How To Identify Sales Funnel Problems
If you ever decide to busy yourself in the majestic art of making sausages in the artisan way, you have two ways to proceed.
You grab a large funnel, pull the casing on the narrow end, stuff the meat into the wide end and start squeezing it through the funnel into the casing.
It’s a rather tedious task and your sausages will be full of humps and bumps.
The other option is to have a motorized sausage stuffer, so your sausages will be dead even. They don’t merely taste great but look amazing too.
This is roughly the difference between haphazard selling and selling through a sales funnel.
When you sell manually, using constantly changing processes, your clientele will be as odd as a Scottish haggis caught in a kilt, playing the Flower of Scotland on a bagpipe.
But when you sell through a funnel, using the proper metrics and streamlined processes, your client acquisition process will be as smooth as a baby’s butt, and your clientele will be pretty homogenous. That is, it is a very good reflection of your perfect client profile.
To achieve this nipple-piercingly euphoric state of business development, let’s look at some of the illnesses boutique IT service firms’ sales funnels can suffer from, and how we can remedy them
Incorrect Naming of Funnel Stages
When you look at most boutique IT service firms’ sales funnels, you can instantly see that the funnel stages are named after sellers’ sales stages not buyers’ buying stages.
For instance, when you look at the funnel below, you find it’s labelled from the seller’s perspective, so no matter what the buyer does, the seller’s job is to elbow his way to the next stage all the way to submitting the proposal and wait, hope, pray and pay the price of the problem.
Is it surprising that those firms lose most of their opportunities? What we can see is that the buyer and her actions during the sales process are not even considered. It’s like the guy who goes on a date and starts by saying, “Hi, let me tell you about me and the steps I follow with every new date.”
I’m not exactly a relationship expert, but even I know that this not a good start.
Now let’s see the same funnel model but with different stages…
In this funnel, the stages follow the buyer’s thinking process and actions.
When the funnel stages are labelled according to the seller’s process, it’s highly likely that the seller tries to dictate the process to the buyer.
And since most buyers have their own buying processes, there will be a clash.
And when there is a clash, there will be further problems. And the biggest problem is that the seller loses the opportunity.
For the next illness let’s start with…
Looking At The Shape Of The Funnel
Since the funnel is a visual representation of your sales process, you can learn a lot by looking at its shape. Certain areas are supposed to be fat and some areas are supposed to be skinny.
A good inbound funnel should be fat at the top where new visitors enter and start their journeys to decision-making.
Then it gradually gets skinnier, and at the end, where new customers pop out, it’s quite skinny.
But some funnels look like a pregnant elephant, 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 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 needs.
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.
So, let’s start inspecting the funnel with some diagnostic questions…
1. How many unique visitors does your website have a month?
2. What percentage become sales leads?
3. How many leads do you have in your database right now?
4. What percentage can you expect to become sales prospects (sales opportunities)?
5. What percentage of prospects can you expect to become paying clients?
Armed with this information, now you can anticipate the shape of the funnel, and if you see a pregnant elephant-like funnel, then you know something is seriously off kilter.
So, now we can look at…
The Four Biggest Funnel Problems
Bloated Midsection — Too Many Leads
If the mid-section of your funnel is bloated relative to the other sections, it means your funnel is constipated at this stage.
From the top of the funnel, contacts are moving at a healthy pace and become leads, but this is where they get stuck and start piling up, making the funnel’s mid-section fatter and fatter.
It also means that you run short on qualified prospects (sales opportunities) and paying clients.
And that leads to a hand-to-mouth business.
What you need here is the proverbial Amitiza to remove lead constipation, so leads can start flowing freely from the leads stage to the opportunities stage and then to the purchase stage.
To maintain the flow, pay attention to five important factors…
1. Have a specific perfect client profile
2. Make your content relevant to that perfect client
3. Use multiple channels for your marketing 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.
Skinny Midsection — Lead Starvation
This is another constipation problem, but here website visitors get stuck in the top section of the funnel.
They come into your funnel because something is of interest to them, but then they lose interest and stay in the visitor section forever.
It also shows that your practice of generating web visitors works like a charm, but there is a problem with taking visitors to the next level.
Fortunately, there are some good remedies here.
First, revisit your perfect client profile to make sure that your message and client profile are in perfect alignment. If you try to sell running shoes to quadriplegics, then no matter how good your shoes are and no matter how much you know about your market’s buying habits, there is a misalignment between the market and the message, and it can’t end up in anything good.
Also, change your call to action (CTA).
There are eight different CTA types, so you can choose the best for your situation.
1. Bottom-of-the-post smart CTA
2. Connect with us in Social media CTA
3. Tweet this CTA
4. Subscribe to our blog CTA
5. Comment below CTA
6. Slide in CTA
7. Inline CTA
8. Sidebar CTA
Different CTAs may need different pages, so while it’s a bit of extra work, it exponentially improves your chances to restart the flow of visitors into the leads section.
Small End Section — Real Starvation
It really means that there are no sales, so someone in the business is going to starve.
Second mortgage anyone?
Yes, we know that the bottom of the funnel is the smallest by nature, but it shouldn’t be infinitesimal.
You see, size sometimes matters.
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.
So, look at your funnel’s midsection, and you’re likely to find the culprit there.
Possible problems can be…
- Marketing handed lead to sales too soon
- 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 low-priced “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 Job’s presentations was a pre-selling session.
Sales Tube — Not Sales Funnel
If your funnel looks like a tube that is more or less of the same width from start to finish, then you most probably have a shortage of visitors.
Since we can’t squeeze buyers out of an empty funnel any more than we can squeeze water from a rock, we have to full up the funnel with visitors.
Some people may say that you go back and 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 your keywords and calls to action. Check your key meta pieces: title tag, description tag and heading tags.
We know from systems theory that systems are some 80% operational, and for the sakes of the troubled 20%, there is no point in blowing up the operating 80%.
That’s so Microsoft Windows-ish…
“If the problem persists (a small Windows or Office problem), wipe your hard drive clean and re-install Windows.”
At one computer expos (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the car industry and stated…
“If General Motors had kept up with the technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.”
In “If Microsoft Were Making Cars” General Motors responded…
“Occasionally, executing a manoeuvre such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.”
No, it’s not the content of your articles that fail to get visitors. It’s the “attraction pieces” inside the articles.
As you can see, regardless of whether you want to make sausages or want to sell, the funnel can make a huge difference. Either your sausages will be uneven or your client flow. Both situations are pretty bad.
But just as any systems, the funnel can also bring in error sources.
But once you’ve ironed your funnel out and worked out the kinks, it can make your client acquisition significantly easier.
I know some people overcomplicate this funnel concept, but it’s nothing more really than the journey buyers take from bumping into your firm for the first time and reaching the decision-making point where they decide whether or not to work with your firm.
So, just map out what collateral pieces your buyers go through right from the first contact, and Bob’s your uncle. Life is complicated enough, so don’t make it even more complicated by creating a monster funnel.
Some people try to anticipate every possible situation, but that’s impossible.
As a skydiver, I could significantly reduce my chances of crashing to the ground and dying a tad sooner than I’ve planned by taking a few more parachutes with me, but for the sake of sanity, most skydivers, including me, stay with only two. And that combination seems to be safe enough.
Sales funnels are the same.
After hundreds of hours of funnel design, you can achieve a Lilliputian conversion increase, but the cost of that increase would be rather Brobdingnagian, so the whole effort is about as pointless as a pantyhose for a fish.
So, just cut it out and watch a few episodes of some Monty Python materials.