How To Automate Your Sales With A Sales Funnel

How to Automate Your Sales

Do you want to learn how to attract, engage, and convert qualified customers to your business, automate the process, and implement a system that pays for itself?

The best way to do this is to build a sales funnel.

In the business world, this is called sales automation.

Building a sales funnel that converts for your business will have a huge impact.

There are so many sales opportunities being wasted by not having a systematized approach to sales and marketing.

Sales and marketing are not separate.

They should be intertwined with one feeding the other and vice versa.

Having sales funnels that convert prevents leakage in your business.

Dan Kennedy estimates that most small businesses lose over 1 million dollars over 10 years.

In his book, NO BS Direct Marketing for Non-Direct Marketing Businesses he gives a great example below:

“If they (business owners) spend $1000 to get 50 calls, only convert 5 to appointments, and only acquire 2 as customers but worth $1000 each, they turn $1000 into $2000 and are pretty about that.

But each call cost $20.00. Forty-five didn’t turn into appointments that’s $900.

Nearly as much waste as profit. But the total reality is far worse than that.

If, with diligent and thorough follow-up, another 5 appointments, and 2 customers could be had, he’s let $900 plus $2000 slip through holes in his bucket.

If each customer can be made to refer one and an endless chain of referrals created, the $2,900 in waste goes to $4,900, then $6,900, then $8,900, then $10,900.

Let that happen once a month, its $109,000 that should have been in the bucket that leaked out onto the floor. In 10 years, it’s a million dollars.”

In this post, I’ll define what a sales funnels is and how you can build one to prevent leakage in your business.

What is a Sales Funnel?

It’s the steps a business takes from the beginning when a prospect first becomes aware your product/services to the end, when they make a purchase decision.

A lot of businesses aren’t even aware they have a sales funnel.

This is like going to lead you on a journey without a compass.

Every buyer goes through a journey. A sales funnel guides them on this journey.

The Importance of Sales Funnels in Your Business

The most successful businesses have systematized their sales process.

Even today, businesses are still not utilizing the power of the internet to its full capacity.

The best businesses have adapted to the rapidly changing environment and integrated online sales funnels that help support their sales teams.

The opening pitch, the scripts for follow-ups, the email follow-ups; everything is systematized.

What is the buyer’s journey?

The buyer’s journey is the term given to the process a buyer goes through from when they first become aware of your business to when they become loyal clients.

Hubspot gives a good definition below:

buyer journey

It’s an important framework you should know in order to understand your customer’s needs better.

Many businesses already have a good understanding of this process in the offline world…

But they fail to understand how this process works online.

A sales funnel will smoothly guide your prospect along this journey until they become loyal customers.

The Sales Process

Once you’ve understood the buyer’s journey, you can breakdown the exact process of each sale into different stages.

All businesses have different sales processes, but they usually follow these 8 steps:

  • Awareness.
  • Education.
  • Evaluation.
  • Engagement.
  • Commitment.
  • Purchase.
  • Retention.
  • Loyalty.

There is a small percentage of buyers that are ready to buy right now and will skip all these stages.

Chet Holmes in his book The Ultimate Sales Machine illustrates this with the buyers pyramid:

buyers pyramid

However, this is only the minority.

Most customers/clients will go through this process.

Awareness

The first stage in the sales process is the customer has to be aware you exist.

There are a lot of different ways to let new prospects become aware of your  business.

The best avenue to take depends on the type of business you have.

Winning businesses master one or two channels in the beginning and then spread into more channels.

They test and optimize along the path.

Education

If you don’t have a big brand then you must educate your prospects on who you are and how you can help them.

This is best done with a succinct unique value proposition (USP).

Educating your prospects on the value you provide can be very challenging.

In competitive markets, this is often the biggest challenge because it’s difficult to stand out in a crowded field.

If you provide content that is valuable and engaging this will make you stand out from the competition.

Evaluation

Once you’ve educated your prospects and identified their needs they’ll evaluate your product/services against the competition.

Depending on the type of business this process can take a day, or several months.

An important question to ask during this process is to determine the level of importance solving this problem will be.

If your prospects are in problem-solving mode then the chances of a sale will be much higher.

Engagement

At this point, they’ve narrowed down their choices and will be making a decision imminently.

In order to make their choice easier, you can sweeten the deal by offering a money-back guarantee or an extended warranty.

This strategy will make your offer more scarce and will increase conversion rates.

This is also the stage where you handle objections.

Chet Holmes gives a couple of good examples on handling objections and going for the close during a sales call:

Money Objection:

“Well, that’s certainly a good reason not to invest in this today.

But let me ask you a question: Is money the only thing standing between you and the purchase of this product?

So if I can find a way for you to afford this product, you will buy it?”

Hard Close:

“Do you have what it takes to make the decision?

Because that’s where you’re at right now.”

Commitment

Good news!

At this stage, they’ve made the commitment to buy your product/service.

However, even though they’ve committed to purchasing your product/service there is still a chance of losing the sale.

Nothing is firm until the paperwork is signed.

Things can change rapidly in the business world.

Sometimes you’ll find that they’ve made a commitment to buy but for some reason don’t end up buying.

Then life gets in the way and you lose the sale.

Purchase

Congratulations you’ve now made a sale!

Make sure that your on-boarding process is clear and instructs your new customers on how to best take advantage of your product/services.

Education is crucial. 

A lack of education can lead to an increase in customer churn.

Also, you have to make sure you get all your customer/client’s information.

This will build a database of your customers information.

This database is one of the most valuable assets in your business.

Repeat Purchase/Retention

So many businesses make the mistake of not marketing to their old customers.

It’s 6 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to sell to old customers.

Build that database of customers and use that the database to sell and market your product/services.

Email marketing has the highest ROI of any online marketing strategy because it’s a lot cheaper to sell old customers and than it is to acquire new customers.

Loyalty/Community of Fans 

The last stage of the selling process is brand loyalty.

This is the stage where customers/clients become fans and ambassadors of your products/services.

The meaning of loyalty has changed over the years in the business world.

Before the consumer/business relationship was loyal.

Now, if your product/service doesn’t fulfill their needs, customers will jump ship.

In order to reach this stage, you have to be preeminent.

Those businesses that are preeminent are the ones that inspire the most loyalty.

A great way to do this is to create a community of loyal fans. 

All you need is 1000 loyal fans and you can be in business, for a long time.

Start the Sales Process With A Lead Capture 

Before setting up a lead capture, you have to know what your sales process looks like.

What kind of leads does your business need?

Do you want more:

  • Inbound calls?
  • Email subscribers?
  • Appointments? 

Or do you want more people to ask for more information on your product/services?

Once you’ve figured this out you can start creating a lead capture.

What is a Lead Capture?

A lead capture is a form you create on your website that takes your prospects contact information.

Usually, a gift is offered in exchange.

lead capture

Most businesses don’t even have a lead capture on their website.

If they do have one it doesn’t convert at a high rate.

This is because the gift they offer in exchange is something they don’t care about.

The most effective gift is something valuable that your prospect will care about.

You have to ask yourself what one piece of content will be easily consumable and valuable at the same time?

Free reports and white papers do not work as well as they used to.

Checklists and toolkits are much more effective.

Here are a few posts on how to create an effective lead capture:

How to Generate Leads for Your Sales Funnel

There a lot of ways to generate leads for your sales funnel.

Lead generation is the first step in any sales funnel.

However, leads are worthless if your business doesn’t have a system in place that takes your prospect along the buyer’s journey.

Here are some ways you can generate leads for your business.

PPC: Google & Bing

Despite all the changes in PPC over the years, PPC (pay-per-click) is still the fastest way to generate leads.

Google Adwords alone generated over 66 billion in 2015.

It’s a huge business.

Not all businesses will benefit from PPC but for most businesses there’s something there for them.

The two largest networks are Google and Bing.

There are two main networks for Google, Google’s search network, and Google’s display network.

Google’s search network is more popular but both networks work well.

Even though Google Adwords have been around for over a decade most marketers are lazy and make elementary mistakes.

A common mistake is not building unique landing pages for each keyword.

I’ll provide an example that illustrates this.

Let’s say you are searching for a specific camera: A Panasonic lumix dmc-gh3.

ppc

You click on the ad and you’re taken to a generic homepage with different offers and different cameras.

When you do this you drive online visitors away that are most likely to convert.

Unfortunately, over 98% of the Pay Per Click Ads go to the homepage.

Every offer needs its own landing page.

Don’t be lazy.

Create multiple landing pages with different offers for all your products.

Now, if you have thousands of products, then you should create different ad groups for similar products.

In this example above, I’m taken to an offer page that contains 4 different products all related to the model of the camera I was searching for.

This is a pretty good example on a advertiser doing it the right way.

ppc 2

For more information on how to generate leads using PPC read the following posts:

Social Media

Social media is a fantastic way to drive leads and sales to your business.

It’s a different game than others because it can be difficult to measure the ROI on each campaign unless you are doing Facebook or Instagram Ads.

Facebook

There are two parts of Facebook…

Your Facebook business page and Facebook Advertising.

Facebook Page

Posting on your Facebook page has changed dramatically over the last couple of years since Facebook has limited reach unless you are paying.

However, it is still an effective way to generate leads for your business.

Jon Loomer has written great guide on how to create an engaging Facebook presence.

Facebook Ads

Facebook Ads are like Google Adwords in 2005 – A fantastic place to generate leads and sales for your business.

Each day the price of Facebook Ads go up and the competition increases.

It’s one of the best ways to generate leads for most businesses.

Facebook allows you to insert a pixel (piece of code) on your website to track every visitor.

Facebook call this custom audiences.

Every business should do re-targeting Ads on Facebook.

It’s an incredibly effective way to generate leads for your business.

If you want to learn more on how to generate leads from Facebook check out the posts below:

Twitter

The social media giant is no longer the 2nd most popular social network.

However, Twitter ads can be highly effective in generating new leads for your business.

They have half a billion users in total and 170 million of them are active.

Scheduling frequent tweets will dramatically help you generate even more leads. 

This social media platform is also a great way to monitor what people are saying about your business.

This can be very beneficial as Twitter allows you to re-market and create ads that target people who have visited your site and other web properties.

Instagram 

Instagram has the highest engagement of any social media network in the world.

Instagram Ads have recently come out and said they allow you to target using Facebook.

Since a lot of people have their Facebook and Instagram accounts connected this allows you to target them based on their interests and demographics.

Linkedin

Hubspot conducted a study of over 5,000 businesses.

They found that Linkedin traffic converts at 2.74% much higher than Twitter and Facebook:

linkedin

Unlike other social networks, Linkedin users are looking for industry insights, news, new careers, and ways to build their brand.

Some great ways to generate leads from Linkedin is to start a group, be an active participant in other groups, publish on Linkedin Pulse, and Linkedin ads.

Here are some great posts that show you how to generate leads from Linkedin:

Blogging/Content Marketing

Businesses that blog on a regular basis generate 67% more leads per month than those that do not.

lead hubspot

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the new SEO.

Over the years, the demand for quality content has only increased.

Leads that come from content marketing convert at much higher rate than other forms.

Over 47% of leads that come from content marketing make larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.

It takes time, to write good content and it can be expensive to find good content writers.

Content marketing is a great way to build authority, generate leads, and make more sales.

For more information on how to generate leads from content marketing read the following guides:

Podcasting

Podcasting is another great way to generate leads.

It’s still in its infancy but a good podcast can be used to build authority in your industry.

The metrics are difficult to measure so it can be difficult to quantify how many leads this strategy generates.

However, it’s easy to start and not very expensive.

Here a few posts you can read that will help you with podcasting:

Review Sites

If you have positive reviews on the review sites this will help you generate leads for your funnel.

Yelp and Google reviews are one of the ways in which a prospect can evaluate your product/services.

Make sure you manage your listings on these sites to protect your reputation.

Here are a few posts on how you can manage your listings on Yelp and Google.

CPA Networks

Facebook Ads and Adwords might not be the best way to generate leads for your business.

An alternative way is to use CPA networks to test different offers.

Cost per action or CPA is defined as the following:

A method of affiliate marketing in which you get payment for driving traffic to a particular website, where they perform the required action of usually submitting personal details such as their email address, zip code, phone number, etc.

CPA networks build their lists through Co-Registration networks like Opt-Intelligence and CoReg Media.

You can build a sales funnel quickly that converts using this technique.

Offline World

Trade Shows

Trade shows are the #1 way most businesses spend their marketing dollars.

It can be a very effective way to generate leads, sleuth the competition, and create brand awareness.

However, over 70% of trade show leads never get followed up.

If you do a trade show make sure you have a sales funnel set up before you get to the show in order to maximize your ROI.

Cold Calling

Cold calling is not dead – I did it myself over the last 5 years.

Cold calling is the fastest way to generate new businesses and new opportunities.

You can make a sale on a single phone call, it’s rare but it happens.

Use cold calling to test scripts and different offers in order to maximize your chances of winning deals.

Mailers

With the emergence of the internet and email-marketing, direct snail mail has decreased in popularity.

This is actually good news because the cost of mailers has steadily been decreasing over the years and the response rate has increased.

People on average now only receive two mail pieces per day.

This means that mailers get read at a much higher rate than email.

“Direct mail has a high of 700% higher response rate compared to all other digital channels and the ROI is about 15-17%, which is second only to email.

We all know how powerful email is already.” 

Follow Up/Lead Nurturing

Generating leads is not the most challenging aspect of a sales funnel.

The most challenging aspect is actually following up your leads and converting them into a sale.

This is where most companies fail.

They don’t have systems in place that automate this process and keep track of the new leads coming into the funnel.

There are a few ways to keep track of your leads and build an automated system.

The follow-up sequence is usually called lead nurturing.

This is the part where you provide content, discover their needs, and ask for the sale.

I will go over some strategies you can use to nurture your leads and then go over the tactics on how to accomplish this.

Why  Should I Nurture My Leads?

“Lead nurturing is simply the process of building relationships with qualified prospects regardless of their timing to buy, with the goal of earning their business when they are ready.”-Marketo 

Most customers/prospects need to know, like, and trust you before they buy from you.

If you looked at the chart above, over 97% of prospects need lead nurturing.

Some strategies you can do to nurture your leads:

  • Provide content that educates your prospects on your value proposition. This can come in the form of white papers, videos, reports, checklists, etc.
  • Be extremely helpful in answering all their questions.
  • Provide an FAQ (frequently asked question) on your website or as part of your campaign.
  • Determine the importance of solving the problem.
  • Determine the pain points and make recommendations based on your research for each prospect.
  • Scarcity: Make them aware of special offers and bonuses.

Once you’ve understood the importance of nurturing your leads, it’s time to implement systems that help you segment your prospects into different categories.

These systems will also help you automate your follow-ups so you don’t make the mistake of missing leads.

Here are some in-depth guides that will help you understand the importance of lead nurturing for your business:

Email Marketing

Building an email list is one of the most important and valuable things you can do with your business.

It’s also the number #1 way to nurture your leads.

An email list is a database of information that can be an extremely valuable asset for your business.

By capturing your customers/prospects email address, this allows you reach out to them.

You can market your product/services at the appropriate time.

Email marketing can be used to separate your prospects into different categories.

This is called segmentation and I’ll provide more information on this below.

There are many different types of email marketing software you can use.

Some basic ones include Aweber and Constant Contact.

A few of the more advanced ones include Active Campaign, Infusionsoft, and Hubspot.

CRM

It’s amazing how many sales teams don’t use a CRM (customer relationship management).

The benefits of a good CRM are enormous.

They allow you to organize data, keep track of your contacts, increase accountability, and collaborate with your team.

Most businesses can get by with simple CRMs like Active Campaign and Hubspot.

However, if you are dealing with a larger sales force, then SalesForce, NetSuite, and SugarCRM are worth considering.

Segmentation

Once you’ve collected enough leads for your business you can start segmenting them into different categories.

It’s extremely important to segment your prospects into different categories.

This allows you to provide more relevant information to your prospects.

More relevant information will lead to more sales. 

To illustrate this point, I’ll provide an example.

A law firm has a lead come in through their website looking for information on forming a corporation.

The follow-up sequence gives information about their personal taxes.

This not what they came looking for – The information is not relevant.

This will lead to them ignoring your future messages because you didn’t provide relevant information that helps them.

Think about the ways you can segment your leads.

Does it make sense to separate based on demographics? How about through experience? Or budget?  

There are many ways to segment your leads.

Think about your sales process and figure out what’s important to your prospects.

Segmentation allows you to build multiple sales funnels for your business, add layers to your funnel, and build a more sophisticated approach to your sales process.

Here are some more in-depth guides on segmentation:

Adding Multiple Layers to Your Sales Funnel

A lot of times a simple sales funnel will suffice.

However, if you are selling a higher ticket item or have a more complicated sale process then having multiple layers to your sales funnel will be important.

You can do this by first trying to sell a front end offer.

This is sometimes called a trip wire.

A front end offer is a lower priced item usually under $100 that introduces your product/service.

It’s meant to be a small commitment.

It’s important to remember that a good tripwire solves a problem in your prospects business/life. 

It usually serves as an introduction to your product/services.

Some front end/tripwire offers include:

  • 30 Day Trial.
  • Free book (shipping cost not included).
  • Webinars.
  • Live Seminar.

Adding a tripwire to your sales funnel can separate the non-buyers from the buyers.

This is the most important distinction in segmenting your leads.

A lot of tripwire offers are meant to lose money on the front end.

Marketers like Russell Brunson know by building this type of offer on the front end of their funnels, they will be making money on the back-end.

The buyers in your list are the most valuable asset in your business.

Now, that they are customers you can use different strategies to retain them and re-engage them.

Retention

The best way to retain your customers is to provide outstanding service and be helpful in answering any questions they have.

Repeat customers are often the bedrock of many businesses.

Pareto’s principle that 20% of your customers provide 80% of the revenue is often true in a lot of businesses.

If you want to read more on some strategies on how to retain customers check out the posts below:

Re-engaging/Re-Activation Campaigns

It’s amazing how many businesses ignore their old customers.

One of the first questions I ask a business that wants to work with me is:

When was the last time they tried to sell to their old customers?

It cost 6 times as much to gain a new customer than to sell to an old customer.

A quick 30-day reactivation campaign can result in thousands of dollars in new sales.

Not all businesses have repeat customers.

Some businesses have one and done product/services.

However, every business should strive to serve customers at higher and higher levels.

Dan Kennedy advises that every business should have multiple tiers of levels of service they can offer to clients.

There is always going to be clients/customers that want more from you and if you are not offering more then they will go somewhere else.

The only limit is your imagination.

There are usually two types of repeat customers:

  • Those who buy the same product/service from you.
  • Those that buy a different product/service from you.

Repeat customers are the bread and butter for a lot of businesses.  

However, most businesses don’t have a systematized process that actively re-engaged old customers.

Upsell

upsell

The upsell is one of the final steps of your sales funnel.

Most businesses have products that can upsell but they fail to offer them.

You should train your sales staff to always look to upsell.

For example, if you are a dentist and a patient comes in for a routine cleaning, a good upsell would be a teeth whitening.

The client has already bought from you, so why not offer them a higher level of service?

If they don’t buy, you can re-engage them at a later time by emailing them with an offer.

You can do this online as well.

In order to maximize your profits online you should add an upsell offer to your sales funnel.

upsell 2

Hiring for Your Sales Funnel

You want to hire superstars salespeople to help manage your sales funnels.

Chet Holmes in his book The Ultimate Sales Machine has some great counter-intuitive advice on hiring superstars:

  • Hire salespeople with a big ego that are also empathetic.
  • Superior Skill Sets.
  • Market knowledge beyond product knowledge.
  • Learning and Growth Mindset.

The Interview Process

The first step is to create a compelling ad…

The ad is supposed to attract people that are not afraid of a challenge.

You can use Chet Holme’s example below:

“SUPERSTARS ONLY, $50K TO $250K – Average will earn $50K, stars will earn $250K.

Don’t even call unless you are a truly awesome salesperson.

You have a burning desire to succeed, are extremely client oriented, highly motivated and never say die.

You develop deep and meaningful rapport with your clients, and communicate with piercing persuasiveness.

You believe you can be the best at almost everything you do, and can prove it – Don’t call unless you fit this bill.

Excellent salary and commission structure, and great opportunity for upward mobility.

Build an empire within our fine progressive company (Type of company here).

We don’t hire backgrounds, we hire top producers.

Call Susan Martin at (phone number) Call only between (you may want to limit the hours)”

Once you’ve created the ad it’s time to start interviewing for the positions.

Check out Chet Holmes interview process here.

Marketing vs Sales

A lot of businesses make the mistake of separating their marketing and sales teams.

Marketing and sales should work together to achieve their objectives.

A lot of companies that have large marketing teams but do not pay any attention to the sales side.

Instead, they just focus on building a brand.

Branding is extremely important in today’s world, but it’s a mistake not to include direct response type of elements in your marketing.

When you include direct response in your marketing you will better be able to measure the ROI of your marketing campaigns.

Analytics and Tracking

It’s very important to track the conversion rates of your sales funnel.

Without tracking, you won’t be able to optimize your sales funnel.

Some tools you can use are Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, and Kissmetrics.

Tools

There are many tools that allow you to build a sales funnel in minutes.

Two of the most popular are Clickfunnels and Leadpages.

Clickfunnels- Clickfunnels allows you to build a complete sales funnel in minutes.

You can also integrate it with CRMs like ActiveCampaign and Infusionsoft.

Leadpages- Less buggy and easier to use than Clickfunnels, with Leadpages you can create beautiful landing pages in minutes.

It takes a bit of work to create a sales funnel since you have to build it manually.

Sales Funnel Conclusion

All businesses would benefit if they have a sales funnel that converts in their business.

Most businesses have a sales funnel in place but don’t have a defined system that converts at every step.

In review these are the things that define what a sales funnel is:

Who– Sales is the backbone of most businesses and having a defined process will have huge benefits.

What– Businesses should have a systematized process that defines the customer relationship from the awareness stage to the loyalty stage of the sales process.

When– The sales process starts the moment a prospect becomes aware your business exists.

Why– A sales funnel allows you to track and measure ROI

How– Make sure to combine the offline world with the online world to maximize your impact.

 

About the Author

My name is Mauricio and I'm the founder The Cardenal Group. I write about online marketing, sales, and entrepreneurship.

Leave a Reply 5 comments

John Lee Dumas - February 11, 2016 Reply

Wow, what a great article Mauricio! Thanks for the mention, it’s an honor 🙂

Luke Alley - February 15, 2016 Reply

Thorough article. Appreciate the mention!

frances - November 25, 2016 Reply

Great information. Thanks.

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