a buying decision.

Whether that buying decision happens on your landing page, or farther down the funnel – like in an email autoresponder, the buying decision is the heartbeat of the sales funnel.

And, depending on your offer, that buying decision could be sooner (or much later) down the funnel.

When you think of it this way, it starts to become clear that a lot of things in real life are… actually sales funnels.

Like presidential elections.

It’s one of the strongest “sales funnels” that affects our life. At the top of the funnel, there’s the media, the news coverage.

In the middle, there’s the campaign website and the email list.

At the very bottom, there’s the “buying decision.” There’s multiple offers or conversion goals: to VOTE, to donate something, or to volunteer.

It hits all the marks of a good sales funnel: nurture, follow-up, persuade, influence… and drive each lead to take action.

The best sales funnels are expertly crafted, from beginning to end, to convert leads.

To present a call to action at the most ripe of moments.

A great sales funnel is like having the best salesperson on your team working 24/7.

But how do they do it? And, what do the best funnels look like? What kind of funnels work in different niches?

 

Here Are Two Useful Examples of Sales Funnels in Action

As we’ve just explored, a sales funnel’s purpose is to get leads to a buying decision.

If you want to experience a great funnel first-hand, I would take a look at both of these…

Grasshopper.com and the 3 Step Funnel

grasshopper.com sales funnel

Grasshopper’s straightforward three-step funnel played a big role in their growth to a $100 MM+ company.


Their sales funnel consists of just three steps:

-The Homepage: complete with benefits, a simple value proposition, an explanation of their service and a clear Call to Action to the Pricing page

-The ‘How It Works’ Page: the middle step. It’s visual. It is also clear about what you’re getting and how it delivers its value proposition. There’s a Call To Action again (and a 30 day guarantee risk reversal at the moment of the buying decision.)

-The ‘Pricing’ Page – the end step. It’s simple, it’s clear and it includes social proof, logos of places they’ve been featured.

CrazyEgg.com Nurtures and Follows Up

crazy egg homepage 2016

CrazyEgg also has a simplistic and short funnel.

Their homepage is excellent. It’s an instant, interactive lead magnet with a clear Call to Action to try the service (i.e. sign-up for free via Google sign-in).

In addition to their clear website, they have retargeting and a follow-up email sequence. The CrazyEgg sales funnel is working at all levels to attract interest, nudge and nurture via email and retargeting.

Both of these are great examples of how a sales funnel should look and feel. Pay close attention to how their funnel works on you.

Notice how there’s a smooth flow from beginning to end.

A good sales funnel will invite your leads in and have a “slippery slope” effect on them on the way to  the buying decision.

Based on how well your sales funnel is constructed, your prospects will either leave or convert.

“So… Is My Website A Sales Funnel?”

Just because you have a website doesn’t mean you have a sales funnel.

Just because you have a website that SELLS something, doesn’t mean it’s a sales funnel, either.

If you have a sales funnel in place, you have a series of steps designed to convert prospects into leads, and convert those leads into customers. These steps can include a free lead magnet, an evergreen autoresponder sequence, landing pages, CTA buttons, exit pop-ups or blog content.

The power of a sales funnel is massive.

It means having a system that converts like clockwork for hundreds of leads. You can throw traffic at it and you know it will convert!

How To Get Started Putting Your Sales Funnel Into Action

Now that you know what a sales funnel is you may want to start creating and growing your own.

Well, I’ve got your back 🙂

I’ve written a ton of articles on AutoGrow’s blog that will give you the guidance to build-out a solid funnel. But, I want to give you a freebie for reading his article today: Our 11 Point Sales Funnel Checklist.

This checklist will give you a concrete and actionable look at what you need to do, right now, to transform your website into a sales funnel. We have identified the top 11 patterns of highly successful sales funnels, and now we’re giving it to you free.

Go get it here.

Or, if you want to save time and jump to the front of the line, here’s another option:

You can sign-up for AutoGrow to create your sales funnel (and optimize the heck out of it) like we’ve done for 100’s of other businesses. You can learn more on our homepage.

Now that you know what a sales funnel is, how can you apply this understanding to your online marketing efforts?

If you’re a service business selling to other businesses, what one step can you add to your website to generate more leads?

Let me know in the comments.

Keep hustlin, stay focused,

Matt

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