Sales Funnel Management
Streamline Your Sales Process Using Automation Software
Boost your sales process with automation software
Any business owner knows the pain of just missing a sale. After weeks of pitches and demos, chatter and charm, the prospect drops out of the sales funnel without buying.
It happens. But it happens less often when you have the right sales funnel management help. Many small business sales funnels are more like sieves, with holes left by patched-together spreadsheets, sticky notes, missed appointments and forgotten follow-ups.
There's a better way. Sales and marketing automation software can plug those sales funnel holes and turn near-misses into sales.
What is a sales funnel?
A sales funnel is the marketing term for the journey your potential customers go through on their way to a purchase. You start with a lot of potential customers who may have heard of your product or service. A smaller part of that group may want to learn more, and a smaller part of that group may actually contact you.
As the process goes on, you're talking to fewer people who are more interested, until you end up with the people who become customers. Chart it out, and it looks like a funnel:
The first of the sales funnel stages is called the “awareness” level, because it's where people first become aware of your product or service. They may hear about you from your advertising, social media, even word of mouth.
How and why those people move down the funnel depends on your own sales and marketing ability, of course. The leads in the middle and lower sales funnel stages are those that you want to pay the most attention to, because they've moved beyond awareness to interest.
Find the cracks in your sales funnel stages
Now we start to see why sales funnel management matters. Even very good prospects can leak out of the funnel along the way if they're not nurtured carefully. The best way to prevent that loss is to have a clear idea of the steps in your sales process—and help in making those steps happen.
In some companies, those steps to the sale might look like this:
Prospecting and marketing are all the things you do to get people into the first of your sales funnel stages. Note that stages are broken into two or more steps wherever possible. A demo could be called a single stage, but in real life it involves a lot of things: contacting the customer, sending reminders, doing the demo, and then following up. Whatever your own sales stages look like, the support you need in managing them will be the same.
Once you know your sales funnel stages, it's time to find out where you're losing potential customers. Sit down with your team (or with yourself, if you're CEO, CMO and head janitor) and ask yourself:
- Where are the bottlenecks in my sales process?
- Where do I tend to lose track of potential customers?
- What are the positive trigger points—the specific actions that typically result in a sale?
Look carefully at the cracks where your chosen steps may not be working. Then get ready to fix your funnel.
How sales funnel management can help
Sales funnel leaks often spring from three basic causes. The good news is that sales funnel management can help with each.
1. Throwing away the “no’s” too quickly
In sales, a "no" can often mean “not until later.” For example, a common objection for customer relationship management (CRM) software is this: “I don’t have time to get my content together to make the platform useful.” This prospect is actually saying, “I’m interested, I see the value, but I can't take advantage of it at this moment.”
It’s tempting to dump this lead and move on to the next.
There’s a better solution: Build out an automated email follow-up campaign that speaks directly to this objection. Any time you encounter this problem, you can send that prospect information that seems designed just for them. A multi-month educational campaign may reduce their content anxiety and nurture them toward a sale. Yes, it’s work up front, but once finished, this campaign will work for you always.
Action item: Look at the most common objections from your prospects, and think about which can be turned around with helpful education and automated follow-up. Where in your sales funnel are you dismissing prospects too quickly?
2. Follow-up fails
Are you following up as much as you should be? Probably not, says the Business News Daily:
- 48% of sales reps never follow up with prospects
- Only 10% of sales reps make more than three contacts with a prospect
- Yet 80% of sales close between the fifth and 12th contact
That's a lot of follow-up fails. The challenge is easy to understand: Do I call new leads, or follow up with an old one for the sixth time? Persistence can feel like a waste of time, but the numbers prove otherwise.
But there’s a better solution: Small businesses may find help lies in a marketing automation funnel. Instead of an either/or game, automation software offers a both/and game. All your prospects get consistent and friendly emails and contacts at all stages, so you can save your personal attention for the day's hottest leads.
Action item: Analyze your last 20 leads and count how many times, on average, you contacted a prospect. If you see follow-up fails, a marketing automation funnel can help.
3. Too slow
Did you know that new leads are nine times more likely to convert if you follow up within the first five minutes after they express interest? Wait 30+ minutes, and your lead is 21 times less likely to turn into a sale.
You may be asking, “How the heck am I supposed to contact a lead within the first five minutes? That seems impossible.”
There’s a better solution: It's not impossible with sales funnel management automation. Set up your system with the response you want, and it will be ready to send it immediately to any interested prospect—even the one who contacts you on Saturday at 3 am. As captured leads pass down the funnel, your sales automation platform can send added personalized emails that are just right for each moment.
Action item: Figure out how quickly you normally respond to a brand-new prospect right now. Then craft your first mass personalized email to send to future prospects.
The right message at the right moment
What does the flow of automated emails look like in the sales funnel?
Let's say you often encounter two separate objections to your sales pitch: "We don't have time to implement" and "We're not sure we need it." You can craft a series of emails to respond to each, and set them to be delivered over the next few weeks or months.
Depending on the objection, you may want to send different materials at different times: testimonials from other clients, videos showing how easy your system is to set up, or just friendly check-in emails.
Now your marketing automation funnel is giving you a boost at every stage: It responded within five minutes of their first contact, and that helped get you the chance to make your pitch. Now, after the pitch, you're ready to stay in contact and respond to objections in a friendly, targeted way. (And if they love the pitch, automation can help you stay in close touch until closing.)
It's best to have a customer relationship management system involved here. A good CRM has the power to pull in every piece of information you have in your database, so it can be used to make every email perfectly personal.
The funnel word
Sales funnel management is about more than being organized. It's about giving every potential customer the personal treatment they crave. It's about making sure you follow up at the right times, every time. So you can spend more of your time doing the most rewarding thing of all: closing sales.