What is a Sales Funnel?

Organic Marketing


One of the first questions most people have when they embark on an online business is how to create a sales funnel. There are tons of courses out there on how to develop funnels, but sometimes, when you’re just starting out, you don’t have money to invest, and then there’s always the question of whether the person teaching this is an expert or a wannabe.

Rather than spending a lot of money today, let’s break it down and start with the basics and start by explaining what a sales funnel is, what it’s used for, and how it helps your business.


What is a Sales Funnel?


A sales funnel moves a prospect or lead through the sales process until they become a paying customer. It’s that simple. You get a lead, and then you need to do something with them to hopefully turn them into customers someday so that your business can grow.


What are the Steps in a Sales Funnel?


In a traditional marketing sales funnel, we have four steps; they are

  • Awareness
  • Interest
  • Consideration
  • Decision

An online sales funnel is similar but often explained very differently within the online marketing world. In online marketing, a sales funnel is often described as the process of getting the lead into your funnel, nurturing them, and then turning them into customers. They are less likely to talk about the stages of the funnel the way we do in traditional marketing. The difference can be for several reasons, but I suspect it’s due to the fact a number of the people in online marketing don’t have formal education in Marketing and, because of that, may not have been exposed to the other funnel definition. 


What does the Traditional Sales Funnel do?


We use a traditional sales funnel to ensure that we have content that addresses a customer's needs at every process step.

Awareness – a person in this stage knows they need something but may not yet know that you offer the product. They may not be aware you’re an option for their needs. They’re probably doing research and are not ready to make a decision. Someone at this stage is a long-term prospect; they will need much more information before they convert.

This is the person who is searching for information online. They're looking for blog posts and maybe finding your website via a search engine like Google. SEO helps you here. They may be interested in your opt-in if you offer it to them. 


Interest – someone at this stage is aware of what they need and are interested in what you offer. The potential customer is wondering if you might be an option to help them solve their issue. At this stage, they want to know a bit more about you, what you offer, and how you can help them. They’re still going to take a while to get to the decision stage because they’ll have many questions to ask.


This person is probably reading your blog and downloading your opt-in. They're actively looking for a solution to their problem or want what you offer. 


Consideration- someone in the consideration stage is close to making a decision to hire someone or buy a product. The potential customer is interested in ratings and reviews and wants to see testimonials and understand how your business operates. They will want to know how one option compares to another. They’re close to making a decision.


This person is likely reviewing and researching information. They may read more of your blog or look for reviews and testimonials about your products or services. 


Decision – When a prospect gets to the decision stage, they’re ready to purchase. The potential customer may move forward today or wait for a coupon or special offer to commit. This person is prepared to move forward when the time is right.


This person is ready to buy. They are likely on your email list now, and you've hopefully been nurturing them so that you're still top of mind when they're ready to buy. 


How Long Does it Take to Go Through a Sales Funnel?


People move through the sales funnel stages at different paces depending on what they’re looking for, how much it costs, and their background or decision-making process. Someone can move from awareness to decision in a few days, while another prospect may take months or years to turn into a sale. In time, you'll learn how quickly your prospects go from new leads to paying customers. Some people come into my world and buy a course within a week; others are here for close to a year before buying. 


How Does a Sales Funnel Help Your Business Grow?

Having a sales funnel in place helps ensure you’re nurturing your leads so that they are able to get answers to their questions and move from one stage to the next at their pace. You can have the content on your website; it can be in blog posts, you can use social media to share it, and you can email them specific information each week.


Whatever you do, you stay in touch with them and address their needs. A sales funnel ties to the know, like trust factors that matter to your business. 


Someone has to know you (Awareness) before they can like you (Interest and consideration) and ultimately trust you (Decision) enough to take action (buy from you). 


We’ll address how to create a sales funnel in an upcoming post. For now, start thinking about the questions you get asked on a regular basis and break them down into the stages of the funnel.


What does someone need to know to decide if you’re an option for them? What will they want to know about your offering vs. the competition? Are there things that set you apart? What questions do people ask you when they’re considering buying your product or hiring you for a service?