Flip the Sales Funnel

Did you know?

  • 57% of the buying process is completed before a customer contacts a provider
  • 86% of customers will stop doing business with a company after a bad experience
  • 81% of customers will pay more for a better experience

In sales, the metaphor of a funnel is often used to describe the buying process that customers travel through as they move from prospect to customer. Typically, marketing is responsible for filling the top of the funnel and then the sales team takes the leads and nurtures them into converted customers. Simply put, marketing spends dollars to fill the funnel and sales tries to pull as many dollars out of that funnel as they can.

Have you heard the saying “it takes money to make money?” That theory can be applied here and I’ll explain why. When customers move through the sales funnel and come out on the other side using that funnel as a cheerleading megaphone, they represent the perfect customer lifecycle. The perfect customer lifecycle not only converts leads into dollars, but dollars into more dollars (and brand new dollars through referrals).

So how can organizations flip the sales funnel into a cheerleading megaphone?

To start, let’s focus on the front end of the sales funnel; this breaks down into four key components: generating interest, capturing leads, educating / building trust, and converting the lead.

In the beginning I mentioned that marketing typically focuses on the top of the funnel. What if I told you that marketing and sales are blended throughout the entire sales funnel? They are.

Marketing might be responsible for the face of the brand, but sales also plays a key role in generating interest at the top of the funnel. In this modern era of selling, sales must be a part of the initial customer lifecycle. Sites like linkedin, twitter, other social media sites are great for generating interest. Gone are the days when sales teams can sit back and wait for incoming orders.

When you think of educating and building trust, you might think that is the responsibility of the sales team, but marketing is playing a more prominent role in this area. Content marketing is quickly becoming a “must have” and for good reason.

I would also argue that converting the lead is shared by marketing and sales alike. The sales team might be shaking hands and getting signatures on orders, but marketing is launching re-targeting campaigns and bringing dead leads back to life.

Now, let’s focus on the sales funnel from the customer’s perspective. It breaks down into four parts:

  • Need
  • Research
  • Select
  • Purchase

Every customer journey starts with a need. After a need is defined, customers move into the research phase. This can start with a web search, or a social media conversation. It is imperative that organizations understand what their prospective customers are looking for and what they are talking about on social networks. A CEB study found that 57% of the buying process is done before a customer contacts a supplier.

After the research is complete, the customer is ready to make a selection. In order to complete that transaction, the process has to be quick and easy (on any device). When the purchase is complete, organizations have an opportunity to re-engage with that customer for future purchases as well as converting that customer into a brand evangelist; this is where the megaphone comes into play.

Please notice that once the purchase is complete, a new journey begins. This post-sale process arguably is more important than the initial buying process, because existing customers will spend 67% more than newly acquired customers.

After the purchase, the first step is fulfilment; a key component of fulfilment is service. Customers must be supported in case there are questions with the order, or problems. Social listening plays a critical role in the service and fulfilment process.

Next, the objective shifts to upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Typically email campaigns and promotions are used to achieve that objective. Content marketing is also a great way to help move the customers throughout the buying process and encourage upsells. When done right, the campaigns turn customers into loyal advocates and social influencers.

I’m not going to jump into the big data implications here, but as customers move through this lifecycle, organizations are collecting a tremendous amount of data on their customers. They can use this data to reach unknown audiences with similar characteristics, if they have the right tools in place. By leveraging data management platforms, companies can use what they know to power what they do.

  • If you’re interested, here is a case study on that topic: (BlueKai)

The customer view of the post sales funnel (potential cheerleader megaphone) looks like this:

  • Receive
  • Use
  • Maintain
  • Recommend

Customers want to get the product or service quickly, have a place to go if they have questions or concerns, form a personal relationship with the brand, and tell their friends about how great the company is. That’s what we all want, isn’t it? Often times we are disappointed, but when a company gets it right, we show our love by opening up our wallets, time and time again.

I’m a positive person, so I like to keep my focus there, but it is important to mention that there are two kinds of messages that get broadcasted: likes and dislikes. 86% of customers will stop doing business with a company after a negative experience. What happens when they leave?

“A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.” – White House Office of Consumer Affairs.

Here is the good news (my positive spin): 81% of customers are willing to pay more for a better experience. Today, we are in a competitive environment where customer experience is among the few competitive differentiators.

All about the Benjamin’s, baby…

As Puff Daddy (or whatever he goes by now) eloquently stated “it’s all about the Benjamin’s, baby.” When talking about converting leads into sales and sales into more sales, he is absolutely correct. Customers show their love by spending their money and telling their friends to spend theirs, too. In addition to focusing on the dollars, the weeble-like image with the dollar sign in between the funnels also represents the importance of understanding each customer. The customer is at the center of everything!

The best way to ensure that every customer that enters your sales funnel has an opportunity to become a megaphone carrying cheerleader for your brand is to offer relevant, personalized experiences.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could rely on one partner to manage every step of your customer lifecycle, ensuring that you understand your customers and have the ability to deliver exceptional customer experiences?

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