If you own a business and are trying to attract leads and sales online, you’re probably familiar with funnels. Funnels come with a big promise to take your business to the next level by automating your marketing and sales. There’s no shortage of marketing and funnel experts promoting specific funnel systems, templates and scripts that have all worked for someone else, but will they work for you?

With so much hype and big promises, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused as you try to find a funnel that fits your business. If you’re like many coaches and consultants, you’ve likely tried to leverage the power of a funnel in your business, but maybe it didn’t feel right, didn’t seem to fit your business or your voice and it didn’t work.

But funnels DO work...and they can work for your business.

To show you how, we need to take a step back and look at the core of what we’re trying to accomplish with our funnels.

The Truth About Funnels

Funnels are a powerful tool that we can use to market and sell our products and services. They’re not magical, they’re just the way we’re strategically communicating with our ideal clients. If what you’re communicating isn’t on target, it doesn’t matter which funnel you use to do it.

Remember that successful marketing is about putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.

You’re thoughtfully crafting a conversation with your ideal client. Whether that conversation happens in a store, in an elevator, over lunch or coffee, through an online funnel, or in some weird exchange of carrier pigeons, at each step along the path toward the sale, your messaging needs to fit.

Once you focus on the conversation that you want to have with your ideal customer, any funnel you use to deliver that conversation will finally feel like it fits your business. 

The Customer Conversation

From start to finish, there are six phases in a typical sales conversation. Each phase has a specific goal, moving the prospect along the sales path while cultivating our relationship with them. When our ideal prospect doesn’t take the next step along our sales path, it’s likely that we’ve misstepped in the conversation. Maybe we’ve “rushed the relationship” by asking for too much too soon, or we didn’t build enough rapport or trust. We didn’t educate, or we didn’t show enough evidence or proof that we can help them achieve the result they’re looking for.

Before you worry about which funnel you’ll use to attract leads and sales for your business, take the time to map out these six phases of your customer conversation to make sure your messaging makes sense.

1. Kickoff

Just like you would do in real life, you need to kick off a conversation with your ideal prospect. The goal of this phase is to break through the digital noise and grab the attention of our prospects with a message that is relevant and compelling.

How you start this conversation depends on where your prospective buyer is starting from. What is your ideal prospect already looking for? Do they know who you are and what you do, or are they a complete stranger? What messages have they heard before and might be starting to tune out?

Short attention spans and increased skepticism have changed how we start these conversations online. Whether you’re using an advertisement, social media post, email or some other communication channel, we want your ideal prospect to think, “Oh, this is different”, “This is what I’m looking for”, “This is what I need” or “What’s this? I want to know more”.

Think about how you start your conversation with your ideal client. What are you assuming your ideal prospect already knows, is familiar with, or has tried before in order for your initial message to resonate?

2. Lead

After you have your prospect’s attention, you need to pull them into the conversation. In this phase, you’re focused on making a connection, having your prospect engage and get involved in the conversation.

How do you make that connection? You want to move them emotionally and persuade them intellectually. If they become bored, confused or start to doubt what you’re saying, they’ll leave the conversation. Show them you understand where they’re at, what they’re dealing with and where they want to go.

3. Alignment

In this phase, your goal is to align your prospect’s needs and beliefs with the product or service you will ultimately offer them. You’re pre-framing the offer before you make it and re-framing beliefs or knowledge that would prevent your prospect from buying. The length of this phase depends on how much of a shift you need the prospect to make in order to become a buyer.

What does your ideal prospect need to understand and believe before they’d invest in your product or service? Your prospect needs to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve the result or outcome they want. They also need to believe in your ability to deliver using your process and methods.

This is typically the most overlooked phase in the customer conversation. Most people underestimate the work needed, the conversation that’s needed to help your prospect be in a position where they already want what you are going to offer before you offer it. 

4. Presentation

In this phase, you’ll present your offer. Whether you make the offer on a phone call, on a webinar, or with written words on a sales page, this is where you make your irresistible offer and motivate your buyers to buy.

Because you’ve done the work upfront to pre-frame this offer, to educate your prospect, to re-frame their beliefs and bring them to the place where they’re ready to buy, selling should feel like the natural next step in the process (even if you hate sales). When you don’t do the work in the alignment phase or you “rush the relationship”, this is when the sales process can feel “icky”, “gross” or just a little awkward.

5. Pursuit

After you present the offer, some prospects won't buy right away, but that doesn’t mean you should abruptly stop the conversation. You’ll pursue the sale by following up. In this phase, your goal isn’t to beat your ideal prospects over the head with your offer or wear out your welcome. There’s a balance between following up and overwhelming harassment.

You might use social proof, answer questions, address common sales objections or hesitations, helping your ideal prospect visualize the outcome or result they want and revisiting the deeper reasons they want it. Don’t underestimate the power of personal touch to let your ideal prospect know they’re more than just a business transaction.


6. Shift

At this point, if your prospect hasn’t yet invested in your offer, then it’s time to shift the conversation. Just because they didn’t buy right now doesn’t mean they’ll never buy, so you’ll shift the topic of the conversation away from the current offer.

That might mean you make an alternate offer, a smaller offer, or just provide them with something else of value as a way to focus on cultivating the relationship until you’re ready to kickoff another sales conversation.

When In Doubt, Map It Out

Mapping out this customer conversation can provide tremendous clarity. If you get stuck, think about conversations you’ve had with existing clients, the questions they’ve had and the shift they had to make to be ready and excited to invest in you. Grab a friend or colleague and roleplay the conversation to gain additional insights. After you have confidence in the message, then choose the funnel that fits your conversation instead of trying to shoehorn the conversation you need to have with your ideal prospect into someone else’s script.

 Nora Sudduth, Marketing Strategist and Flagship Program Development Specialist

 Advisor to business owners who want to create and sell scalable training, coaching and consulting programs. Creator of the   Flagship FormulaTM, she’s created training, programs and marketing responsible for over $500M in sales.

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