In the startup world, sales can be a tricky balance: Try to pitch the sale too early and you scare off your leads. Wait too long and you’ve fallen off their radar—or worse, they’ve connected with a competitor. The key is to have your sales funnel in place so that you can track leads and know where they are in the buying journey. Want to know more? Take a dive into the sales funnel as we break down the process.
As a startup founder, you’re an expert at product development. You’ve worked tirelessly to bring that “thing” that was once just an idea to fruition, and there’s no doubt in your mind that you have created something your audience needs. But here’s the kicker—while you know your product is great, your potential customers don’t necessarily know it. Your job now is to not only spread the word but also demonstrate why consumers can’t live without your product. In short, you’ve got to become an expert at sales. To most of us startup founders, that’s a role we have not had much experience with in the past. In fact, it’s hard to know where to even start. That’s where the sales funnel comes in.
So what exactly is a sales funnel? Think of it as the path that prospects take during the buying journey. Shaped like an inverted pyramid, a sales funnel operates much like a traditional funnel. In a traditional funnel, a substance that is poured into the wide opening at the top moves down to a much narrower opening before it emerges out the other end. In sales, the process is very similar as lots of prospects enter the top of your funnel. However, unlike the traditional funnel, everyone who enters the sales funnel will not reemerge at the other end. The sales funnel acts as a filter that helps you hone in on those who will truly benefit from your product and become customers.
The best way to break down a sales funnel is to divide it into three sections: Top of Funnel, Middle of Funnel, and Bottom of Funnel. As your customers move through these sections, you will connect with them in various ways based on where they are in the buying process.
Top of Funnel starts with introducing people to your brand. Your main purpose at this point is to improve your company’s visibility and start collecting leads. While you want to focus your efforts on a target audience, it’s okay if you are casting a rather wide net at this stage. This is the time when you are putting out as much content as you can by sharing ideas, solutions, and advice. Utilize a variety of channels such as blogs, social media, website optimization, and videos in order to establish yourself as an authority in your industry. And start an email drip campaign to establish a connection with your leads. During this phase, you are likely to get a large amount of prospects, but don’t become overconfident with numbers. Some of these people are simply browsing and won’t stick around for long—and that’s okay. This is all part of the process in order to reach those people who will realize the value of your product.
Once prospects become aware of your business, they will move to Middle of Funnel as they show more interest in your brand. This is the “aha” moment when potential customers realize they have a problem that needs a solution. You likely will notice that you’ve disqualified a number of leads in this phase, so the people remaining in your funnel have a real reason for being there. Your goal right now is to continue to build trust with these prospects and further your relationship by explaining how your business can solve their problem. The follow-up is key in this phase, so make sure you continue with email drip campaigns while also adding in things such as podcasts, webinars, and demos to help prospects evaluate your offerings. A free trial period is another good option for prospects to experience your product without making a commitment.
Finally, your prospects will move to Bottom of Funnel. This is the place where they make the decision to actually buy your product. At this point, your potential customers are comparing your business to the competition to figure out why you are a better fit for them. That’s why it’s just important to continue with the follow-up in this late stage of the funnel. You may even want to offer an incentive such as a special discount for new customers to give them that final push.
Once you have converted leads into customers, take a moment to celebrate—but don’t take too long. While your customers have reached the bottom of the funnel, your journey with them is just beginning. You may be tempted to put more of your focus back up at the top of the funnel with new leads, but it’s vital that you also maintain relationships with your existing customers to keep them in your funnel for the long term. Reach out to them on a regular basis to ensure they are getting the most out of your product. This is especially important as you look for upselling opportunities such as product add-ons and/or higher tiers of service that can help them be even more successful. You also want to ensure that customers are happy so that they will want to continue doing business with you, whether that means repurchasing certain items or renewing a subscription. And don’t forget the value of the referral—repeat customers are more than willing to spread the word about your business.
The Bottom Line
The most important thing to remember about the sales funnel is that it cannot be an afterthought. You’ve got to have your sales strategy in place from the get-go in order to keep your team on the same page and to keep up with where your leads and customers are in the buying journey. Once your sales funnel is flowing, your company will hit its stride as it turns into what is often referred to as a flywheel—a system that gains momentum and speed early on as a lot of energy is put forth until it’s eventually moving almost on its own. If you are ready to set up your sales funnel, Funnelfly’s automated email drip campaigns can help you get started—and have you connecting with leads—in minutes. It’s the marketing platform created by startup founders specifically for startups and other small businesses. Funnelfly helps you send the right message to the right person at the right time throughout your sales funnel.