The sales funnel is a handy little model that helps visualise the customer journey from Awareness to the Purchase of a good or service. It’s a pretty classic concept that helps break down the customer journey into specific steps, and it can be dated back to the late 1800s! You’d think that over the years, with evolving technologies and changes in the way that customers and business interact, that the sales funnel would become obsolete, but it is just as relevant today as it ever was. That’s not to say that the ways that companies approach the model should remain the same, though, as there is always room for improvement.
There is a great deal of variation in what these steps that make up the sales funnel are, and many companies and individuals formulate their own models based on what they believe are the most important steps. Generally, though, the core steps are as follows:
- Awareness – A potential customer becomes aware of your goods or services
- Interest – They have become a lead, researching what you have to offer and developing an interest
- Consideration – The lead is now interested in your business and is considering making a sale
- Intent – The lead has made a decision and intends to make a sale
- Evaluation – Before they commit to the sale, the lead makes one last check that they are happy with the proposed deal
- Purchase – The lead makes the sale and becomes a customer
Though this is still pretty much the standard model of the customer journey, a major problem with many companies is the rigidity with which they approach it. In the past, the only way that businesses could reach out to potential customers was through direct advertising. The most they could do was make the customer aware and interested in their product. The rest of the journey was down to the customers themselves and members of the the sales team. Because of the limitations of this old system, customers were pretty much forced to go down the funnel step by step. But this is no longer the case. These days, potential customers can enter the funnel at any stage, and you need to be able to accommodate them no matter where their journey begins.
Keeping a Flexible Funnel
If a potential customer was already aware of your company but had never considered using you until they were recommended to do so by a friend, letting them know what it is that you offer is going to do absolutely nothing. Remember, 90% of all sales are influenced by peer recommendations. They already know what you do. Trying to push them down the funnel step by step will only create a distance between you and make it much harder to close the sale, and even worse, it will discourage the lead from ever becoming a loyal customer. It is important to acknowledge that your customers are no longer bound by the design of the sales funnel, they can enter the funnel at any step and can even skip or repeat stages.
The best sales funnels accept entrance at any stage, and more than that, they actively seek to create loyal customers at every opportunity. Let’s say a lead has entered your funnel at the Interest stage: they’ve been aware of you for some time but are now actively researching to see just how well your product suits their needs. They’ve decided they’re interested in what they’ve seen but unfortunately, after a great deal of consideration, they’ve decided that they can’t justify the price without knowing for sure that it is the product for them and are seeking out a cheaper alternative. They’ve slipped out of your funnel at the Consideration stage and have entered a competitor’s. But this doesn’t mean that you should forget about them.
Now is your opportunity to reach out to your lead and give them a reason to reconsider your product. If they were unable to commit to the sale because they were couldn’t find everything they needed to know about your product during the Interest stage, why not send them a handwritten note with some more information on your product that would help better inform their decision? If it is the price that they are not entirely sure about, then why not send a handwritten note offering a one-time discount, or even a free sample so that they can try your product first-hand and see that it is in fact the product they need.
By offering these services you are giving the potential customer more incentive to come back into your sales funnel and helping them move onto the next step. Reaching out to leads even after they have left your funnel with something as sentimental and personal as a handwritten letter shows that you care about them and helps cultivate long-term loyalty. A lead has the potential to leave your sales funnel at any step before the sale so it is important that you nurture them and keep them well informed through regular, meaningful correspondence throughout the entirety of their journey.
Quick Ways to Fill the Holes in Your Sales Funnel
While your leads have the potential to hop out of your funnel at any time, that doesn’t mean you need to sit back accept that they likely will. There are several quick and easy ways that you can reduce the chances of your leads jumping ship, and they can be employed at almost any stage of the customer’s journey.
The biggest mistake a business can make is pitching their sale only once. Over 293 billion business and consumer emails are sent and received every day, so it’s no surprise if your pitch gets lost within the traffic. Why not try an effective alternative? A personal handwritten letter is almost always opened and gives the reader a sense of intimacy and urgency. Scribeless can be used to create and distribute intimate handwritten letters with ease, no matter the size of your customer base, and with the ability to deliver within 24 hours, Scribeless can help plug up another hole that may be lingering in your sales funnel: time.
Customers are expecting quicker and quicker responses, to the point where a 24 hour period has become the minimum that they are willing to wait for a reply. We understand that you may not be able to reach out to your customers as quickly as you’d like, after all there’s plenty of them out there. Just imagine how supported your customers will feel when they are greeted by a personal handwritten letter within the timespan that they are willing to wait for an email, and with the option of setting up regular correspondence at mass, Scribeless will make sure that every single on of your customers knows just how much you care about them.
Marketing’s New Role in the Sales Funnel
In the days when customers could only enter the sales funnel at the top, a company’s marketing team only really needed to accommodate their clients through the first two stages: Awareness and Interest. I cannot emphasise enough how much this has changed. Because customers can now enter the funnel at any stage, there is a much greater need for marketing to be present at every step until the sale is made, as illustrated by Steve Patrizi in his amended model of the sales funnel.
Interestingly, marketing’s growing list of responsibilities in the sales funnel means that the importance of good marketing can be identified within every stage. For instance, to build the Awareness, you may begin with a direct advertisement to make your company or product present in the public space. To accommodate the potential customer at the Interest stage, you could share a video or an article outlining specific details about your product: what is it about your product that stands out from the crowd and appeals to your consumer? In the past, this is where the marketing team would wait for lead to make their own decisions, or look to pass them on to a salesperson. This is no longer the case. Now, when a potential customer becomes interested, it is the job of the marketing team to build Consideration in the lead. Reach out to them and offer them something your competitors don’t match. Let them know something personal about your company that makes you seem like the preferred choice of supplier. Offer that personal touch that plants the seeds of loyalty within them. Continue to maintain this connection between business and customer throughout the next few stages and they will consider you as the ideal company to do business with. It is only after they have made a full commitment to the sale that the marketing can really let go of their customers hands, but even this break in communication shouldn’t last too long!
Getting new customers into your sales funnel is 5 times more expensive than reintroducing old ones, so it is extremely important to maintain a good relationship with your previous buyers. The work is never done for the marketing team. Why not send out another handwritten letter to follow up with your customer? Ask about their experience with your company and your product. If they are dissatisfied, ask if there is any way that you could improve and use their previous experience with you to offer something new. Infusing your customer’s journey with this level of intimacy and personalisation is crucial in the modern day. Your potential customers are constantly being bombarded with information and opportunities that could lead them to step out of your funnel. Building a familiar relationship with your customers by sending them personalised handwritten letters will help them feel safe and satisfied with your business, and encourages them to stay with you despite what your competitors are trying to offer them.