6 Tactics to Create a Conversion-Focused Sales Funnel

February 27, 2017

There is no metric more important than “conversion rate” when it comes to your sales funnels. How many people you can push from one stage of the funnel to the next will decide whether you land barren prospects or flourishing new accounts.

Optimizing a funnel for conversions, however, can be a challenge. To help you out, I’ll show you 6 tactics you can use today to fine-tune your sales funnel for higher conversions.

1. Track conversion rate at every stage of the funnel

“If you can measure it, you can also improve it.”

Embrace this idea when developing your sales funnels. You should know exactly how many people enter your funnel and how many drop off at each stage. Once you know where prospects are dropping off, you can take steps to plug the leak.

Start by mapping out your entire sales funnel.

  • Top of the funnel should include any channel where you’re turning raw traffic into leads.
  • Middle of the funnel should nurture channels where you qualify leads until they’re accepted by sales.
  • Bottom of the funnel is where you turn SALs (sales accepted leads) into actual customers.

After you’ve mapped out the funnel, track two metrics:

  • Conversion rate for each channel, each stage and the overall funnel. You should know exactly how many of your blog readers give you their email addresses, and how many of your Twitter followers turn into qualified leads.
  • Total number of prospects. While conversion rate is important, it is also critical to keep your funnel well-fed with prospects. Tracking this metric will ensure that a) your funnel is never dry, and b) you know your best traffic sources.

While tracking the total number of prospects is relatively straightforward, you might struggle to measure conversion rate for indirect traffic sources (especially if you do a lot of offline marketing). Think of creative ways to track such traffic such as custom URLs with UTM parameters.

2. Follow usability heuristics in your designs

Way back in 1995, Jakob Nielsen of the NNGroup shared 10 usability heuristics for UI design. These heuristics focused on keeping users clued into the status of the page, developing a consistent user-experience, and emphasizing flexibility. If you look at the list, you’ll realize that they are as applicable today as they were 20 years ago.

Keep these heuristics in mind when you’re designing the first version of your site. This is particularly true for B2B buyers who are often asked to perform more cognitively complex tasks (such as filling out multiple form fields).
For instance, Nielsen recommends that users should always know the “system status.” This essentially means that at no time should users be confused about where they are on the page and what they should do next.

You might accomplish this by using breadcrumb navigation or a progress bar on a multi-step checkout page.
As an example, consider LeadPages’ opt-in box. The progress bar at the top lets users know at all times how far along they are in completing the form.

You should, of course, modify your page once results from your A/B tests come in. The first version of your design, however, should always follow usability best practices.

3. Align your sales funnel with your buyer’s journey

Your buyer’s journey maps out the path your buyers take to go from “prospect” to “customer.” It is different from a sales funnel in that it describes a cognitive process, not an administrative one. You use the buyer’s journey to understand your customers better, not to organize your own sales process.

To maximize conversions, you need to align your sales funnel with your buyer’s journey. You should know exactly what your customers want at every stage of your funnel.

Consider the first stage in the buyer’s journey – Discovery. During this stage, your customers are unaware of your product or even their own problems. Their queries largely focus on finding answers to these initial questions.

This stage essentially describes the top of your sales funnel. As a seller, you should strive to find out what questions your buyers are asking and creating content to address them. If you can establish yourself as a go-to authority for clear, unbiased answers to buyers’ questions, you will find it much easier to drive leads into your funnel.

The buyer’s journey, thus, must move alongside the seller’s journey.

4. Develop more detailed customer personas

A common factor in poorly converting sales funnels is the lack of detailed customer personas. If you’re defining your customers solely by their demographics – age, location, income, etc. – you likely don’t know them well enough to create high-impact marketing pages.

Expand your customer personas to include psychographics as well as demographics. This means answering more detailed questions about your customers, such as their likes, spending habits, etc.

Jamie Beckland shared a side-by-side comparison of demographic versus psychographic data. The latter gives you a more precise understanding of your ideal customer(s).

It is easier than ever to develop a psychographic profile of your ideal customers thanks to tools like Facebook’s Audience Insights. Start by entering a few seed characteristics like age, location and 1-2 likes, and Facebook will tell you what else your customers like, their lifestyles, and their demographics.

For example, Facebook tells me that 48% of Californians over 25 who like TechCrunch and Gizmodo are married, and that a majority of them are involved in the IT industry. This data is far more insightful than simple demographics. Use it to fine-tune your sales funnel.

5. Develop a robust onboarding process

If you’re selling a product, getting a customer to sign up isn’t enough; you also have to retain them long enough for the relationship to be mutually profitable.

The data shows that only 2.7% of mobile app users stick around after 30 days. There is also a 60% chance that users who don’t come back within 7 days will never return again.

A robust onboarding process is one panacea to this retention problem. This is usually your first touch after conversion. How you reach out to customers here will often set the tone for the rest of your relationship.
Your onboarding should focus on giving users the results they desire. As Lincoln Murphy points out in SixteenVentures, you should strive to give users some “initial success”:

“Since it’s hard to nail it down and there’s no universal definition for it, I prefer to consider a customer ‘onboarded’ once they’ve achieved ‘initial success’ with your product (consider this First Value Delivered – FVD).”

This emphasis on initial success requires a rethinking of the entire onboarding process. Instead of optimizing for your own metrics, optimize for the customer’s success instead. Ask what single thing your customers really want from your product and re-tool the onboarding journey towards it.

For instance, if you’re selling a marketing automation tool, your customers likely want to use it to save time and send automated emails. They won’t see “initial success” until they send their first automated sequence to their list.
Once you know what gives your customers value, you can orient your onboarding process towards it.

6. Personalize the customer experience

Personalization is the difference between a “Dear User” and a “Dear John” greeting on a landing page. According to one report, this personalization can lead to a 19% lift in sales.

Personalization should be a core part of your sales funnel, so every interaction after a lead enters the funnel ought to have a personalized touch. This can be something as simple as mentioning the prospect’s name in email subject lines, or as complex as real-time landing page personalization.

For personalization to be effective, make data collection a priority in your funnel. Develop a plan to gradually collect more data as prospects progress further down the funnel. You can start off by asking for a name and an email, but as you nurture the leads, ask for additional data such as company name, position, revenue, etc.

If you do this right, you’ll be able to create highly personalized experiences that will improve conversions and make for happier users.

Crafting a conversion-focused sales funnel can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are a number of tactics you can use to optimize your funnel for conversions. This includes re-designing your funnel pages, optimizing your onboarding process and adding personalization to every stage of the funnel.


Eric Siu is the CEO of digital marketing agency <a href="">Single Grain</a>, which has helped venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies grow their revenues. He's also the founder of two marketing podcasts, Growth Everywhere and Marketing School.