A sales funnel—that visual representation of your sales process from prospect to customer—is an important and necessary tool for sales and marketing departments everywhere, provided you're using the right sales funnel.
If your sales funnel isn't quite up to snuff or if it's a little rusty or made from subpar logic, it's not going to help you or your colleagues. Yet how do you know for sure? How do you evaluate the health and effectiveness of a sales funnel?
Never fear! We can help. Here are four signs it's time to ditch your sales funnel and develop a new one.
1. It's gathering dust along with your old flip-phone and My Space page.
You wouldn't be the first person to have created a sales funnel and then forgotten about it. After all, there are times when the whole concept smacks of a "sales for beginners" or "marketing jargon 101" class, right?
But, see, that's just it: a sales funnel isn't some erudite concept reserved for academic hallways. A sales funnel, when done right, is a tool that the sales and marketing departments can use to gauge lead quality and guide leads on their journey to Customer Town. This is why you need to think about your sales funnel. A lot. The topic of the sales funnel should come up regularly during sales meetings and content development discussions.
Questions to ask:
What can you do to move people who are stuck in one part of the funnel to the next? Can you develop a special offer that would help push people through the funnel? What would this offer entail? Do you have an existing marketing asset that you could re-purpose and tweak, or would you need to create this offer from scratch? How long would it take? And so forth.
How balanced is the funnel? Is it top-heavy, with too many prospects lingering in the early stages and never moving on? Or do you currently have a glut of people in the bottom of the funnel? The latter might seem like a good problem to have, but the key to a healthy sales pipeline is to have a steady stream of people entering at the top and coming out at the bottom. Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Does the sales funnel need tweaking? You might still need to tweak it, even if you give your sales funnel regular attention during meetings. Your sales funnel should evolve along with your sales process and long-term goals.
2. It matches your ideal sales journey, not the one real customers are actually taking.
In order for your sales funnel to make sense, it needs to be based in reality. You might have a vision for the path you'd prefer a prospect takes on his way to Customer Town, but just because you build that path, it doesn't mean the prospect is going to follow it. Wouldn't it make more sense to create a funnel that matches the journey real people are already taking and then focus on delighting them every step of the way (and perhaps moving them faster along that path)? Of course it would.
3. It was built before you fine-tuned your buyer personas.
Buyer personas are the building blocks for any sales process, but it's only recently (within the last several years) that this term has gained traction, thanks to companies like HubSpot, the organization that coined the phrase inbound marketing.
While "knowing your audience" has always been a sales person's mantra, a buyer persona takes this concept to a new level. OK, so what, exactly are buyer personas? Buyer personas are semi-fictional write-ups on each type of customer your organization is trying to attract. Don't let the word "semi-fictional" fool you; these write-ups are extremely detailed and based on real facts and demographics. You develop personas by mining info from actual people (e.g. current customers) through interviews (this is something your marketing department usually handles).
For example, if your main audience were HR managers, then you'd create a buyer persona about "HR Manager Henry." One of your marketing colleagues would interview people with this title to learn more about them, including what makes them tick, what they worry about when it comes to their jobs, and what would make their work lives easier. The goal is to learn their pain points and how a product or service like the one you're selling fits into the mix.
Developing quality personas takes time, but it's time well spent because the result is a solid dossier on each one of your ideal buyers. From there, you can map out the sales journey for each buyer. This map includes all the different ways you'd engage and communicate with the buyer every step of the way, steps that will be linked closely to your sales funnel.
So if you created a sales funnel before you created your buyer personas, then it's time to ditch the funnel and make a new one.
4. It's actually a great sales funnel, but something gets lost in translation.
A hammer doesn't build a home on its own, right? You need someone to use the tool in order to build the house. The same is true of a sales funnel. You might have a quality funnel—on paper. But what happens in the real world? How can you relate your sales funnel to actual prospects and customers?
This is where the right CRM software can make a huge difference. Quality CRM software should allow you to customize contact records so that you can easily tag or label contacts according to the different layers in your sales funnel.
For example, in Fanhub, you can customize contact records so that a sales funnel field automatically shows up on each one. This field could be a drop-down, and each item in the drop-down matches one of the levels in your sales funnel. Every time a sales rep adds a lead to the contact database, he or she can tag the new contact with the appropriate sales funnel "level." From there, the sales rep can easily upgrade the prospect as the person moves through the funnel. This gives everyone (not just sales) a 360-degree view of how many people are in the sales funnel—and what level they're on—at any given time.
Remember, a sales funnel is an important element in the sales and marketing toolbox. Make sure you spend time developing one, revisiting it often, and revising when necessary.