The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.

Matt Ackerson founded AutoGrow (Petovera Inc.) in 2010 as a conversion-focused web design agency. The company has since worked one-on-one with over 500 customers and clients to create their sales funnels. Matt is a graduate of Cornell University. He and AutoGrow have been featured in Techcrunch, Forbes, Inc, Venture Beat, Mashable, and Popular Science among others. He and the team write in-depth articles on digital marketing, sales funnel design, and also offer an advanced funnel training course here on AutoGrow.co
Most prospects will look to enter this stage after identifying your offering as a possible solution and completing the information search process described in the earlier stage. However, some customers might be introduced to your brand after completing Stage 2 with your competitors, as in the case of an industry blog running a comparison chart of the different competitors in your space.
Force moves the sales process forward. Areas of force include accurate and timely information, a good understanding of the problem, your ability to listen and overall responsiveness. Friction slows down the sales process. Essentially, when your prospect has to jump through too many hoops or faces obstacles or inconveniences throughout the sales process, this creates friction which makes your job more difficult.
To better understand the concept of a sales funnel and just how you can implement it in your own business, let's look at the following image from Shutterstock. On the left side of the image, you see a magnet. That magnet is attracting customers, which happens a number of ways. From blogging to social media to paid ads and everything in between, how the visitors arrive to your website has some impact on the success of your funnel. 
Some business owners are moving away from the term “marketing funnel” because they think it’s too mechanical or simplistic to describe the lead nurturing sequence by which customers move from awareness to purchase. I think it’s still a useful way to describe a complex process and it’s a good visual to imagine the entire process from start to finish.
Exits from stage – Similarly, seeing an excessively high number of people falling out of a particular stage is an indication that you aren’t doing enough to answer their questions or you’re asking them for too much of a commitment too early. Add more content to give them the information they need to move forward or make it easier for people to convert (e.g. don’t ask for a phone number when they’re downloading a certain e-book).

At Disruptive Advertising, the marketing funnel is a key part of how we approach every client’s marketing. Getting into specifics about which tactics work best under which conditions in which stages is beyond the scope of this article, but if you’d like help setting up your own marketing funnel, let me know here or in the comments. Or, for additional content, check out this blog post.
Armed with extensive online information, a modern buyer requires different skills from a salesperson and frequently exhibits different behavior than buyers of the past. A modern buyer may get very excited about a purchase and spend a lot of time in the research phase and then abruptly stop, ending the sales process sometimes without any reason at all. Often, modern buyers want to reduce the friction of buying and using a product to make it easy for them to achieve the value.
If you're wondering what a sales funnel is, simply imagine a real-world funnel. At the top of that funnel, some substance is poured in, which filters down towards one finite destination. In sales, something similar occurs. At the top, lots of visitors arrive who may enter your funnel. However, unlike the real-world funnel, not all who enter the sales funnel will reemerge out from the other end. 
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