October 30, 2018

Mapping Strategies for Sales Funnels – And Why They Matter

By Karen Kalis

Every single day, companies with amazing products and services struggle for sales for no reason except for one. . . they don’t have a trackable sales funnel strategy.

When sales are sluggish, these same companies “reinvent the wheel” and start from scratch with new tactics they think will work without considering their overall marketing strategy. Unfortunately, individual, try-as-you-go tactics will never solve the problem of bringing in new sales long term. According to authors Arons, van den Driest and Weed in the Harvard Business Review, “. . . In most companies the organizational structure of the marketing function hasn’t changed since the practice of brand management emerged, more than 40 years ago. Hidebound hierarchies from another era are still commonplace.”

Is there a solution that can help sales teams to better adjust to changes in the environment? If companies are willing to be proactive in evaluating and mapping their sales funnel to increase conversion rates, sales can be improved relatively easily. Regis Crawford of SalesForce writes, “To effectively market to today’s fast-paced, connected consumers, brands have to move away from costly campaigns that are manually driven, difficult to measure, and hard to predict to real-time conversations that deliver a personalized experience to every customer.” There is a growing need to be able to track individual experiences within a simplified sales funnel.

Tactics versus Strategies
Today’s business owners and sales teams are adept at using the newest, greatest tactics for generating leads, creating engagement and converting sales, but without much thought as to how it fits into an overall marketing strategy.

A comprehensive marketing strategy, deployed through a sales funnel, is how companies can better build their sales process, adjust it and track it over time, saving labor hours, frustration and the questions that arise from a tactics-only based marketing plan.

Tracking a sales funnel can also help to retain potential customers and turn them into a valuable part of the business. Ironpaper reports that “65 percent of customers are lost because of indifference, not because of mistakes.”  This statistic points out the need to carefully map the funnel so potential customers aren’t lost once an initial contact has been made.

Mapping the Sales Funnel
Mapping a sales funnel is a business planning tool that can track (and ultimately create) cash flow. The parts of a traditional sales funnel include lead generation, engagement and sales. Like an actual funnel, the widest, most broad part of the funnel is the lead generation portion; the smallest is the sales portion.

Lead generation is best described as the way that companies “meet” people. That can be accomplished by everything from local networking groups to extensive paid advertising campaigns.

Engagement (the most underrated portion of the funnel) is how and where companies stay in front of potential prospects. Engagement cycles can range from a few seconds for an online digital product to years for large capital improvement purchases.

Sales, the final portion of the funnel, is where sales teams bring a prospect into the company as a client. Proposals are signed, onboarding begins.

How to Identify Funnel Functions
In looking at a sales funnel, spend time detailing the items that are active in the way that the company does business. What activities are done normally to attract clients, keep them interested and move them into a sales conversation? What activities are likely to be effective at attracting sales, but aren’t getting done?

This is the time to use a whiteboard and to bring in assistance from the entire sales team. Brainstorm the different tasks and events that have been done and consider their effectiveness.

After the Map
Once the map is complete, here are a few steps that will help create a profitable strategy:

  • Target two to three lead generation strategies to focus on for six months. Track their effectiveness.
  • Evaluate your lead generation, engagement and sales results each month. Set weekly goals and create accountability.
  • Create aggressive engagement and follow up policies. This is where the vast majority of sales are lost.

Karen Kalis is the Chief Marketing Strategist of Blue Dingo Marketing.