How to retrofit a sales funnel to your business

In yesterday’s blog post, I talked about creating a business around a sales funnel. But what if your business already exists and you are only now starting to pay attention to the need for an intentionally designed sales funnel?

If you run a business that has actually sold something to someone, you already have a sales funnel; you just may not have a sales funnel that you can easily articulate. So “retrofitting” a sales funnel isn’t so much a matter of inventing a sales funnel, but rather of understanding what you have done and then making changes to optimize your sales funnel.

FIGURING OUT YOUR EXISTING SALES FUNNEL
First, you need to define each stage of the sales funnel: What do you mean when you refer to your Audience, Leads, Prospects, Customers, and Evangelists? In some cases, those will be pretty fuzzy definitions; in other cases, you won’t have included them at all in your sales funnel.

Now it’s time to work backwards through your sales funnel, based on your definitions: Ask yourself:

  • “Are our Customers evangelizing? If so, how?”
  • “What was the action our Prospects took to become Customers?”
  • “What additional information did our Leads give that helped us decide they were Prospects?”
  • “How did our Audience indicate to us that they were Leads? What small action did they take, or commitment or piece of information did they provide, to indicate that they were interested in hearing more?”

Now, you need to think about what marketing activities and sales activities you do, and, where they fit into your sales funnel. The first part is easy – most people know what marketing and sales activities they do. The more challenging part is figuring out where in the sales funnel these activities tend to be utilized. For the most part (but certainly not always!), marketing activities take place during the Audience, Lead, and Prospect stages, while sales activities take place during the Lead and Prospect and Customer phase. This step can take a long time, but don’t sweat the details too much. Give it your best guess, and realize that there could be times when some activities appear in more than one spot.

Write out profiles for your Customers. What are they like? What are they interested in? How do they interact with you? How would you describe them demographically?

Write out profiles for your Audience or Leads. (Choose one or the other. Some businesses might be able to do this for their Audience; other businesses might not be fully aware of their Audience and will need to do this for their Leads). What are they like? What are they interested in? How do they interact with you? How would you describe them demographically? If you have more than one demographic of Customer, choose the one (either the most profitable or the one you can get the most of).

What you should see from these two profiles is a broad group of interested Audience/Lead contacts being narrowed to a specific group of Customers.

Now this next part could be challenging: What path do your contacts take? In other words, how do your most-likely-to-buy Audience/Lead contacts (based on the profile you created, above) interact with your marketing and sales to become your Customers? This exercise is meant to have you look at all of the marketing and sales activities you do and see the path that your biggest group of customers tend to take. By the end of this exercise, you should have a list of some of the most effective marketing and sales activities you perform. But, you will also have a list of gaps that your contacts have overcome in order to become Customers anyway.

Congratulations! You’ve come quite far! You have articulated a roughly-hewn, imperfect sales funnel on which you are about to build a bigger, faster, smoother-flowing sales funnel.

MAKING CHANGES TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SALES FUNNEL
Decide: Do your Customer profiles describe the kind of Customers you want? If so, continue on with the next steps. If not, you may have to make some additional adjustments throughout your sales funnel to attract those kinds of contacts and move them through your sales funnel.

Based on the path your contacts tend to take on their journey from an Audience member to a Customer, identify any gaps you may have. (For example, lots of businesses unintentionally skip the Leads stage altogether). Figure out ways to add easy baby-steps for your contacts to take as they progress along your sales funnel.

Look at your marketing activities and sales activities: By now, you should know the order that your contacts take in these activities. However, does each marketing and sales activity point your contact to the next step? If you use web-based articles to attract leads and a blog to help qualify prospects, do your web articles point to your blog? This is a HUGE mistake that businesses make when creating marketing and sales content – they often don’t publish marketing content that points to the next step in the sales funnel!

Make sure that your newly-created sales funnel matches the strategies and goals of your business. If not, you might have to adjust either your business’ strategies and goals or your sales funnel.

Identify your business’ processes and functions and staff, and determine how they impact your sales funnel. For example, how does your inventory management impact your sales funnel? How are orders taken from freshly converted Customers and sent to the warehouse? Or, how are leads passed off to your sales department? This is an important step in retrofitting your sales funnel because it ensures that your business is integrated together. Your sales funnel isn’t just a sales-and-marketing pathway. It’s an entire business model that has many moving parts for a single purpose.

YOU WILL HAVE SOME STUFF LEFT OVER
Now it’s time to look at what’s left over: Marketing activities and sales activities that don’t contribute to your sales funnel; Contacts who are Audience members but never buy from you; Staff who don’t actually contribute to your business; Processes and functions that are a lot of effort but don’t move contacts forward.

Something needs to be done with these leftovers: Repurpose them or eliminate them.

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