An important term in the industry ‘Sales Cycle’ is often misunderstood by several people. The modern-day salespeople have access to so many tools for following up with prospects consistently. Unlike the past, where salespeople only had phones, today they can use emails, text messages, remarketing campaigns, phones, etc. to follow-up with the prospects.
The only problem with the modern-day salespeople is that they do not understand the importance of patience in a sales cycle. Instead, they want results instantly. They want the prospect to buy their product/services in a flash. Most of the times, the salespeople need to go through a long sales cycle to really capture the attention of prospect and make a sale. A research suggests that salespeople need to follow up with their prospects at least 8 times through email, and countless times through a phone to really make a sale, (for a cold sale approach).
Maintaining a consistent approach for sales follow-ups is really difficult, especially in the B2B segment where the target prospect is often director-level and c-level executives. Building an email funnel under such circumstances helps a lot.
What is an Email Funnel?
Table of Contents
- 1 What is an Email Funnel?
- 1.1 Understanding the Importance of an Email Funnel
- 1.1.1 Helps You Create a Consistency in Follow-Ups
- 1.1.2 Streamlines Your Sales Efforts
- 1.1.3 Reduces Turn Around Time
- 1.1.4 Helps Establish a Single Process-Flow for the Sales Team
- 1.1.5 Creates Brand Awareness
- 1.1.6 Helps in Remarketing Purposes
- 1.1.7 Open Opportunities for Cross-Sell and Up-Sell
- 1.1.8 Helps in Closing the Sales Faster
- 1.2 Creating a Successful Email Funnel
- 1.2.1 Understand the Need of Your Product/Service
- 1.2.2 Invite Both Marketing and Sales Team into the Process
- 1.2.3 Choose a Marketing Automation Tool
- 1.2.4 Draft Emails for the Funnel
- 1.2.5 Generate a Cadence for the Emails
- 1.2.6 Draft Accessories for the Email Funnel
- 1.2.7 Perform Testing in a Controlled Environment
- 1.2.8 Optimize the Email Funnel and its Contents
- 1.2.9 Throw-In Other Elements for Sales into the Mix
- 1.3 Filling Leaks in an Email Funnel
An email funnel is a short part of the sales cycle that will generate the ‘purchase-intent’ in a prospect. Mainly, email funnels are of one of the two types. The first one is used for prospects that have approached you with a need for your product/services, often known as hot/warm leads. The second one is for prospects that you wish to lure in with a cold sales approach.
Note: The cold sales approach refers to the one applied on prospects that have not shown any active interest in your product/services from their end but are potential customers for your business.
Understanding the difference between the two different types of email/sales funnels is extremely important since a confusion might eventually cause an extremely low lead to conversion ratio. For understanding them easily we shall call the first type of email funnel a ‘Warm Email Funnel’ and the second type of email funnel a ‘Cold Email Funnel.’ Here are some key characteristics for each of these email funnels.
Characteristics of a Warm Email Funnel
- Usually short in length. It may vary from 4 emails to 10 emails depending on the complexity levels of your product/service.
- Requires a very short introductory mail.
- Highly focused message delivery that emphasizes the needs of the prospect.
- Created in line with the specific needs of the individual.
Characteristics of a Cold Email Funnel
- Usually longer in length. It varies from 8 emails to 20 emails. The enterprise-level products/services sold in the B2B segment requires rigorous follow-ups through both emails as well as phone calls.
- Requires an engaging and long introductory email. Maintaining the readability of the introductory email is extremely important due to its long
- Generic message delivery. Different parts of the email campaign may focus on different needs of the prospect. Each email may discover a new feature offered by your service/product.
- Created in accordance with the needs of the company (in the B2B segment) and in needs with the individual (in the B2C segment).
Understanding the Importance of an Email Funnel
Email funnels are extremely important in both the B2C as well as B2B segments. However, the level of importance varies drastically between the two. Over 50% of the sales cycle may happen directly through emails in the B2B segment. Therefore, focusing on email funnels is more critical in the B2B segment. Also, the salesperson needs to deal with variations in email funnels for different people in the organization in the B2B segment. The salespeople here need to target multiple prospects from the same company at a time and carefully assess the effects of emails on each individual.
Here are a few key reasons why email funnels are so important.
Helps You Create a Consistency in Follow-Ups
Consistency in follow-ups is what really helps a salesperson drill down to the exact needs of the prospects. It is essential that you sell the right type of products to the right customer to ensure repeatability of the business. This creates a sustainable sales model for the business which thereby helps in the growth of the company over time. Maintaining this consistency also helps in making sure that your sales efforts lead you to at least a small-scale sale if not an enterprise-level one.
Streamlines Your Sales Efforts
Huge organizations often have a large sales team. To uplift the brand image, it is extremely important that the sales team follows a streamlined sales process. Without streamlining the efforts in the right manner, every salesperson will follow his/her own cadence for the emails. This creates an overall imbalance in the distribution of closures across the team. While one salesperson might close 10 huge deals in a single quarter, the other salesperson might turn up empty-handed.
Reduces Turn Around Time
The Turn Around Time, aka the TAT, is an important metric that measures the effectiveness of a sales team in an organization. The best sales team have a TAT that does not exceed a few minutes. In the case of hot leads, the TAT of an efficient sales team can be as short as 30 seconds. The reduction in the overall TAT helps in providing an excellent customer experience to the prospects.
Helps Establish a Single Process-Flow for the Sales Team
A sales manager knows the importance of organizing the process-flow for the sales team. Without the right type of process-flow mechanism, the sales team will act disoriented and in an unorganized manner. With the single process-flow and cadence, the entire team will stay on track and make sure that no potential lead goes untouched in the process.
Creates Brand Awareness
Email funnels are extremely important in building brand awareness in a growing market. The importance rises by a significant amount when the market is relatively new or saturated. For example, today a new brand of shoes might have to put in extra efforts in their email funnels to compete with Adidas, Nike, Puma, etc. On the other hand, a business selling RPA services might have to design the campaign in an impactful manner to fit the long list of features in short emails.
Helps in Remarketing Purposes
Email funnels are excellent for remarking purposes. Amazon, Walmart, ebay and other e-commerce vendors often use the email funnels to close potential deals in the B2C segment very quickly. With remarketing they can easily make sure that no potential lead goes across the funnel without conversion. Ever received messages that look like ‘You have following items in your shopping cart, waiting for you?’ These messages help in remarketing the same product/service again and again till the purchase-intent converts into a sale.
Open Opportunities for Cross-Sell and Up-Sell
Email funnels also help in cross-selling and up-selling purposes. Several companies in the B2C segment increase their revenue by selling relevant items via cross-selling. Let’s say that you recently purchased an iPhone X from Amazon. There are good chances that within 24 hours of placing the order and making the payment, you get emails that show you great mobile covers for iPhone X.
Some e-commerce websites don’t even wait for an email. They show sections on the website under subheadings like ‘Recommended for You’ or ‘Customers Also Bought’ etc.
Helps in Closing the Sales Faster
Lastly, an email funnel helps in closing the overall sales faster. Several companies in the B2B segment may need to exchange pertinent documents such as NDAs to close the deal. Having a strong email funnel for companies that pushing for fast closure helps the salespeople a lot.
Today, the operating characteristics of an email funnel are extremely simplified due to automation. Most companies use email automation and marketing automation tools in conjunction with an intuitive CRM to keep track of the emails. Now, the salespeople do not need to sit and customize each email according to the need of the target prospect. In fact, they can easily automate the overall process using mail merge fields.
Mail merge fields are basically automated tools that help you customize a small portion of the email such as the name of the person. It auto-populates a string of text in the email. For example, the email that reads,
Today, I wanted to introduce our company’s finest product…..’
Will automatically pick up the name of the person from the CRM. Therefore, the salespeople can launch an email blast that can target thousands of people at the same time with little customization. This helps in making sure that the salespeople focus on tasks that require more logical thinking like market research. The advanced marketing automation tools also help the salespeople schedule a string of emails for particular date and time well in advance.
Creating a Successful Email Funnel
You can create your own email funnel to reap the benefits today. It is a good idea to create an email funnel as quickly as possible in the initial stages and put it into action. Instead of wasting a lot of time in market research, create an email funnel in the spur of the moment with your team. This way, you can start testing it quickly. With time, you will learn how to optimize the overall email funnel and its contents according to the needs of the prospects.
Follow these steps to create your own email funnel for a successful campaign.
Understand the Need of Your Product/Service
The best salespeople solve a problem, not the product/service. They understand that the prospects are keen on solving an existing problem instead of purchasing a new product/service with fancy features. Step into the shoes of the prospects to understand their problems and design your email campaigns around the same. For example, instead of boasting a great mileage on the bike, boast how your prospects can save a lot of money on fuel costs. While both the statements mean the same, they focus on completely different aspects of sales.
Here, you also need to understand the urgency of implementation of the product/service. For example, the implementation cycle of an enterprise-level product may take up to several weeks. So, until the prospect does not sign the red-dotted line, the deal is considered open, even on verbal confirmation.
Invite Both Marketing and Sales Team into the Process
The marketing team of your organization knows the importance of keywords in an email campaign. It knows how to spice up the features of the product in the right manner. On the other hand, the sales team understands the needs of the prospect better than everyone else. It knows how to capture the attention of the prospect in the right manner. When both the team participate in the process, you can generate a customer-centric email funnel that guarantees a great conversion ratio.
Choose a Marketing Automation Tool
Choose the right type of tools to assist your sales team in the process. Your choice depends on the number of features, ease of use, cost, the time taken for implementation, etc. You need to consider various factors for the choice of all the tools that will assist the sales team. It is a good idea to take the minimalistic approach while making the choice. If you plan on testing a lot of tools, you might end up losing valuable time with the prospects. Sales is a dynamic process that requires a lot of optimization down the road.
Draft Emails for the Funnel
Once you have chosen the right marketing automation tool, it is time to feed engaging content into the tool. You need to leverage all the information that you collected from both your sales as well as the marketing team to draft the emails in a customer-centric manner. As mentioned earlier, the approach for drafting the emails is different for warm/hot and cold leads. A good practice involves drafting two different funnels for the different types of prospects.
Make sure that your emails provide true value to the customers. If needed, throw necessary incentives in form of an e-book or a whitepaper with the email. You can ask the prospects to fill a short survey or give pertinent contact information in return for the incentive. Incentivizing the sales process is the best way to ensure a faster closure.
Generate a Cadence for the Emails
Now, you need to generate an effective cadence for the emails. Too many emails in a short period can create a nagging experience and ruin the overall reputation of your brand. Therefore, you need to put an ample amount of space between the emails. This way, you can make sure that the prospect feels welcome instead of irritated.
The right type of cadence will cover enough touchpoints and leverage the other modes of communication with the prospect too. While generating the cadence for the email funnel, make sure that you don’t send 2-3 emails and 2-3 follow-up calls on the same day. This type of approach will only make you look needy for a quick sale.
Draft Accessories for the Email Funnel
Draft other important accessories like landing pages and whitepapers/e-books for your campaign. Make sure that your marketing team can incentivize the process of collecting information in the right way. Without the right type of contact information, your sales team will feel handicap. Even the best market research tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator and ZoomInfo are not completely reliable.
The best source of information for your campaign is the one that comes directly from the prospect. Ask a lot of questions to find the pain points of the prospect.
Perform Testing in a Controlled Environment
Most digital marketers commit the mistake of launching the campaign without testing it first. Use A/B testing to test the effectiveness of your email funnel contents. A/B tests can help you test the landing pages as well as emails. For other components of the email funnel, you might have to use other tools. While testing, collect all the data you can regarding the open rates, click rates, as well as spam rates. The more data you collect, the easier it is for you to optimize the email funnel in the next step.
Optimize the Email Funnel and its Contents
From the data that you collect in the testing phase, you can optimize the email funnel contents and cadence in the right manner. For example, one of your emails received a staggering open rate of 50%. The open-rate on an average is 20.81%. You need to drill down on the components of this particular email and apply its strong points to other emails too. You can study the subject line of the email under great open rate scenarios. On the other hand, let’s say that one of your emails got an excellent click rate. Under such circumstances, you need to study the email body content and its readability to apply its perks to the other emails in the cadence.
Throw-In Other Elements for Sales into the Mix
Now, your email funnel is almost ready. You need to put an armor of strong follow-ups around it. The best email funnels leverage the other modes of connection too. Your salespeople might have to make several calls, send messages over LinkedIn as well as run ads on the Google AdWords platform to grab the attention of the prospects.
By leveraging all these means of content, your sales team can establish a strong point of contact in an enterprise. If the prospect is not directly the decision-maker, he/she will act your salesperson for the decision-maker. Under such scenarios, you need to incentivize the process further.
Filling Leaks in an Email Funnel
Even the best email funnels are leaky to a certain extent. A leak in a funnel is the point where your prospect loses interest in the product/service that you offer. Leaks are dangerous since they can effectively ruin the whole email/sales funnel. Here are some of the most common leaky points in an email funnel and the ways on how to fill them.
Landing pages are the salespeople’s best and worst friends. A good landing page will help the salespeople collect pertinent contact information in a flash. On the other hand, a bad landing page will go completely unnoticed.
The best way to ensure that your landing page does not go unnoticed is to create a short and aesthetically appealing page. Use graphics, pictures, videos, etc. to capture the attention of the prospects. Great landing pages can also identify the wrong type of data. For example, the landing page can identify the number of digits in a phone number and the format of an email ID. Incentivize the landing page with great content to collect the right information.
Everyone wants a good product. However, people do not want to spend a single penny on it. Pricing queries is an extremely leaky point in a sales cycle.
To plug this leak, you need to teach your salespeople how to defend the pricing of the product in the right manner. The best salespeople never offer discounts. In fact, they know the value of the product/service that they are selling and have an upper hand in pricing queries.
Consistency of Follow-Ups
A consistent follow-up helps your salespeople close the deal faster. We know that a lack of follow-ups will eventually push the prospect away. However, too many follow-ups in a short period can ruin the reputation of your company.
Lack of Market Research
You need to handle the leads extremely carefully. Never give away leads to the sales team without doing enough research on them. In fact, the best organizations often have a dedicated market research team that will do the complete background check and research for the sales team. Good market research helps your sales team do the thing that it is good at, that is, close!
A great sales funnel will not only help your company get more deals in a shorter period, but it will also help your company maintain sustainable growth over the years. There is nothing like a ‘Perfect Email Funnel.’ In fact, the best email funnels are the ones that are optimized again and again at regular intervals.