No matter how your type of business attracts customers, all potential customers are likely to ask similar questions and undertake similar steps toward determining whether or not they will buy from you. A sales funnel is a chart to visually represent your customer’s journey. A sales funnel can help train and prepare your sales team or help you understand your product and sales experience from the perspective of your customer.
All sales funnels are made up of a series of steps your prospective customers take as they “funnel” from the mass of all targeted customers to become a qualified lead, and eventually make an actual purchase. The most basic version of these steps was first imagined by advertising advocate Elias St. Elmo Lewis in 1898. Awareness/Attention, Interest, Desire/Decision and Action, or AIDA, describe the four stages that make up any sales funnel.
Awareness—also called attention—is the stage your targeted customers first learn about your product. Interest describes the moment a customer becomes interested in or aware of your product. When the customer demonstrates a preference or a desire to choose your product over others, you’ve reached the desire stage. Action follows when the customer either starts a trial or actually purchases the product.
Basic Structure of a Sales Funnel
The basic structure of any sales funnel includes three main levels: the top, middle and bottom. Each level is usually broken up into sublevels as well.
Top of the Funnel
All sales funnels will begin with awareness, the stage at which potential customers need to first become aware of your product or service. The top of the funnel is the widest section since it contains the huge mass of potential customers you target with advertising as you raise awareness about your product. At this stage, you begin by researching your prospective customers and then targeting them using online ads, content marketing, cold calls and emails to turn them into leads.
The top section will also include the next step, interest, which is beginning to pursue leads that may have had some type of contact with your brand, product or service but are not yet considering it as something they want. This can be done through product demonstrations, service proposals and through the nurturing of your leads by following up with phone calls and further targeted marketing.
Middle of the Funnel
You enter the decision stage with your prospective customer when you begin sending proposals or quotes and negotiating terms. At this point, your prospect has decided that they like your product or service, but needs to make the final decision if they want to actually purchase. Depending on your business, this could be a large or small section of the funnel. It may be a quick process from awareness to purchase, or you may have to further pursue leads for a larger sale.
Bottom of the Funnel
Finally, you enter the action stage when you are “closing the deal” with your new customer. This is the decision-making stage for your prospective customers and is the time you need to prove your value and build trust in order to separate yourself from competitors. This can take many forms depending on how your product is delivered. Is it a single product or service, or are you bringing them into a subscription platform? Either way, onboarding and pay transactions take place at this stage.
Depending on your business, some funnels may have additional bottom of the funnel stages after purchase, designed to create customer loyalty and build repeat business. This stage is about maintaining customer satisfaction after purchase to generate a long-lasting loyal relationship with your customers.
Free Sales Funnel Template
Providing your team with a sales funnel that is unique to your specific process can be a great help in visualizing the steps each team member should take to close their deals. Download our free sales funnel template and customize it for your needs.