Does Every Business Need a Sales Funnel?

What is a Sales Funnel?

I’m going to clear this up for all who don’t really understand what a sales funnel is. (and throw in a cool infographic as well!)

A sales funnel is not something new. It’s not even something that has to be digital or online. Sales funnels have been around for over 100 years. The concept of a sales funnel actually began a long time before the internet. It was invented by E St Elmo Lewis in 1898 and is widely regarded as the first formal theory of marketing.

A sales funnel is simply the repeatable process which you set up within your business that consistently helps new prospects:

  1. Learn who you are
  2. Build a relationship with you
  3. Buy an intro product or service
  4. Buy a mainline product or service
  5. Become a loyal repeat buying customer who refers you to others

As you can see every business needs this or they wouldn’t be in business!

In the world of digital marketing, a sales funnel has become much quicker and easier to set up than ever before. A typical sales funnel could look something like this:

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A Typical Digital Sales Funnel

As you can see many different skills and technologies are implemented from the top to the bottom of the funnel…

Useful fact: The average internet user is spending over 6.5 hours a day online.

Here’s how we use this fact to our advantage:

  1. Using SEO (Google search visibility), your website, social media, advertising, and other first-contact methods, your prospect gets to know who you are
  2. You establish a connection with your prospect with Ebooks, blog articles, email opt-ins, intro offers, and email marketing campaigns.
  3. You build trust and credibility resulting in a first sale. Helpful tools for this stage are chatbots, inquiry forms, sales calls, website conversion rate optimisation.
  4. The next stage is where you over-deliver. The businesses people remember are the truly great ones, and the terrible ones, and not much in between. If your products and services are really incredible you’ll build repeat buyers who will refer you to others who will then join your funnel and strengthen the cycle. Tools that help this process are customer surveys to better deliver, referral campaigns, review requests, loyalty programs.

As you can see the above would apply to any business.

An Offline Business Sales Funnel Example

It’s even true that every business that is in business today already has some kind of funnel set up already.

Let’s take the example of a local ice cream store with no website or online presence.

  1. Sign outside the store offering a free sample.
  2. Friendly conversation with the server who offers several samples to try.
  3. First sale of ice-cream.
  4. Buyer recommends the ice-cream to others and uses his loyalty card to get his 10th ice-cream free.

Yes, this is actually a sales funnel. The beauty of the concept of a sales funnel is that even if you don’t realize you have one, you can better use this concept to see which part of the journey your customer takes from unknown prospect to loyal customer isn’t working.

Here is a simple exercise you can do to improve your sales funnel. Look at the 4 bullet points below. Take the first on the list that is true for your business and fix it till it isn’t a problem anymore. Then see if the next point improves by itself. If it doesn’t, fix it until it does, and so on with the next point, until the entire funnel is consistently working.

  • If you’re getting no new traffic, either your adverting or product/service offer is terrible. (concentrate on improving traffic sources: SEO, Social, Cold Calls, Networking, Referrals etc.)
  • If no one is joining your social or email, your middle funnel is broken. In other words your relationship-building sucks. (concentrate on providing more upfront value for new prospects like eBooks, blog content seminars and other valuable resources)
  • No sales, your product or sales process sucks. (rework your offer and value proposition. Ensure you have excellent follow-up— people rarely buy on the first offer. Make sure your sales team is well trained.)
  • No referrals, you’re either under-delivering or you don’t have a good referral and review process in place and don’t have a system that encourages loyalty and repeat sales. (Improve your delivery and customer service. Make sure you’re asking for reviews and referrals. Create loyalty and incentivized referral programs.)

Remember each point will always rely on the higher points in the funnel to work. Also, some of your traffic will always drop off at each point. So work on getting each stage of your funnel to convert as high a percentage of traffic as possible into the next step.

Of course, without a good product, no funnel is going to work. The best marketers know this and choose their battles wisely. If you’re really not winning even with a solid funnel laid out, it’s time to relook at your product or service offer and make sure there really is enough value there for a new buyer.

This is really the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to your customer journey and marketing using funnels, you can read a whole lot more here on business leads generation.


  1. Every business has a sales funnel
  2. An easy way to set up your sales funnel is using digital marketing

If you don’t already have a working method of consistently getting new sales consider getting a hand from a professional lead generation agency. If you need help setting up your digital sales funnel we’d be happy to help you with this.

Have your say, make my day…

  • What is your business’s sales funnel process?
  • Do you think there is a more workable marketing concept than a sales funnel to understand customer acquisition and lead generation?

Please note: Only comments using your real name will be approved and posted.

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