A sales funnel is a graphical depiction of the interaction you have with your prospective buyers over time. (For more information about this, see my previous Sales Funnel 101 blog post entitled What is a sales funnel? )
At the beginning of your relationship with your customer (the top of the funnel), lots of people will hear your attention-getting marketing messages. However, as the buyer/seller relationship deepens, fewer and fewer people continue interacting with you. Some drop out. Some delay the purchase. By the time you get to the actual sale (near the bottom of the funnel), only a fraction of your initial interested Audience hand over their money to buy what you’re selling.
HERE’S WHY THAT HAPPENS
Early in the relationship, you broadly identify a need, want, or “pain” that someone has. You attract people into the top of your sales funnel because they feel the very need, want, or pain that you have identified. However, as the relationship deepens, not everyone will buy your solution.
If you work at a car dealership, consider the need that your target market has to get from home to work. You can broadly identify that need and then work with people who need to get from home to work. But realistically, not all of those people will buy a car from you. Over time, as you build a relationship with these people, the real buyers will continue through your sales funnel toward a sale while the non-buyers will fade away (for example, some won’t be able to afford your cars, some might find a better deal elsewhere, and some might choose to take the bus).
Ultimately, the funnel is funnel-shaped because it represents the initial wider “catchment” of a broad Audience and then the filtering process as the buyer/seller relationship deepens… to the narrow point of a purchase.