Building An Automated Sales Funnel – A Step By Step Guide

Automated Sales Funnel

There’s no doubt, sales are the heart and soul of your business and almost exclusively determines your success.

Albeit, the business landscape is competitive. And there are lots of other businesses trying to get the attention of your prospects. Hence the need for an automated sales funnel and process that targets customers at every point of their purchase journey. 

According to Statista, the average conversion rate across measured industry verticals is 2.49 percent. Automating your sales processes allows you to achieve much more.

Creating an automated sales funnel allows your brand to 

  • Meaningfully engage customers,
  • Fully maximize sales and increase conversion rate,
  • Deepen existing customer relationships and build new ones, and
  • Improve customer experience

In this article, we’ll discuss how to create an automated sales funnel that drives business growth. 

Let’s get started.

What Is An Automated Sales Funnel?

Whether you run a traditional or online business, your customers typically go through a series of steps to buy your product or service. That journey that your customers make before purchase is your sales funnel. Likewise, your sales funnel (or conversion funnel) also represents the steps you go through to convert prospects to paying customers. 

Over the years, this age-long marketing concept has been refined by marketing experts to reflect changing business models. But understanding the basics is a recipe for success.

Here’s what you need to know. Sales funnel isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. The customer buying journey might differ from one customer to another. And the sales journey may depend on your niche, product, or service types. While some buying processes are quick, others are lengthy. 

For example, purchases in most large or B2B companies may require extensive research, negotiation, and product purchase processes. But for a B2C company, the process may take a few minutes, hours, or days. 

Let’s take a look at the different stages of the sales funnel.

Stages of Sales Funnel

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The typical sales funnel has four critical stages. But extensive research by McKinsey and other experts has prompted the addition of a fifth stage. 

Stage 1: Awareness 

The sales funnel begins with the awareness phase, where your prospects discover that your product or service exists. Then, they may be searching for the best solution to their needs using online or offline channels. And their first contact with your brand may be through your Facebook ad, your tweet, a billboard ad, or word of mouth from a friend. 

If you’re looking to get prospects into your funnels, your marketing efforts must be geared towards grabbing your customer’s attention. Remember, this stage is like a courtship, and there are other competitors in your space trying to woo similar prospects. So your marketing content and product must offer the best value in terms of content, price, quality, and delivery to attract interest. 

In most cases where there is chemistry, the prospect may purchase the products at this stage. However, in other instances where their interest doesn’t align with your offering, they may exit the funnel before getting to the interest stage. 

Stage 2: Interest 

At the interest phase, your prospects lean towards buying your product. They show interest in the content or product by 

  • Signing up on your app or visiting your website
  • Subscribing to your email list,
  • Interacting with your social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

The beautiful thing about this stage is that you no longer deal with unqualified prospects or window shoppers. Instead, your prospects have defined their needs and are checking out your product to see if it meets their needs. 

You can deploy automated marketing solutions like emails, blog articles, and other helpful content to address customer concerns. Sharing helpful content will not only build confidence in your product, but it will influence their buying decision.

Useful content at this stage may include in-depth guides, e-books, product comparisons, whitepapers, and more. 

As you gradually build relationships and become familiar with your prospects, your content will keep them interested in your product until it’s time to buy it. 

Stage 3: Evaluation or Decision Phase

Image Credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator via Pexels

At the evaluation phase, your prospects have gathered enough information, and they’re set to make a purchase. So, they’ll proceed to analyze your product and compare it to alternative solutions. 

During the decision phase, your prospect will mostly pay more attention to your offering and what makes you stand out, including

  • Pricing plans, 
  • Product features, 
  • Discounts etc. 

This is the best time to make your best offer or communicate your value proposition. It could be a free trial, freemium, or free shipping, bonus products, or discounts. Whatever the case, make your offers irresistible and unmatchable so that your leads will jump at them. At this stage, you can make personalized sales calls or communicate your offers via your sales page, pop-ups, or webinars. 

Stage 4: Action

Image Credit: Anastasia Gepp via Pixabay 

Don’t get too comfortable at this stage. The job isn’t done yet. There’s still a chance your prospects may change their mind or jump at offers from a competitor. So you need to maintain communication with your prospect to get him to the action stage. 

At the decision stage, the prospect begins negotiations with your company and finally buys your product. It is important to note that not every customer that enters your funnel gets to this stage. So the percentage of prospects that become buyers is your sales conversion rate.

Again the goal is to increase the sales conversion rate and sell more. So that takes us to the 5th stage. 

Stage 5: Re-evaluation Phase 

Image Credit: Chris Liverani via Unsplash

Although this stage isn’t captured in many marketing articles, it is a critical phase. During the re-evaluation phase, the customer experiences the product and decides whether or not to renew the purchase contract.

Your focus at this stage should be to retain customers. Research has shown that it costs five times more to retain existing customers than gain a new customer. Plus, increasing your customer retention rate can increase your profits between five to 25 percent. 

To increase customer retention and brand loyalty, you can

  •  Thank customers for their purchase
  • Personalize emails and follow up messages
  • Ask customers to drop feedback
  • Provide customer service and tech support

At every phase of the sales funnel, the goal is to convert your sales leads to buyers and loyal customers. 

Why Create Automated Sales Funnels?

It’s the age of personalization and automation. And prospective buyers prefer to buy from brands that deliver personalized sales experiences.  

Automating your sales funnel means you are able to interact with customers at every stage of their buying journey. If you fail to automate your sales funnel, you will experience serious leakages. And a leaking sales funnel means that you will lose potential customers to competitors, record low sales conversion rates, and eventually run out of business.

Beyond automation, you need to understand your sales funnel, identify leakages (where prospects drop out) and optimize the funnel to drive more sales conversion. 

Let’s get this straight. Automating your sales funnel is a smart move and requires lots of investments. However, the benefit outweighs the costs.  

Here are other reasons why you should automate your sales funnels. 

Increased Sales and Marketing Efficiency

Automating your sales reduces the time you spend on manual tasks. For instance, when prospects enter your sales funnel, you need to trigger welcome emails and other personalized messages. Also, you need to monitor their journey to trigger emails or pop-ups that will maintain their interest. 

If your prospects entered your funnel via social media, you need to communicate with them via Facebook and Twitter to keep them in your funnel. Tracking these activities manually can be tasking, time-consuming, and counterproductive. 

Come to think of it. Why pay your top salespeople to perform boring and monotonous tasks like updating prospect databases or sending out emails when automation can handle them in a breeze? 

Automation can help you handle repetitive sales tasks so your sales team can focus on their core activities like

  • Prospecting
  • Building valuable relationships and 
  • Closing deals.

Reduced Staffing costs

Depending on your business size, you need to hire a number of sales staff to achieve a certain level of efficiency. However, automated sales funnel lets you reduce staffing costs. You can set up and trigger sales and lead nurturing campaigns, personalize and schedule your messages based on sets of criteria. 

Multi-Channel Communication

Image Credit: Muneebfarman via Pixabay 

Maximizing the potential of all your sales channels requires a 360-degree approach. You certainly do not want to miss out on any sales opportunity because you are not active on that sales channel. 

Automated sales funnel lets you track your prospects and manage communications across multiple sales channels quickly. 

Interesting. Isn’t it?

With automated sales funnel tools, you can analyze data from critical retail touchpoints, including

  • Prospect’s digital footprint 
  • Social media activities
  • Website visits and downloads etc. 

 For instance, if a prospect is researching a broad product category, it shows that he is about to start his purchasing journey. Downloading white papers and product reviews means he is ready to talk with a salesperson. You can use the customer data to automatically score, qualify, and prioritize leads.

Extensive Customer Data

Data is the new oil. Automating your sales funnel lets you embrace big data, capture intelligence at scale, and put it to work. Using a central dashboard, you can 

  • Get a bird’s eye view of your sales activities. 
  • Measure sales campaign metrics
  • Collect and store prospect data
  • Analyze customer data and 
  • Perform A/B to view sales techniques and strategies that deliver the best results. 

Better Leads and Increased Conversions Rate

Lead generation is a must for every business. You need to acquire leads to drive sales.

 Albeit not every lead becomes a buyer. Therefore, as leads come into your funnel, you must look beyond the volume and focus on lead quality. Lead quality helps you determine the likelihood that your prospects will become paying customers.  

Creating automated sales funnels let you attract quality leads, increase your sales conversion rate and ROI. With automation, you will get a clearer picture of potential customer behavior, interests or pain points, and their journey through the buying process. 

Automated platforms automatically score, qualify, and prioritize leads based on a number of parameters. Armed with this data, you can focus your time, efforts, and investments on leads that will most likely convert. 

Nurturing leads

When prospects come into your funnel, the bulk of the work lies in nurturing them to become paying customers. But, unfortunately, not all your leads may end in a sale. According to Gleanster Research, 50 percent of the leads generated by businesses are qualified but not ready to buy immediately.

We agree that nurturing leads can be demanding, but it is absolutely worth it. Businesses that automate their sales funnel can seamlessly keep their customers in their circle until they become loyal customers. 

Personalizing the Customer Journey

Personalization is key to nurturing leads and driving conversion. 

Image Credit: Deloitte

According to Deloitte, 80 percent of buyers prefer to purchase from brands that offer personalized experiences. In addition, Pardot says that 77 percent of shoppers want unique and targeted content at every research stage.

Creating automated sales funnels allows you to deliver the right content to the right prospect at the right time. While providing the right content, you will gather intelligence such as

  • Posts that are driving the most engagements on social media
  • Which emails are getting the most clicks and opens
  • Website visits, bounce rates, and other content engagement metrics

Examples of Automated Sales Funnels that Worked 

Let’s take a look at some of the examples of automated sales funnels that worked.

1. Starbucks leveraged customer behavior, demographic, and location data to deliver personalized in-app experiences throughout their purchase journey. As a result, customers got real-time offers based on their location, activities, and preferences. And this effort increased sales conversions via the app up to about 25 percent of total transactions. 

2. Dell, a reputable computer technology brand, had multiple website visits, but the conversion rate was poor. Many customers typically left the site without buying anything. 

Dell went back to the drawing board and analyzed their customer behavior, website visit history, and activities. They created retargeting campaigns that reminded customers of items they viewed or left in their shopping carts. These sales funnel automation tactics delivered a 70 percent surge in click-through rates, tripled conversion rates, and higher sales ROI. 

Setting Up An Automated Sales Funnel

Creating an automated sales funnel is a sales hack. It works. We have shown you brands that have used it to increase conversion. 

Now let’s show you how to set up an automated sales funnel for your brand.

Step 1: Advertise and Create a Buzz About Your Business

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

When it comes to selling, you must be visible. Your potential customers need to know that your product and service exist, else you will run out of business. 

There are tons of leads in the market looking for products to meet their needs. However, other businesses in your niche are also looking to get these customers into their funnel. Advertising helps you stay ahead of the competition and convinces your prospects to choose your brand. 

For most brands, multi-channel advertising strategies will enable them to attract more leads from

  • Online channels (social networks, search engines, blogs, email, etc.)
  • Offline (Radio, TV and print, TV, etc.)

However, whether you are a B2B or B2C company, you need to define your buyer persona and identify the best sales strategy to attract more leads into your funnel.   

Step 2: Develop Incredible Content that Addresses Customer Pain Points

Image Credit: Diggity Marketing via Pixabay 

Content is the lifeblood of sales and marketing. While advertising drives awareness about your product, excellent content helps you establish valuable connections with your target audience. 

Remember, the prospect has just entered your funnel and is primarily looking for a solution that addresses his pain point. In most cases, the customer may not have full details about his pain points. In any case, you must resist the urge to be salesy. Instead, your content should help customers solve their problems.  

Some of the content types that can help you drive lead engagement include

  • Blogging
  • Whitepapers
  • Video
  • Infographics
  • Social media posts and more. 

According to DemandMetric, brands with blogs generate about 67 percent more leads monthly than businesses without blogs. The same study reveals that 60 percent of leads purchase a product after reading content about it. 

With blogging tools like Grammarly and Hemingway, you can create engaging blog articles. Email and CRM tools like MailChimp, and AWeber allows you to automatically share content with your prospects via email. Coschedule and Hootsuite enable you to share content and manage communications across multiple social media channels. 

Step 3: Create Lead Magnets that will Pull Customers into your Funnel and Drive Action

Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos via  Pixabay 

After delivering the killer content, it’s time to move your prospect from the awareness stage to the interest stage. And lead magnets is a proven strategy that’s used to attract prospect interest and acquire leads.

Using lead magnets involves offering a free item or service that encourages leads to provide their data or subscribe to your service. Some excellent examples of lead magnets include

  • Free pricing plan
  • Trial subscription
  • Whitepapers or Industry Reports
  • Podcasts and Webinars
  • Email
  • Ebooks and courses
  • Free consultations

If you want to build a sales funnel with quality leads, you need to create a sales funnel that prospects cannot ignore. And your lead magnet should be as enticing as possible. 

Come to think of it. Who doesn’t like freebies or gifts? I guess we all do.

For instance, Trustpilot offers gift cards to encourage users to review software. And Dropbox offers a free space when you refer other users. As a result, their referral program has helped them increase sales conversion by 60 percent and business growth.

Step 4: Use Automated Tools to Deliver Offers and Incentives!

Monitoring your sales funnels manually can be tasking and time-consuming. And unless you automate your sales funnels, you will most likely miss out on critical opportunities to convert customers.

After creating an attractive lead magnet, it’s best to use automated tools to deliver your offers and incentives. Automating this process will help you to drive actions at the right time. 

For instance, you can create landing pages or opt-in pages to collect data like emails or phone numbers. And in exchange, they will get a link to a trial version of your product or valuable report. It’s a win-win situation. 

 You can try out landing page tools and opt-in tools like

  • Lead pages
  • MailChimp
  • Instapage
  • Sendinblue
  • Drip etc. 

After delivering the freebie, you must continue to provide value and nurture the relationship. So go ahead and schedule emails or newsletters every week, send invitations to webinars or exhibitions to keep the customer interested in the product.

Remember, the goal is to keep the customer in your circle. So please don’t lose sight of it. 

Step 5: Test your Automated Funnels, Evaluate Your Results and Get Feedback

As your prospects inch towards becoming paying customers, you must define what success means to you. 

The question is, how do you measure your success?

Most salespeople use entry points, conversion rate, average order value, and customer lifetime value to measure their success. However, these metrics are not cast in stone.

Sales metrics differ from business to business. If you are running a dropshipping business, your conversion goal may differ from an event manager interested in signups. For instance, sales or conversion may mean

  • Product purchase
  • Software downloads and installs
  • Email signups.
  • Content Shares 

During the customer purchasing journey, email and website analytics tools can help you to automatically track metrics like 

  • Email opens rate and bounce rate 
  • product download
  • Subscribes and unsubscribes
  • Click-through rates
  • Post shares and engagement etc. 

Tools like Google Analytics and Optimizely allows you to create conversion goals and track metrics like

  • Destination – the specific webpage or app screen the user reaches. 
  • Duration – the minimum amount of time the user spends on your app or site
  • Pages/Screens per session – the minimum number of pages the user views during his visit
  • Event – the actions a user takes during his visit, such as watching a video 

Step 6: Amplify Your Reach Using Multiple Sales Strategies

Now you have measured your progress. Are you hitting your targets? If yes, what can you do to expand your reach? These are valid questions. 

Based on your sales data, you may need to optimize your sales funnel to drive more conversions. And it may just be a good time to amplify your reach using sales strategies like

  • Referral marketing/Affiliate programs
  • Facebook and Instagram Ads
  • Google retargeting campaigns

According to Social Media Today, 78 percent of B2B marketers say that referral marketing provides higher quality leads.

Tools like Referral Candy can help you launch, and manage and automate your referral programs. The software has an actionable dashboard that shows you the top traffic sources and which customers are superstar referrers. 

Facebook ads allow you to create your campaign objectives and conversion goal and set your campaign in motion. You can create automated sales campaigns that encourage people to take specific actions like

  •  Adding items to a cart
  • Downloading an app your app, or 
  • Making a purchase

Step 7: Continue To Create Value and Build Meaningful Customer Relationships 

Image Credit: Sebastian Herrmann via Unsplash

Kudos. You have worked so hard to get to this point. Finally, your prospects have bought your products and paid a few dollars.

Albeit, your automated sales funnel doesn’t end at the action or purchase stage. There’s still work to be done. You need to continue the conversation after the conversion. 

According to HubSpot,  93% of customers will make repeat purchases with brands that offer excellent customer service. Businesses must provide after-sales service and customer retention programs that will drive

  • Customer retention 
  • Repeat purchases and 
  • Brand Loyalty

Don’t take this phrase for granted. A five percent increase in customer retention can help you increase profits by 25 percent

Here are some strategies that can help you retain customers

  • Provide excellent customer service and support
  • Automate and personalize customer follow-ups. 
  • Target customers with special offers.
  • Reward your most loyal and profitable (VIP) customers etc. 

Warning: A Non-Customer-Centric Sales Funnel will Fail to Convert 

Image Credit: HubSpot

We live in an era where buyers know what they want and how they want it. More so, they expect brands to understand what they want and serve it to them. Truly, customers are at the focal point of your sales funnel. 

As a business person, you must realize that offering a superior customer service experience is not only expected but offers a competitive advantage. Therefore, beyond creating stellar products, you must provide exceptional customer service and build valuable customer relationships. 

 Customer experience is becoming even more essential given that increased globalization offers buyers a wide array of choices. In today’s competitive and crowded digital landscape, providing a personalized sales experience is critical to acquiring and converting leads. 

Indeed, 97 percent of experts believe that managing customer experience is an integral business strategy for building loyal and long-lasting customer relationships. You also need to retain existing customers to increase wallet share and stay competitive.

To meet and exceed ever-changing customer expectations, you must harness data and analytics to understand their behavior. With the power of AI and automation, you can create meaningful interactions and the hyper-personalized experience that customers now expect. 

 Through hyper-personalization and sales automation, brands can communicate with specific customers at the right place and time and through the right channel. Building a customer centric-centric sales funnel not only increases customer satisfaction. It also drives the willingness to spend, brand loyalty, and overall marketing effectiveness.

To entice, nurture and retain customers, you need to show them that you care.

Godwin loves to tell stories that help businesses drive engagement, growth, and competitive advantage.

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