What Is A Sales Funnel? | Dissecting The Most Critical Aspects of A Sales Funnel


Find out what a sales funnel is and how it can benefit your marketing and sales goals—we’ve detailed everything you need to know right here!

When you hear the word ‘funnel’ you likely think of those funnels you use to pour something from a large package into a smaller container, such as sugar into a sugar bowl with a lid. Or, when you buy motor oil in a can or bottle, you typically need a funnel to pour that oil into your oil tank in your car. The primary use for a funnel is to avoid spilling as little as possible outside of the container you are pouring stuff into. The funnel helps you avoid that problem. A marketing sales funnel helps keep your prospects from falling by the wayside as they head down the path towards the landing page, the shopping cart and making a purchase.

In marketing and sales, you need a sales funnel to gather customers in from around your sphere of influence, which means, starting from wherever you have placed advertisements or marketing pieces in multiple locations on the internet. Once they notice what it is you offer, then they connect with you to find out more about how it will be of value to them.

AIDA Marketing Model: The Sales Funnel Stages 

To put the whole funnel into proper visual perspective, we will use the well-known marketing model called AIDA, which stands for Awareness (or Attention), Interest, Desire, and Action. Your marketing part of the complete funnel will line up with Awareness and Interest. The sales funnel is the lower part of the funnel and incorporates Desire and the last step, Action. Therefore, there are four complete stages that potential customers go through, starting from the top and moving through the funnel to the final stage. The image below, puts the whole funnel into perspective for you as you follow along with the AIDA model.

Sales Funnel

What are Marketing Channels? 

Marketing channels consist of any area where people gather for one reason or another. When we say social media, that would be any social group where people connect with others, sometimes daily, and sometimes more than once a day. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tumbler, Reddit, Google+, and YouTube, are a few of the top-ranking social media platforms.

Each will run a certain way according to how it is set up. Advertising designs will change from platform to platform as well. Paid advertisements through Google AdWords and Facebook Ads can be targeted to specific customer types, such as those locally based to where the business is found, nationally or globally to a targeted audience that would be most likely to use your product or service. These ads have a CTA or active link that interested prospects click on to find out more about the ad’s subject. By clicking the link, they sign up for something.

Sales Funnel Stage #1: Attention Level

 The Attention level is the first step into the funnel after seeing an advertisement. It might be a brief video, or a post from a friend who is sharing information about something he or she likes. Whatever it is, it prompts the viewer to sign up for something, such as emails or a free report of interest. Social media, aside from a place to advertise, is also a word-of-mouth platform, where people ask each other what their experiences have been using a certain product or service.

Sales Funnel Stage #2: Interest Level 

Signing up for emails is one of the popular first steps of connecting with potential customers who are likely to be interested in what you offer. Once they are signed up, these customers who click on call-to-action (CTA) buttons or on active links, now move into the Interest level. You also can begin tracking email opens, and those who progress further to clicking on CTAs. Conducting analytics daily in the early stages of your campaign, will tell you how well your funnel is working, and whether your message needs adjusting or not.

The Interest level is where you might offer a free eBook, some type of well-researched report with statistics, a video, or even a re-run of an older webinar that outlines the benefits and features of using your product or service. From the Interest level, you can offer potential customers a chance to sign up for a new live webinar about your product or service, which gives very detailed information about how it will help customers with solving an issue they likely have. You could also add a bonus of 25% off. Interested customers tend to sign up within a time span of 48 hours. Offer a free trial as well, as that gives customers a chance to try out your software platform or membership website to see how much they like it.

Sales Funnel Stage #3: Desire Level 

Those who sign up for a webinar tend to have a high interest level and a desire to know how to solve something which has been a big problem for them. They have moved into the Desire level which is the sales funnel section of the overall funnel. These customers are almost ready to buy. The webinar will be the tipping point to moving them into the Action level where they make a purchase and become a paying customer.

Sales Funnel Stage #4: Action Level 

Those who reach this final level are ready to buy. If you find that some of these Desire Level customers are hesitating for one reason or another, offer another incentive. For instance, grant access to a training school you run and offer 25% off to those who sign up right now on the same day. They may not buy on that same day as the live webinar you presented, but there can be many reasons for that. For one, they may still have some anxiety about committing the funds to buy right then. Or, two, maybe it is as simple as they need to wait until pay day before they can make the purchase.

More about the Action Level of the Sales Funnel 

In the Action Level, the prospects who take this offer are heading for the landing page and shopping cart where they can pick up the deals you just offered them. These are the best kind of customers you can get, because you were able to market and sell to them from beginning to end.

When they are in their shopping cart, you also have opportunities to make an up-sell, for instance they could buy an even better upgraded version than what they are getting today.

Utilizing Up-Sells, Cross-Sells, and Down-Sells to Maximize Sales 

Let’s say you are selling a health supplement of Vitamin B Complex, you can up-sell customers by offering to add three more bottles at a reduced rate. For each bottle after that, the per bottle price reduces even more. Or, you could offer a cross-sell, such as a bottle of Vitamin C with Rose Hips at 1,000 milligrams (mgs) per capsule, per bottle. Or you could offer a reduced price on an eBook about Vitamin B Complex, which shows what Vitamin B Complex does for your health.

If your customer decides to stick with one bottle for now, you can down-sell them by offering a monthly subscription that lowers the price. So, rather than paying full price today, they can get the monthly subscription plan and lower the price without buying a larger quantity. In return, you can expect to keep this customer in the pipeline for a while. It is an arrangement that works for both of you.

After the Sale: Don’t Forget About Customer Service 

You will send out your “Thank You” letters via email and/or snail mail. Make sure that customers have everything they need to use your product or service. Also, make sure it is clear where to get help if anything goes wrong or questions arise. Customer service is essential at this point and it must be 100% in favor of your new customer. When you keep a high level of customer service, you will build a loyal following of repeat buyers for other products you offer, even if your product/service is a bit more expensive than what others are offering. We call that brand loyalty. So, when you move people through your funnel to make a purchase, do not consider this as the end. Stay connected! Which brings me to the next part…

Don’t Ignore Customers Who Did Not Buy the First Time Around 

At each level of the funnel, there is usually a reduction of people and the sales funnel gets narrower until reaching the point of the Action Level. Yet, those people who dropped off along the way in the funnel, can be redirected to more information. Branch out of the funnel into a new funnel while continuing to send more information. At some point, they may return to the main funnel to make a purchase.

Hang on to your potential customers who move out of the funnel by connecting with them on a regular basis (email, direct mail, newsletters, social media, etc.). Offer them related products or services until they are ready to move back into the original funnel and make the purchase. They may find something else you offer as a better choice for their needs. In this case, these prospects are put into a subsidiary marketing-to-sales funnel that runs alongside the main funnel.

The Value of Emails and Newsletters 

The importance of using emails and/or newsletters is that you give information of value to your subscribers. While you will occasionally do a marketing-to-sales piece, most of your content should give information that your subscribers can use in either their business lives or personal lives, and you give that for free. If subscribers feel that every time they hear from you, you are trying to sell them something, then this really does not inspire loyalty. On the other hand, giving free valuable information that helps your readers has been found to inspire loyalty. When they are ready, they will jump on to the next ride down a new funnel because they want to buy something you have offered.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System 

When you imagine all the potential customers who may step into the first level of your funnel after they click on a high-performing advertisement, it could, in fact, be a staggering amount of people. The prospect of keeping track of all those people might scare you away, but not if you are using an automated customer relationship management (CRM) system. Putting your marketing on automation means you can act with a certain group of people who complete specific actions (or not). Actionetics, integrated with the ClickFunnels platform, is programmable to automatically act with your prospects in sales funnels.

If 15 people stepped out of your current funnel of 100 people in your latest sales campaign, then you need to round them up. This group would be segmented into a new group which receives a series of automated emails, sent to them one at a time (every three days). This groups them in a marketing funnel. It does not matter when they joined the funnel; each still gets the same automated pre-written and designed email series from the beginning point to the end, based on the day when they entered the marketing funnel.

The funnel they are now in may be preparing them with information about a related product to the one that was in the first funnel they were in, before they stepped away. This one may be more of what they want, so now they will eventually move into the sales funnel of product #2. But if it appears that some are hesitant to buy, they will also be given the opportunity to go back to the original funnel they were in, or they may be offered an entirely different choice altogether.

As you can see, things can get convoluted rather quickly, unless you have it all automated and programmed to react to unique reader actions. For people who just step away from all choices, keep them in the on-going email or newsletter series and offer interesting and helpful information. At least you still have them. Now for the types of sales funnels to use…

Types of Sales Funnels 

If you use ClickFunnels, for example, you will find funnel templates for every type of product or service you could possibly sell in your lifetime. Once you have used a few of these, you get a feel for what you need to use, based on whatever you are selling, or what your goal is.

As Brunson of ClickFunnels presents in the Funnel Hackers Cookbook, there are four types of funnels that you can build. These are:

  • Lead Funnels, where you want to connect and bring in new prospects for your mailing list
  • Buyer Funnels, where you want to sell your product or service to prospects
  • Event Funnels, where you are offering an informative webinar or video, and you want to have prospects sign up for that
  • Other Funnels, which is everything else that does not fit into the previously mentioned funnel

Depending on your business or what you are trying to sell, we look at the business world and break that down into all the varied industries that are being run across our globe. Your business, or what you are selling, will fit somewhere in one of these industries. Here are six main categories that Brunson has segmented for his funnels, along with who these are intended for. They are:

  • Authors, Speakers, Coaches, Consultants – authors who write books (non-fiction, typically), speakers (seminars, etc), coaches (train business leaders, or management teams), and consultants (work with a person/business to improve operations and solve problems).
  • Professional Services – professionals trained in their field, such as doctors, dentists, lawyers, financial agents (taxes), insurance agents (health, property, ), and many more.
  • Retail – physical brick-and-mortar stores that sell products, food, services,
  • Ecommerce – all sales occur online, such as through Amazon, eBay, Shopify, Etsy; catalog companies that sell specific products (arts and crafts, gardening tools and seeds, ) and more.
  • Network/Affiliate Marketing – people who choose to sell other people’s products and receive a small commission on each sale for doing
  • Business to Business (B2B) – products and services that are sold by one company to another, which can be consulting services, offering equipment or tools, and software as a service (SaaS), green supply chain logistics (fine-tuning a company’s operations to save money and time), and

How to Build a Sales Funnel 

A funnel is made up of a series of pages strategically placed in a sequence. Each page has elements (images, headlines, sub-headlines, videos, written content) designed to attract and engage a prospect to take the next step by clicking on a CTA and go to a new page or buy something. If you are using ClickFunnels, for example, they have 37 pages and 10 category page types that you can use.

Those categories in Brunson’s Funnel Hackers Cookbook are:

  • Presell Pages
  • Optin Pages
  • Thank You Pages
  • Sales Pages
  • One-Time-Offer (OTO) Pages
  • Order Forms
  • Webinar Pages
  • Membership Pages
  • Affiliate Pages
  • + Other Pages

Each page is made up of container sections, inside of which you place or add color-coded rows, columns, and elements. If you have ever worked with a page builder plug-in within WordPress, such as Profit Builder, then you already have some idea of how this works. When you work inside a row, the same colored menu tab for editing, pops up.

Elements, as noted above, include images, headlines, content, bullets, CTA buttons, sign-up or billing address and credit card form boxes, social media sharing icons, order confirmations, progress bar, and many more. Specific forms need specific elements to be included. Landing pages are designed in such a way as to move the prospect to the final action step. If you use ClickFunnels and one of its pre-designed templates, that template uses pre-set forms and pages that allow specific elements to be added, but not others. You would then add into the template, the form that allows for the elements you want, such as a video embedded in the page that a viewer could watch. When you have advanced experience in creating funnels, you can create your own template from scratch.

If you are building a membership site, you would have the forms that new members sign up with, including the choice for a password. Or, change the password given if the password is autogenerated. Inside the membership training site, people can search their lessons and pick up where they left off, or view all the available lessons and titles listed. All these parts that members interact with are elements provided in the page they are on. Additionally, with ClickFunnels, all pages and forms work on the mobile phone screen as well as a desktop, laptop, or tablet browser.

If you are planning a webinar, you must first create the page with your headline, a sub-headline, written content about what is being offered during the webinar, and a place to sign up. For an automated webinar registration, potential customers sign up for the webinar, choose a date and select a time. From there, they also receive auto-generated emails with the personal link to attend. In addition, they’ll have a choice to add the event to their calendar of choice, and receive event reminders by email and text message. On the confirmation page, there is also a running timer element, showing when you can watch the webinar.

This is very helpful to busy people who depend on their calendars to keep their days organized. Participants can be tracked from then on as to whether they attend or not, whether they see the whole webinar, including the special offer, and whether they signed up or not for what you offered. Webinars, while usually live, can also be pre-corded and played whenever the attendee wants to watch them, which is also good for those who cannot attend at any of the times when the webinar is live.

Building a Sample Webinar Form

For this example, we went inside ClickFunnels and chose the JASON Auto Webinar Funnel (free) so you could see the pages that go with the package. Once you click on that, it is delivered to your platform where you can begin editing it, as shown in the image below.

marketing sales funnel

The first page is the auto webinar registration page which is what everyone sees when they click on your CTA in an email or an advertisement seen somewhere on the internet, such as social media ads. Click on the Edit Page CTA inside the page to get started.

The page you have now is a full-screen sign-up page and each section, with its rows, columns, and elements, is highlighted when you hover your mouse over it. You can add text content, pictures, a webinar preview video, or whatever else allowed for that element box you are in. Each part (row, column, element) has its own menu, with the color showing which part you can edit.

At the top is a menu where you can click on a button to add a pop-up on this page, add a section, rows, columns, and elements. You can also preview what it looks like, including mobile or desktop screen views. Once you have finished editing the page you can save it. Make sure that you have checked the footer as you may need to update the information there, such as the date. Check every detail before you move on from this page. Then, go back to the platform page and take the next step, which is creating the Webinar Confirmation page that automatically comes up when the person finishes filling out the form, as shown below.

what is a sales funnel

You go through the same process of editing each section with the content, images, and teaser video that you wish to include on this form, including the timer element. Once completed, you go back to the platform for the next step down, which will be the Webinar Broadcast Room. Here is where your automated webinar will be inserted for viewers to watch.

Sales Funnel Stages

Once you have finished editing this page, then the next page is the Webinar Replay Room. The Replay Room looks exactly like the Broadcast Room you just edited, along with the timer element, but also includes the CTA button to make a purchase (based on what the webinar offered). You would set this page to react to someone clicking into the page and starting the video.

The next page included in this template is the Indoctrination Page which includes a CTA button under the video holder that asks the viewer to Reconfirm Your Seat. You might include a short video of what your viewers can expect to see during the webinar, or a follow-up video.

The Auto Webinar Registration is the first page that viewers see after they click on the link from an external link in one of your marketing channels. This page is the first Aware or Attraction Level in your funnel and where you can collect your viewer’s information. Headlines, sub- headlines are important for the first impact a viewer sees. It must be interesting and catch their attention enough to read any further content on this page. Give just enough to tweak their interest into high gear so they sign up for your webinar.

From there, those viewers who have signed up, receive the confirmation page that offers more information and a personalized link to access the webinar. Once on the Broadcast or Replay Room, they can watch the video.

From the minute you have their information, you can now track when they went to that webinar link and whether they watched the whole webinar. You can also see if they clicked on the CTA to buy, or if they backed out at the end of the webinar. You can add a page to capture those who backed out, by sending them the choice to see the webinar again later, or to make another offer that might entice them to buy whatever it is you are selling along with a bonus of some type. If you click on the Automation tab at the top of the main template page, you will see a whole list of automated responses which you can set to have sent to prospects for every kind of webinar reminder or result of having watched the webinar. A partial example of the list is shown below.

How does a sales funnel work

As an alternative, you can offer a downloadable report of three case studies showing how your product or service has helped other customers solve their problems. Or you can build a supporting video with this same information for those who would rather see it than read about it. Always stay in touch with anyone who has given you their information, no matter what.

As a final note to this section, if you hate writing scripts for your pages, and want to see one of these automated webinar templates in action, go to funnelscripts.com. From here, you will see the registration page that is like what was shown in our example. Sign up for the webinar, and you will receive the automated confirmation page. You also get an email with more information in it about what you will find out in the webinar, just like the example used earlier.

Marketing Sales Funnels: Writing Sales Content

Images, videos, webinars and other elements you see on pages are great, but you must create content that gets your viewers’ interest moving into high gear. The goal is to get people wanting to know more. Some of us like to write and others do not. This section is for those who want to at least give it a shot.

Don’t Forget to Use Headlines and Sub-Headlines 

Your headline is the attention grabber that people see when they land on your page after they came from an advertisement you placed in a marketing channel. The Headline offered on the page they land on should give viewers a precise message of what they will find out about. Let us look at the landing page at funnelscripts.com as an example, so you can follow along. Here is the header on that page, written by Brunson, which is a sign-up form for an auto webinar.

“How To Get ALL Of Your Sales Letters, Scripts And Webinars Slides Written (In Under 10 Minutes) WITHOUT Hiring An Expensive Copywriter!”

The header gives you everything you need to know about what the webinar is about in one sentence. His message is straight forward. You do not have to spend any time writing script content yourself. The script writer does it for you within 10 minutes or less. You do not need to hire someone who will write it for you—thus, you save money.

The sub-headline gives additional support to what is said above. If you hate writing, then viewing this upcoming webinar is perfect for you and you should attend.

“This Works Even If You HATE Writing And Never Want To Know ANYTHING About Copywriting!”

There is also a counter element underneath which shows when the next webinar is scheduled to run. Underneath the CTA button, you will see who the presenters are, in this case, Russell Brunson and Jim Edwards. The bottom of the page shows the footer.

The whole message is short in content but direct and attention-grabbing. It tells you everything you need to know in the fewest words possible. The sub-headline is an addition that reinforces the main headline.

About Writing Copy for Successful Marketing of Sales Funnels 

Up to this point, if you are using ClickFunnels, everything has been automated, but you still need to write copy that relates to your product or service. You also need to make sure that it is good copywriting and that it converts. If the message does not get across to your viewers, if it does not grab their attention and make them want to know more, then all your hard work in building funnels will not work. Period.

One way to understand good copywriting that gets the message across, is to build a swipe file of high-performing sales letters and advertisements. Choose those that relate to your product or service. When you read these, if they get your attention and you have the desire to know more about what is being offered, then the message works.

The psychology behind writing copy is that the message grabs a viewer on some emotional level, whether it is about the fear of being broke and living on the streets, wanting to be known as an author, or how to attract a life partner. Any human emotions like fear, hate, love, desire, can be used to attract your viewer on a personal level, so that they want to know more about what you offer to help them reach their goals. Finally, get Russell Brunson’s book, Dotcom Secrets, for more on writing good copy and strategically developing funnels.

Disclosure: I am an independent ClickFunnels Affiliate, not an employee. I receive referral payments from ClickFunnels . The opinions expressed here are my own and are not official statements of ClickFunnels or its parent company, Etison LLC.

In-sight Newsletter

The newest gear, techniques, & advice delivered to your inbox.

Latest in Funnel Builders

Asset 2