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.
Beyond terms and process, one of the best ways brands can align both sales and marketing is through shared programs such as account-based marketing (ABM) and lead nurturing. In 2018, Salesforce Research found high-performing marketing organizations to be 1.5x more likely to use ABM methods, and 1.9x more likely to use lead nurturing than underperforming marketing organizations. They are “shared programs” since both marketing and sales should work together to create them. Marketing handles the technology and setup while sales pick the targets and help create the content. Sharing in the creation of the programs allows sales to feel ownership of the programs, increasing their use and overall effectiveness.

As each individual deal moves through each phase, the probability of closing the sale will change. The further along the sales funnel, the more information is exchanged and more apparent it becomes using the product will be advantageous to the customer. At this point, there is a higher potential for that deal to be ultimately successful unless the deal is moved to closed-lost in which case, the probability moves to zero.
On a macro-level, a sales funnel will start with a large number of potential buyers at the top Based on certain criteria, this pool of potential buyers is reduced to a fewer number of prospects. Towards the middle of the customer journey, the number of prospects reduces to a handful of opportunities, and after the decision-making stage, the sales process ends with a closed-won or closed-lost deal.
Of course, if you're going the paid ad route, you could also use Facebook and Google re-targeting to keep that awareness and interest level high. For example, if you've ever noticed after leaving a particular website, that you begin to see their ad everywhere, there's a particular reason for that. Especially if they've already entered your sales funnel, this is a very powerful way to get them to act.
Now, you don’t need a massive advertising budget or a product that targets a basic human need to use this approach. Whether its a paid search ad that addresses the main reason behind someone’s search or a paid social ad that connects your target audience’s need to what you sell, good Stage 2 marketing helps people connect the dots between their pain and your solution.
But once you acquire enough initial customers and you ensure their success and happiness, they become a force for your flywheel. This is because either they buy from you again or they bring in new customers by promoting you to their network. This is the key to keeping your flywheel spinning without continuing to invest all your resources in acquiring new customers.
Your automated sequence of emails needs to reflect the different stages of the sales funnel process as depicted in the diagram above. Automated emails ideally should guide your prospective students somewhere from the “interest phase”, where they have signed up for a newsletter or downloaded a lead magnet, through to purchase of your course. This requires a good bit of thought to create the right messaging, frequency and content offer.

Why go through the trouble of following these 11 steps?  You want to be able to maximize course sales for the least amount of effort, right? You basically want to put passive income generation from your online courses to be on autopilot.   That means driving potential students to your course landing page – wherever it may be – and convincing them to pay for your course – and hopefully any other course your produce after that. That’s called “conversion” and it’s the goal of creating your sales funnel is to get conversions.
Have someone examine the ratio of visitors to your page, versus how many people enter their contact information to get access to content. A high percentage means you are targeting your demographic well, and should continue to offer similar content. A low percentage means you need to invest more in adding value to the free content or service you are offering.
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.
As “State of Sales” finds, salespeople believe a combination of human skills and data-driven insights is needed to convert prospects into customers. In fact, the ability to listen is seen by 78% of those surveyed as an important attribute needed for landing deals. But sales reps also have to demonstrate industry knowledge (74%), trustworthiness (74%), and knowledge of prospects’ business needs (73%).
In brief, we are inclined to go along with someone’s suggestion if we think that person is a credible expert (authority), if we regard him or her as a trusted friend (liking), if we feel we owe them one (reciprocity), or if doing so will be consistent with our beliefs or prior commitments (consistency). We are also inclined to make choices that we think are popular (consensus [social proof]), and that will net us a scarce commodity (scarcity).
Before you start building your sales funnel, it is essential to have a clear business vision, develop an ecommerce marketing strategy, and then define your target audience to work towards your business growth. If, for example, you are looking at how to create an online clothing store, you need to follow specific steps to develop your business and stay successful.
We’ve written a bit about defining your target audience, but suffice to say that if you still haven’t done this, then don’t bother moving on to the next steps in the sales funnel. You must have some idea of what people are interested in your topic, where they are hanging out online and what motivates them in order to begin creating awareness of your course at the top of the funnel.  If you just start sending out emails and tweets willy nilly with no real plan, your efforts (and you will read later on that it is a lot of effort) will be wasted.  You need to know that you are creating the right content for the right people.
Close rate – Your close rate (or “win rate”) refers to the number of these opportunities that turn into eventual sales. If your close rate is lower than you expect, look at some of the other metrics you’re tracking for ideas on improving the success rate of your marketing funnel. You may be sending sales unqualified leads because your content is for a far more technically savvy audience while your ideal customer is a novice.
On a macro-level, a sales funnel will start with a large number of potential buyers at the top Based on certain criteria, this pool of potential buyers is reduced to a fewer number of prospects. Towards the middle of the customer journey, the number of prospects reduces to a handful of opportunities, and after the decision-making stage, the sales process ends with a closed-won or closed-lost deal.

The definitions of MQL and SQL (SAL) should be spelled out, and agreed upon, in a service level agreement (SLA). The SLA outlines the terms of how sales and marketing will work together. The SLA should define what MQL and SQL look like, as well as state the time frame and process each team must follow. For example, an MQL has reached a score of 75 through a combination of content engagement and web engagement and fits the ideal customer profile. It must be accepted by sales or sent back to marketing within 24 hours of being assigned. The SLA should be drafted together by both marketing and sales leadership and signed off on by both parties.


The marketing funnel depicts the steps of a hypothetical buyer through his decision-making process. The funnel is widest at the top and then gradually grows more narrow. The earliest models depicted a customer entering the funnel as a novice and then sliding down the funnel and through the steps of awareness, interest, desire and action, meaning a purchase.


Think about that the next time you're building out a sales funnel. This complex and intricate concept in business can literally take you from a complete unknown to a global powerhouse quickly through the art of scaling out a highly-converting offer. Don't try to take shortcuts or implement hacks, and put in the time if you're looking to eventually reap the benefits and results.
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
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

Much of this is steeped in buyer psychology. The best marketers in the world know that there is a psychological process that must occur for prospects to whip out those credit cards and turn into buyers or even hyper-active buyers. One such person whose perfected this process is Russell Brunson, an "underground entrepreneur" who founded a company called ClickFunnels, a sales funnel SaaS business that empowers marketers from around the world to build marketing automation without all the hassle. 
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