What Exactly is a Sales Funnel & Why Do I Need One?

Have you taken the time to think about how people get to your website? A sales funnel is key.

Even though we are firmly in the age of the internet, there are countless small businesses out there that maintain a “real world” focus on their company. The online part of their business isn’t given as much thought and focus as it should. 

First off, online IS the real world. Everything we do is online nowadays. Even before the pandemic hit, online sales and interactions were starting to outnumber in-person interactions. And now, well, there isn’t even a contest. Just look at how the pandemic has impacted online sales: Cyber Monday is now Cyber Month! If you aren’t actively marketing online, then your business is going to suffer. 

Part of the problem is that many small businesses have trouble driving people to their website. Yes, people can find your site on Google, but rarely on the first page. That means your business might be sitting under a pile of your competitors. That state of affairs cannot stand if you want to be successful in growing your business and customer base. 

The best way to get people to your website is to create an online sales funnel. And if you don’t already have one in place, well, then let’s get you started! 

What is a Sales Funnel?

Simply put, a sales funnel is the process of bringing your ICA (ideal client avatar) one step closer to a buying decision. And in the process give them more time to get to know, like and trust you so that buying becomes a no-brainer! 

To make the sale, you need to get your current and potential clients on your online store or website. It’s the same process as getting them up to the checkout in a brick-and-mortar store. Even if things are looking good while they are browsing items, the sale won’t be closed until they get in line with the cash. 

How do you get them there? Picture a kitchen funnel: a wide-brim that leads to a small hole at the bottom. Very useful if you’re trying to pour a liquid into something with a small opening.

This mental image is great to keep in mind when it comes to sales funnels. They basically do the same thing with your customers. A sales funnel is a step-by-step marketing process that starts with a “wide brim”. It could be online ads, a super targeted social media post, even a very specific blog post. From this point, where you make customers aware of you and your products, you then use various techniques (including enticing and super valuable free lead magnets) to pull them down into the funnel. 

You then nurture the heck out of them with a digital marketing strategy that can include emails full of value content, follow up sequences giving them actionable tools, other kinds of free content, add-ons, and much more.

Why Do You NEED a Sales Funnel?

Realistically, how many hours a day do you spend marketing your business? 

Even if you weren’t super busy as a small business owner, you only have so much time you can talk up your business and your product offerings. You aren’t a 24/7 salesperson! 

The solution is that you need a sales funnel to act as that 24/7 virtual salesperson. Creating an automated sales funnel will bring customers to you without you needing to lift a finger. The trick, of course, is making sure that the process is as automated as possible. And again, super nurturing.  

Let’s Chat Stages of a Sales Funnel


In this stage, your prospect doesn’t even know that you exist yet. They have a need, but they don’t know how to fill it. 

There are dozens of different ways to effectively build brand awareness, but one of my favorites is to create free content. In my case, these would be my lead magnets, blog posts, podcasts, social media content, emails etc. 

For the sake of this conversation, let’s stick with my lead magnets. I painstakingly design free workbooks and checklists to offer potential clients the same level of quality that you find with my paid products. These opt-ins serve two purposes: One, they give my audience a quick win through easy actionable steps. And two, they lead people into my email list (which is another part of my sales funnel and a very useful tool when it comes to email marketing).

Build the Relationship

Now that they know who you are, it’s time to build a relationship with these prospective customers.

Please keep in mind that this point isn’t the one where you want to sell anything to them. In fact, that could be the kiss of death. They are only just learning about you, so the last thing you want to bring down on them is a hard sell. Instead, you want to solidify your brand in their mind. You need them to believe that they need what you have. So, rather than hitting them with prices, deadlines, and “BUY NOW,” announcements, you want to nurture the relationship and make them aware of your offerings. 


Once they get to know you better and of course, like you – NOW it’s time to start selling to them!

They have become aware of you and your brand, you’ve built a relationship with them, now you can actually provide them with your products.

In many ways, this is a matter of trust. When the relationship is new, it’s very fragile. If you try to hit them with a sales pitch in those early stages, it’s going to feel a little weird. But once they know who you are, they will WANT to hear about what you have to offer them. At this point, we are approaching the “bottom” of the funnel.

To close the sale, you should have a fantastic landing page waiting for them. This is a dedicated page on your website, entirely focused around a single product or service you’ve been teasing since the start of the funnel. You should entrust the graphic design to a professional to make sure that it’s not only attractive but also jam-packed full of personality-infused, story-driven sales copy. If you are leading them to a generic webpage that does nothing to excite them, then you’re sabotaging the sales funnel at the “finish line.”


Here is where many small businesses miss out on their chance to grow their profits and further solidify customer relationships.

You never want to miss a chance to upsell your other product offerings. Think about the old phrase, “Supersize Me” at McDonald’s, or being asked if you want a dessert with your coffee at a Starbucks. These upsells are unobtrusive and might even be offering something that you want. It’s the same with your own products and services.

So, don’t be shy to share related products or services when someone purchases something from you. Just think of it as the beginning of yet another sales funnel!

This Sounds Like It Will Take A While…

Well, for some customers, it will. But for others, that won’t necessarily be the case.

Two different customers might go down the sales funnel at very different speeds. One might take their time to research you, look at your opt-ins, determine that you are the best fit for their needs. Then they will head to your landing page to make sure you can deliver what you promise. Even at that point, you might need to continue to nurture them with weekly content and other offers. This entire process could take anywhere from a few days to a few months. 

I’ve had client download a workbook and schedule a consultation with me the same day. And I’ve also had a client tell me they had been getting my newsletter for five years and finally decided to give me a call! 

On the other hand, someone could see an ad for your business on Facebook, head to your landing page, and buy your product within about five minutes. 

Every customer is different, but you can’t rely on the ones who go with impulse and quick decisions. You should design your sales funnel with the long game in mind. And if a potential buyer wants to skip the long game and head straight to the end, well, that’s great too! 

So, What Did We Learn? 

Let’s review what we learned:

  1. Building the online portion of your business is paramount.
  2. Getting people to your website can be tricky, which is why you need a sales funnel.
  3. A sales funnel is a step-by-step process to build comfort and familiarity with a customer, eventually leading to them purchasing your products.
  4. It should be a 24/7 “salesperson” for your business.
  5. The first step is to make people aware that your business exists.
  6. A great way to do this is with free opt-ins and other giveaways.
  7. Once you have their attention, you need to build the relationship. Don’t try to sell something during this stage, as that could break the fragile trust between you.
  8. Once they trust you, you can sell them your products by sending them to a dedicated landing page on your website.
  9. Don’t feel shy to upsell them on your products.
  10. Every customer is different. It could take weeks to get one customer down the funnel; it could take another about five minutes.

The funny thing about sales funnels is that they are all different. Depending on your business and your digital marketing focus, yours might be relying on strong social media outreach. Others might have an expansive email list that they use to connect with their customers. If you don’t think that you have the time to set up an effective sales funnel on your own, why not try working with a virtual assistant? Or even better, a virtual assistant team! In my free download, How to Use a Virtual Team to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back: Workbook, you can learn how teaming up with a VA can help you accomplish all of your goals, including getting your sales funnels up and running! 

How to use a VA Team to Grow Your Business

If you’d like to learn more about sales funnels, or any of our other digital marketing services, I’d be delighted to talk! You can contact me here for a free consultation. We can get started figuring out how to connect you with ICA, then guide them down your sales funnel until they are loyal customers! 

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About Jennie Lyon

Jennie Lyon is the founder of Jennie Lyon Virtual Assistant Services. Jennie specializes in helping busy entrepreneurs organize, manage, develop and promote their brand! She is devoted to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs with social media, content creation, email marketing, client relations, website management, and administration services. If you are a small business owner, coach or self-employed entrepreneur struggling to find enough time in your day to focus on what you really love - schedule a free 15 minute consultation with Jennie. www.JennieLyon.com

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