So, have you ever heard of prospecting funnel? Wonder what it is? So, it has always kind of been around. You know, even before the digital era began with the invention of the internet. But to be honest, it got under the light, after digital marketing took over. The interesting fact is that when we call it a prospecting funnel, there is no conceptual meaning in there, we actually are talking about a funnel. why? Because it really looks like a real funnel, you know! You have a lot of prospects at the entrance and a few real customers at the end. You see what I mean, right?
The prospecting funnel is a visual representation of the stages that potential customers go through during the sales process. It typically includes stages such as lead generation, lead qualification, nurturing, and conversion, and helps businesses track and manage their prospecting efforts to drive successful sales outcomes.
What is the prospecting funnel?
Imagine that you are doing some traditional marketing like giving fliers to two thousand people for a gift shop right before Christmas, will they all become your customers? No! Some might get interested and ask you for more information or even visit your store, but none of them are going to purchase yet. In the end, a few people actually buy from you and they are called customers.
This example portrayed the simplest prospecting funnel that exists. There are a lot of different funnels out there, but let me tell you that one of the most professional funnels has seven stages and I am going to review its steps one by one now in the latter subtitles.
But let’s get a bit deeper, shall we? So, the prospecting funnel is “ The definition of a sales funnel is the journey potential buyers go through when they take an interest in a specific product or service. This journey consists of a funnel of steps that sales teams use to convert prospects into customers, also known as prospecting.” As Cognism states. Your sales depend on how you design your funnel. And In order to better design these stages, it is first necessary to familiarize yourself with the concepts of the sales funnel and its stages so that you can better understand the needs and interests of the audience at each stage and guide them toward making a purchase and becoming a loyal customer. I will introduce the types of customers you will encounter during the sales process down below.
After determining the market where most of your target audiences are, you should look for leads to get started. A lead is a person who knows about the existence and activity of your business and has expressed interest in your product or service and your business. This expression of interest may occur by clicking on click-ads or by submitting an email to the site’s newsletter. Of course, leads include a wide group of people, which can be divided into smaller groups called qualified leads, considering some factors.
Potential customers AKA prospects are people who are interested in the product or service of your business, and in fact, all potential customers are considered leads, but not all leads are potential customers. You should note that only a small percentage of leads convert into prospects.
As you know, a customer is someone who makes a purchase and pays for it. But these customers can be divided into two categories. One is customers who make a purchase only once and the other is customers who make their purchases several times, meaning they come back to your website to repurchase (loyal customers).
Therefore, we have three types of customers in the sales process. Our funnel starts with a lead that has a long way to go before becoming a real customer. Any people who react to services, ads, products, and goods and are in some way connected with us are in the category of leads and we imagine them at the entrance of the funnel.
In the second category of customers, some people are in the middle of the sales funnel. The number of these people is less than the first group. Potential customers are usually located in the prospects category and they are likely to become your real customers. At this stage, many prospects get eliminated in different people to reach the third category. Finally, in the third category, customers exit the narrow opening at the end of the funnel. Of course, the most ideal possible situation for a sales funnel is when we have a sales cylinder and not a funnel, but this situation does not happen in the real world. Even the greatest brands cannot claim to have a sales cylinder more than a prospecting funnel.
What is Inbound Marketing?
What is inbound marketing? What are the benefits of using this marketing method? In this subtitle, I will help you to grow and promote your business in the best possible way.
Before explaining more about what inbound marketing is, we need to note that the inbound marketing method alone is not always enough. Imagine that you have spent a lot of money to attract the attention of your target customers to your brand. Now the target audience has entered your site to buy a product or service, but your site is not working properly due to a large amount of traffic. In this case, you have spent a lot of money without getting any results. This is why it is always recommended that if you intend to attract an audience and increase site traffic, you should ensure the resources and services of your host or server.
According to Hubspot “Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have.”
This method is the exact opposite of outbound marketing. Outbound marketing uses different methods of advertising. Advertisements like:
- Print advertising
- Radio and TV advertising
- SMS advertising
- Mail marketing (blind)
These are just a few examples of outbound marketing that have been incredibly popular in the past. In recent years, their efficiency has decreased drastically and the market no longer responds very well to this type of marketing. Another thing that can be considered as the difference between these two marketing styles is their cost. The cost of inbound marketing is very affordable compared to the results it provides. In inbound marketing, the user is exposed to our content and ads based on their interest, but this is not the case with outbound marketing. The advertising cost of this model is very high and you practically have no control over choosing your audiance.
Following the principles of inbound marketing will help you to turn your target audience into your loyal customers in a short period by creating meaningful relationships with them. This can be done by answering users’ questions to help them solve their problems ASAP. How? When the audiences solve their problems with your help, they start to think positively about you and that is a key factor to success. These principles can be categorized into four steps:
There are billions of audiences out there in the world. So naturally, any business needs to find/choose its audience group and direct its marketing efforts to that specific group. To be honest, the goal is to attract those who are more probable to become your leads and then turn them into happy and loyal customers at the end of the day. The best way to attract people in inbound marketing is through content production and for that you need to find the keywords, related to your business, then you can strategize your content and start publishing it. With good content and publishing it at the right time and place not only can you promote your business to the correct people, but you also can increase your website and other online assets’ traffic. It can be done through blogging, retargeted advertising, social media marketing, etc.
Now you have attracted your audience, it’s time to increase your communication. For example, ask them to do something (like signing up) on different landing pages. You can also ask them to fill out the contact information form on your website to use the offers and to know about the events and campaigns of your company. In order to produce better and more useful products for your customers, you need to get to know them, their concerns, and their problems, and the best way to do this is through the online feedback forms you have. Producing effective and user-required content also helps a lot in republishing your content and increases the conversion rate of visitors to leads.
At this stage, with the information you have, you produce a product suitable for the conditions, problems, or interests of the leads in order to convert them into buyers. When leads buy from you and you see the ROI of your business, you can shift these leads to the customer’s list. To speed up the process, you can always take advantage of special offers, offering discounts, etc. This is where the CRM team comes in and by examining the behavior of these former leads and current customers, like seeing which sections they visit the most, and things like that, they offer different products to each one according to their data.
This stage is the most pleasant of all stages, both in traditional marketing and digital marketing. This stage is where the satisfied customer introduces your brand and products to others. This issue is much more important than it seems because according to statistics, more than 80% of people trust the words of their loved ones, friends, colleagues, and even a passenger in a subway more than a salesperson or advertisements on a billboard. Therefore, it is highly recommended to turn your regular customers into satisfied and happy customers so that they can be effective and free marketers of your products in society.
But why should you use internal marketing? What are the advantages of this method? Well, this method must have had a lot of advantages over outbound marketing, to take its place in the market at such a high speed. One of the first things that come up as a benefit of this method is the ability to be purposeful and target the audience. There is no need for many expensive advertisements for a large community with different tastes (such as television and radio advertisements) on this method. You just need to find the right keyword and focus your marketing efforts on the target market. It has been proven that the audience who could solve their problem using your content, notices you and your brand, so it is natural that the efficiency of marketing increases with this method. The audience will be encouraged to communicate with you.
Another advantage is the much lower costs of this marketing method. If this issue is not the first important thing in choosing a marketing method, it is the second thing that occupies your mind and every business owner. Fortunately, due to the better impact and the ability of targeted loading in the introvert method, which we mentioned before, this method is very economical compared to the type of outbound and has a much higher return on investment. You only need one-third the investment to find a certain number of leads in inbound marketing than it does to find the same amount of leads in outbound marketing.
You can remain in the minds of the audience and of course in Google by using inbound marketing. The most important factor of this method is content production. As mentioned, with the right content at the right time and place, you can be much better and more effective in attracting audiences. Experts believe that by patiently improving your SEO and increasing your website traffic, you will get better rankings in Google results and connect with a larger audience over time. You can turn them from leads to loyal customers by providing valuable content and products and services and get engraved in their minds as a credible information source and a trustworthy brand.
Another advantage of this marketing method is that you can analyze the behavior of the audience. Google and many online platforms, including social media networks such as LinkedIn, provide you with various information so that you can see when and what type of content people have read and engaged with the most. This information gives you an excellent base for analyzing the behavior of the audience and of course determining the content and marketing strategy in order to improve the business campaigns according to them.
Finally, the development of technology (especially the Internet) that has changed the way we live and interact with each other has made it necessary to change the way of marketing and sales. Inbound marketing helps businesses keep up with this rapid flow of changes more easily and in addition to increasing sales, creates a good user experience for customers. But to get the best result, you have to use it in your business and perform its steps one by one. In fact, it can be said that attracting the audience is not just related to the marketing team, engaging and converting the audience into customers is not just related to the sales team, and making the customer happy is not just the duty of the support and service team. Rather, to build a continuous and stable relationship between your business and the customer, it is necessary for the audience to feel good in all stages of inbound marketing. By applying the inbound marketing method to all teams, you can expand your business, attract customers who are most beneficial to you, and establish a long-term relationship with them.
Why use the prospecting funnel method?
As we mentioned before, the sales funnel is almost the same age as marketing. But in traditional marketing, it was not considered that much, and with the beginning of the era of digital marketing, it got into the spotlight. Various advantages are mentioned for this funnel, and each of them can be a reason to use it in marketing and sales. Here I am going to share some of these benefits with you.
Defining the real customer
With the help of this marketing method, you can distinguish real customers from people who read your ad or enter your website out of need or curiosity.
Forecasting the market
Using this method, you can measure the number of potential and real customers and monitor your sales. In this case, you can plan to improve the sales market of your products in the future and estimate the approximate amount of sales of your products in several periods.
Investigating and recognizing business obstacles:
By examining and knowing the potential and real customers of your products, you can identify the obstacles that can cause the reduction of customers in your business and remove them.
Another advantage of this method is its effectiveness. Using this method, you can find out which city and region your customers belong to. By knowing the culture of customers, you can offer more effective marketing methods and increase the number of customers of your business.
Understanding the customer’s taste
If you look closely, you will notice that most people behave and think alike. This is the reason why something becomes fashionable every time. The sales funnel helps you to analyze the behavior of customers who are attracted to your business and understand what they like. As a result, you will notice the taste of the target community, and based on that you can adjust the next ads and attract more people.
Focused sales strategy
Designing a dedicated sales funnel for your business means that you no longer rely on fragmented approaches to sell your product. Instead, you outline the steps and actions you need to take at each stage of the sales process. Having a clear strategy is the most important benefit of the sales funnel.
With a sales funnel strategy, you will learn how to convert the first lead into a customer. You will also get to know the activities that are not working as well. You should eliminate them and focus your efforts on activities that generate sales. When you make fewer mistakes, you can convert more people into buyers (from the same number of leads). You can also add more leads to your funnel in the first step.
An optimized sales funnel can help you earn more from each customer. For example, you can add a step to your funnel that allows customers to learn about other products related to their initial purchase and complete their purchase. In this case, you can earn more per customer.
Increasing forecast accuracy
By tracking how leads move through your sales funnel, you can make better predictions about future purchases. It also helps you make decisions about cash flow, budgeting, and demand. If you know that on average 10% of people who sign up for your mailing list end up becoming buyers, you can estimate how many sales you will make based on the number of new subscribers you get each day.
Higher profit margin
Having a deeper understanding of the sales funnel allows you to better estimate customer acquisition costs. Understanding the sales funnel will show you which customer acquisition methods are more profitable. See where you’re spending money and what’s working to cut costs and increase profitability.
The steps of the prospecting funnel or how to create your own
As I mentioned, there is a lot of different sales funnel in marketing and here I am going to review the one with seven stages.
It is the stage where people (users) get aware of your existence, and get to hear about your business, products, etc. and the least important thing in this matter is the way this awareness happens. They might have seen your TV commercial, seen your billboard, seen your ad in a magazine or flier, received your cold email, or got to know about you in any other way. The important thing is that you successfully found several prospects to enter into the sales funnel. The more important thing is that you are to generate leads now.
So people entered your website, company page, or store. Well, you cannot let them just leave for good! You are to try and lead them deeper in that funnel. You need to have a lead from people who enter and exit your online platforms to be able to reach them again. How? Imagine that we used SEO and interesting content to lure people to our website. Now we need to persuade them to leave their contact information like email address, phone number, LinkedIn profile URL, etc. For instance, you can add a CTA at the end of your articles that encourage the visitors to sign up for your newsletter to get noticed whenever you publish new content on that specific topic. BAM!!! You have their email address or phone number. We can also use pop-up messages to encourage users to leave their contact info like telling them to sign up for getting notified about your season sales or offers and discounts, etc.
All right, you have your leads, let’s start that relationship. We have our leads email list, so check in with them every week and invite them to read, watch and engage with the newly published content on your website or the content you shared on your LinkedIn company page. Believe me, this makes your prospects more interested in your brand, products, services, etc. Since they already showed their curiosity about article A, they probably like to read articles B, C, and D as well.
We need to attract our prospects’ attention to our business goals. One of the best ways for that is to publish an article and review a consumer’s experience as a case study. It will grab the prospect’s attention to the product or service in the case study and gives them a good overview of the way your product works, the problem they can solve using it, the price, etc., and can encourage them to move along the funnel.
So you got the prospects to consider using your product and services and now they are in the stage of deciding to buy. Yes, they have not decided yet, but they are so positive about the whole process and are intending more or less. But this stage is completely optional. You won’t see it in so many funnel figures, while I use it, you might decide not to. This stage is where you make sure that the prospect has definitely turned into a customer, it is where you give some interesting offers to those still doubtful users, like a two-year guarantee. It is the last cupid arrow to make sure that they fall for you.
You are finally there, the sweet Garden of Eden. The user is finally making his/her purchase. This usually is the final stage of the funnel for many marketers and salespeople, but the professional funnel that I am describing has two more stages.
So the customer bought our service or product, that was the ultimate goal, right? Yeah, but the more important thing is to make sure that they come back for further purchases. Don’t just leave them alone, you made a relationship and you better keep in touch. Email them, call, send messages, ask them if they are satisfied with your products or service, what they believe you can do to make it and the customer’s experience better, make sure you have provided them with the best customer service possible, etc. This stage turns people to your loyal customers and makes sure that they come back for more.
We are at the best stage and our ultimate goal. It is when the customers are so satisfied with your product and/or services that they unconsciously turned into your advocates. The best example of a successful advocacy stage is iPhone. Its users are so satisfied with the quality of their phones and other devices that they will defend the brand’s quality whenever someone says that the iPhone does not worth the price you are to pay for it, or any other complaints. You have a very strong advocate out there at this stage, not to mention the free word-to-mouth marketing this stage provides.
But the amount of your sales, apart from factors such as marketing, also depends on the design of the different stages of the funnel. In fact, the better these steps are designed, the more people you will convert into customers. For having your own effective prospecting funnel all you need to do is to use the mentioned seven stages funnel and build your own funnel.
Examples of the prospecting funnel
Let’s wrap this article up with an example of a prospecting funnel. Imagine that you own an electronic business that sells hands-free and mobile accessories. You know that your target audience usually browses Instagram and TikTok and your target customers are males and females between 13 to 55 years of age. You run a perfect Instagram campaign that drives traffic to your landing page. On the page, you ask your prospect to sign up for your email list in exchange for a free mobile cover. Congrats, you just turned your leads into prospects.
In the following weeks, you publish content that highlights the importance of buying original hands-free and/or mobile accessories. It is necessary to help them know how to prospect themselves and their phone and money from unqualified, cheap, and fake products. You email them after their first order and offer a 15 percent coupon for each customer.
The next stage is to keep posting interesting and valuable content like how to distinguish a fake charger from the original and ask them to comment on their experience. Also, follow up with the customers to see if they are satisfied with what they bought from you and if they have a problem with that. This will turn them your loyal and advocate customers. Congratulations, you just reached the last stage of your professional purchasing funnel.
Related Questions & Answers
What is a sales funnel?
A sales funnel is a systematic process that businesses use to convert potential customers into paying customers. It represents the journey a customer takes from the initial stage of awareness about a product or service to the final stage of making a purchase. The sales funnel is typically divided into several stages, with each stage focusing on specific actions and interactions.
At the top of the funnel, there is the awareness stage, where businesses aim to attract the attention of potential customers through various marketing channels. This is followed by the interest stage, where businesses provide more information and engage with the prospects to generate their interest. Next is the decision stage, where prospects evaluate the options and make a decision about whether to purchase or not. Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, there is the action stage, where the prospect becomes a paying customer.
The sales funnel helps businesses analyze and optimize their sales and marketing efforts by identifying areas of improvement and determining where potential customers may drop off in the process. By understanding the sales funnel, businesses can strategically guide prospects through each stage, increasing the chances of conversion and ultimately driving revenue.
5 stages of the sales funnel
The sales funnel typically consists of five stages.
- Awareness: This is the top of the funnel, where potential customers become aware of a product or service. It involves generating interest and capturing the attention of the target audience through marketing efforts such as advertisements, content marketing, social media, and search engine optimization.
- Interest: In this stage, prospects show an active interest in the product or service. They engage with the business by seeking more information, subscribing to newsletters, downloading resources, or attending webinars. The goal is to nurture their interest and provide valuable content to move them further down the funnel.
- Consideration: At this stage, prospects are evaluating their options and considering making a purchase. They compare different products or services, read reviews, and seek testimonials. Businesses need to showcase the unique value proposition and address any concerns or objections to convince prospects to move forward.
- Decision: In the decision stage, prospects have decided to make a purchase. They may request a demo, negotiate pricing, or seek clarification on specific features. The sales team plays a crucial role in providing personalized assistance, overcoming objections, and guiding the prospect towards making the final decision.
- Action: This is the bottom of the funnel, where the prospect takes the desired action and becomes a customer by making a purchase. It may involve signing a contract, making a payment, or completing an online transaction. The goal is to provide a seamless and positive experience to encourage repeat business and foster customer loyalty.
These stages provide a framework for businesses to understand and optimize their sales process, ensuring effective lead conversion and customer acquisition.
Sales funnel strategy
A sales funnel strategy is a plan or approach that businesses use to guide potential customers through the different stages of the sales funnel and optimize their chances of conversion. It involves implementing tactics and techniques to attract, engage, and nurture leads at each stage of the funnel.
The first step in a sales funnel strategy is to create awareness and generate leads through targeted marketing campaigns and channels. This can include tactics such as content marketing, social media advertising, search engine optimization, and paid advertisements. The goal is to reach the target audience and capture their attention.
Once leads are generated, the next step is to nurture their interest and build a relationship. This can be achieved through email marketing, personalized content, webinars, and lead magnets. The aim is to provide value, address their pain points, and establish credibility and trust.
As leads move further down the funnel, the strategy shifts towards converting them into paying customers. This involves presenting compelling offers, addressing objections, and providing testimonials or case studies. The sales team plays a crucial role in this stage by engaging with leads, answering questions, and guiding them towards making a purchase decision.
An effective sales funnel strategy also includes measures to retain and upsell customers. This can involve post-purchase follow-ups, customer support, loyalty programs, and upselling or cross-selling opportunities.
Overall, a sales funnel strategy focuses on guiding leads through the different stages of the funnel, optimizing conversions, and maximizing revenue by providing a seamless and valuable experience at each touchpoint.
Sales funnel examples
Here are two simple examples of sales funnels:
Example 1: E-commerce Sales Funnel
|Sees targeted Facebook ad for online clothing store
|Clicks on ad, lands on store website
|Adds items to cart, proceeds to checkout
|Receives abandoned cart email with discount
|Applies discount, completes purchase
Example 2: B2B Sales Funnel
|Comes across informative blog post on marketing software
|Clicks on CTA button, lands on e-book download page
|Receives nurturing emails, attends webinar
|Schedules demo with sales representative
|Signs contract, gains access to software platform
In these tables, each stage of the sales funnel is represented, along with the corresponding customer action that takes place at each stage. This provides a clear and concise overview of the customer journey in each example.
What is a prospecting funnel?
The definition of a sales funnel is the journey potential buyers go through when they take an interest in a specific product or service. This journey consists of a funnel of steps that sales teams use to convert prospects into customers, also known as prospecting.
What are the 5 stages of sales funnel?
Awareness, interest, consideration, intent, purchase
Is prospecting top of funnel?
Not really. The first stage of every funnel is awareness and you are to generate leads in it.
What is the level 3 of prospecting funnel?