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How do Sales Funnels and Customer Journeys relate to each other?

Sep 13

If you are at all involved in the marketing and sales world, you’ve probably heard many terms thrown around such as a marketing funnel, a sales funnel, conversion funnels, the customer journey and more.

Is it all semantics? Do these terms all describe the same thing, or is it important to differentiate between them? The answer to the latter question is yes, they are different and it is crucial to know the difference between each term.

Moreover, each term does not stand in isolation. In fact, most are interlinked and need to be considered in relation to the other. In this case, we’ll focus on the sales funnel and the customer journey, how they differ, and how they are connected.

What Is a Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel is a continuation of the marketing funnel, occupying the lower and narrowest end of the conically shaped funnel.

As visualised here, it is clear that the sales funnel picks up once marketing has identified qualified leads and passes them along to sales. At this point, a potential customer has signalled to the marketing team that they are interested in the brand and the service or product this brand has to offer. Now the sales team takes over to try to convert this prospect into a buying customer. Just how do they do it though?

Sales will try to engage a qualified lead by making phone calls or setting appointments. The team will encourage leads to take action, either by signing up to a mailing list, participating in an event, signing up for a free trial, or purchasing a product. Once the prospect signals a commitment to the company’s product or service, the conversion from lead to customer has been made.

Sales teams are also concerned with customer retention, meaning they conduct follow-ups and seek feedback from their customers. This step is becoming increasingly important for companies, because it boosts customer loyalty and ultimately increases revenue. In fact, the probability of selling to an existing customer is between 60%-70%, while to new customers it is only between 5%-20%.

What Is a Customer Journey?

To visualise a customer journey, you need to zoom out and think of the bigger picture. A customer journey is a full set of experiences, consisting of detailed phases, that a customer takes from start to finish when engaging with a company or business. Let’s break down this journey step by step:

  • Awareness: A potential customer discovers a company or brand through ads, search engines or even word of mouth.
  • Interest: A customer indicates interest by visiting the company’s website, clicking on ads, sometimes even reaching out to the company via chatbots or emails to ask specific questions about the product.
  • Consideration: The marketing team nurtures a lead, and the potential customer engages with tailored content that assists in further guiding their future purchasing decision. A prospect might sign up to email lists, newsletters, or download a free ebook.
  • Intent: Based on the prospect’s frequent interaction with various content, the marketing team determines a potential customer as a qualified lead, signalling intent to make a purchase. This is also the stage where the sales and marketing team overlap in a “handoff” of sorts, whereby the marketing team has done the legwork to establish a substantive relationship with this lead, and now the sales team takes over to guide the customer into purchasing the product or service.
  • Evaluation: Before a customer makes a final decision to purchase, they will often take one last step to evaluate competitor’s services, making sure they are ultimately going for the service that best fits their needs.
  • Purchase: Finally, the customer makes the decision to purchase. A negotiation may take place before the transaction is made, but ultimately, both parties find a suitable agreement.

How Are They Connected?

A sales funnel is inherently part of the customer’s journey. It is increasingly important for sales teams to take a more holistic approach when engaging with prospects and customers, instead of operating in isolation from the whole process. This means that salespeople are making efforts to inform themselves of the experience a customer has had even before making direct contact with them. Knowing the full scope of a customer’s journey requires sales to communicate and work together with the marketing team, since they are typically a first point of contact.

Final Thoughts

So does a sales funnel and the customer journey go together? The answer is a resounding yes. We now see how these two terms are interlinked. But let’s take it a step further and say that while sales funnels and the customer journey are distinct, they both enhance and nurture one another. Salespeople are beginning to place themselves in a larger and more holistic process, thereby strengthening the quality of their work and impact they make on customers. It is clear that this approach increases a company’s overall revenue and finally, improves the customer journey to make them want to stick around for the long run.