If you don’t have a SALES FUNNEL, you’re wasting your time.

A Sales Funnel is the most important marketing tool that you aren’t using.

You need to create a sales funnel for your startup. Its the best way to manage your resources and time because it shows you who to focus on the most. The sales funnel is a 4 step process for acquiring new customers. It begins with your target market, becoming smaller with each step until some of them become your customers.

Who is your target market? Companies often market to vast amounts of people, hoping that some will become interested. A better strategy is to find out who you want as your customer. The best customers are ones that have a problem that can be solved by your product. Once you find potential customers, try to find similarities within these targets and hone in on that group. Now you have a small and specific target market that you can focus on intensely.

Lets say that we just released our new startup, ‘Social Find’, which is an app that finds events that are of interest to the user, allowing them to RSVP and invite friends. Our first thought was that we will market to everybody under the age of 40. Sure, some customers are going to like the idea and try it out, but what if we focused on college students and young professionals living in big cities instead?. In many instances ‘narrow and deep’ will earn more customers than ‘wide and shallow’.

Now that a target market is set, the process of trying to reach out to them can begin. There are two ways to go about this- outbound and inbound marketing. Both are useful, but for different kinds of businesses. Outbound marketing is advertising to people who are not searching for your product and is what we would use for our B2C startup, Social Find. We would use online and social media advertisements as well as set up booths in universities.

For our other (hypothetical) company, SupplySpree, an inbound approach will work better. SupplySpree is a B2B office supply delivery company that requires a monthly subscription. Inbound marketing is when you supply the customers with content, which they will need to go to your website to see. If you write a blog about small business marketing, you will attract small business owners.

These targets need to become leads. A lead is simply a target who has given you their contact information. Obtaining targets’ contact information has been simplified because of website designs. If a small business owner reads one of our blogs and wants to comment, download, or share it, they are required to enter their name and email address. BOOM! That target just became a lead. People are very willing to enter their contact information to websites instead of searching for a site that does not require it. Eventually you will have a large pool of leads. At that point it is necessary to measure the metrics of your leads and how you got them. Some of the most important things to track are:

  • Leads per day- remember, they are only a target before you have their information.
  • Leads per channel- this will show you what needs to be improved.
  • Website traffic- the more traffic that you have, the more leads you will receive.
  • Email open rate- how many people opened your emails, and how did you get their information.
  • Content conversion- are people inputting contact information for downloads?
  • Cost of each channel- cost of avenue, divided by the amount of leads directed from there.

Not all of these leads are opportunities. An opportunity is a lead who is ready, willing, and able to buy. Since our app, Social Find, is only available for Apple users, anybody that does not use an iPhone is disqualified from being an opportunity.

Several leads generated from the SupplySpree blog could be a lower level employee who handles the marketing for the company. This employee does not have the power to purchase our product, so they are in a grey area between lead and opportunity. Your goal would then be to schedule a talk with an office manager, which could qualify them as an opportunity. The qualifications to be an opportunity are that: they can afford our product, they need our product, and they are considering our product. These opportunities are now in the process of being converted into customers. This conversion happens through a sales process.

Like many startups, both Event Find and SupplySpree use automated sales. Users can download our app and pay without ever speaking to a sales representative. It is common that a startup will have automated sales as well as inside sales. Sometimes it can be necessary to hire a sales person to handle the SDR responsiblities as well as manage accounts and close deals.

Closing the sale may not always be the hardest part, but it is definitely the most important part of any interaction. You will run into certain cases where, like with automated sales, the customer will purchase without being swayed by a sales representative. Ideally, every customer would want our product and seek it on their own, but we all know this is not true. This is because the potential customer does not know that they need our product.

Thats where the salesperson comes into play. The potential customer needs to know that they have a problem that can be solved by using your product. Be prepared to overcome objections that the potential customers may have. Follow up with them, and remember that if the customer stays happy, they will remain loyal to you. Ask for referrals, and you can offer them a discount for each new customer that they refer. Just as you will do with leads, keep track of your sales in detail. This will allow you to continue growing your sales plan.

Find a target market. Get their contact information. Qualify potential customers. CLOSE DEALS.

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