Your company might target financial services companies with 5,000 or more employees, or small service businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Or, you may be only interested in manufacturing companies of a certain size. Within those categories, you also might identify individual lead profiles, such as title or job description and role in the decision-making process -- e.g., economic buyer, end user, influencer. How closely a lead aligns with your ideal customer profile will determine whether and when you hand it over to the sales team.

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John Lincoln (MBA) is CEO of Ignite Visibility (a 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Inc. 5000 company) a highly sought-after digital marketing strategist, industry speaker and author of two books, "The Forecaster Method" and "Digital Influencer." Over the course of his career, Lincoln has worked with over 1,000 online businesses ranging from small startups to amazing clients such as Office Depot, Tony Robbins, Morgan Stanley, Fox, USA Today, COX and The Knot World Wide. John Lincoln is the editor of the Ignite Visibility blog. While he is a contributor, he does not write all of the articles and in many cases he is supported to ensure timely content. 

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AWeber – It’s often the case that you’ll let people try your service for free or for a limited time. Of course, as a good marketer, you’ll ask for their email in exchange for the free trial membership. Once you’ve got that email, you’ll need an autoresponder like AWeber to keep in contact with them. AWeber makes it easy to email contacts en masse and also tracks analytics about individual email campaigns. If AWeber doesn’t suit your fancy, have a look at competing tools such as MailChimp and GetResponse. Any of these will work well and keep your prospects engaged.

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However, video conferencing and other apps offer an opportunity to engage prospects at a time and place that suits them. In fact, 60% of sales reps say they spend more time selling virtually than they did in 2015, according to the third edition of Salesforce’s global “State of Sales” study. Meanwhile, 52% of sales reps say they spend the same amount of time or less meeting with customers in person.

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You should be looking at these metrics all the time so you can assess whether you're slipping in any one area ... because you don't want to suffer a blip in your funnel. If your funnel develops a clog or hole somewhere along the way -- and it will, it's only natural -- you need to be able to identify it and fix it to keep your sales and marketing machine efficient. And if you are working with multiple different types of leads, these metrics should be considered for each segment of lead, too, so you know if some segments are more valuable to your business than others (or, even better, if some segments have more potential than you once realized)!
Salesforce – It’s arguably the case that the “go-to” tool for managing people who are stuck somewhere in the middle of the sales funnel is Salesforce. Of course, once you’ve said “Salesforce,” you haven’t said everything because the company offers a suite of marketing tools. At this stage, though, you’re mainly interested in the Salesforce CRM tool so that you can keep track of your prospects and gently push them forward into the final funnel stage. 

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The execution of sales funnel stages depend on your efforts and resources. By improving brand visibility and making information related to your product/service readily available, you can build a strong database of customers and prospects. This can help you set and achieve future goals. More importantly, it is also essential to focus beyond the purchase stage, as it is relatively cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one.

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Sales and marketing teams need to adapt to these increasing demands. They have to work more closely together. While the marketing team still hands leads to the sales team at a point in the funnel, they have to stay involved to maximize customer retention and advocacy. The sales team needs to be involved early on, providing the benefits of their customer knowledge to help increase qualified leads and conversions.

As “State of Sales” finds, salespeople believe a combination of human skills and data-driven insights is needed to convert prospects into customers. In fact, the ability to listen is seen by 78% of those surveyed as an important attribute needed for landing deals. But sales reps also have to demonstrate industry knowledge (74%), trustworthiness (74%), and knowledge of prospects’ business needs (73%).

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Often, one of the biggest blockers for sales and marketing alignment is the very different views each team has of the funnel. For example, they might disagree about the number of stages a lead passes through before becoming a customer. Furthermore, they often use different terminology to describe those stages. But in order to adopt an effective SMarketing (get it?) strategy, sales and marketing must have a unified picture of the funnel and standard definitions of each stage in the process. For example, HubSpot’s SMarketing team uses the following funnel stages:
In brief, we are inclined to go along with someone’s suggestion if we think that person is a credible expert (authority), if we regard him or her as a trusted friend (liking), if we feel we owe them one (reciprocity), or if doing so will be consistent with our beliefs or prior commitments (consistency). We are also inclined to make choices that we think are popular (consensus [social proof]), and that will net us a scarce commodity (scarcity).

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Instapage – Instapage allows you to create landing pages at lightning-fast speeds with their large library of customizable templates. This tool also allows you to create fast-loading AMP landing pages which reduces bounce rates and increases conversions. The platform also provides post-click optimization for campaigns that send out a personalized thank you page and email. This is a useful sales funnel step for later on in the process.
The first stage is to make people aware of your brand and products. Whether you are a design agency or running an eCommerce website, then you must use WordPress plugins. If a person doesn’t know about the existence of your brand, how will he become your client or make a purchase? In the initial phase, products or services don’t get much exposure. However, through efficient marketing tactics, your brand can trigger curiosity leading to sales.

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The execution of sales funnel stages depend on your efforts and resources. By improving brand visibility and making information related to your product/service readily available, you can build a strong database of customers and prospects. This can help you set and achieve future goals. More importantly, it is also essential to focus beyond the purchase stage, as it is relatively cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one.
In brief, we are inclined to go along with someone’s suggestion if we think that person is a credible expert (authority), if we regard him or her as a trusted friend (liking), if we feel we owe them one (reciprocity), or if doing so will be consistent with our beliefs or prior commitments (consistency). We are also inclined to make choices that we think are popular (consensus [social proof]), and that will net us a scarce commodity (scarcity).

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“Aligning marketing and sales during the sales funnel does more than just align the teams — it creates better business outcomes,” said Mathew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce. His stance is validated by a SiriusDecisions study that found brands with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth. The three easiest ways to ensure marketing and sales alignment will succeed is a common language, co-created shared programs, and a policy to abide by a service level agreement.

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The definitions of MQL and SQL (SAL) should be spelled out, and agreed upon, in a service level agreement (SLA). The SLA outlines the terms of how sales and marketing will work together. The SLA should define what MQL and SQL look like, as well as state the time frame and process each team must follow. For example, an MQL has reached a score of 75 through a combination of content engagement and web engagement and fits the ideal customer profile. It must be accepted by sales or sent back to marketing within 24 hours of being assigned. The SLA should be drafted together by both marketing and sales leadership and signed off on by both parties.
Sales rep success and skills shortage. A good sales pipeline also provides insight into which of your salespeople closes the most sales, has the highest ticket values, and needs more help and training to hit their quota. With this information, you can provide them with the assistance they need to improve their performance and get their sales numbers on track. 
Qualified prospect: Qualification is the most critical and demanding stage of the sales funnel. In the qualification process, you verify that the prospect has a need for your product, that the prospect sees value in your offering, that there is sufficient budget for a deal, that you have access to the decision-maker, and that there is an agreed-upon timeline for the sales process. The qualification process can be complex and lengthy, and can be managed with a Sales Call Talk Track and stakeholder management chart.
Before you start building your sales funnel, it is essential to have a clear business vision, develop an ecommerce marketing strategy, and then define your target audience to work towards your business growth. If, for example, you are looking at how to create an online clothing store, you need to follow specific steps to develop your business and stay successful.

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You should be looking at these metrics all the time so you can assess whether you're slipping in any one area ... because you don't want to suffer a blip in your funnel. If your funnel develops a clog or hole somewhere along the way -- and it will, it's only natural -- you need to be able to identify it and fix it to keep your sales and marketing machine efficient. And if you are working with multiple different types of leads, these metrics should be considered for each segment of lead, too, so you know if some segments are more valuable to your business than others (or, even better, if some segments have more potential than you once realized)!

“Time is money for a rep,” said Tony Rodoni, Salesforce EVP, Commercial Sales, and Market Readiness. “You need to know the most important thing to do right now, and what to do next. If you’re not clear on which opportunities are accurate, you’re relying on your memory to know which ones need work. As you take on a bigger book of business, with more opportunities, quarter after quarter, relying on your own memory means mistakes and wasted time.”

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Before you start building your sales funnel, it is essential to have a clear business vision, develop an ecommerce marketing strategy, and then define your target audience to work towards your business growth. If, for example, you are looking at how to create an online clothing store, you need to follow specific steps to develop your business and stay successful.

sales funnel lead generation


According to this research by McKinsey, a customer narrows down their options based on the initial consideration (brand awareness) and active evaluation (seek information about the products/services). When both of the former factors are in place, it leads to a purchase decision a.k.a sales, albeit just for that moment. This then needs to continue towards the next stages in the sales funnel, .i.e. customer engagement and customer loyalty.
Growbots – If you’re looking for a high-quality outbound sales solution, you should absolutely evaluate Growbots. According to one online testimony, using Growbots is as simple as setting up a customer profile, creating a must-read email with a clickbait headline, and then launching your campaign. It’s a bit pricey, though. The service starts at $500/month billed annually. However, when you think of a typical sales funnel, catchy emails probably comes to mind first. So, if you’re serious about utilizing sales funnel stages to your advantage, Growbots is worth the price.

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Beyond terms and process, one of the best ways brands can align both sales and marketing is through shared programs such as account-based marketing (ABM) and lead nurturing. In 2018, Salesforce Research found high-performing marketing organizations to be 1.5x more likely to use ABM methods, and 1.9x more likely to use lead nurturing than underperforming marketing organizations. They are “shared programs” since both marketing and sales should work together to create them. Marketing handles the technology and setup while sales pick the targets and help create the content. Sharing in the creation of the programs allows sales to feel ownership of the programs, increasing their use and overall effectiveness.
Process bottlenecks and hindrances. You might find, for example, that the proposal stage regularly delays the sales process by a week due to the need for custom quotes. Armed with that information, you can search for solutions that can automate how you produce project estimates. Alternatively, you may discover that some prospects are unengaged with the collateral you share at the lead generation stage. In this case, trial new marketing assets to see how well they respond and if they are more likely to convert into opportunities won later. 
Create content and use tactics that help to keep them connected with your brand, even when they are not actively engaging with it. One of the most effective ways to boosts engagement is through Newsletters. This will keep them up-to-date about your latest products and discounts, major sales that they shouldn’t miss or any changes you make with regards to the terms & conditions of your service.

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Your company might target financial services companies with 5,000 or more employees, or small service businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Or, you may be only interested in manufacturing companies of a certain size. Within those categories, you also might identify individual lead profiles, such as title or job description and role in the decision-making process -- e.g., economic buyer, end user, influencer. How closely a lead aligns with your ideal customer profile will determine whether and when you hand it over to the sales team.
The first stage is to make people aware of your brand and products. Whether you are a design agency or running an eCommerce website, then you must use WordPress plugins. If a person doesn’t know about the existence of your brand, how will he become your client or make a purchase? In the initial phase, products or services don’t get much exposure. However, through efficient marketing tactics, your brand can trigger curiosity leading to sales. 

sales funnel graphic


Post-purchase. In business, the sale should be considered closed at the first contract signing. Instead, your reps should invest in providing exceptional service during onboarding and regularly monitoring the account’s progress. At opportune times, you can cross-sell existing customers on new services and upsell them on premium solutions. When the contract is about to expire, you can explore renewal options with them. Among your happiest clients, ask for referrals to other potential customers. 

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John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, one of the top digital marketing agencies in the nation and a 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Inc. 5000 company. Lincoln is consistently named one of the top marketing experts in the industry. He has been recipient of the Search Engine Land "Search Marketer of the Year" award, named the #1 SEO consultant in the USA by Clutch.co, most admired CEO and 40 under 40. Lincoln has written two books (The Forecaster Method and Digital Influencer) and made two movies (SEO: The Movie and Social Media Marketing: The Movie) on digital marketing. He is a digital marketing strategy adviser to some of the biggest names in business. John Lincoln is the editor of the Ignite Visibility blog. While he is a major contributor, he does not write all of the articles.

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Transacted: A sale has transpired when a contract is signed by both parties. From a salesperson’s perspective, the fulfillment of the contract is the responsibility of other parts of the organization, and the salesperson can now focus on the next opportunity. In the case of early-stage start-ups, however, frequently the person that sells is also involved in fulfilling the contract. A signed contract can be booked as revenue from an accounting perspective.

sales funnel stages

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