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Is Your Sales Funnel Helping or Hurting?

Is Your Sales Funnel Helping or Hurting?Today we're going to talk all about your sales funnel. In particular, we're going to look at the big question: “Is your sales funnel helping your company? Or is it hurting your company?”

Why would anyone want to do something that hurts their company? I don't know. That’s a really good question. So we're going to talk all about how to make sure that your sales funnel is helping with your revenue growth, differentiation, competitive positioning, thought leadership, and positioning your company for success. It’s all about having an efficiently performing sales funnel.

How a CEO or sales director in South Florida approaches this today is going to need a very different approach than as recently as three or five years ago.

There have been some really big, massive changes in buyer behavior during the last couple of years.

The Mobile Device Addition in a Digital-First World Changes Everything

We're moving towards a digital-first world. People are using search engines, social media, and their mobile devices almost to addictive levels. Actually, strike that: I wouldn't say “almost!” Let's call it for what it is.

What's the first thing you do when you get up in the morning? You probably check your phone right?

What's the last thing that you do before you go to bed probably? Again, check your phone.

Can you even put it down when you go to the place that you're doing your business? (the bathroom)

And how many people are driving down the road, dictating their memoirs on their phone or texting like crazy, doing all kinds of nasty, distracted driving -- putting themselves and everyone else in danger?

That is the very definition of addiction. We've gotten to that level now.

Traditional Media, Retailing, and Transportation are All Being Reinvented

And because of this, traditional media and traditional publishing has been completely turned on its head by mobile device adoption. With streaming media, think about how impactful platforms like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime Video,  and Apple TV have been. Think about how much of a difference this makes in how we consume traditional media.

Traditional retailing -- shopping malls and strip malls -- are being completely gutted. Brands that have been around for generations: Macy’s, Sears, and JCPenney are all on life support because of the digital prowess of Amazon and Walmart -- and companies just like them that are really reinventing the entire way that we go about researching and making purchase decisions.

Innovative, new technologies like machine learning (ML), the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and autonomous driving are also gaining ground fast. This isn't me thinking about growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, watching The Jetsons and and Michael J. Fox in the DeLorean in Back to the Future -- and dreaming someday of flying cars.

This is here and now. Okay, well maybe we don't quite have the flying cars at this point. But they're definitely prototyped and built.

We're very close to autonomous driving becoming a reality. We’re very close, probably within five years -- maybe sooner, to seeing Uber cars driving themselves.

Think about your own personal behaviors and how this impacts every business:

  • When was the last time you answered your phone without looking at caller ID?
  • When was the last time you purchased something being pitched to you by a cold call?
  • When was the last time you made a major purchase solely based on a piece of direct mail that you received in the postal mail?
  • When was the last time you made a major purchase solely based on something that you saw on a TV commercial? Did you really do that without consulting Google, Bing, Siri, Alexa, Cortana, or Google assistant? Or without posing a question to one of your friends or colleagues on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter? Probably not!

Modernizing Your Sales Funnel for the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT)

People are doing crazy amounts of research now before they purchase.

Google calls this the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT). What is it? And what does it mean?

In this digital-first world, we find it as much as 70% of the purchase decision is now over before people are ready to talk to your company.

Does this have an impact on your sales funnel? Are your sales finally able to keep up with these changes? Or is your company living in the past, using the same strategy that it used in the pre-iPhone era, nearly ten years or more ago?

So the question is: With all of these changes, is your company's sales funnel helping you? Or is it hurting you?

It’s time for CEOs in South Florida to rethink their sales funnels -- more than likely overdue -- to upgrade and modernize to stay relevant to the way that people research and make purchase decisions today.

Stop wasting time reminiscing about how it used to be ten or twenty years ago. Focus on how it actually is today. And there are two frameworks that you can use to think about this:

  1. The thought leadership-centric sales funnel -- This framework is very much based on content for a digital-first world.
  2. The traditional marketing sales tactics funnel -- -This framework is more palatable for traditional marketing and sales teams, when employees have 25+ years of experience.

The Thought Leadership-Centric Sales Funnel

Do you have a real sales funnel? Or is your company's digital strategy stuck in 2007?

The first framework, focusing on thought leadership, is broken down into four parts are four parts of the funnel:

1. Attract Strangers into Visitors

At the highest layer, the wildest layer of the sales funnel, you're looking at how to attract more strangers into visitors to your digital presence and website. Why do we care so much about your website?

Because when people are asking questions of their personal assistants (Siri), or their search engines (Google), or their social media app (Facebook), where do you think they're going to wind up?

Hopefully, they're going to wind up on your digital front doorstep. So how do we attract strangers who have never before heard of your company, products, or services into visitors?

You’re going to use things like blogging, strategic placement of the right keywords and topics, and distributing your content on and growing your reach on social media -- in the places where you know that your ideal customers and clients already hang out. So the first layer of the sales funnel is all about how to attract strangers into visitors.

2. Convert Visitors into Leads

Moving down your sales funnel, how can we take these visitors and get the ones that are really serious about us to raise their hands? How do we convert them into leads?

We put together premium content -- content that's so good that people are willing to trade a little bit of information about themselves to get access to what's on the other side of that landing page. So we need premium content.

We need landing pages -- specialized website pages whose entire purpose is to convert visitors into leads. The landing page needs to have a form to collect that information.

And we need to strategically place calls to action (CTAs) throughout your website, social media, and blog to direct people to the most appropriate landing page that's relevant for who they are and where they are there in their buyer's journey.

3. Close Leads into Clients

Now that we have all of these leads, how do you close more of these leads into customers and clients?

More than likely, you’re going to want to use a CRM system (customer relationship management) to organize everything. You're definitely going to want to segment your leads and personalize your emails.

The idea of sending an email blast is just totally freaking ridiculous in today's environment where people have no attention span anymore.

So segment those emails by who they are and where they are in the buyer's journey. And send really specific, highly-personalized emails that are ridiculously relevant to things they care most about -- not what you care about. What they actually care about. If you want your leads to find you and your company interesting, and pay attention to you, you must be interested in them and provide value to them.

We also need to be realistic about timing: a lot of times these website visits are happening on a Sunday afternoon, or 2:00 a.m., or on Christmas afternoon, or the Fourth of July. We just cannot always be there at that exact moment a website form is submitted, so a certain amount of workflow automation is critical.

Behavioral emails are another really big area for modernizing your sales funnel better. That's where you look at a certain action that happens on your website, and it triggers a certain kind of email. For example, somebody that’s a known contact looks at your pricing page. So you set an automatic follow-up email based on that action.

In addition, being able just to be notified in general that somebody is back on your website -- either by email, through a mobile push notification, or a specialized app -- that's super critical to helping your sales team be on their toes and prioritize active buyers over passive buyers.

4. Delight Clients into Promoters

So now that you’ve closed more leads into customers and clients, you’re hunky-dory, right? Everything's all good since we’ve closed our leads into customer and clients? Wrong!

In a digital-first world, the Zero Moment of Truth dictates that your brand is no longer what you say your brand is. Rather, your brand is what the collective wisdom of the internet says about your brand. It’s that whole idea of your reputation is not just what you say about yourself. Your reputation is what people say about you when you leave the room.

So you need to make sure that your customers and clients are so happy that they scream from the rooftops about how happy they are. Because if they're not happy, they’re also going to scream from the rooftops about how unhappy they are. And that's going to create a lot of problems for your company, your brand, and your sales close rates.

To make sure that you delight your customers and clients so that you can turn them into brand ambassadors, evangelists, and promoters, surveys are really important.

So is personalizing content that’s specific to existing customers. The last thing you want to do is treat your customers like prospects -- which insults them and makes your team look incompetent. Why would you continue to ask your clients to buy if they've already purchased? Instead, provide your valued clients with content that’s unique to who they are and where they are in their lifecycle with your company.

It's also really critical for you to monitor what's going on over in social media, especially with your customers. Do you monitor what your customers are asking about and talking about on social media when they interact with others and participate in public conversations? Social media monitoring taps into another type of customer support channel.

And all of this, when done well, helps to bring more strangers to the top of your funnel when your delighted customers and clients tell their friends, family members, co-workers, and their contacts on social media about how happy they are with your company's products and services.

So that is a framework approach to modernizing your sales funnel that is very content-centric, with your thought leadership content.

The Traditional Marketing and Sales Tactics Funnel

Does your company have what it takes to attract the right strangers, visitors, leads, opportunities, and clients?

The other framework that I want to talk about in today's episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast is a little more sales-team centric and likely a lot more familiar to traditional marketing and sales professionals with 25+ years of experience (more than likely in the 50s, 60s, or even 70s).

But it starts with asking yourself: is your sales funnel capable of attracting the right strangers, visitors, leads, sales opportunities, and clients -- to give your company scalable, predictable revenue growth in the modern buyer’s journey?

So this sales funnel also has four layers, but it’s organized a little differently:

  1. Traffic generation
  2. Lead generation
  3. Opportunity generation
  4. New client acquisition

1. Traffic Generation

The traffic generation layer is at the absolute top of your sales funnel again.

It's about turning strangers into visitors and includes things like strategic blogging, search engine optimization (SEO), social media publishing, and having an inbound content management system (CMS).

When talking about traffic generation, you need to be very realistic about what reach you do and don't have. And recognize that of search engines and social media channels are turning into pay-to-play. Whether it's Google AdWords and Facebook advertising or something similar, paid search and paid social become very important.

If you're still doing traditional public relations (PR), you need to modernize that online public relations to focus on not just the journalist, not just the bloggers, editors, and reporters, but the public finding those assets.

If your traffic generation strategy is strictly based on text-based content, you're missing one of the biggest trends in the last five or ten years: video.

There is crazy amounts of video being uploaded to and consumed on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin. Hours and hours and hours are constantly being uploaded.

During the length of time that you’ve been listening to this podcast episode, approximately 56 million YouTube videos will be viewed -- 14 million of which will be viewed on mobile devices.

Do you really think that your leads and customers aren’t part of that?

Look, it's not that people don't want to read anymore. It's just that they prefer video and multimedia content. So make sure that video is part of your traffic generation strategy.

2. Lead Generation

Now traffic generation -- getting visitors to your website -- may be an okay leading indicator. But what you’re really after: the percentage of those visitors that like what you have to say so much that they're willing to raise their hands and become hot prospects that fill out forms to become your leads.

And they usually do that not necessarily because they're ready for a sales conversation (yet!). Some of them will be. But most websites completely suck at this and mistakenly assume that everyone that lands on their website is ready for that immediate sales conversation. That’s a huge strategic error -- lots of arrogance baked in there as well.

You have to be realistic: the people that are ready for a sales conversation are in the seventh, eighth, and ninth “inning” (baseball game metaphor) are a relatively small percentage of your overall website visitors.

But there are a huge amount of people (and potential people) that are arriving at your doorstep during the first four, five, or six “innings.” And we want to make sure that we don't turn them off. Otherwise, it's like going to buy a car and running into the pushy salesperson who won't talk to you if you're not buying that day.

So your lead generation has to have a way to convert visitors into leads that are often first-time visitors.

You need to have premium content that offers some advice; helpful educational resources that answer their questions, solve their problems, or help them with their goals.

Your premium content has to be so good that people are willing to part with a little bit of their contact information for what's on the other side of that form. At the minimum, an email address. A lot of your conversion paths are held together by landing pages, forms, and calls to action.

3. Opportunity Generation

The opportunity generation layer is how we take your leads and get them to a point where your sales team is excited about talking to those folks.

So you segment some of your into marketing qualified leads (MQLs), segment some of those MQLs into sales qualified leads (SQLs), and segment some of those SQLs into sales opportunities once your sales team has determined that there is, in fact, an opportunity.

This additional segmentation is usually assisted by email nurturing.

Again the big thing here: no big email blasts. You can't send the same email to everyone. Different people care about different things and they're at different stages of lifecycle and their buyer’s journey. So be sure to segment and nurture.

You should be using automation. It would be absurd to think that in a database with hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands of leads that someone from your sales team is going to have time to manually review those leads and send the right message to the right person at the right time -- all of the time. There's no possible way that could work at scale.

Lead scoring is also super-critical to help your sales team prioritize active buyers over passive buyers:

  • People that have performed certain behaviors on your website
  • People that have converted on certain offers
  • People that have visited a certain number of times, viewed a certain number of pages, or reconverted on a certain number of landing pages/forms

Also, recognize that many of your best leads are active on social media. So you need to know if each person is a Facebook user, a Twitter user, or a LinkedIn user -- or all of the above. Then go where they are for relationship-building; basic social selling 101.

But to do that, you have to be interesting to them. You have to be helpful to them. They have to see you as a helpful resource -- not just an annoying, obnoxious salesperson who's asking, “Are you going to buy yet? What's it going to take to get you into this today?”

All of that selfish behavior has to go away in the modern buyer's journey, in a digital-first world. If you're not seen as helpful, and you're just harassing people, there's no reason for anyone to pay any attention to you.

Another big way to take more of your leads and accelerate them into sales opportunities is to produce events:

  • Offline events -- like breakfast seminars, lunch and learns, networking receptions, speaking at conferences, or sponsoring a conference
  • Online events -- like hosting a webinar, Facebook Live event, YouTube Live event, or some other type of live, online video event

4. New Client Acquisition

Finally, at the bottom of the funnel, there’s new client acquisition.

So you have our sales-ready leads that go to opportunities to become new clients.

Tools like real-time notifications, CRM systems, closed-loop reporting, sales enablement/sales productivity, and pipeline management/forecasting are all super critical.

The Bottom Line on “Is Your Sales Funnel Helping or Hurting?”

So those are two of the more basic sales funnel frameworks to think about if you're trying to make sure that your sales funnel is helping your company, as opposed to hurting your company.

There have been so many changes in the last couple of years when it comes to how people research problems and questions and look for solutions.

There's just so much that happens before you even know an opportunity exists.

And in many cases, if somebody could avoid talking to you all together and get everything they want in a self-service type of tool, you have to consider that as well.

Think about your preferences when you want to make a restaurant reservation, book an airline flight, make a hotel reservation, or schedule a doctor's appointment.

There is a huge percentage of the population that prefers to do all of this self-service. And it's a big mistake to think that this is just millennials.

A lot of the reason why there's been such massive changes in all these of research and purchasing behaviors with all different generations: we’ve hit the tipping points with nearly all generations -- even baby boomers, where the rate of adoption on social media and search engine usage and mobile devices is very high.

So regardless of your business model or your product or service, it's super critical that you think about if your sales funnel is actually living in the present or if it's living in the past. Is it helping you? Or is it hurting you?

Hopefully these two different frameworks -- the thought leadership-centric approach and the more traditional marketing and sales team approach -- have given you some real food for thought about the different layers, the different stages, for attracting strangers into visitors, converting visitors into leads, accelerating and closing leads into sales opportunities opportunities and new clients, and leveraging your existing clients to spread positive word-of-mouth.

So you can delight as many of your clients as possible into your positive brand ambassadors, evangelists, and promoters. This will help you to repeat the cycle and bring more strangers into your fold.

So at the end of the day, ask yourself: Is your sales funnel helping your company grow? Or is it hurting your company from growing?

I'm so glad you have had you with us for this episode of the South Florida CEO Podcast. I'm Joshua Feinberg, and we look forward to seeing you back again next time.


If you learned something valuable from this episode, please subscribe to the South Florida CEO Podcast on iTunes and leave us a review.

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