How your sales funnel can predict the success (or failure) of your business

A sales funnel is a roadmap of the relationship you have with your contacts, and the journey the two of you take from Audience to Evangelist. But a sales funnel isn’t JUST a roadmap. It’s also a crystal ball that can predict the success or failure of your business.

As your contacts move through each stage of your sales funnel, some will drop off because they don’t feel that your product or service can help them. But many will continue on through your sales funnel and ultimately buy from you.

As those contacts move from one stage to the next in your sales funnel, what they do and how long it takes them will act as a fortune teller for your business:

Start by figuring out your sales funnel ratios. How many contacts are in each stage?

Then, figure out how long an average contact takes to get from your Audience stage to become a customer.

With these two numbers, you have a very useful way to predict how your business will do in the short-term future.

We’ll use some really simple numbers to illustrate how your ratios will help predict your business.

Let’s say you have 10,000 Audience members.
Of those Audience members, 1,000 become Leads.
Of those Leads, 100 become Prospects.
Of those Prospects, 10 become a customer.
Of those Customers, 1 becomes an Evangelist.
So, your ratio is 10000:1000:100:10:1.

Using this number, you can predict what would happen in your business if the only thing you did was double the number of Audience members. Assuming all else remains equal, your numbers would increase overall to 20000:2000:200:20:2. Double Audience means double everything!

By keeping tabs on this number, you can observe how slight changes in your business impact your sales: Let’s say that you had a ratio of 10000:1000:100:10:1 and then you made some changes in your Leads stage marketing and in your Prospect stage. Then you look at your numbers again and they look like this: 10000:600:120:12:1. This tells you that whatever you did in your Leads stage is hurting your sales funnel (driving the number of Leads down from 1000 to 600) but whatever you did in your Prospect stage is actually very good (because your Prospects should have dropped to 60, since the Leads dropped to 600, but they actually increased slightly).

So, you end whatever you are doing in the Leads stage and you increase whatever you are doing in the Prospect stage!

These ratios help you to know how changes to specific stages impact your business. This helps you to know how changes earlier in your sales funnel will impact the number of customers you have.

Duration is the amount of time that a contact takes to go from Audience member to Evangelist.

Here’s an example from my own business. As a business writer, I not only write about sales funnels but I also write marketing and sales content for businesses. And I discovered early in my career that it took an average of 2 weeks for a Lead to become a Customer. I knew that active Lead generation would result in Customers almost exactly 2 weeks down the road.

So, in order to know how much Lead generation I needed to do today, I just looked at my calendar 2 weeks from today and figured out how much time I had to give to clients. Then I performed various Lead generation and Prospecting activities, and sure enough, I had the right amount of clients at the right time.

The reverse was true, too: If I didn’t do any Lead generation, I would have a lot of spare time on my hands 2 weeks down the road. So, knowing the duration of your sales funnel helps you to know how much business you’ll have in the future based on your Audience members today.

Running a business is like juggling — there are so many things to keep moving. Having the ability to predict your success based on how many people are at each stage in your sales funnel, and based on how long they take to get through your sales funnel, gives you a serious advantage over your competition. Here are a few highlights:

  • A predictable business lets you invest wisely to build capacity so you can handle more and more customers.
  • An entrepreneur that knows what business is going to be like down the road can spend less time worrying and more time serving Customers.
  • An entrepreneur that can accurate predict the amount of business coming down the pipe can optimize the entire business for greater profitability.
  • A business that is that predictable can be set to autopilot faster and easier than a business that is unpredictable.

I’ve only listed a few of the many benefits that accurate sales funnel predictions offer.

Get to know your sales funnel ratio and sales funnel duration!

A customer loyalty lesson learned from my friend’s emergency trip to the hospital

A friend of mine works at a Starbucks not too far from my house. I’ve known him for several years and he became a barista at Starbucks maybe a year or two ago.

Well, earlier this week he was rushed to the hospital because his lung collapsed. He’s been at the hospital ever since, sometimes returning home but frequently staying at the hospital overnight for observation. He seems to be doing okay, although we’re not yet sure why his lung collapsed.

Now here’s what shocked me: I just found out today that some of his Starbucks customers came to visit him in the hospital.

That’s impressive customer loyalty! In fact, that goes beyond customer loyalty to a true relationship!

Loyal customers are profitable customers. They buy again and again with very little prompting, and they talk up the business to others.

I’ve found that creating customer loyalty is rarely something that happens at the business level. It happens at the employee level. Customers may become loyal to businesses (and a lot of Starbucks customers are loyal to Starbucks!), but customers more frequently and more easily become loyal to the people in those businesses.

So, are you helping your employees create customer loyalty?

  • Give your employees the freedom to stop and chat with customers. By comparison, a lot of retail-based companies take the approach “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean”, and their staff rush around cleaning instead of pausing for a moment to strike up a conversation with a customer. The downside is that your employees might not get that counter as clean as you’d like it. The upside is higher profitability from customers who feel that they have a relationship with the person behind the counter.
  • Give your employees the tools to strike up a meaningful conversation and build a relationship. Not everyone is socially savvy, so a few conversation starters is a good way to help your employees.
  • Give your employees the freedom to go the extra mile for customers. They do anyway (everyone learns how to game the system to give a little extra to those extra-special customers) so why not help them by giving them lots of ideas.
  • Give your employees the authority to fix mistakes. Nothing takes away from loyalty-building like an employee who says, “I have to call my manager to fix that for you.” Help them know what challenges they will likely face and what an adequate response those challenges might be, then give them the authority to fix it.
  • Give your employees a reason to be proud of the company they work for. Do good things; make a good product; strive for high quality; smile a little and try to brighten your employees’ days.

When you have employees who love where they work and are empowered to fix things and have the freedom to build relationships, they will create massive amounts of customer loyalty.

There’s are risks that comes with this employee-specific customer loyalty, and I think that employers are so afraid of the risks that they skip the loyalty-creating ideas I’ve listed above.

The risks include:

  • Employees who create customer loyalty and are empowered to do so become more marketable and therefore potentially less loyal to an employer.
  • Customers who are loyal to employees may move with an employee if that employee quits and moves to a new business. We see this happening in industries like beautician/hairdressing, where someone moves to a different salon and advertises that old customers are welcome at the new salon.
  • Employees could abuse the additional freedom (intended for relationship-building) or authority (intended to fix problems).

These are risks, but the downside created by these risks can be mitigated with fair pay, empowering management, and an enjoyable work environment. Sometimes you will get employees leaving, customers following them, and employees abusing the system. But more often than not, you’ll get customers who become fiercely loyal to the employees who serve them.

How loyal are your customers? Are they so loyal that they would visit one of your employees in the hospital?

Just read: ‘Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution’ at Henry Alzamora’s blog

At Henry Alzamora’s blog, writer Robert Simons offers up seven questions that businesses need to ask themselves to focus their efforts and execute more effectively.

I’ll list the questions here, but go over to Alzamora’s blog for more details:

  1. Who is your primary customer?
  2. How Do Your Core Values Prioritize Shareholders, Employees, and Customers?
  3. What Critical Performance Variables Are You Tracking?
  4. What Strategic Boundaries Have You Set?
  5. How Are You Generating Creative Tension?
  6. How Committed Are Your Employees to Helping Each Other?
  7. What Strategic Uncertainties Keep You Awake at Night?

Read the questions and further explanations at: Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution.

Lists like these are extremely valuable to help you focus and cut through the clutter of the things that vie for your attention. Take the time today to start answering these questions in your own business.

Just read: “The food court king” at CanadianBusiness

Every mall has a food court and, it seems to me, basically the same options: Usually a couple of Asian food places, an Italian place, a burger-and-fries place, and a sub place. The brands are usually pretty similar from one mall to another (at least in the malls I’ve shopped in).

Turns out, someone has been dubbed “the food court king” for his growth and broad brand lines represented at many food courts across Canada.

Stanley Ma is the founder of MTY, a food services company whose specialty is branding. They have 26 brands (some acquired and some developed in-house) and over 1,700 stores across Canada.

Read the article here: The food court king. Don’t miss the key lessons from this article:

  1. Good growth is thoughtful, strategic, and patient.
  2. Effective branding is an asset.
  3. Successful businesses find synergies among its products and brands.

Learn more about MTY and see what brands they own at