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Since the sales funnel is a visual representation of your sales process, you can learn a lot by looking at its shape. A good sales funnel should be wide at the top, where new leads enter and start their journeys towards decision-making. Then it gradually gets thinner, and at the end, where new customers pop out, it’s even thinner.

However, some funnels can look like an over-inflated balloon, and you know no more about what’s happening inside the funnel than you know about the dark side of the moon.

Why is the funnel’s shape so important?

It can help you to decide which part of the funnel to pay more attention to and what sort of “repair” that section requires. As the saying goes, small hinges can open big doors, and your funnel is one of those small hinges that can make a huge difference.

Let’s begin with…

Thick Midsection – Too Many Leads

If the midsection of your funnel is too thick relative to the other sections, it means your funnel is congested at this stage.

From the top of the funnel, contacts are moving on at a healthy pace where they become leads, but this is where they get stuck and pile up, making the funnel’s midsection thicker and thicker.

It also means that you run short on qualified prospects (sales opportunities) and paying clients.

What you need here is funnel optimization, so leads can start flowing freely from the leads stage to the opportunities stage and then to the purchase stage.

To maintain flow, pay attention to five important factors…

  1. Have a specific target market and an ideal client profile.
  2. Make your content relevant to that ideal client.
  3. Use multiple channels to generate leads to increase open rates.*
  4. Follow up promptly. The time difference can cause significant bottom line differences.**
  5. Score your leads, so you can strategically plan your follow-up strategy.* Mailchimp Marketing Library data for the “Computers and Electronics” industry.
  • Average Open Rate: 19.29%
  • Average Click Rate: 2.08%
  • Hard Bounce: 0.47%
  • Soft Bounce: 0.79%
  • Unsubscribe Rate: 0.27%

** The Short Life of Online Sales Leads by James B. Oldroyd, Kristina McElheran, and David Elkington (Harvard Business Review, Mar 2011)

Thin Midsection – Lack of Leads

This is another problem area when contacts come into your sales funnel because something interests them, but then they lose interest and either they quit or linger and get stuck on in the top section of the funnel forever.

It also shows that you can draw attention with your marketing but can’t maintain interest and shepherd leads to your funnel’s lower section. Fortunately, there are some excellent remedies here.

First, revisit your ideal client profile to make sure that your message and buyer awareness are in perfect alignment. For instance, if your problem aware buyers bump into your product-aware content, then they may get surprised and run away.

You can also tweak your call to action (CTA) in your marketing message.

For instance, you can replace “Request a quote” with “Download our buyer’s guide: How to Find, Screen And Engage The Right MSP For Your Business.”

Small End Section – Real Starvation

This really means that there are no sales, so someone in the business is going to starve.

Yes, we know that the bottom of the funnel is the smallest by nature, but it shouldn’t be infinitesimal.

And as we know from process engineering, very often the place where you experience the problem is not the real place. The real place is just before the suspected place.

Case in point: In many cases, lower back pain is called referred pain, caused by tight hamstrings pulling on the back muscles. So, look at your funnel’s midsection, and you’re likely to find the culprit there.

Possible problems can be…

  • Marketing has handed leads to sales too soon without proper qualification.
  • The lead’s handover from marketing to sales is not seamless.
  • Flawed sales process – if you sell high-ticket items, use proper consultative selling, not high-pressure “peddler” type selling.
  • Look into the process that the lead went through before landing in the salesperson’s lap. Is the lead properly prepared – pre-sold. Hint: Every one of the late Steve Jobs’ presentations was a pre-selling session.

Sales Tube – Not a Sales Funnel

If your funnel looks like a tube, then you most likely have a shortage of contacts. Since you can’t squeeze buyers out of an empty funnel, you must fill up the funnel with contacts.

Some people may suggest that you write more content, but I bet you already have content up to the wazoo, so quantity is not a solution. Re-visit your content and tighten up calls to action. For online content, check title tags, description tags and heading tags too.

We know from systems theory that systems are some 80 percent operational, and for the sake of the troubled 20 precent, there is no point in blowing up the operating 80 percent.

With online content, also make sure that it’s written for humans and only then for the search engines. Let’s remember, search engine-focused content can bring in website visitors, but they convert very poorly.

Stay tuned for part two of understanding the sales funnel where we’ll take a look at buyer awareness in more detail.


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Posted by Tom Varjan

Tom “Bald Dog” Varjan designs and builds highly automated client acquisition systems for boutique IT service firms that enable them to attract better clients with more interesting projects at higher prices 24/7. He is one of the very few IT marketers/copywriters who is also a graduate computer engineer with 16 years of experience in the high-tech industry as an engineer, programmer, project manager and corporate tech buyer.

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