For some businesses, sales come naturally. Leads can arrive from various marketing campaigns or existing client referrals. Through a number of conversations, those prospects may later convert into paying customers. Among many small and midsize organizations, though, the sales process can be haphazard and unstructured. As a result, sales can be unpredictable.

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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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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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But what’s a sales funnel? It’s a visual representation of a traditional sales process from start to finish. It represents the buyer’s journey. From their first contact with your business until they make a purchase. It’s called a funnel because of its conical shape. Also because it “filters” visitors and converts them to customers. Confused? We got you covered.
Getting this timing right prevents losing prospects by bombarding them with too much information or giving them the hard sell too early. This is why moving prospects through the funnel is often called “nurturing.” Seventy-eight percent of business buyers seek salespeople who act as trusted advisors with knowledge of their needs and industry. Prospects should ideally only receive the information and sales help they need when they need it.

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.

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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.
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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When people buy a product they are showing their trust in it. In return, your product needs to be worthy of the money they spent. Consider how your brand can stand out among others and what you can offer to leverage against competitors. Once a buyer makes an emotional-connect with the brand, he is more inclined towards making a purchase with confidence.

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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.
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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To overcome this, companies can develop and analyze their sales pipeline. When leaders track the volume of leads coming into their funnel, the number that are qualified buyers, the percentage that make it to the proposal stage, and more, they gather valuable insights into where there are areas for improvement in their sales process. This can help them strategically grow their overall sales. In fact, managers can use their pipeline to develop a more disciplined and structured approach to sales, making it easier to determine larger business needs (such as hiring) and goals (such as revenue and cash flow). 

These metrics closely relate to each other. For example, the number of deals in your funnel matters only if you know what percentage of your deals you win on average. The average size of a deal impacts the amount of deals you should be closing in order to hit your revenue goal. And sales velocity helps you understand how much of your time can and should go towards each quality deal, so you can manage your days effectively.
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.
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.
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)!
The content strategy for sales funnel would vary at each stage. This is because potential buyers all go through different sales journey and as such, you can’t fit them all in one frame. With major competition in the eCommerce business, you can‘t expect your customers to have the same starting points. Thus, the content should be aligned according to the modern customer behaviours.

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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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You can also promote your leads magnets on social media to generate leads or include a link to the landing page to your email signature. According to a recent Newoldstamp report, 34% of businesses that use email signatures for marketing generate leads by adding CTAs or clickable banners to their sign-offs. Email signature marketing platforms like Newoldstamp or MySignature allow us to automate the process.
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.

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Data insights are again the key to funnel optimization. Three other data-driven technologies follow analytics and sales reporting as the most popular sales tools: account and contact management (65%), sales forecasting tools (56%), and customer relationship management (CRM) systems (58%). The latter is a particularly crucial tool for optimization, enabling your business to organize all customer-related data in a central location.
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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Visual Website Optimizer – As a smart marketer, you already know that it’s important to test different versions of your website design to see which one works best. That’s why Visual Website Optimizer is so valuable. It uses heatmaps to show you which design elements on your site are getting the most attention. VWO also enables you to receive feedback from visitors so that you can see exactly which parts of your site need improvement and which parts are working well. This is a critical sales funnel step that can help you pinpoint any problem areas on your site and even expedite your company’s growth.
You can also promote your leads magnets on social media to generate leads or include a link to the landing page to your email signature. According to a recent Newoldstamp report, 34% of businesses that use email signatures for marketing generate leads by adding CTAs or clickable banners to their sign-offs. Email signature marketing platforms like Newoldstamp or MySignature allow us to automate the process.
Visual Website Optimizer – As a smart marketer, you already know that it’s important to test different versions of your website design to see which one works best. That’s why Visual Website Optimizer is so valuable. It uses heatmaps to show you which design elements on your site are getting the most attention. VWO also enables you to receive feedback from visitors so that you can see exactly which parts of your site need improvement and which parts are working well. This is a critical sales funnel step that can help you pinpoint any problem areas on your site and even expedite your company’s growth. 

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