No matter what type of business you run, all companies need one crucial department – sales. You can have a great product and a team of people, but without sales, even the best products and companies would flop. And as you probably know, sales isn’t so simple – that’s why we have sales funnel stages, among other things.
A sale is never as easy as someone seeing your product and purchasing it. It can be a complex, lengthy process, where customers go through a series of stages before finally handing over their hard-earned cash.
This is called a sales funnel and no matter what you sell and how, all sales funnels have some common stages.
Stage 1: Awareness
Before a customer even considers spending money with you, they need to be aware that your company exists and what you offer. This is the very top of the sales funnel and a crucial part of every transaction.
To build awareness around your brand, you can resort to a variety of tactics, such as:
- Writing SEO-optimized content
- Creating social media posts
- Writing guest posts for other websites
- Creating giveaways and contests
- Creating YouTube videos
- Launching webinars
- Attending events and conferences
At this stage, your main aim is to let your customers know that you’re out there and if they happen to need your product or service, they’ll think of you first and then do some further research.
When you think of this part of the sales funnel stages, you want to create the kind of content that will spark your customers’ general interest. For example, we have a wide variety of awareness-stage topics on our blog. The latest one is on how to identify tire kickers in the sales process.
When customers come to you from these general types of content, they are likely to explore your blog more and find out that they actually have a product that you can solve.
This is why it’s crucial not to overwhelm your customers in the awareness stage with the different features, benefits and comparisons with your competitors. You just want to grab their attention and get your foot through the door.
Stage 2: Interest
At this point in the sales funnel stages, the customer knows enough about you and what you sell to be interested in what you sell. In many of our articles, we mention how difficult and tiresome it is to create business proposals in Word or PDF documents.
At some point in time, the customer gets interested in what we offer – proposal software – and starts to do more research in how the product will make their life easier.
For this stage of the sales funnel, you need to create content that is informative, educational and practical in nature. You need real-life use cases for what you sell so that the customer that is now interested can identify themselves with the type of situations you’re presenting.
At this point, the lead isn’t ready to buy yet – they’re merely interested. You should not push them to purchase at all costs because they don’t yet have the data to make a decision. Instead, position yourself as an expert who’s ready to help and guide them in the right direction.
If you have the potential customers’ emails (which you should at this stage), send them practical content on how to improve themselves in the area that your product helps with. We send emails with practical guidelines on how to speed up the customers’ sales process, for example. We don’t send them tips on how to use our app or how we’re better than the competition (which we are).
Stage 3: Evaluation
At this point of the sales funnel stages, the lead is much closer to becoming a customer. They’re evaluating whether what you’re selling is something they really need. Not only do you have to convince them that your solution is something that they need, but also that you’re better than your competitors.
For this stage of the sales funnel, it’s useful to have in-depth guides for your product where a customer can see it in action. For example, we’ll show a practical guide on how to reduce the time it takes to create a proposal by using a template. Alternatively, we’ll show how much time you can save by importing your customers’ data from a CRM into our tool compared to doing the work manually.
You’ve also noticed some comparison posts on our blog – these are pretty common in the SaaS world. For example, someone competing against us would write a post on “Better Proposals alternatives” – these articles are excellent for this stage of the sales process.
They let your customers see the value that you bring to the table in comparison with others offering similar products and services. The key thing here is to have that differentiating factor that sets you apart.
At this stage, selling is still a joint effort between marketing, sales and customer support. You should create the right kind of content but don’t be afraid to nudge the customer in the right direction and offer them a free trial. Be there to resolve their doubts and proactively answer your most common (potential) customers’ questions, before they have a chance to ask them.
Stage 4: Engagement
The potential customers now have plenty of materials to read up on your offer and make an educated choice for themselves. There is just one big problem – you can’t rely on them to do all the hard work.
You’re not the only one who wants their attention – there is ample competition with products and pricing points similar to yours. Instead of sitting around and waiting for your customers to make up their mind, make sure to engage them and sway their decision towards you.
The best brands do this without being intrusive. As mentioned before, you should have a list of addresses at this point and you should send highly targeted emails to customers who are on the fence. Depending on what they do and what features they need the most, send them the kind of content to make that final push towards purchasing.
These could be product updates, offers for special packages, calls to action for a free trial of your app and more. Make sure that you’re always on top of their minds when they’re thinking about a product in your niche.
Stage 5: Purchase
After you’ve spent all this time nurturing your leads and creating the right kind of content for them, they’re ready to pull the trigger. But before they pull out their credit cards – be aware that how you close the sale makes all the difference in how happy someone is as a customer and how long they stay with you. Use empathy in your customer service, make your customer feel cared about, and show them your willingness to bring customers the best experience.
Depending on what you sell, this is a good stage to have your sales rep standing by to answer all potential questions and guide the customer towards making a purchase. The sales team should show them best practices and tips and tricks on how to make the most use out of the product they’re about to purchase.
Immediately after the sale, sign them up for a post-purchase SMS or an onboarding email sequence to show them around the product. Give them insider info for using the app which your free customers wouldn’t have a chance to access. Give them special deals on your upcoming promotions.
These are all great ideas to keep your customers engaged even after they’ve signed and paid for everything. Since keeping an existing customer (or upselling to them) is cheaper than acquiring a new one, there is massive value in focusing your post-sales efforts on retention and preventing churn.
Do all funnels have the same sales funnel stages?
Absolutely not. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll notice that there are numerous illustrations of different sales funnels. Some have 4 stages, others have 5 or even 8. This is all completely normal and should not confuse you.
Depending on what you sell and whom you sell it to, your process will look different. Especially in the world of B2B, it can take months before someone who stumbles upon your brand becomes a customer.
Do not feel pressured to use one type of sales funnel just because it’s popular or seems okay. Analyze your sales process and your customers and use a model that works for your industry and specific case.
A sales funnel is a piece of theory that your marketing, sales and customer support teams should put to life. Although it may seem like mere guidelines, it can help you envision the paths your customers take from the first time they see your brand to the moment they come repeat customers and brand ambassadors. If you don’t already have a sales funnel envisioned for your sales process, make sure to create one today and revise it frequently for the best results.