Improving Your Sales Funnel


In the first post in this series, Customer Acquisition: Maximizing Your Sales Funnel, we learned how to identify blockage points, the most common causes of blockage points and how to solve them to increase sales conversions.

In the second post, Improving Your Sales Funnel: Driving Traffic to your Site, we looked at a common blockage point companies face in driving traffic to their website. We identified solutions such as offering a free product, using engineering for marketing and the power of education as a selling tool.

In this post, we’ll dive deeper into the funnel to another frequent blockage point in conversions where you want visitors to your website to register and provide you with their email address or other contact information.

To being solving this blockage point, start by writing down customer concerns and motivations:


  • Don’t like to give email addresses, and hate getting spam emails from vendors.
  • Distrust vendors with email address because I’m not sure how they may abuse this in the future. You need to earn my trust.
  • That information is personal, and the time it takes for me to deal with your future emails has considerable value. You need to earn the right to ask for that.
  • You’re asking me to put my valuable time and effort into trying out your product. I have concerns about whether it will be easy to use, fast to evaluate, and effective at meeting my needs.


  • I have a problem, and would like to find a solution. I have seen enough about this product/service in your intro video/content, and I believe it will work and take away my pain.
  • This site seems to have enough positive feedback in comments from users, and reviews from the press that I feel it is likely a good product, and worth my time to try.
  • I care a lot about being amongst the best in my industry. These guys have data that will allow me to benchmark myself against my peers which is valuable.
  • I am passionate about XYZ and like to learn more about things in that area.

Solution #1: Move gratification upfront

Many of the good marketers that I have worked with talk about the time to Wow!.

The ‘Time to Wow!’ is how long it takes before your customer gets to the point of experiencing gratification from using your product.

The conventional approach to registration is to make the customer register before they get to experience the Wow! moment and get gratification from using your product. Instead, consider placing the Wow! Moment before you ask them to register.

Solution #2: Get a meeting with a decision maker

When I started my second company in 1986 called International Software (later became the European branch of Corporate Software), it was the time PCs were just starting to be adopted by enterprises. The typical way you purchased a PC and associated software was through a store like ComputerLand, or BusinessLand. But, these stories primarily focused on hardware, stocked no more than 5–6 software titles, and certainly didn’t know how to demo them or support them. International Software created a new channel that only sold software, and focused on the needs of enterprise buyers. We stocked a huge range of products, and provided excellent consulting advice on which products to use, and great support.

When I first started the business, I cold called the biggest companies, trying to reach their PC buyers. Not surprisingly, I would get to voicemail, leave a message, and not get a call back. It was a clear blockage point, with lots of buyer friction at this stage in the sales funnel.

I started brainstorming for a solution: One of the key parts of our service was content. We published The International Software Guide, a 600 page book that reviewed almost all the software products available for the PC at that time. The book was given to our customers as part of our service if they purchased their software from us.

My insight was that if I sent them a free copy of the book before they purchased software, and then asked them for a meeting, I might provide them with proof that we were different, and capable of providing more value to them than all the other vendors calling on them. We went from a 2–3% success rate in getting meetings to around 90%!

Using compelling high value content on the web is the modern equivalent of the above story, and is exactly how companies using Inbound Marketing are driving web traffic.

Solution #3: Get to executive decision makers

A company I invested in, Enservio (acquired by Solera), sells to insurance companies. As part of their sales process, they need to get to senior executives in the insurance industry that are capable of making decisions. Not surprisingly, the average sales person will struggle if they simply try to cold call those executives.

Enservio decided to put together an annual Claims Innovation Summit, and pulled in prestigious speakers from highly respected analyst and consulting firms, and invited speakers from within the insurance industry to add valuable content around the startup presentations.

The net result was a great success, attracting executives that their salespeople could never get to. Not only did they get hard-to-reach executives to the event, they built trust with those executives avoiding the temptation to use the event as a selling platform, and instead sticking to valuable educational content.

Solution #4: Applying the technique to website design

Most websites represent a mini-funnel in a marketing process where you’d like to move your customer from through a series of steps/pages to the point where they will sign up to purchase your product, download your trial, etc.

The great thing about websites is that we can get precise analytics that tell us where the bottlenecks are occurring. To improve the conversion rates at these bottlenecks, document the customer concerns and brainstorm the possible motivations that could be used to help get them to move through the bottlenecks.

One of the other powerful technique is A/B testing. When coming up with new ideas for content on pages, split the traffic so that one half goes through the new page and the other half goes through the old page. Or try two variations of the new page with different wording to optimize the conversion rate. Once you have found the winner, repeat until it’s clear which messaging is having the best effect.


  • All sales and marketing funnels have blockage points, and as soon as you remove one, the blockage will move to another place.
  • Blockages are frequently caused because you are hoping your customer will take a step in your process where they are not adequately motivated to do that step.
  • By analyzing their concerns, and brainstorming with creative thinking executives, it is often possible to figure out customer motivations that can be used to offset their concerns, and get them to willingly take that step.
  • The best solutions often require out-of-the-box thinking.
  • Free products, educational content, and insights based on data that you may possess or collect are examples of tools that can be used as motivations for your prospective customers.
  • Removing blockage points increases conversion rates in your funnel, which is one the most important things you can do to increase revenues and profitability. (A small improvement in conversion rates can dramatically lower your cost of customer acquisition.)
  • I recommend setting up quarterly brainstorming sessions to focus on removing blockage points, which could also be referred to as increasing conversion rates.
  • I also recommend choosing one executive to become the voice of the customer, and setting them the task of getting inside your customers’ heads to understand how they think and react to all stages of your sales and marketing process.

You can find the other posts in this series here:

  1. Customer Acquisition: Maximizing Your Sales Funnel
  2. Improving Your Sales Funnel: Driving Traffic to your Site

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