Since every business sells something, every business has a process that generates leads, builds relationships with prospects, converts prospects into customers, and then turns customers into devoted fans. For many businesses, this process – this “sales funnel” – is unstated and rarely considered. It just happens. Leads are generated in various ways, prospect relationships are built in various ways, customers are sold in various ways, and the post-sale relationship is deepened in various ways… but rarely is it intentional, strategic, and focused. It’s haphazard, usually because it’s an organic process that evolves over a period of time. So, a business might develop a sales funnel in their business plan when first starting out. But over time, new marketing opportunities present themselves to change the early part of the sales funnel while client objections shape the later stage of the sales funnel. Within months and years of start-up, the business’s published vision of an ideal sale is no longer accurate.

If the last time you thought of your business’ sales funnel was during the business planning stage then it’s time to revisit your sales funnel. In fact, this is a process that should happen regularly – every 6 to 12 months.

Here’s what you should do to optimize your sales funnel

Start by identifying your sales funnel stages. Although every business has a slightly different funnel, most businesses follow the typical lead-prospect-customer-fan 4-step process.

Next, write out what information you need from someone signalling that they are ready to move to the next stage in the sales process. (For leads-to-prospects it might be a phone number, a home address, their shoe size, or their average fleet spend. For prospects-to-customers it might be their credit card number or a purchase order number).

Then, list all of the various efforts and documents and techniques you use at each stage. Don’t list only the effective items but the ineffective ones, too (since they can be made effective once your funnel is further developed). Map all marketing effort along your sales funnel.

Now compare. Is your marketing in a particular stage enticing the person at that stage to share the information you need from them? Is it contributing to building up in the prospect’s or customer’s mind that you are worth their time? Are you focusing too much on one stage and not enough on another? Are you losing people at various stages because you’re asking for the wrong information?

Once you’ve done that, you will easily see what’s working and what isn’t. If you have a sales staff, ask them what they most frequently use in their sales efforts. It’s likely that they will identify the top 20% of your sales funnel content as the most useful… and most frequently used.

Don’t immediately throw away the stuff that isn’t working. You might decide to do that but first consider whether it can be made more effective with some modifications. Perhaps moving it somewhere else in the funnel or repurposing it so it asks the right questions is all you need to turn it into a more valuable asset.

Want to really take your sales funnel to the next level? Identify metrics around each of your marketing techniques as they relate to that stage of the funnel (instead of their impact on the larger business picture, which is how businesses often use metrics).

Your sales funnel isn’t just something that happens. It’s a strategic business tool that you can strengthen to create a more sales.

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