What is a Sales Funnel and How to Build an Effective One in 2019 [UPDATED]
by Irek Klimczak last updated on 0

What is a Sales Funnel and How to Build an Effective One in 2019 [UPDATED]

This article explores the methodology and technology of sales funnels – the fastest and the easiest way to promote, sell, and deliver your products or services online. You’ll find this article useful if you have an idea for an online business and you’re looking for a solution to put it quickly into action.

What is a sales funnel?

A sales funnel is a standardized process of making a sale. Every funnel (a process) consists of a number of actions consumers take to make a purchase.
Having a funnel helps you determine how many customers go through your process, and see what might need some optimizations.

The idea of a sales funnel dates back to 1898 when E. St. Elmo Lewis developed a purchase funnel or purchasing funnel – a marketing model which illustrates the theoretical customer journey from the moment of attracting customers towards the purchase of a product or service.

Since then, it’s been given different names (i.e. purchase funnel, sales funnel, marketing funnel, conversion funnel) but the model stays the same, which means that it’s:

  • universal: it can be applied to virtually any business in any industry
  • timeless: times change but the idea stays relevant

In ecommerce, for example, we use the term conversion funnel to describe the customer journey from the awareness stage (usually by driving traffic to a website through paid advertising in search engines and social media) to the conversion stage, when a website visitor becomes a customer.

You might also call it a business funnel, since it allows you to go into business and sell pretty much anything from a physical product, through an ebook, to an online course.

Editor’s note:

If using a sales funnel to sell an online course is something you’re looking for, make sure to check out the recording of our webinar with Leslie Samuel. You’ll take away a step-by-step demo on how to build a sales funnel for an online course and much more.

Why do you need a sales funnel?

As a business owner or a marketer, you know how complex the sales process might be. A journey from prospect to a satisfied customer might be a long and difficult one. And paradoxically, the constantly growing number of marketing tools doesn’t help you start selling immediately.

That’s exactly why you need a sales funnel. It offers you a simple roadmap to revenue. It helps you focus on the most important stages of online sales: lead generation, lead nurturing, and sales. With a sales funnel, you can start making money quickly and optimize business processes as you go.

How does a sales funnel work?

The goal of a sales funnel is pretty much self-explanatory – it drives sales. Whatever it is that you do, the sales funnel is there to help you get more business. The sales funnel model represents the customer journey as a series of stages.

How to Build Your Online Business from $0 to $10,000

What are the stages of a sales funnel?

The original purchase funnel has 4 key stages:

1. Awareness – when potential customers become aware of your product or service.

2. Interest – when they actively express an interest in what you have to offer.

3. Desire – when they know that your product or service is the perfect fit to their needs.

4. Action – the moment of purchase.

As your business develops and leans more towards recurring purchases, you can expand your funnel by adding additional stages.

The more complex version of the funnel might look like this:

1. Awareness – when potential customers become aware of your product or service.

2. Interest – when they actively express an interest in what you have to offer.

3. Evaluation – when prospects examine competitors’ solutions and compare their offers against yours.

4. Decision – when your offer is shortlisted and it’s time for some negotiation before the final decision is reached.

5. Purchase – the moment of purchase, when a prospect becomes a customer.

6. Reevaluation – customer has been using your product for a while. Every now and then they might look for other solutions that will meet their needs. (hopefully, if they’re satisfied with your product or service, they won’t feel the need to look for a different solution).

7. Repurchase – when a customer repurchases your product or service.

You should use the individual stages of the funnel as a blueprint for your marketing and sales communication. Monitor the results and optimize your actions to drive more sales in less time.

Here’s a short video from Ian Cleary from RazorSocial that will help you understand the different stages of a sales funnel and how they will impact your business.

5 ways to build webinar registrations – Ian Cleary, Founder of RazorSocial

The sales funnel model + technology = Autofunnel

What happens when you apply powerful technology to a solid marketing model? Yes, you’re right! You end up with an ultimate selling machine – Autofunnel.

Send traffic straight to your sales page with the quick sales funnel, or nurture new contacts with automated emails before presenting your offer with the full sales funnel.

What are the key elements of a sales funnel?

Usually, when you think of a sales funnel you think of combining different tools for different individual purposes: an ecommerce platform, landing page creator, email marketing software, webinar solution, social media apps, etc. to set up a sales process.

In this case, your job is not only to plan an online business strategy, but also to carry out an in-depth research of the available tools and integrating them so that they bring you positive results.

Fortunately, it’s so much easier with Autofunnel. You actually have 2 sales funnels to choose from.

Quick sales funnel

A very simple funnel that consists of just two elements:

  • a sales page

With a sales page you can customize the order form and encourage leads to buy your products. The order form is a place where your leads can see all the products they’re purchasing and how much they’ll pay.

Related: Learn how to design a high-converting ecommerce landing page.

sales page templates.
Autofunnel sales page templates grouped by the product type
  • a confirmation page

The confirmation page shows your customers the order summary, a download link, or contact details. Your customers also get an automated confirmation email, where you can say thanks and confirm the order.

Build your quick sales funnel »

Full sales funnel

Sales funnel focuses on the process of collecting leads and finalizing the sales process. Use it to find potential buyers, promote and sell products online, and increase sales results.

The full sales funnel consists of the following elements:

  • a signup page with an exit popup form

It’s a landing page where you can collect leads by encouraging them to sign up to your list. You can tell them what they’ll get in return for their signup. You can also offer a freebie to get even more signups. This page has an inline form and an exit pop up form (appears when someone tries to exit the page).

  • a followup email

A message which is sent to your subscribers as an instant, automated reply message. A series of these are often called, drip campaigns.

  • a sales page

It’s a page where you can turn leads into customers. You can design a page to promote products and encourage potential customers to buy them. When they choose a product on the sales page, they’ll get to the order page where they can complete the purchase.

  • an order form

The order form is the place where your leads can see all the products they’re purchasing and how much they will pay.

  • an abandoned cart email

It’s an email sent to your customers when they don’t complete their purchase. This email reminds them about the products left in the cart, including their name, price, and the URL. It’s one of the most important types of automated emails that has a direct effect on your conversion rates.

  • a confirmation page

It’s the page where your customers can see their order summary, a download link and other contact details.

  • a confirmation email

After making a purchase, your customers will get a confirmation email. There’ll be a clickable button there. When your customers click on it, they’ll see their order summary.

Sales funnel sequence.
The elements of the GetResponse sales funnel

How to create a sales funnel?

Building a sales funnel is easy. You can use the Autofunnel creator, choose your favorite designs from the existing templates, and customize them with just a few clicks.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to create a quick sales funnel

And if you want to see how to create a full sales funnel, here’s a walkthrough video:

Here’s another video from Ian Cleary from RazorSocial where he shows how to bridge the gap between marketing and technology with a sales funnel. For the purpose of this demo, he is building a full sales funnel for a photography course.

How to manage a sales funnel?

You can manage (edit, add, or delete) all the elements of your sales funnel in the funnel view.

GetResponse Autofunnel.
An example of a full sales funnel

How to measure sales funnel results?

Autofunnel allows you to monitor your business in real time. Your sales funnel results are displayed dynamically in the funnel view. In order to check the ROI, you just need to log into your account.

How to increase sales funnel conversion rates

The best sales funnels are built for conversions, not the looks.

Let’s go over the tactics that will help you generate more revenue with your sales funnels.

1. Drive the right kind of traffic

Think about how hard it would be to convince someone to buy football cleats if you know they’re searching for camping gear.

The same applies to your sales funnel. If there’s no match between your offer and the audience you’re presenting it to, the chances of converting them are slim to none.

The key to generating tons of conversions with your funnel is to fill it with the right people. Here are a few ways you can do it.

Don’t have an audience yet?

No problem. With Facebook and Instagram ads you can reach people who would most likely benefit from your products or services.

Just think about who you’d like to reach – consider aspects like their location, gender, age, or interests – and create a Custom Audience using these details.

Pro tip: It may be tempting to target only those who perfectly resemble your ideal customers from the very beginning. But when it comes to the top of the sales funnel, the best strategy is to start with a broad campaign focused on users’ interests.

Example:  

Let’s say you sell training courses for animators and event managers. You’re just getting started, so you don’t have a large contact base. The best way to reach the right audience is to create a general advertisement targeted at people interested in events, event management, and live events. It’s worth testing a minimum of 2-3 approaches to see which one is the best.

How to do it in GetResponse:

Thanks to our Facebook and Instagram ads integration, you can now create PPC campaigns without leaving the GetResponse dashboard. To learn more about how you can do it, just read our step by step guide to creating Facebook ads in GetResponse.

reach wide audience getresponse facebook ads.

Already got an audience?

Perfect!

Here are three things you can do.

1. If you have a list of contacts who’ve signed up for your newsletter, you can send them an email blast announcing your new offer.

For best results, you might want to start by targeting only the most-engaged subscribers and those who have previously purchased something similar.

Once you’ve heard their feedback, noticed that they’re happy with the offer, you’ve got a green light to launch your campaign to others from your list.

How to do it in GetResponse:

To learn more about using engagement for contact list segmentation and get fresh ideas for an effective email blast campaign, check out the following two articles:

Using engagement for contact list segmentation

What is an email blast and how to send it right

2. Naturally, you can also target your contacts using Facebook and Instagram ads. To do that, instead of selecting a Custom Audience, as we did previously, just pick Existing contacts, Lookalike audience, People liking a page, or Website visitors.

Each of these targeting options lets you select a slightly different type of audience, so it might be useful to combine them for the best results.

Here’s a quick summary of whom you can target using these options:

  • Existing contacts – it lets you target contacts who are already on your list or in one of your segments
  • Lookalike audience – it lets you find a new audience that looks similar to your existing contacts
  • People liking a page – you can target those who like your Facebook business page
  • Website visitors – lets you reach those who’ve visited one of your landing pages or other pages where you’ve installed a Facebook pixel

How to do it in GetResponse:

To learn more about targeting these customer segments, read our GetResponse Facebook Ads guide.

Example:

Let’s say you run a bookstore and sell cookbooks. Based on your sales history, you can build a segment of people who bought cookbooks last year.

Use that knowledge and prepare three different campaigns: First, if you have 100 contacts or more, use the “Existing contacts” option to target them with ads of your new offering.

Second, if you have at least 500 people in the segment, you can run a lookalike campaign. That’s a perfect tool to find new customers. Facebook will help you build an audience using your historical data and look for people with similar interests and behavior to your past customers.

The last tactic is to use “Website visitors” to win back people who left your page without converting or who visited your page up to 6 months back. Pick one of your landing pages or place the Facebook pixel code on your website and type in which URLs visitors you want to either include or exclude.

Note: Both in “Existing contacts” and “Lookalike audience” Facebook needs to find a match between your contacts and its users. If people are using different email addresses or their localizations don’t match, you may need more contacts on the list.

lookalike audience example bookstore customers.

3. Another way to drive traffic to your sales funnel is to use your other marketing vehicles such as your website, blog, social media profile, or business page.

This method isn’t as quick as sending out an email blast or running a paid ad campaign, but it’s worth your shot if your pages are getting a decent amount of traffic from other sources.

Pro tip: If you don’t want to spend time adjusting your website or adding any new signup forms worried that it’ll mess up your design, consider adding a pop-up, slide-in form, or an exit-intent form.

All of these can be great for lead generation and adding them to your website requires only pasting a short line of javascript code or adding a simple tag in your Google Tag Manager.

Example:

Let’s say you’re a personal trainer. You are using Facebook to build trust and reputation. You regularly post tips, tricks, and advice on how to train and live a healthy life. People love what you are doing and “like” your page. 

Using Facebook Ads in GetResponse, you can target ads to people who liked your page or look for a similar audience using a lookalike option. It’s a perfect way to show your offer without spoiling the image built on your Facebook page and to draw the attention of a new audience. 

2. Optimize your sales page

Now that you’ve managed to drive the right kind of people to your sales page, you need to make sure they’re going to take the desired action.

This may be easier said than done, but there are several principles all the best landing and sales pages follow.

As this is a topic of its own, I suggest that you read the following two articles. There, you’ll find all the key elements and best practices that you should pay attention to when designing your pages.

The main ones are:

  • The objective of your page
  • Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
  • Headline and subheadings
  • Overall copy and the focus on benefits (as opposed to product features)
  • Call to action (CTA)
  • Trust elements
  • Visuals and UX
  • Triggering shopping impulses

To learn more about these principles, take a look at these two articles:

How to design a high-converting ecommerce landing page

Anatomy of a killer landing page

sales page example paid webinar.

How to do it in GetResponse:

GetResponse lets you build signup, landing, and of course, sales pages, too. To learn more about them, watch the sales funnel tutorial video we’ve shared a moment ago or check out our FAQ page.

3. Add an upsell offer (and other sales maximizers)

What many marketers don’t realize is that when a person buys from you for the first time, they’re often ready to buy some more.

Here’s how it works:

Your customer has already gone through the entire decision making process. They’ve already weighed the pros and cons and made a decision that you’re trustworthy. They’ve filled out their credit card details, hit the buy button, and are now eagerly waiting to receive the product you’ve sold them.

Now ask yourself – wouldn’t it make sense to offer them a complementary product that would increase the total amount of value they receive from you?

This is what upsell offers were made for.

They’re something that you present to a customer who has just made an order.

  • It could be an additional item of the same product but at a lower price – e.g., an extra book they can give to someone as a gift.
  • Or a lower-priced item that’d go well together with the first item – e.g., a personal diet plan as an addition to a paid webinar on fitness training.
  • Or a more-expensive product but at a discounted price – e.g., Google Analytics advanced level course as an addition to a Google Analytics 101 course.

As you can see, there are many ways in which you could upsell your customers and offer them something relevant.

Sometimes marketers refer to upsell offers as sales maximizers and I think it’s reasonable. That’s because they can help you increase the average order value from your customers and therefore maximize your sales revenue.

How to use upsell offers in GetResponse:

In GetResponse, you can upsell your customers through the newly-released upsell pages.

These are the pages that you can present to your customers, right after they’ve filled out their billing information on the order form.

Think of them as one-time offers that let your customers order a complementary product with the use of just one additional click (no need to fill out the order form again!)

GetResponse lets you present up to three upsell pages to your customers. You can also increase their effectiveness by adding countdown timers and A/B testing them to pick the winning offer.

Thanks to these, and other powerful features, you can maximize your sales funnel conversion rates.

Here’s how an upsell page might look like:

upsell pages countdown timer example.

You can learn more about this feature on our FAQ page.

Also, you can test drive it by signing up for a GetResponse free trial.

Example:

Let’s say you’re selling an ebook that helps people manage their personal finances better. 

As soon as a customer places an order, you show them an upsell page with a new offer – a course on making money through affiliate marketing.

Whether your customer decides to buy your course or not, after two minutes, you’re showing them yet another offer – a one on one consultation with one of your experts. 

You could go ahead and add one more upsell page (e.g., with a hard copy version of the ebook), but that’s for you to decide.

If you’re unsure which offer to start with, for example, whether it should be a more expensive product (upsell) that’s followed by a lower ticket one (downsell), or something that’s only related to your main product (cross-sell), then the best approach is to go with an A/B test. 

4. Run retargeting campaigns

We’ve briefly mentioned retargeting campaigns before, but it’s important to know that they’re essential to increasing sales funnel conversions.

It’s natural that some website visitors won’t covert right away. Even if you think that you’ve spent enough time nurturing them and that your offer is great, they may be reluctant to make a commitment.

That’s where retargeting campaigns come into play.

Retargeting campaigns are paid ad campaigns that you can do through platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Their aim is to help you bring your leads and prospects back to your site and give you another chance of converting them into paying customers.

Facebook-Ads-NL-gif_1_comp2

Here are some scenarios where you could use them:

  1. Someone visited the signup page with your lead magnet but didn’t make it through to the thank you page.
  2. Someone visited your post-signup thank you page but didn’t visit your sales page.
  3. Someone viewed your order form but didn’t make it through to the confirmation page.
  4. Someone viewed the confirmation page but it was more than 14 days ago.
  5. Someone viewed the confirmation page but hasn’t seen a sales page from your other funnel.

As you can see, retargeting ads can not only help you convert more leads into buyers, or website visitors into leads, but also motivate repeat purchase behavior.

How to do it in GetResponse:

If you haven’t read it yet, here’s our complete guide to designing Facebook ads in GetResponse.

Example:

Let’s imagine that you’re selling fitness supplements such as protein powder and vitamins.

You know that most people use up your product within 30 to 60 days.

Instead of just looking for new customers, you’re hoping to increase the repeat buys from your existing audience.

To do that, you can take advantage of the Facebook pixel integration in GetResponse and target users who visited your confirmation page.

What you need to do is to create an ad and select website visitors as your audience.

To make better use of your marketing budget and avoid showing your ad to those who’ve made a repeat purchase in the last 14 days, you can adjust your targeting to exclude them.

Here’s what it would look like in GetResponse:

sell more products in getresponse.
How to Build Your Online Business from $0 to $10,000

Are you ready?

Now that you know all the essentials for building a sales funnel and high-converting sales & upsell pages, are you ready to join us on the quest for great results?

If you have some personal favorite ecommerce tips, share them in the comments below!

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