How to build a sales funnel

Ah, the most simple (yet effective) marketing technique there is in the modern world: The Sales Funnel (also called purchasing funnel)!

In fact, in 1898, E. St. Elmo Lewis was the first to conceptualize the typical sales funnel model! I’ll bet that it’s older than you thought!.

Therefore, the very principles behind effective sales funnels have been used for longer than the internet has been around, there have just been different names for them.

For example, what we call “lead-generators/magnets” in the digital marketing space can be called “loss-leaders” in a retail environment! Business principles remain business principles, after all.

Sales funnels have recently been conceptualized to meet and take advantage of the broad online marketing opportunities that we have available to us. Today, I’d like to give you some information on what a sales funnel is, how it looks, and how you can go ahead and create one for your own business/brand!

What Is A Sales Funnel?

The sales funnel process.
Photo by Medium

So, What is a sales funnel and how can we go about making one?

Great Question!

A Sales Funnel is defined as a “consumer-focused marketing model that illustrates the theoretical customer journey towards the purchase of a product or service.” – Wikipedia

Ultimately, a sales funnel is your theoretical marketing conversion process. From creating awareness of your product or service to instilling a purchasing decision from the potential customer.

Have you ever seen those Facebook gurus or others who offer free books, courses, lessons, coaching, or more? Of course, you have!

They’re everywhere.

If you engaged with their CTA (call-to-action) then you were inevitably funneled.

Funneling is not a bad thing, it’s just an automated sales process, one that you can take good advantage of!

Here’s what I’ve learned about the consumer purchasing decision. It ALWAYS follows a predictable path, more specifically, a path that you need to model in order to set up an effective funnel.

So, let’s get into the very basic components of an effective sales funnel, and how you can create one!

Sales Funnel Components

In this section, we are going to break down the entire sales process from the perspective of a potential consumer and their engagement with your brand.

Consumer conversion always follows a standardized process, that process looks like this:

– Awareness
– Discovery
– Evaluation
– Intent
– Purchase
– Loyalty

Not a single one of these points can be missing if you wish to build a brand that influences the market in a big way. Without loyalty, you run out of consumers.

Without a purchase, you run out of money.

Without intent, you don’t make your offer known

And so on and so forth.

Ultimately, these are the necessary steps that exist at their respective levels of the funnel.

Think of it this way: Creating awareness is the very wide top of the funnel that allows you to prospect and reach your potential consumers. You catch more fish with a wider net, after all.

. Creating loyalty is at the bottom of the funnel – the most siphoned-off point in the funneling process. At this point, people who have bought and engaged with your brand have experienced value first-hand.

Let’s break down each of these steps into actionable components for your content marketing purposes!

Step 1: Awareness

Awareness is about prospecting the consumers and making your product or offer known. Without the awareness that your brand, product, or service even exists, how do you expect to sell anything?

In fact, awareness (according to Pareto’s Principle) is the 20% of the funnel that results in 80% of sales. With awareness, you will go from 0% of sales to a relative 100%, but only once people know that you, and your product/service, exist in the first place!

Awareness can be had by a variety of means. Most often, it is done by leveraging a small, but enticing, offer.

This offer is what I previously referred to as a lead-magnet. A lead magnet is a valuable incentive to your prospects to get them to begin the funneling process.

For example: ebook downloads, newsletters, exclusive groups, online quizzes, white pages, and more…

Ultimately, the lead-magnet is designed to pique interest and display value from the beginning of the funnel to create awareness and engagement from your prospects.

Once the prospect is in the funnel, you have their interest and awareness, however, this is not as easy as it may seem.

Due to the saturation of offers, online marketers, gurus, and more, people are becoming more and more wary of who they give their money too.

Therefore, factoring in the way you build trust into your funnel will make a HUGE difference in the funnel’s ability to convert prospects into engaging prospects.

Consider this: a prospect that finds you organically through SEO is going to inherently trust you and your authority more than if they became aware of your offer through paid promotion.


This is because the prospect, through the process of their OWN discovery, does not feel like they have undue pressure to buy. In other words, they don’t feel they are being “sold to”.

This causes them to perceive more internal value in the product or service, as opposed to a likelihood of inflated value for the market place.

What this means is that if you are attempting to promote your offer through various marketing channels, you will need to first develop a trusting relationship and authority with the prospect before you begin to see wildly converting funnels.

This is where value comes in! Make sure you actually solve the consumer’s problems and reach their “pain points”. That’s the goal of any good consumer experience, after all.

Your lead-magnet needs to be truly valuable, that’s the only way they will continue down the funneling process.

Step 2: Discovery

Discovery is where you really begin to work on developing a relationship. After all, it’s fairly easy to set up a few ads that get a few clicks on Facebook. (I’ve done so with nothing but a stock picture and a single sentence, and it converted pretty well considering its size, more than 1.5%)

(Note: Average CTR for Facebook is .9%, For Google AdWords, It’s 2%)

The discovery phase is when your prospects really start getting to know you, and to do that, you need to become a like-able and memorable person for them.

I’m not saying you have to put on an act, far from it, but what I am saying is that you obviously have an answer to their problem.

That’s why they engaged with you, after all.

The discovery phase is where you start to define the problem more clearly in terms of your OWN experience. This helps your audience relate to you, clarifies exactly how you can help, and further narrows the funnel for dedicated prospects.

Your contact with the prospect(s) needs to be personable and interesting, This is where the power of storytelling comes in.

Offer your own experiences in the form of a story. But break up the story into manageable and consumable chunks to avoid overloading your audience.

This is what Russel Brunson in his book, Expert Secrets, calls a “drip rate.” Essentially a “drip rate” is the frequency that you send messages to your audience.

The other important factor is that you provide value in each and every message you send. Try to avoid ending messages on huge cliffhangers, as this may just annoy your prospects.

The reason you provide amazing and interesting value is to train your prospects to continue opening your emails and seeing your name/offers. “Train” sounds like an inhumane word to use, but I’m only referring to building the habit of audience retention!

Step 3: Evaluation

The evaluation stage is where you provide your actual offer and make your product/service better known. It should be relatively short, sweet, and not littered with sales jargon and pressure.

In an online environment especially, where there is almost limitless competition, pressure will only turn your consumers away from your message and brand.

It is easy to ignore things in cyberspace, after all. That includes annoying things like salespeople and pressure-inducing copy.

When considering your offer, take into account the 1% rule. More specifically, for every 99 words, 1 can be used for selling. That means in a 1,000-word copy, 10 can be used for an offer (roughly a sentence).

Although this rule is not hard and fast by any means, it is a useful way to monitor and keep the pressure in check when you create your copywriting messages. This only ensures that you avoid turning your audience away, and further increases your exposure to them!

For example, take a look at one of my youtube videos HERE, notice how short and sweet the offer is at the end of the videos AFTER I provide the value.

Remember, no pressure!

Step 4: Intent

This one is fairly quick and easy.

All you have to do here is finalize the offer or proposal. This can be done through the check-out process (for retail) or proposal (for services).

Essentially, you want to ensure the consumer knows and expects the right things from you. That way you can deliver at or above the expectations of the consumer, but NEVER below.

This is why intent is important.

Be sure the consumer knows what you plan on doing for them, and what they can expect. If you fulfill your promise, their expectations have been met.

If you do more than fulfill their expectations, it’s only the icing on the cake!

Step 5: Purchase

A man making a purchase with a credit card.

The point we’ve all been waiting for! Getting your consumers to make a purchase decision isn’t easy, but this is what we want.

Above and beyond your previous efforts, consumers want verification that you can be trusted. It’s easy to write copy, but it’s hard to deliver perfectly on your promises.

This is why solidifying your intent and offer with thorough and quality testimonials, reviews, ratings, etc. is SO important. ESPECIALLY if you are running with paid promotion.

Think of it this way, testimonials directly affect your credibility and trust in the eyes of consumers. They feel as though if you can help others effectively, then you can help them.

Try to target and RE-target your prospects.

Targeting: Putting your message in front of prospects
Re-Targeting: Continuing to display your message after an initial sign of interest.

For example, have you ever searched for an amazon product, didn’t buy it, only to have that exact product show up everywhere in your online space? I have. In fact, this happens every day.

Re-targeting is useful because you KNOW that they were aware and interested, and might just need a little push. Therefore, utilize copy, videos, and testimonials to enhance the CREDIBILITY factor of your offer to get them to take action.

Here are a few key principles to eliciting a buy-decision:

Reciprocity: Have you provided outstanding value? If so, people are more likely to do something for you in return, and not only because they believe you can help them (although that is a factor)! be sure to provide lots of value with your lead-magnet and copywriting.

This way, they feel as though you have given them a-lot, and it’s within their interests to give in return!

Authority: How respected are you in the industry? Is your information based on facts, logic, and statistics, or opinions? Have other respected authority figures endorsed you? Remember, people buy with emotion but justify with logic. Give them the logic to justify!

Scarcity: How scarce is your offer? How exclusive is your group/offer? How limited is the time for the discount, or for the number of books that you’re giving away?

Whatever the offer is, make it seem scarce and “now or never.” This prompts them to action

We tend to place more perceived value on things that are scarce and inaccessible.

Social Proof: What are people saying about your products or services? Do you have a good reputation in the online media marketplace? Are the quality of your reviews legitimate? All of these things make a difference in solidifying the perception that the prospect has in your value.

Person-ability: Somebody who likes you, your personality, and can relate to your stories is far more likely to purchase because they see you as another person, perhaps even a friend, and NOT a salesperson. (we’re friends, right?)

Purpose: How much can people relate to your cause? Your purpose? And the reasoning behind why you do what you do? Simon Sinek wrote all about this in his book, Start With Why, and of the benefits that can be had when an organization operates with purpose in mind.

Step 6: Loyalty

How do you deliver your offer? how do you enforce CRM (Customer Relationship Management)? How are you going to use loyalty to enforce MORE buying decisions?

Loyalty really boils down to two things:

1. Did you deliver on the expectations and promise that you built throughout the funnel? and…

2. Are you viewed as an organization, or a community that the consumer can relate with in the future?

Both of these are necessary. Without delivering on the expectations, you will be perceived as a scam and ruin your reputation. Sell low, deliver high, ALWAYS.

Without building a community, you’ll be easily forgotten and will not be able to build brand recognition or a following. This is why having (and displaying) a dedicated and motivating purpose for others to follow is so important.

Apple Co. (To disrupt the status quo: Innovation/Individuality)
Starbucks Co. (To inspire and nurture the human spirit)
Costco Wholesale: (Highest quality goods at the lowest possible prices)

I mean, come on. Who CAN’T relate to these missions? That’s how you build loyalty.


Ultimately, I hope I was able to inspire you and your own sales funnel of sorts! It may sound difficult, complicated, and unnecessarily detailed, but if I had to boil down the simple actions that make the largest difference, it would be these.

Focus on Awareness First: Like I said, this is the 20% that accounts for 80% of your results.

Focus on Your Lead-Magnet: Without a good one, hardly anybody will engage with you anyways.

Be a HUMAN: Nobody wants to feel like they’re being sold, much less by another large corporation. In the words of Mark Schaefer in his book Marketing Rebellion, “The most human company wins.”

Thanks for reading!
Work With Austin

-Austin Denison is a management consultant and coach from Southern California and founder/CEO of Denison Success Systems LLC. He is the author of The Essential Change Management Guidebook: Master The Art of Organizational Change as well as The Potential Dichotomy: The Philosophy of a Fulfilling Life, and, coming soon: KICK*SS Content Marketing, How to Boost Your Brand and Gather a Following.

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