What Is A Sales Funnel?..& How To Build One

Last Updated on December 20, 2023 by andrewtk

sales funnel

I love sales funnels!

I really do.

That's probably one of the reasons why I've written this post, which is pretty much the anatomy of a sales funnel.

Sales funnels, start-to-finish, top-to-bottom!


You should be…

Here's what we're going to cover:

What is a Sales Funnel?

Sales funnel, marketing funnel, conversion funnel.

They are all one and the same.

The complete path that a visitor to your website will take to the point where they make a purchase (or whatever your desired final goal is). From clicking through to your website, to checking out post purchase (or post any other final goal completion).

There are 3 main reasons why online business owners tend to build marketing funnels:

  • To generate sales
  • To generate leads (email list sign-ups etc.)
  • To online events (webinars etc.)

It really is as simple as that.

But while the definition may be pretty straightforward, actually creating an effective sales funnel takes a bit of focused effort.

The problem is basically this:

Whether you have actively put one in place or not, if you have something for sale on your website (or any conversion goal), you have a sales funnel in place right now.

Through sheer chance it may be working brilliantly for you, but then again it may be leaking prospective customers left-right-and-centre. Not great, not great at all.

When you get down to analysing your sales funnel, you may find that your prospective customers tend to be mostly leaving at the same stage, or they may be exiting at all different stages.

Either way, once you've put the hard work in of earning the click through to your website, you really want to maximise the chances of making a sale.

Exactly how to maximise your chances of converting website visitors into paying customers through the use of an effective sales funnel is what we're going to cover from here on in.

Sales Funnel Stages

Pretty much every marketing course or book from the beginning of time until now has covered this acronym:


Attention, Interest (& evaluation), Desire/Decision, Action

AIDA model

There are a million and one ways you can over-complicate this simple model and marketers the world over love to do just that.

The model becomes complicated when you start to think about all the different product and service types out there.

Plus all the different price points and pricing structures.

Oh yeah, not forgetting the never ending different types of prospect; individuals with all of their differing buyer behaviour and business with their varied buying decision making processes.

My head is hurting already!

Don't over-complicate this model.

Your business website should already be focused on attracting it's target market.

Once your target prospects are on your site, keep thinking about moving them down your sales funnel.

Keep this model in mind whenever you think about the journey experienced by someone visiting your site.

Once you have your prospects hard earned attention, you need to quickly pique their interest, once you have piqued their interest you need to start increasing their desire for your product or service, through careful marketing.

Only once they are far down the funnel should you try and get your prospects to make a purchase.marketing sales funnel new

What the enhanced AIDA model directly above is illustrating is simply what you should be doing at each of the sales funnel stages to keep your prospect moving down into the next stage of the funnel.

So all this theory is great but how do you actually start turning your website into a well-oiled sales machine?

First things first…

Create a Visual Image of Your Sales Funnel

Seriously, make a picture of your funnel.

It doesn't have to be a thing of beauty, only an accurate visual representation of how your website visitors move through your site.

Make sure your funnel image is comprehensive and at the same time not overly complicated. What I mean by that is, try and use colour coding rather than text wherever possible to keep the image clutter free.

Once you've produced this you can move on to getting hold of your funnel data, which you can then add in to your image, turning it in to something very meaningful for your business.

Identifying Leaks in Your Funnel

There will always be a certain number of site visitors that will drop out of the funnel, you're very unlikely to ever stop that.

All sales funnels leak, you just need to make sure that your funnel only leaks a little bit.

What you can do with a bit of quality research is find out what a good conversion rate is for your industry and try to top that figure.

Over time of course, Rome wasn't built in a day!

Once you know what the  current gap is between your own funnel conversion rate and that of the best in your industry, you can set about bridging that gap by identifying the main points where prospects are leaking out of the funnel, and then stopping those leaks.

Where to start?

Google Analytics.

It's free, there's a ton of data in there, and you've most likely already got it set up for your site.

What you may not have done is set up a “Goal Funnel” within Goggle Analytics, so let's do that now:

  • Sign in to GA
  • In the GA dashboard, click “Admin”, then click on “View” and then click on “Goals”, followed by “New Goal”
  • Select one of the goal templates or create a custom goal, name the goal and select “Destination” as the goal type
  • Click “Goal Details” and turn the “Funnel” switch to on to set up the stages of the funnel – each stage will be one of your website pages
  • Now name each stage of the funnel and add the specific website URL's that represent each stage/page
  • Turn the “Required” switch to “Yes” if a site visitor must complete a specific stage of the funnel (this is to make sure the funnel visualisation report pulls through the correct info)
  • Click “Verify Goals” to check that the Goals are tracking the data as expected

Once you're done and you have some data coming through, this is how your funnel will look in Google Analytics:

ga marketing and sales funnel screenshot

There's a lot of power in getting all of this prospect data into a clear visual funnel like the one above.

You're now going to be able to easily identify the stages that are strong and converting well, as well as the ones that are leaking prospects.

Armed with this information, you can now set about fixing those leaky funnel stages…but how?

Stopping Funnel Leaks for Better Conversions

Now we're getting down to the nuts and bolts of it…improving your conversions.

Lets' say once you've pulled all of your data down from GA, you're funnel numbers look like this:

Funnel StageSite VisitorsConversions %
Email Sign-up20025%
Product Page5070%

The job now is to find out which of the funnel stages will benefit the most from making improvements.

Looking at the conversion numbers above, we've had 1,000 site visitors and we've converted them into 17.5 paying customers.

By far the most common angle of attack from here is to focus on the lowest converting stages of the funnel. And looking at the numbers in our table above, I would tend to think that the final purchase stage could benefit from some improvement.

Try and keep in mind that conversion rates vary from industry to industry.

I said at the top of this article that you should get some stats for your industry and I'm repeating that now because it is important.

For example, a 50% conversion rate once somebody is already at the purchase stage would be pretty high for products that are relatively inexpensive, but quite normal for some very expensive products.

Another super important thing to keep in mind is this:

Only ever tweak one stage of your sales funnel at a time.

Once you've made a change, keep checking your full funnel to see how it's being effected from top-to-bottom.

You may make changes to one stage of the funnel, and on the face of it your changes appear to be a success, but then your final conversions may decrease. Why might this be? Probably because in increasing your conversions further up the funnel, you've actually lowered the quality of those filtering through the funnel and now your end customer is buying less.

This is why it's essential to only ever change one stage of your funnel at a time.

How to Know What Changes to Make?

At this stage of the process, you've got data for your funnel, you've got data for your industry and you have decided on a specific stage that you want to focus on for better conversions.

For this bit, we're going to head back to Goggle Analytics and break down your conversions by demographics.

Check the stage of your funnel that your focusing on and look at the conversions for each of the segments below.

Who is Leaking Out of the Sales Funnel…and How to Fix?

  • Demographics

    Whose converting better? Men or women? Teenagers, thirty-somethings, silver-surfers? Look into what could be causing certain demographics to convert at lower rates than others (accepting of course that your product may have natural appeal to some rather than others). Reasons may be the way your copy is written, your site design etc.

    How to Fix:

    Lack of appeal to one demographic or another is obviously normal because not everyone out there is a target customer of your business. And that's just as well because it's just about impossible to build a site and a funnel that has mass appeal across all demographics.

    Focus in on the demographics who are your target market and make sure your site is designed to appeal to them and that your copy is also written in a way that they will relate to.

  • Source

    Is traffic from one referral source converting better than from another? If so, look into this and try to find out why your site is less relevant to visitors from the lower converting source.

    How to Fix:

    The simplest option here is to optimise your page for your most important traffic source.Your other option is to create multiple versions of your page, each one being optimised to suit the targeted referral source.

  • New vs Returning

    Returning visitors tend to convert better than new visitors, and that's simply because returning visitors already trust you and your site. If you're failing to convert any new visitors, your site is probably quite poorly optimised for new visitors.

    How to Fix:

    Assuming that your new visitors are converting significantly less than returning visitors, because it's very rare for it to be the other way around, your fix is to increase the visibility of the opt-in points at which you convert your visitors, as well as to improve their appeal.

    What you can test out here really is endless but keep in mind that this conversion problem usually boils down to your new site visitors not understanding where to opt-in.

  • Browser

    It's very possible that your site isn't playing nicely with all browsers.

    To check, go to the menu to and click Audience”, thenTechnology“, and thenBrowser & OS.” Once you've done that, add the secondary dimension of “Browser Version.”Finally, add a segment for “Desktop Users”, “Mobile Users”, and “Tablet Users”.

    As long as you have your goals set up properly, you'll now be able to get a conversion rate by browser report.

    How to Fix:

    Not easy. If some browsers aren't rendering your site correctly it's likely to be because that particular browser can't interpret your code how it's intended. Unfortunately for most of us that means off to the web developer for a fix.

  • Devices

    I think this is a pretty important one.

    To find out your conversion rate by device go to “Audience”, then “Tabletand then “Overview”, and you'll be shown a report that breaks-down your goal conversion rates by each device type.

    It is usual for desktop to convert the highest, followed by tablet and then mobile. But the difference should only be something like a half percent or  one percent, if it's multiple times this then you most likely have some fixes needed.

    If your site does not render well across all devices you will almost definitely be leaking potential customers because of it.

    How to Fix:

    This is simply a case of spending time accessing your site with various devices to find where there are navigation issues, annoying pop-ups, calls-to-action that can't be completed etc.

So where have we got to?

We've got a good visual representation of our funnel that we're adding information to at each of the stages.

We've got GA funnels set up and we're getting reliable data on how site visitors are filtering through our sales funnel.

We've identified the leakiest stages of our funnel and we've compared them to the conversion rates of our industry.

From all of the information above, we've been able to focus in on the stage of the funnel that we believe is under-performing and is also likely to benefit strongly from improvements.

Focusing only on this stage of our funnel, we've pulled demographic data from GA in order to start identifying the specific action we can start implementing and testing for conversion improvements.

And, we know that we have to keep checking our overall funnel conversions to make sure our changes aren't having a detrimental effect on final conversions.

Rinse and repeat for each funnel stage.

Adding More Leads into Your Funnel…and Increasing Conversions

All of what we've talked about so far will, if applied, decrease your funnel leaks and increase your conversions.

By exactly how much is a more difficult question to answer. As is, how much time it will take you.

A lot of businesses and online entrepreneurs turn to dedicated sales funnel software in order to maximise their sales funnel analytics, improve on-site optimisation, as well as to automate and optimise prospect follow-ups.

Personally, I only used GA for a couple of years across all of my sites but fairly recently I got to the point where I no longer had the time to spend on the  fixes.

The fix for a lot of funnel leaks tends to have some element of jigging content about, creating additional pages, altering code etc. And all of them require you to then track for changes and potentially go through the whole process again if you didn't get the desired outcome. Time!

I won't BS you here, I've not made my final decision as to which solution I'm going to fully commit to, but I have boiled it down to a final two.

I've now used both extensively, they've definitely improved conversions and have made the whole funnel set-up process a lot quicker and easier.

But they ain't perfect!

Sales Funnel Software

I won't bore you with info on the software I have tried over the last year or so but not continued with.

Here's the two solutions that I'm currently trying to narrow down to one, with a brief round-up of what I'm doing with them:

The Combination Solution:

  • Building landing pages and full sales funnels, as well as carrying out funnel/page analytics using Unbounce
  • Building sign-up forms, slide-ins, welcome mats etc. using OptinMonster
  • Using Drip for email automation
  • For accepting payments, Paypal

The All-In-One Solution:

  • Setting-up landing pages and full sales funnels, plus email automation, as well as carrying out funnel/page analytics using ClickFunnels
  • For accepting payments, ClickFunnels integrates with both Paypal and Stripe

That all-in-one solution looks pretty attractive doesn't it?

And it is great. Especially if you're looking to really minimise the time you spend building pages and funnels, and if the idea of working across multiple platforms is already sounding like a massive pain, then ClickFunnels could be ideal for you.

Where I find it falls down slightly is in the actual building of the landing pages. I just don't find it as fully-customisable as I would like.

When I build a landing page I want it to look exactly as I want, no compromise. I'd love to not be so obsessive about stuff like this as it would mean I could work quicker, but there we are, that's me.

Which is why I started exploring the slightly more involved combination solution.

Personally, I love the Unbounce page builder as it is genuinely fully-customisable and incredibly easy to use. Your landing pages will look exactly as you envisage them.

While working across a number of platforms takes more time, all of the providers mentioned play nicely together so that's not a problem. And after setting up a few funnels it takes only slightly more time that the all-in-one solution.

Both of these solutions have great tracking and analytics that I'm more than happy with, so that's not going to be a deciding factor.

What is a Sales Funnel and How to Create One – Wrapping it Up

Wow, I've really banged on.

What's left to say?

Don't ignore your sales and marketing funnel.

If you have a website where you're looking to get visitors to take any kind of specific action, you already have a funnel. Pay attention to it, analyse it, tweak it, measure any changes.

Your conversion rate will improve in-line with the amount of care and attention you give your sales funnel.

Got Something to Add?

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Jump in to the comments section below and share.

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