Sales Funnels 101: What is a sales funnel?

As a business, you use marketing activities to capture the attention of prospective buyers and then you use sales activities to convince those prospective buyers to buy from you.

You build a relationship with this potential market and you slowly move them toward a sale.

It’s a relationship – it takes place through several interactions, over time. It’s not unlike a romantic relationship: First you capture the attention of a potential romantic partner and then you woo them until you finally agree to a committed relationship. It doesn’t happen right away (even in cases of “love at first sight”).

In the same way: Your potential buyer goes through a series of mindset changes as he or she first decides that they might have a problem or need, and then slowly comes to realize that you might be qualified to help them, and then finally agrees to consider you as a potential solution provider, and then sometimes agrees to exchange their money for your product or service.

It happens in two basic steps:

The first part of the relationship is marketing: Marketing is attention-getting, positioning work that you do online and offline to raise awareness that you can solve a problem or fulfill a need. The marketing activities you might do include writing articles and blog posts, tweeting, taking a prospective buyer out to lunch, taking out an advertisement in a local payer, and mailing out flyers… just to name a few activities.

The second part of the relationship is sales: Sales is offering a product or service to a specific potential buyer and showing them how it will solve their problem or need. It is the point in the relationship when you ask your potential buyer to take action. Sales activities you might do include a sales letter, a proposal, an agreement, and a face-to-face sales presentation… just to name a few activities.

But this isn’t the whole story. Marketing and sales are the two basic steps but rarely does a potential buyer turn into an actual buyer immediately. (Yes, it happens sometimes, but not all the time). Rather, it’s a progression. It’s a series of interactions over time in which your business increasingly becomes the solution provider.


Your relationship with your prospective buyer is a series of interactions over time in which you show them that you can help them. The sales funnel is a picture of this relationship.

The sales funnel depicts your marketing activities where you capture the attention of a large group of prospective buyers and then interact with them over time until some of that larger group decides to buy from you.

But it’s not JUST a picture. A sales funnel is a guide that not only describes what your typical buyer/seller relationship looks like. It’s also a system that helps you know how to work with your prospective buyers effectively and efficiently. It’s a strategic tool that can help you sell more, at less cost.

Because every business has a relationship with its prospective buyers, every business has a sales funnel. Some businesses never give a second thought to their sales funnels, or they know they have a sales funnel but only consider it to be a “nice-to-know” depiction of the buyer/seller relationship.

But smart companies know that a deep awareness of their sales funnel can help them generate more profit and achieve greater business growth. That’s because a smart business wants to take control of the relationship and help move the prospective buyer toward a purchase. This requires intention and focus and an understanding of what a prospective buyer thinks and how that mindset changes over time.

When you understand your sales funnel, your business with be stronger and more profitable because you’ll be able to design all of your marketing and sales activities to strategically move your prospect buyer through the relationship toward a sale.

Published by Aaron Hoos

Aaron Hoos is a writer, strategist, and investor who builds and optimizes profitable sales funnels. He is the author of The Sales Funnel Bible and other books.

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