What Is A Sales Funnel?

If you’re new to the lead generation scene, you might scratch your head when you hear the gurus talking about sales funnels, marketing funnels, ClickFunnels, etc., etc. Maybe you pop your head over the wall of your cubicle and ask the guy beside you: “What does ‘funnel’ mean?”

Don’t waste your time. He doesn’t know.

But don’t worry. That’s what I’m here for.

So let’s get into it.

What does “funnel” mean?

First things first. Despite what the guy in the next cube might tell you, we’re not talking about one of these:

Kitchen Funnel

Yes, yes, I know he’s a genius when it comes to TPS reports, but trust me on this one. We’re not talking about kitchen utensils. (Although that is the inspiration for the concept behind marketing funnels and sales funnels.)

Funnel Meaning

We’re talking about a sales funnel (AKA marketing funnel). The concept has been around forever, but ClickFunnels and its army of affiliate marketers have more people than ever interested in building funnels to better market their businesses and increase sales.

According to Wikipedia, a funnel (the wrong kind), is:

a pipe with a wide (often conical) mouth and a narrow stem. It is used to channel liquid or fine-grained substances into containers with a small opening. Without a funnel, spillage may occur.

It’s the wrong kind of funnel, but it’s not a bad start. Needs some work for our purposes though. The kind of funnels we’re talking about are made up of emails, landing pages, and content offers. And they’re used to channel traffic into leads and leads into sales. Without a funnel, you’re missing out on sales. Spillage will occur.

What Does a Funnel Do?

Sales funnels help optimize your customer acquisition strategy in two ways:

  1. Funnels help you visualize your marketing and sales strategy
  2. Funnels provide a simple way to see where you’re losing sales

The funnel concept exists to give us an easy way to visualize all the different things that are happening through the marketing and sales processes. That way we can analyze what we’re doing at each step of the way to determine where we can improve.

The reason you’ll sometimes hear people talk about them separately as marketing funnels or sales funnels is because the marketing funnel is typically earlier in the sales cycle. The sales funnel generally refers to the stage of the sales cycle when your sales reps are doing their thing.

Sales Funnels vs. Marketing Funnels

It helps to think of it as one big funnel that directs leads through each step of the marketing and sales funnels so that as many of them as possible are qualified and converted into customers.

As mentioned earlier, if the sales and marketing process is like one big funnel, then marketing makes up the top half and sales makes up the bottom half. And you can think of it in whatever way makes the most sense to you.

Why do many sales and marketing departments even think of it as two funnels: a sales funnel and a marketing funnel.

Because by doing that, each department focuses on their objective and considers it the bottom of the funnel. For example, for a marketing department might consider leads at the bottom of the funnel when they become Marketing Qualified Leads. Then the sales department would consider Marketing Qualified Leads at the bottom of the funnel once they close.

In fact, the funnel can go even further if you consider future purchases, upgrades, etc.

How to Build a Sales Funnel

Now that you know what a sales funnel is, let’s talk about how to build one. Master funnel architects will use tools like:

  • An email marketing service
  • A marketing automation platform
  • Landing page software

but you don’t necessarily need all that. We’re going to cover the basics of funnel strategy here so that you can build a funnel with whatever tools you have.

Sales Funnel Strategy

Implementing basic funnel strategy requires the following:

  • Traffic source(s)
  • Landing page
  • Lead Capture Form
  • Content

The content is what lures them in, and the lead capture form is how you get their information (you make them fill out the form to get the content). The traffic source is how you get website traffic to your landing page, which is where you send them to tell them about how great your content is and why they should give you their contact information to get it.

So your (1) traffic source (2) leads to the landing page (3) which contains the lead capture form (4) which they fill out to download your content.

The Buyer’s Journey

You’ll want to create at least one funnel for each stage of the buyer’s journey. So you’ll have an Awareness Funnel that leads to content targeted at people who are just beginning to realize they have a problem. Then you’ll have a Consideration Funnel for people who are researching possible solutions. Finally, you’ll have a Decision Funnel for people who have decided on the type of solution they want, and they’re ready to choose a specific offering within that category.

Funnel Examples

Here’s a basic example for each funnel at each stage of the buyer’s journey. In these examples, we’re creating a series of funnels for a lawncare company that’s trying to get potential customers to sign up for a free estimate.

These funnels depends on Facebook advertising for traffic, but you could replace that with organic search traffic, paid search traffic, or anything else.


Awareness Funnel


Consideration Funnel


Decision Funnel

Learn More About Marketing Funnels

Now that you have a general understanding of sales funnels you can do a dive into marketing funnels. To learn more about marketing funnels, check out The Inbound Marketing Funnel Template. It’s a much more in-depth look at funnel architecture, especially as it pertains to the marketing side of things.

And feel free to email me at [email protected] with any questions.