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Lead Funnels: How to Create an Effective Sales Funnel

As a sales manager, you’re always looking for ways to improve your team’s performance. One important area to focus on is your lead funnel. Having an efficient and effective lead funnel can make a big difference in your team’s success. But what exactly is a lead funnel? And how can you optimize it for maximum effectiveness? Keep reading to find out.

Wioleta Szybowska

What is a lead funnel?

A lead funnel, also called a marketing funnel or sales funnel, is a visual representation of the journey a customer takes from initial awareness of a product or service to final purchase. It’s a crucial component of a successful marketing strategy that helps businesses understand their customers’ behavior and guide them through the buying process. 

The goal is to move as many prospects as possible from the top of the funnel to the bottom, where they become paying customers.

The lead funnel typically consists of four or five stages:

  • Awareness: In the first stage of the marketing funnel, a potential customer becomes aware of a product or service. This is usually achieved through advertising, content marketing, referral marketing, and so on.
  • Interest: In this stage, a potential customer expresses an interest in the product or service and seeks more information. They may conduct research, compare products, and ask friends or family for their opinions.
  • Desire: The third stage is where the potential customer develops a strong desire for the product or service. They may clearly understand its benefits and be motivated to take action.
  • Action: In the final stage of the marketing funnel, the customer takes action and makes a purchase. This is where the business’s sales and marketing efforts are put to the test.
  • (Optional) Loyalty: Some models also include a loyalty stage, where customers become repeat customers and refer others to the business.

Illustration depicting the 4 stages of a lead funnel

A well-designed funnel can help businesses increase conversions and sales by guiding prospects through buying and nurturing relationships with potential customers. The lead funnel has to engage both marketing and sales efforts, as both teams play an important role in different stages of the buying journey.

READ ALSO: Transforming Prospects into Customers: How to Create a Converting B2B Lead Generation Funnel 

Marketing and sales strategy – Different stages of lead funnels

Marketing stages

In today’s increasingly digital world, developing an effective marketing strategy goes far beyond simple advertising. A marketing funnel creates dedicated paths for customers to encounter your brand; while they enter the funnel at the top with marketing campaigns or email marketing, further down in the funnel, you can use tools such as lead scoring and feedback forms to personalize marketing messages to each customer’s needs.

Marketing channels usually consist of elements like content marketing and advertising (e.g., Facebook Ads) to attract visitors to a company website or blog post. After a potential customer reaches the website, he is attracted by a lead magnet to leave his contact details.

After potential customers leave their data, they can be nurtured with techniques like remarketing ads or email marketing to become qualified prospects and moved to the sales funnel. The marketing team is usually responsible for the first two stages of the marketing funnel: the awareness and interest stages.

Sales stages

Often, a lead is moved to the sales department when it reaches the interest stage of the funnel. At this stage, potential customers often contact the company to gather more information about its offerings.

However, it must be noted that more and more customers prefer to stay uncovered at this stage of the sales funnel. Such customers visit the company’s pages, look for case studies, and check pages like g2.com to find reviews about the company or its offerings. This is why it’s important to have mutual strategies for sales and marketing teams.

When a customer moves to the next stage – desire – they are already a sales-qualified lead (SQL) and can be handed over to sales reps. Depending on the prospective customer’s needs, the stage between desire and action can be short or very long. The more complex and expensive the product or service, the more complex and time-consuming the sales negotiations.

A group of people standing around a funnel with money coming out of it.

How to Create Sales Funnels

Creating the right sales funnel will depend on a number of factors, including elements such as products, market specifics, number of employees in marketing and sales teams, marketing budget, and current technology resources. Below, we present a list of steps you should take to create a sales funnel.

Define your target market and buying personas

Defining your target market is key to making sure your sales funnel is as effective as possible. To start, you’ll need to consider who your existing customers are and target similar buyers or people who fit their demographic.

You can also look at other companies that target similar audiences and consider what values they communicate and how they target potential customers. By defining a target audience, you can focus your resources and energy on more likely prospects and shape your messaging for maximum impact.

Research your competition to understand their strategies

In order to develop a successful sales funnel, it’s important to research your competition and understand their strategies. Take the time to analyze their sales tactics so you can apply principles that have already been tested in the market. Making sure your sales funnel is current with what’s working best in sales, as well as understanding your competitors’ marketing strategies, will ensure a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Create a common strategy with your marketing team

The customer path (from prospect to customer) takes place at the intersection of two teams, and both play an essential role in this journey. In a typical journey, the marketing team’s job is to reach potential customers and build their interest, while the sales team is responsible for closing the deal.

Because the roles may seem separate, companies often simply split the stages and have the marketing and sales teams work separately. This is a big mistake. 

First, it is important that the journey be unified for the buyer. He or she needs to be treated similarly at each stage of the conversation, and communication should not change along the way. That’s why it’s important to create uniform communication and establish UVPs and selling points for both teams.

Second, both teams can help each other a lot. Sales teams may need fancy visuals or interesting blog posts to send to a potential customer, while marketing will need feedback from potential customers. It’s important that the two teams work well together.

Set up a system to track leads from initial contact to sale

As businesses strive for increased efficiency and productivity, tracking leads from initial contact to sale is of prime importance. In order to ensure a smooth sales funnel, it’s essential that sales reps have the necessary tools to effectively track prospects from start to finish.

Implementing a system of tracking leads from the discovery stage all the way through closing can not only help streamline the sales funnel processes but also provide insight into what works and what doesn’t in your particular sale funnel suite. With such clear data insights, sales teams will position themselves well for continued success in their various sales funnel stages.

Typically, companies use CRM systems (Hubspot, SalesForce, etc.) to keep their clients’ data and control the lead funnel. However, the sales process can differ for different industries and products, so it’s best to choose the software that best fits the sales department’s expectations.

Decide on the best methods of communication for each stage of the funnel

Companies should look to create a detailed sales funnel to guide prospects from the interest stage to the purchase effectively. It is important to understand what potential buyers need and want from each stage and, most importantly, to decide on the best methods of communication for each stage of the funnel.

A successful sales funnel begins with capturing prospective leads by nurturing interest, then qualifying and converting those leads into qualified prospects. The optimal communication strategy needs to be tailored to the particular interests of the customer so that meaningful and personalized messages can be sent out with purpose at relevant moments during the customer journey.

Establishing proactive yet concise conversations as part of your sales strategies will help build relationships with customers. While moving them along their journey toward purchase.

Enable your sales team with tools and knowledge

A group of people sitting around a table, engaged in work with their laptops

Your sales team cannot work without proper preparation. Make sure you are providing them with all they need to successfully work with prospects. This includes, among other things:

  • Knowledge – Sales teams need to understand who your potential customers are, be able to articulate the unique benefits of your products, and have arguments for every stage of the sales cycle.
  • Tools – Your sales team requires an arsenal of versatile tools to close deals, from customer management systems to call management software that monitors customer interactions, to lead generation tools.
  • Materials and templates – Equip your team with the ready-to-use materials they need to act quickly and efficiently. Prepare presentations, case studies, email templates, or discount codes beforehand so that your team can spend time where it matters most – getting results!


Read more about Sales Enablement: How Can You Benefit? 

Test and measure different aspects of your funnel to optimize results

As you create and implement your sales funnel, it’s important to create ways to test and measure it. This will help ensure that your funnel is customized and optimized to your goals and that all efforts are worthwhile. 

Knowing what works and what doesn’t in terms of content, messaging, visuals, flow, and more can help you hone in on where improvements can be made for maximum success. With regular testing and measuring of different aspects of your funnel, you’ll be able to identify potential improvements you can then implement as part of an iterative process toward the most successful lead funnel possible. 

If you take the time to understand your target market, research your competition, and create buyer personas, you’ll be well on your way to setting up a successful lead funnel. Remember to track leads from initial contact to sale and communicate with them using the best methods for each stage of the funnel. You can optimize results and get more sales by testing and measuring different aspects of your funnel.

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