What is a Sales Funnel?

Here is our sales funnel definition: A sales funnel is a funnel-shaped depiction of the process that your buyers travel through, from becoming aware of your product or service in the wide top of the funnel to purchasing it at the narrow bottom of the funnel.

This shape illustrates that you want to have a lot of prospects in the top, of which some are converted to leads, of which some are converted to customers, hence the narrowing down from a large number of prospects to a smaller number of customers.

The traditional Sales Funnel

A sales funnel consists of stages that buyers go through, and traditionally these are shown with AIDA. AIDA is an acronym for Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action. These four sales funnel stages are concerned with (1) making buyers aware of your product or service, (2) then making them interested in your product or service, (3) then making them desire your product or service in order to (4) lastly make them act and purchase your product or service. This model is shown in the illustration below.

For each stage there are sales and marketing activities you perform to make buyers advance to the next stage. In that way, the sales funnel helps you visualize your sales cycle and can help you evaluate your sales activities and find ways to improve sales performance. This is done through sales funnel analysis, in which you measure the sales funnel leakage, i.e. how many leads that drop out of the funnel at each stage. This tells you what your greatest challenges in sales are, e.g. qualifying leads, closing deals or other activities. However, this traditional sales funnel approach does not seem to mimic the buying behavior anno 2019.

A new Sales Funnel?

In more than one way, the traditional sales funnel described above has become obsolete: First of all, it is unidirectional and lacks after-sales, up- and cross-selling and other customer retention stages. Secondly and more critically, it is not an accurate depiction of the buying journey. Both B2C and B2B buyers have evolved dramatically as technological developments have made them capable of doing research on their own and sometimes also making a purchase on their own.

The buying journey is not a process of stages that are reached chronologically. You cannot control the customer on their journey and make them proceed in the desired direction toward a sale – it is the customer who controls the sale now. Buying journeys are complex and chaotic, there are an endless number of buying journeys and paths to a purchase and probably as many buying journeys as there are buyers. Therefore, the traditional sales funnel is deceptive as it shows the desired course of action for buyers but in fact not an accurate depiction of the customers’ buying journeys.

With this being said, you should not give up on understanding your customers’ buying journeys – in fact it might be more important than ever to know how customers buy in order to successfully help them advance on their journey and ultimately increase sales. Some new sales funnel examples include Gartner’s Buying Jobs, the Sales Flywheel, the Cyclonic Buyer Journey Model and the Flipped Sales Funnel. We have ourselves become acquainted with the flipped sales funnel in a webinar we held with Pam Didner. It goes for all of these that they are mainly concerned with the customer and ensuring a great buying experience.

To sum up, we will return to the title question: Is the traditional sales funnel still relevant? Our conclusion is no, the funnel itself is not relevant, but the idea behind it is – we just consider “buying journey” to be a more appropriate concept, which you can illustrate in any way that makes sense to your company and your buyers.

Help your buyers advance on their journey with Napp

Effectively engaging your buyers at the right time with the right message is very difficult. With a sales enablement strategy and software like Napp, you equip your sales reps to succeed in the most decisive encounters with buyers – the meeting. Get a free demo and learn how you can support your sales reps with a tool that enables them to have relevant and valuable conversations with every buyer.

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