An effective sales funnel helps salespeople guide potential customers through their buying journey and provides key insights into customer behaviors. Reps can use these insights to convert cold prospects into hot leads and ultimately into paying customers.
In this article, we’ll explain what a sales funnel is and why it’s important to introduce one into your sales process. We’ll also present free sales funnel templates for you to draw inspiration from as you build your own.
What is a sales funnel?
A sales funnel is a visual representation of the customer journey – the specific journey your potential customers go through that determines whether they buy from you.
Similar to a marketing funnel, a typical sales funnel is widest at the top and narrowest at the bottom. Potential customers are gradually filtered into qualified leads and converted customers. Ideal customers progress downward throughout their buying journey – while unsuitable prospects fall out at different stages along the way.
There are three main sales funnel stages:
Top of the sales funnel: This is the awareness and discovery stage, where your target customer is trying to learn more about their problem.
Middle of the sales funnel: This is the stage where your qualified lead is researching solutions to an identified problem.
Bottom of the sales funnel: In this stage, the prospect makes a conscious, educated decision to make a purchase.
Whether you manage hundreds of employees or have a small e-commerce firm, sales funnels are crucial to your business because they help show your team where to focus their efforts.
For example, say a lead doesn’t match your ideal customer persona. A funnel helps your rep to recognize this early on and avoid selling to an unqualified lead who is unlikely to make a purchase. Conversely, if a qualified lead has gone untouched for too long, a rep can quickly notice and rectify that by sending a personalized follow-up email to re-ignite communications.
Although every funnel has the same three levels, the steps involved to optimize your sales funnel stages and generate revenue vary depending on your business type.
Free sales funnel template
Download our free sales funnel template to start moving more buyers through your sales funnel. We’ve designed the template to be fully customizable based on your industry and specific business needs.
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Below are four free additional sales funnel templates and insights to help optimize the customer journey, specifically for:
Use the following sales funnel examples as inspiration for your setting up and filling out your own sales funnel excel template.
1. SaaS sales funnel
Setting up the perfect SaaS sales funnel strategy can be tough. Not only is the SaaS landscape highly competitive, but your target audience is constantly bombarded with marketing campaigns and paid ads. You need to stand out from the crowd.
There are also an overwhelming number of potential customers in your target industry. An effective SaaS sales funnel helps you to separate qualified from unqualified leads to avoid wasting valuable time and energy selling to unengaged parties.
Therefore, the most important goals of your SaaS sales funnel are to:
Provide high value to your potential customers to drive more quality sign-ups, reducing your customer acquisition cost (CAC)
Focus on continued quality and engagement to decrease churn and expand your customer lifetime value (CLV)
The last thing you want is to drive traffic that never moves past the acquisition stage. For example, by failing to persuade customers past the free trial and into a monthly subscription, or acquiring a customer and then losing them to poor customer service and lack of sales follow-ups.
To acquire, engage and retain the right audience, you have to monitor and consistently optimize key metrics.
Here’s a sample sales funnel template you can use, specifically designed with some of the key metrics and steps that make up an effective SaaS sales funnel:
The first step of your SaaS sales funnel should be getting eyeballs on your product. This works best when collaborating with marketing.
Promote cross-functional team collaboration and offer support. Sales enablement also helps you to better identify your target audience, standardize brand messaging and arm your reps with the collateral they need to boost lead generation.
You can also leverage content creation, paid advertising, PR and other digital marketing tactics to drive more traffic to your landing page. For instance, you can incorporate click funnels that lead your prospective customers seamlessly to your checkout page.
Lean into automation when designing your website throughout the sales funnel builder process. Make sure that each page is naturally leading each visitor further down the funnel.
You should also implement A/B testing and track key acquisition metrics as you continue to fine-tune your methods and website layout so you can understand what’s working and what isn’t.
Here are some key acquisition metrics to measure in your SaaS funnel:
New visitors: How many new people are landing on your site in total?
Channel-specific traffic: Through what channels are they landing on your site? If you’re running an omnichannel campaign, for example, what specific channels are driving traffic (e.g. social, organic, paid, automated)? Beyond campaigns, are visitors landing on your website through direct outreach, referrals, word of mouth, Google searches or another avenue?
Total acquisition conversions: Are these visitors completing a call-to-action (CTA)? For instance, did they enter their contact information to join a newsletter or start a free trial?
Signup ratio: What percentage of site visitors completed a CTA?
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): How much did it cost to acquire these customers? For example, if the customer signed up for a free trial based on a paid marketing campaign, what was that cost?
Lead Velocity Rate (LVR): How much does your qualified lead volume change month to month? What’s your average LVR?
Once you have results, you can work with marketing to update your top-of-funnel messaging and outreach tactics.
For instance, you may find that customers are initially excited, but then feel they haven’t learned enough to want to engage further. If that’s the case, you can update your educational materials (e.g. a knowledge center with online courses) and optimize your marketing strategy to better teach leads exactly how your product or service works.
Once potential customers have shown a true interest, it’s time to move them closer to making a purchasing decision.
Use the following metrics to glean important insights that your reps can use to persuade leads to convert.
First session length: How long is a lead interacting with your product or service the first time they use it?
Returning Sessions/Visit Frequency: How often do they come back to use the product or service?
Core Tasks Completion: Is the lead taking advantage of the tasks that give them the best experience with your product or service? For example, if your SaaS product helps teams enhance communication, is the lead using the collaboration features to their fullest extent?
Mapping and measuring these metrics will help your reps identify opportunities to engage with leads to move them through the funnel.
For instance, what if a lead has barely interacted with your product or service after their first session? A rep can reach out to understand why they stopped using it and ultimately guide them back to usage.
Pointing prospects toward materials like webinars or explainer videos at this stage may help effectively reengage and reinvigorate prospects.
Here, reps motivate leads to make a purchase decision. The following metrics can help guide them on when and how to persuade leads to make an educated purchase.
Request for live demos: How many leads are requesting live demos or phone calls to take a deep dive into your product or service?
Request for quotes: How many leads are requesting quotes and showing a genuine interest?
Free trial to paying user rate: How many leads are converting to paying customers after trying your product or service via a free trial?
Reps can use this knowledge to update onboarding materials and optimize email campaigns and flows. They should identify opportunities to educate customers about your software and its value.
Offering prospects the flexibility to choose their ideal pricing structure makes the purchasing commitment less scary. If they’re unsure about what features they need, they can start at the lowest tier and upgrade down the line.
Ensuring that customers sign up for the right plan in the first place also reduces your churn rate, so it’s crucial to guide them to the option that best addresses and solves their pain points.
If your SaaS business also offers a free-for-life plan, you can skip this step and get users to sign up for the free plan instead. You can then remind them to upgrade their plan later on if they want access to premium or exclusive features.
Once you close the sale, your team needs to focus on ensuring your customers get the most value from your product. Reps play a critical role in the first few weeks after purchase, as they can help customers become fluent in your product or service. At this stage, teaming up with an account manager is ideal.
From there, the customer service team will play a crucial role in responding to support tickets and further educating the customer. Sales reps should consistently check in, however, and identify opportunities to upsell or cross-sell products or services as time goes on.
2. Service, agency and consultancy sales funnel
Marketing service providers, accounting consultants and travel agencies are all examples of service-based businesses. Since there isn’t an actual product being sold, you can’t offer free trials or demos to customers to encourage a purchase.
Here, the focus is on building personal relationships and gaining customer trust. This is why lead nurturing is a crucial part of the service and agency sales funnel.
Similar to SaaS funnels, the first step of a service sales funnel is to drive targeted traffic to your value proposition. Since your prospects are everywhere on the web, traffic generation helps you collate these potential customers into one space so they can move further along your sales funnel.
Service businesses and agencies can drive traffic to their value proposition online via SEO and content creation, social media and ad retargeting. Again, this works best when the marketing and sales teams collaborate and sync their efforts.
Sales reps must also engage in lead generation, lead qualification and lead nurturing to motivate prospects to move through the funnel.
Here’s a free consultancy, agency or service company sales funnel template you can use:
1. Lead generation/Value offer
One of the most important parts of your service sales funnel is to generate leads that you can later nurture into paying customers. Lead generation is the process of collecting data on prospects who have shown some level of interest in your business and decided to stay connected.
There are tons of ways to generate leads for your agency or service business. Through a contact form or survey, for example, you can collect names, email addresses and phone numbers. You can also direct leads to a free case study, coupled with testimonials, that showcases exactly how you’ve solved a problem for an existing customer.
By driving leads to your value offer, you are catching their attention and showing them exactly how your service can solve their problems or frustrations.
2. Lead qualification/Opt-in
Lead qualification is the process of identifying the right leads—people who will actually do business with you.
An easy way to qualify leads is to add an extra step to your lead generation forms. A simple question like, “Are you a student or part of the industry?” in your opt-in form can help you qualify leads by distinguishing between students and industry professionals.
You can also offer lead magnets like eBooks and whitepapers in exchange for email addresses, or even a newsletter subscription to encourage people to leave their contact details with you. Your email list will then contain qualified leads, which is an invaluable resource for your reps.
3. Lead nurturing/Booking
Now that you’ve generated qualified leads for your business, it’s time to nurture them into paying customers.
Converting leads into customers requires you to engage in conversation with your prospects, listen to their problems and offer solutions. You can do this with the help of email marketing, using it for things like keeping leads in the know about upcoming events and new services or promoting new case studies.
You can also set up calls or meetings with your prospects to discuss in more detail how your business can help them achieve certain goals. For example, your reps can offer them a free 30-minute strategizing session to show them exactly the kind of expertise and guidance they’ll get if they enlist your services.
The key is to build on the existing relationship with your potential buyer to ensure that when it’s time to make a purchase, they come to you.
3. Enterprise sales funnel
Enterprise sales teams are often tasked with selling complex offerings. Because these tools are complex and can work well in many different scenarios, reps must work harder to establish trust up front before customers feel comfortable making an investment.
Similar to the aforementioned funnels, sales and marketing teams will work together to drive traffic to the enterprise value proposition. You can use SEO, social media, influencer marketing, paid advertising and more.
From there, it’s up to the reps to build rapport and trust with potential customers to nurture them through the buying journey.
Here are a few metrics you can use to optimize your enterprise sales funnel:
Lead qualification: Is the lead truly interested in partnering with your company? Do their problems or pain points align with your ideal customer persona?
Decision-maker expression of interest: How interested are the decision-makers? How willing are they to participate in conversations, demos and presentations?
Budget: Does the company have the budget to realistically make a purchase?
Here’s a free enterprise-level company sales funnel template you can use:
1. Appointment/Call scheduled
This is where you decide if a lead is qualified, a good fit for your business and worth pursuing. This is usually done through an introductory call where the rep identifies a lead’s pain points and discusses their specific needs.
2. Qualified to buy
Here, salespeople assess whether or not your product or service is a good fit for their lead. In order to qualify, the lead’s business goals and operational efficiency should align with your product or service’s capabilities and functionalities.
Now it’s time to get to the heart of the matter. Your reps must nurture their prospect by building a strong relationship with them to establish trust. This involves listening and asking pointed follow-up questions to uncover exactly how your product or service can best solve their problem(s).
In some cases, the lead comes to the purchase decision on their own during a conversation. Otherwise, a structured pitch may be necessary to motivate the buyers to move to the next stage of the funnel.
At this point, the prospect has decided to move forward and is ready to undertake a trial or make a purchase. They may send you a request for proposal (RFP) and outline exactly what they expect your product or service to provide and achieve.
Your rep may need to negotiate on certain aspects of the RFP with the goal of coming to a feasible solution for all parties involved.
Now, the prospect completely understands how your product or service aligns with their needs and has signed off on the RFP. As they are highly motivated to convert, your reps must capitalize on this moment and close the deal.
There will be some enterprise customers that end up not converting. For whatever reason, they decide at the last minute that they aren’t ready or able to commit to a purchase. If that’s the case, they become lost for now.
It is worth strategically following up on closed/lost prospects to see if their situation has changed.
4. Real estate sales funnel
Setting up a real estate sales funnel is similar to a service or agency funnel in that both prioritize personal contact and relationship-building techniques.
Unlike other types of businesses, however, real estate businesses often don’t have control over what they can sell. Houses go on and off the market frequently, leaving real estate agents with the work of not only tracking potential buyers but also potential houses for sale.
Because the real estate sales process is incredibly difficult, agents must qualify prospects so as not to waste their time and energy on a lead that will never buy.
Here are the core metrics to analyze when qualifying leads in an effective real estate sales funnel.
Whether a lead or prospect is actually interested in buying a property
What exactly they’re looking for in a property
How much they’re willing to spend
Their preferences regarding house design, neighborhood, etc.
We’ve provided a free real estate company sales funnel template you can use:
1. Lead enters funnel
Leads may find you online, via word of mouth, through advertisements, newsletters, open houses or more. When they do enter your funnel, it’s important to get their details. For instance, how many rooms are they looking for? What’s their neighborhood preference?
From there, you can categorize your leads so that it’s easier to understand which properties best align with their needs.
This way, when a property does come into play that fits their requirements, you can immediately contact them and see if they’re interested in setting up a viewing.
2. Lead qualification
Now that they’ve expressed interest, your reps should follow up with a welcome call to let them know that they’re already hunting for a property on their behalf. Use this opportunity to further qualify the lead and get more details about their needs. How likely are they to actually buy in the near future, or are they simply researching for future opportunities?
3. Newsletter signup
This is a great opportunity to get them to sign up for your newsletter to increase engagement. They may not be actively looking for a property right now, but if they see something exciting in your newsletter, they could jump at the opportunity.
4. Schedule a showing
Once a prospect is qualified and shows enthusiasm, it’s time to schedule a showing. You’ve got the right property on the market and you know it checks all of your prospect’s boxes. Your reps should utilize their notes and past conversations to personalize this experience and motivate the buyer to make a purchase.
The buyer is excited and the seller is committed and happy with how the deal is progressing. Reps must move quickly on negotiation activities (reply to communications, arrange meetings, book inspections, contact banks and finalize the contract) to ensure the deal doesn’t fall through the cracks.
After the final walkthrough, hand over the contract and wait for the signature. Again, your reps should personalize this moment, nurture your prospect and let them know that they are available to answer any questions before they officially sign.
7. Real estate deal won
The contract is signed and escrow gives the all clear. Now it’s time to hand over the keys and add a personalized touch to ensure your buyer has a great memory of this experience.
Your reps should consistently follow up to see if they can get any word-of-mouth or referral deals from their buyer. Their buyer also may want to buy or sell again in the future, so it’s key that your reps keep the line of communication open.
8. Real estate deal lost
Sometimes, deals fall through. Perhaps an inspection found mold that would delay the move-in date or increase the cost. Maybe the buyer decides at the last minute not to sell because they aren’t actually ready to leave their house.
Whatever the reason, mark the deal as lost and instruct your reps to strategically follow up to see if their buyer has changed their mind.
Building an optimized sales funnel is key to maximizing conversions and growing your revenue in both the short and long term. Without one, you risk losing potential customers along the customer journey as they get lost in a sea of complicated, disorganized or unnecessary steps.
Use our free sales funnel templates to optimize your sales process, increase conversion rates and earn more revenue.
Get organized with your free sales pipeline excel template
Want to simplify the way you manage sales? Download this free sales pipeline template and test it out now.