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What Is A Sales Funnel? AND Why Your Business Needs One

In this in-depth guide you'll discover exactly what a sales funnel is, and why your business needs one. A sales funnel is a revenue-generating machine.

Navid Moazzez
Navid Moazzez
12 min read

Table of Contents

What is a sales funnel?

A sales funnel is a revenue-generating machine...

It’s the crux of any successful company…

And it’s a big part of how I’ve grown my own business.

Sales funnels drive profits, boost conversions, and increase ROI.

This is a beginner’s guide to funnelology and an ideal starting point for anyone who is just starting out with funnels.

It’s also a great tool for anyone who wants to brush up on their foundational funnel knowledge because I cover all the core concepts.

Sales funnels make the marketing world go round, and if you want to make more money online, you’re going to need to have them dialed in.

You’ll find a table of contents below so you can hop around to the sections that most interest you.

But before we get rolling...there are two different ways to use this guide:

Way #1: Read it like an article from top to bottom. I organized the topics so that they build on each other. If you’re a complete beginner, I recommend you do this at least once.

Way #2: Use it like the world’s most epic sales funnel dictionary (it kind of is).

Let’s dig in!

What Is A Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel is a series of pages, pop-ups, opt-in bars, and emails that prepare customers to buy.

This can happen gradually (over the course of months and years) or rapidly (in a matter of seconds and minutes).

Sales funnels work best if you have multiple products to sell, and you’ll understand why as you read on.

You’re going to learn the answers to key questions like...

  • What is a front end funnel?
  • What is a back end funnel?
  • What is a sales funnel value ladder?
  • What is an upsell and a downsell?

But before we get started, let’s figure out if you even need a sales funnel.

Does Your Business Need a Sales Funnel?

If you sell anything at all, YES, you need a sales funnel.

In fact, if you already run a successful business, chances are you already have a basic sales funnel without even knowing it.

A couple of decades ago, the hot question among entrepreneurs was, “Do I need a website?”

Although there are exceptions, nowadays this question would be completely and totally ridiculous even to ask.

Of course you need a website! If your business doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t exist.

Today, the same question has shifted to sales funnels, and the answer is emphatically and absolutely YES!

After all, you have to warm customers up somehow, and funnels are the best way you do it.

What Is a Sales Funnel Hook?

A sales funnel hook is the thing that grabs the customer’s attention.

It’s what stops them in their tracks.

No matter how enticing your offer is, nobody’s going to buy if you can’t get their attention in the first place, and that’s where a hook comes in.

It might be a…

  • Headline
  • Image
  • Ad
  • Button

The next time you’re scrolling your Facebook feed and you stop to look at something, the hook is what made you do it.

Trying to come up with a good headline to hook your reader?

Think of it this way: if you heard somebody say it while you were walking down the street, would it force you to stop and turn your head?

That’s a hook!

What Is a Sales Funnel Offer

A sales funnel offer is the frame that makes your product an attractive purchase, and it’s what separates your product from all the other versions that are out there.

Without an offer, the seller with the lowest price usually wins (considering that quality is relatively equal).

But what if you presented your product in a way that made it infinitely more attractive?

That’s where an offer comes in and it can turn even the most average product into a bestseller.

The key is to add a ton of perceived value without eating into your bottom line.

So the question is, what can you add to make your product way more valuable to your customers?”

If you sell cooking equipment, you could add digital access to a cooking class, a recipe book, and other low-cost accessories like a pot scrubber and kitchen utensils.

Or let’s say you sell iPhones — you could sell the same phone that everyone else sells for $297 for $597... all you have to do is throw in bonus subscriptions, access to extra apps, and a few months of free data.

These things cost you much less that $300 to give away, but it allows you to increase the price significantly.

Catch my drift?

What Is a Hook, Story, Offer?

A hook, Story, Offer is the full arch of how you get your customers to care about your offer.

The hook grabs their attention, the story motivates with emotion, and the offer makes it irresistible (even if you’re charging a significantly higher price).

One of the most common mistakes that entrepreneurs make is they hype up the technical side of why their product is better.

But most people don’t buy with logic...they buy with emotion.

If you try to sell with a bunch of techie-babble, chances are it’s going to fall on deaf ears.

Instead, tell an emotional story of how you first fell in love with your product — your audience will want to experience the same positive emotions, and it’ll drive them to buy.

What Is a Sales Funnel Tripwire Offer?

A tripwire offer is an affordable entry-level product that’s designed to get the customer into the funnel.

This is usually a low-priced product that doesn’t take a ton of work to convince someone to buy.

Free + Shipping books and free quizzes are great tripwires.

Here are some examples of Russel’s Free + Shipping books that he uses as tripwires:

  • Traffic Secrets
  • DotCom Secrets
  • Expert Secrets
  • 108 Proven Split Test Winners
  • Network Marketing Secrets
  • Software Secrets
  • Funnel Hackers Cookbook

He gives these away for free (the customer just pays for shipping) and they act as juicy bait.

What Is a Sales Funnel Bump Offer?

A bump offer (or order bump) is a moderately-priced product that a customer can add at the checkout cart.

They’re the equivalent of the candy, gum, batteries, and magazines that are at every checkout stand.

Bump offers should at most be slightly more expensive than the main offer.

For example, you’d never pair a $97 bump offer with a $17 main offer.

What Is a Sales Funnel Upsell?

An upsell is higher value and more expensive than the product they just bought.

Upsells take advantage of the fact that people are more likely to buy if they’ve just purchased something else.

By offering an upsell immediately after someone buys, you can dramatically increase your average cart value.

In fact, upsells are one of the main strategies that turn a struggling funnel into a wildly successful one.

What Is a Sales Funnel Downsell?

A downsell is any product that’s less expensive than the product someone just turned down.

For example, let’s say someone just purchased your main offer, but when you presented the upsell they said no.

Finally, you downsell them a less expensive product.

It gives you one last shot at getting more money out of the customer and boosting your average cart value.

What Is Sales Funnel Traffic Temperature?

Traffic temperature is how aware a person is of the problems they have and how your product can solve them.

Traffic is either HOT, WARM, or COLD and as customers heat up they move along the 5 Stages of Awareness.

Here are The 5 Stages of Awareness from coldest to hottest:

Stage #1: Unaware - they don’t even know that they have a problem

Stage #2: Problem Aware - they know they have a problem, but they don’t know how to fix it

Stage #3: Solution Aware - they know what the problem is and how to fix it

Stage #4: Product Aware - they know that your product can solve their problem

Stage #5: Most Aware - they have close-to expert level knowledge of the industry, including what your product is and how it can help them

Knowing their traffic temperature is one of the most important factors because it determines how you speak to your audience.

As customers move through the stages of awareness, they get warmer and warmer until they’re piping hot and ready to buy.

What Is a Front End Sales Funnel?

Front end funnels sell the first products that your customers buy and bring new customers into the funnel.

In other words, they lure new leads into the net.

Believe it or not, making money isn’t the goal of a front end funnel.

In fact, it can be part of a profitable marketing strategy to either break even or lose money.

Russell has a finely-tuned front end where he actually makes money on each new lead, but this is actually pretty rare in the marketing world.

It might seem counterintuitive, but front end funnels are usually built after back end funnels. First you build the net (backend) and then you make the bait (front end).

But if you want to start generating leads before you have a back end, it’s not out of the question, just know that it will take you longer to recoup your costs…

...that is unless you use virtual summits.

Virtual summits build authority, grow an email list, and build relationships...all while generating substantial revenue in all-access pass sales.

If you haven’t heard of summits before, they’re basically webinars on steroids.

But I haven’t even told you the best part…

You can use summits to generate even more revenue by selling affiliate products off the back end...

What Is a Back End Sales Funnel?

Back end funnels are your profit maximizers.

When I ran my very first virtual summit back in 2014, I made $20k in all-access pass sales (not bad if you ask me) but I made a whopping $40k in affiliate sales for Ramit Sethi’s info product off the back end.

Other back end products include software subscriptions, online courses, and high-ticket coaching programs, like these from Russell Brunson:

  • Funnel Builder Secrets
  • Funnel Hacks Masterclass
  • The One Funnel Away Challenge
  • Funnel University
  • Funnel Scripts
  • Two Comma Club Coaching

The difference between ultra-successful marketers and the ones who fail are that experienced marketers focus on the back end, while rookie marketers focus on the front end.

Back end funnels are usually (but not always) built first.

As customers get more and more comfortable with you and your brand, they’ll be more likely to buy expensive products.

At the end of the day, front end and back end funnels work together to build trust and move your customers up the value ladder…

What Is a Sales Funnel Value Ladder?

A value ladder is all your products organized from easiest-to-sell (and least expensive) to hardest-to-sell (and most expensive).

The goal is to move customers from the bottom of the value ladder to the top of the value ladder.

In order to do this you have to build trust and authority by nurturing your audience.

Front-end products, like ebooks, go at the bottom of the value ladder — these can be used as bump offers and downsells for higher-priced products.

Back-end products, like info courses and high-ticket coaching, go at the top of the value ladder.

These can be used as upsells for lower-priced products.

A customer enters the value ladder when they give you their email and buy an entry-level product.

This is where the customer journey begins.

Over time you move them up the value ladder and sell them more expensive back end products.

What Is a Sales Funnel Squeeze Page?

A squeeze page is usually the first page in a funnel and its sole purpose is to collect the email.

It’s important to do this first because if they abandon the funnel you can at least retarget them later.

What Is a Break Even Sales Funnel?

A break even funnel is a funnel that acquires leads without having to pay for them, and you do this by offering bump offers and upsells.

The way it works is that you drive traffic through the funnel with paid ads using a tripwire offer as bait.

When they put in their credit card, you offer them a bump offer.

After they place the order, you send them to a one-time offer page where they upgrade.

Most people will pass on the upsells, but enough people will buy to cover the cost of your ads.

When it all shakes out you’ll have a pile of new leads for free!

What Are the Stages of a Sales Funnel?

Sales funnels can be broken down into seven main stages:

Here’s a quick overview of the 7 Stages of a Sales Funnel:

  • Stage #1: Traffic Temperature
  • Stage #2: Pre-Frame Bridge
  • Stage #3: Qualify Subscribers
  • Stage #4: Qualify Buyers
  • Stage #5: Identify Hyperactive Buyers
  • Stage #6: Age and Ascend the Relationship
  • Stage #7: Change the Selling Environment

In Stage #1 you gauge how likely a customer is to buy.

Then in Stage #2 you frame your offer in a way that speaks directly to them.

From there you see who is willing to give you their email and who is willing to bust out their wallet and buy.

Keep warming them up for bigger sales and then change the selling environment when it’s time to sell your ultra high-ticket products.

Designing Your Sales Funnel (looks matter)

When it comes to design, always consider how each element will affect your conversions.

In other words, just because a feature looks nice doesn’t mean it will help you sell more.

Never sacrifice conversions for style!

For example, you can create custom buttons in Photoshop but they won’t have the hover effect of typical buttons.

This can destroy conversions because people might not be able to tell that it’s something they can click on.

Other features, on the other hand, can subtly enhance the visitor experience without being distracting.

If you take a look at Russell’s Expert Secrets book funnel, at first glance it seems like just a plain black background, but it’s actually a dimmed image of people attending one of his events.

Touches like these add texture and make the visitor feel more at home.

Design can also affect how your site functions.

When you load images, try to keep the file size as small as possible without sacrificing quality.

Small images increase page load times and decrease bounce rates (how quickly visitors leave).

At the same time, small images also tend to look better on mobile devices...

What Is a Mobile-Friendly Sales Funnel?

A mobile-friendly sales funnel is one that’s looks and works great on mobile devices.

This is more important than ever because more searches happen on mobile devices than desktops.

The good news is that as long as you keep your sales pages simple, you shouldn’t have any problem with being mobile-friendly.

In fact, pretty much all sales funnel builders and page builders, including ClickFunnels and Leadpages, have mobile responsive designs.

However, some elements still might not jive with mobile devices, and in that case you’ll want to create duplicate versions of that feature...then set one as mobile-only and the other as desktop-only.

How To Make Your Pages Mobile-Friendly With ClickFunnels:

Step #1: switch between desktop and mobile views in the top left of the page builder. Check to make sure that everything looks great in both views.

Step #2: If you find that an element doesn’t look right on mobile, just click on the element and click the Edit Element button.

Step #3: A control panel will pop up on the right side of the screen and from there you can change the font size specifically for mobile.

But what if an entire page section doesn’t look right on mobile?

That’s an easy fix too...the same process can be applied to whole page sections.

Just duplicate the page section then set one copy to mobile-only and one to desktop-only.

That’s all there is to it.

Each one will only display on their respective devices.

What Is a Sales Funnel Split Test?

A split test is the process of tracking funnel performance to see which features deliver the best results.

Something as simple as the color of an opt-in button can dramatically affect conversions...but page design is just one of many different things to test.

Headlines and other pieces of copy can either make or break your funnel, and you should always split test different combinations of upsells and downsells to find the most profitable offers.

The Science of Sales Funnels

The Science of Sales Funnels is Russel Brunson’s break down of the structure of sales funnels and why they work.

He covers all of these major concepts in his first book, DotCom Secrets, where he explains value ladders and how to arrange your pages so that customers naturally flow from Page #1 to Page #2.

You’ll also learn which scripts to use on which pages.

The Art of Sales Funnels

The Art of Sales Funnels is the process of connecting with your audience and motivating them to buy.

After Russell released his ClickFunnels).

Why were some marketers crushing it and some still struggling?

The answer is that they lacked the persuasive copy that drove conversions.

In Russell’s second book, Expert Secrets, he explains how to build a brand, build a following, write killer copy, and decide what stories to tell to connect with your audience.

Your Next Steps: Want Help Building Your First Or Next Sales Funnel?

Thanks for taking the time to read my epic sales funnel dictionary.

It’s a great place to start your funnel journey, but if you’re serious about funnels you’re going to want more.

Russell’s books are a great way to continue your funnel education, but when it comes time to actually build your first funnel it can feel overwhelming.

The One Funnel Away Challenge is one of my favorite ClickFunnels courses (I’ve already gone through it twice).

It walks you step-by-step as you build a funnel in just 30 days, and you’ll be joined by a really supportive community.

You can check out my full in-depth review of The One Funnel Away Challenge here to learn more.

What stage is your business in and how are you going to leverage funnels?

💼 Business

Navid Moazzez Twitter

Navid Moazzez is a law school dropout turned lifestyle entrepreneur, creator, online marketing expert, investor, digital nomad and global citizen. Now he's teaching you all his best secrets.

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