What Is a Sales Funnel and How Does It Work?
by Isabel Greenfield
8 Min Read
8 Min Read
When you’re trying to understand your customers’ journey, from learning about your brand to becoming loyal clients, it helps to have a model to consult. The sales funnel model can help you visualize your customers’ journey and influence how you organize your sales and marketing efforts.
In this article, we’ll cover the 12 best sales funnel examples that you can implement today.
A sales funnel—a model that is broad on top and narrow on the bottom—depicts how a consumer goes from demonstrating potential interest to actively engaging with your business to becoming an actual customer.
Its inverted, triangular shape is designed to illustrate how few prospects ultimately make it to the bottom of the funnel. This is because, as prospective clients learn about your brand and product, they make decisions about your fitness for their needs, and your pool of consumers filters down naturally.
You may lose sales prospects to competitors, or they might not be ready to commit after all; regardless, your goal is to maximize the number of prospects that can make it through the funnel—losing as few as possible along the way. You can maximize these opportunities with proper funnel optimization.
Different models have slightly different stages, but there are generally five main stages in a sales funnel:
Your job as a marketer or sales professional is to guide customers from the top of the funnel, to the middle of the funnel, and ultimately to the bottom of the conversion funnel where a conversion is most likely to occur.
By breaking the funnel into these stages, you can better focus on specific sales and marketing strategies that will move customers from one stage to the next.
The sales funnel typically comes after the marketing funnel. A marketing funnel represents the stages your customers go through as they interact with your marketing efforts and begin to generate interest in your brand.
The sales funnel represents the steps your customers go through after your marketing team catches their interest and as they start interacting with your sales team. The marketing funnel generally precedes the sales funnel, but they may occasionally overlap.
Different funnels work for different business models, but the benefits of sales funnels are numerous. Take a look at the following 12 sales funnel examples to help you choose the best one(s) for your business.
A squeeze page is a landing page designed to collect email addresses from visitors. A squeeze page may be a pop-up window offering a discount or a special gift in exchange for the prospect’s email address.
Once you collect the email leads from the squeeze page, you can move these prospects down the funnel toward a subscription or any larger, ongoing sales commitments.
The advantage of the squeeze page funnel is that it begins with people who are already displaying interest by giving you their email addresses. The squeeze page funnel takes care of this initial connection for you, which means you can focus on fostering this engagement and maintaining their interest.
Tripwire funnels invite customers to make a small purchase, often at a deep discount, to familiarize them with your brand so they’ll trust you with higher-value purchases later. By making the customer comfortable with buying your goods, you break down the initial resistance to developing a sales relationship with your brand and build trust instead.
If your business is apparel, these small purchases could be socks or a tie. Most marketers agree that $30 ought to be the maximum cost of a tripwire offer—the idea is just to get them in the groove of buying from you.
In a webinar funnel, you’re attracting prospects by demonstrating your brand’s subject matter expertise. A webinar (a portmanteau word for “web seminar”) acts as a lead generator. Prospects usually sign up for a webinar via their email address. Webinars should avoid sales ploys and offer solid information the attendee can use regardless of whether they buy from you. The webinar funnel can attract people who want to learn more about your field and products.
Consumers are naturally resistant to a large price commitment for a product that’s new to them. Why commit to paying for a service, be it a month or a year, before you know whether it’ll actually work for you?
With a free trial, prospects can try out your service for a period of time, usually between 7 and 14 days. Marketers offer free trials for media subscriptions and software in hopes that consumers get hooked on the product and decide keeping it is worth the subscription fee.
One potential downside to note: consumers often forget to cancel their subscription to a streaming service or newspaper. Some companies have built their business model, in part, on this tendency, which has created a broader cultural resentment toward the autocharge that comes at the end of a free trial. That said, some consumers that sign up for a free trial may tolerate the presence of the subscription until they remember to cancel it, and many others will realize they enjoy the product and become loyal customers.
You might think that short sales funnels are best because they result in quick sales. However, sometimes taking the long way can have its benefits. Case in point: the sales letter funnel. One typical structure involves:
Funnel building can help you deepen your sales relationship with a customer, depending on how you structure it. If you’re selling books, you could start with an e-book and upsell to a physical hardcover. Like a choose-your-own-adventure, your sales letter funnel can attempt different sales actions, depending on whether customers keep buying or opt out.
A product launch funnel builds anticipation among your customers by getting them primed for the launch of your product. They sign up for updates and waitlist slots and receive previews of the upcoming product, and by the time of the launch, they’ll (hopefully) be excited to click “buy.”
Membership funnels best suit non-profits and other organizations that offer subscription services. The aim is to have your prospects sign up for email newsletters or social media groups to get them engaged. Over time, these communications encourage consumers to donate and find other ways to contribute to your cause.
Unlike sales funnels like the tripwire and free trial, which generally ease your customer into your world, a high-ticket funnel inspires your prospect to go big or go home—and immediately purchase a high-ticket, or expensive, item. While this approach might seem risky, it can be effective with certain services, like coaching, for example, or an annual membership. In these situations, you try to convince customers that they can benefit from your services if they invest in the deluxe package.
The high-ticket funnel works if you have a lucrative niche and an affluent ideal customer.
Finding a way to engage your leads is a large part of the battle. Surveys can encourage your consumers to think about your industry actively and interact with your site, which can then nudge them toward a sales opportunity. A well-crafted survey can refine your specific offering to directly address your customer’s pain points.
A lead magnet refers to something given away in exchange for a customer’s email address. For example, prospects can receive a free item if they subscribe to the email list. The free item could be a white paper, an e-book, or an informational video.
An application funnel queries leads to assess if an offer is right for them. Like a survey, it makes prospects engage and provide information like what they are looking for, how they found you, and their email address before they can engage with the site.
The application process can narrow your leads into those likely to purchase your product. This might be the best sales funnel type for you if you are looking for an effective way to engage leads and share compelling information about your product with particularly motivated buyers.
An upsell funnel is an abbreviated sales funnel with the ultimate goal of upselling your customer to a more premium or upgraded version of your service. An upsell could be an offer of an additional product that complements the one your customer just ordered, or a higher-end version of the product.
Whatever your sales funnel goals, and whichever example of a sales funnel is the right choice for you, MNTN can help. Combining highly engaging video advertising with the advantages of Connected TV (CTV), MNTN brings together the best of television advertising and digital marketing to keep your customers engaged—and your funnel full.
The number and variety of sales funnel strategies might seem overwhelming, but they don’t have to be. Take the time to select the best sales funnel type for you and smoothly go from awareness to loyalty.