Every small business wants to increase sales and grow revenue, but what’s the magic secret to doing this? The sales funnel. No matter what type of small business or what budget you have to put towards gaining new business and keeping existing customers, a sales funnel is essential. A sales funnel is meant as a way to visualize the customer’s journey through the sales process. If you envision a funnel, then the sale begins at the large top opening then ends as it gets smaller with purchase (or alternative end goal). A sales funnel can also be referred to as a sales pipeline and can be the key to measuring, managing and forecasting the sales process. Additionally, it can also be the driving force to improving the sales process to gain more business. This sales process can involve a variety of different aspects and can vary significantly from one business type to the next.
Defining the Customer Journey
The sales funnel should be consistent with the customer’s decision-making process, this is also often referred to as the customer journey. If you were to put yourself in the customer’s shoes, envision what steps they would go to to find your business and what factors they would weigh before making a purchase or decision to utilize your service. The needs of the customer should be the driving force in what a sales funnel should look like.
Stages of the Customer Journey and Sales Process
While each business will identify different stages, the average small business will generally categorize between 3 to 7 stages within the customer journey. In the marketing and sales world, there are five common stages that exist within the customer journey. These stages consist of 1) Awareness, 2) Discovery, 3) Evaluation, 4) Intent, and 5) Purchase. Once the customer journey is thoroughly evaluated, then it’s onto the sales process to make it mirror that of the customer journey. If the sales process is put into place without recognizing and catering to the customer journey, then the sales process will more than likely not work well as it fails to acknowledge and address the needs of the customer.
A sample sales process that would match the customer journey with the five steps identified above may follow 1) Prospect, 2) Qualification, 3) Demonstration, 4) Negotiation, and 5) Closed Won/ Lost.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sale; it can be as simple as capturing an email address or booking an appointment. There are a wide variety of tools available today that can assist in managing the sales funnel. From a robust CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to an old-fashioned pen and paper or Excel spreadsheet, it can easily be done.
Breaking Out from the Competition
Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and mapping the customer journey is the first step to identifying the sales funnel for your small business. While stages may vary from one business to the next, the general principles remain the same. Carefully examine the customer journey at your close competitors. What are they doing differently? How can you differentiate your business? Make sure to identify an end goal with the sales funnel.
The sad fact is that many small businesses fail to identify their sales funnel. The sales funnel can apply to just about any business, no matter the size, that has some form of a sales process. Each industry is different with the sales cycle, and there is no one-size-fits-all sales funnel. Without having a sales funnel clearly defined then progress for each stage of the sales process can’t be identified and measured. Having a well thought out sales funnel will aid in building relationships with customers and ultimately result in closing more deals.
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