It’s frustrating when a prospect you’ve been approaching eventually turns down your offer. You’ve spent a lot of time and effort, and you’re so sure they’ll say “yes.” Where did it take the wrong turn? What makes a prospect disinterested in this process?

The answers to these questions can come from mapping out a customer journey, which is more complex than it seems. One popular model is a sales funnel. 

Learn more about the system and its importance here, including its comparison to the marketing funnel, its four stages called “AIDA,” and how to optimise it.

What Is Sales Funnel?

Sales funnel is a business term that shows the progress of a potential customer turning into a client or customer. Like a funnel’s shape that narrows downward, the customer journey starts from a vast pool of leads (the top) to the final conversion (the bottom). This figure is general and develops through various events and actions in four stages.

A company may build or tweak the visualisation depending on its sales model and marketing strategies. The bottom line’s still the same: to convert as many prospects as possible into a brand’s clients or customers.

What Is the Difference Between Marketing Funnel and Sales Funnel?

You probably have heard these two terms before, and they do describe customer journeys. While there’s no major difference, both aren’t similar and are actually related.

  • Marketing funnel 

This funnel guides potential clients from their first brand exposure to the urgency or desire to purchase what it offers. Though the final stage doesn’t convert prospects into clients, this process can gradually shift them to the sales funnel.

  • Sales funnel 

This funnel takes over once prospective buyers show interest in purchasing after knowing more about the brand. They’ll obtain more details about the offered products or services from the sales team.

Why Is a Sales Funnel Important?

Every entrepreneur and business owner understands the agony of losing a sales lead after a long time and effort of demos, presentations, and promotions. This is very common and unavoidable, but having a solid sales funnel can help reduce its frequency.

The visualisation of the stages in the funnel helps show the sales team at which stage they lose their prospects. After finding possible information gaps or mistakes, adjusting approaches is necessary to address the issues. Doing these is important to keep as many prospects as possible in the funnel to conversion.

What Are Four Sales Funnel Stages?

In general, there are four stages in this system, collectively named AIDA.

Stage #1: Awareness

The awareness stage introduces your audience to your brand and what products and services you offer. They’re mostly still browsing and reading general descriptions, which happens after building that brand exposure and visibility. 

The team has to actively reach out to their audience by offering more information and product knowledge. This stage is all about spreading brand awareness and keeping the audience exposed to it. Some techniques you can use are:

  • Social media – a powerful option in such a digitalised era like today. More brands have built their online presence through famous platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, to reach their audience anywhere and anytime.
  • Print advertising – think about magazines, stickers, billboards, bus advertising, etc. Anything that goes out in print and can be read or seen by people is another effective advertising method.
  • Cold calls – aimed toward those who have or haven’t already known about a brand and its products or services. Cold calls can happen via door-to-door visits, phone calls, or emails.

Stage #2: Interest

This stage brings you to the audience who’s now interested to know more about your brand and how you can help them. Your products or services might be a fitting solution to their problems, but they need more persuasion. The audience might compare your offer with the competitors and consider the price list. 

This stage takes some time to go through, and the sales team shouldn’t rush the interested prospects to make a decision. Creating a solid relationship is one key to generating sales. Help provide every information to the potential clients. Work together with the marketing team to keep presenting helpful product knowledge through:

  • Internal links – usually leading to company landing pages or relevant blog posts, which you can embed on social media or other forms of digital advertisement.
  • Newsletter form – allowing your prospects to receive curated email campaigns that further showcase your brand and your products or services.

Stage #3: Decision

This stage usually sees a decrease in interested potential customers who have weighed their options and done their research. Persuade those who still have interests to say “yes” by providing:

  • Product demo/free trial – a direct glimpse into your products or services, particularly the main features that can solve or ease their problems.
  • Attractive deal/price – a bundled package of products or services offered at a discounted price, for instance. Show that you’ve thoroughly considered their specific interests.
  • Scarcity – meaning that there’s a certain time limit for making the purchase. Otherwise, the promotion will change or not be available for some time after its expiry.

Do note, however, not to come across as too aggressive. Otherwise, you’ll just scare them off! Moreover, don’t get discouraged if some prospects decide not to go with you. Identify the problems and focus on ones you can fix.

Stage #4: Action

This final stage of a sales funnel sees the conversion from prospects to clients, marked by purchases. Don’t stop taking care of the new client just because the deal’s signed. Keep them satisfied by providing:

  • Customer onboarding – depending on your products or services (and regardless of whether you already give them a product demo or free trial), it might be essential to set this up. Get them acquainted through an orderly transition process.
  • Membership benefits/rewards – prioritise existing customers by offering unique advantages that further benefit them in the long term. Besides keeping them from switching to competitors, this feature also can attract new prospects.
  • Surveys/feedback – your customers’ thoughts and experiences are important in improving your brand in the long run. Asking them about this also shows that you still care.

How to Optimise Your Sales Funnel?

Besides identifying the step-by-step in your customer journey, employ these additional approaches to optimise the overall sales process.

Improve Your Sales Team Through Consistent Training 

The sales team is your key player behind the conversion success on a sales funnel. They’re the direct link to the prospects and know best about the company’s products and services. 

Regardless of rank or year of expertise, everyone on the sales team receives consistent training on operating and navigating within the funnel. Other training might include, for example, communication skills, persuasion techniques, and CRM (Customer Relationship Management). 

A well-trained sales department positively represents your brand because your audience sees that your team is trustworthy and reliable. Once converted into customers, ensure consistent satisfaction and keep the relationship going as long as possible.

Monitor Your Customer Retention Rate

Remember: your job isn’t finished just because the prospects have purchased your offer. Obtaining new customers is a priority, but so is keeping the existing ones. 

The customer retention metric shows how often they return for your products and services. By keeping track of it, you can see aspects like customer involvement, satisfaction, and emotional links to your brand. 

Keep your repeat customers happy because their customer experience can influence other people about your brand. TechJury’s customer experience statistics list shows that 60% of customers trust evaluations from family members, friends, and other customers after discovering a new product or service. With this in mind, you want their testimonials to be as positive as possible. If the data show any decrease or negative result, find the root problem and address the issues.

Focus on Qualified Leads

Gathering many interested prospects seem like a positive beginning, but keep in mind that not all fit the sales funnel. 

What can you do? Focus on identifying SQL (Sales Qualified Leads). (Check out our article on three mistakes to avoid in customer discovery!)

These leads already know the kind of solution for their problem and consider buying your products and services. They’ll ask the sales department for a meeting, quotation, or product demo session. In turn, this saves the sales team a lot of time, effort, and cost.

Focusing on SQL also streamlines your sales funnel over time. You know what kind of leads you want to attract and dismiss from earlier stages. With such information, the sales team works with the marketing team to create more focused landing pages and ads for the SQL.


Mapping out a customer journey is one important business practice for a brand to flourish. A sales funnel helps detail each stage in that process. 

The model usually comes to use after a marketing funnel, although both funnels can appear mostly similar in visualisation. 

The system comes in four stages called AIDA: awareness, interest, decision, and action. It helps the sales team to identify the part where they lose prospects and what causes it. They work together with the marketing team to address those issues and make adjustments as necessary. All of these aim to convert as many prospects as possible into clients or customers.

Pair the sales funnel with approaches such as preparing sales training, monitoring customer retention rate, and finding qualified leads. Once you implement these steps, you’ll notice a positive change in your conversion rate!

About the author

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

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