Picture a sales funnel in your mind, and think for a moment about where you’ve been spending the most time. If you’re a marketer, I’m going to bet you’re zeroing in on the top. If you’re in sales, the bottom is likely your focus. Who, then, is managing the middle? What’s really going on there, anyway? The answer is A LOT! Let’s take a look at the three stages of that messy middle, and explore why you need to stop neglecting it.
What Makes Up the Middle, Exactly?
When it comes to the sales funnel, the middle has been broken down into three distinct stages: Dubbed the conversion stage, the evaluation stage, and the interest/desire stage—you can call it whatever you want, frankly, as long as you understand its worth.
Think of it this way: Somewhere within that gray space between awareness and action, your customer decides to engage with you. You stopped making them simply listen and you started making them care. You didn’t just get their attention—you kept it. Bravo. That’s the part—that uber important part—that happens in the seemingly messy middle.
Why So Messy?
The middle of the sales funnel can seem messy because many of us aren’t quite sure how we’re supposed to best navigate it. Do we send out a couple of emails? Do we make a phone call or three? Maybe we’ll try to throw together a lead nurturing campaign that we can go back and look at again in four months.
No. Stop it.
Change your viewpoint about the sales funnel. That “mess” in the middle is pure opportunity. Become better at it, and you’ll see customer action rates (read: profits) increase, too. Just because there’s no handbook doesn’t mean there aren’t suggestions to tidy up your efforts in the middle. Let’s get to those.
How Can I Do Better?
Stop delays. To make best use of the sales funnel, we first have to make sure our business communication funnel is running on all cylinders. If a marketer gets a lead, it may not make it to the sales development representative for several days. Even then, it’s doubtful that the potential customer will be contacted immediately. To help remedy this, ensure employees are using the company CRM and checking it often. Speed matters in customer service. In fact, the first business to speak to a lead on the phone is a whopping 238 percent more likely to get that lead than the second business. Not only that, but calling a lead within five minutes of them filling out a form instead of 60 minutes will increase conversions by 341 percent. Pick up the phone and get your middle funnel phase started sooner rather than later.
Hire the right people. Often, the least qualified are left to manage the middle of the funnel. Mid-funnel managers should have some sales knowledge or, at the very least, be teachable and equipped with a big-picture grasp of their role. Experience matters in the middle of the funnel, too—resist the urge to hire freshly minted college grads for a position that truly requires an industry-trained eye. (That said, if you are going to hire a newbie—even if their interview blew you out of the water—be sure to give them the training and the tools to succeed. There is no “winging it” in the middle of the funnel.)
Invest in the middle. To quote Stu Schmidt, CRO and Co-founder at Omniquo, Inc., “It is here, in the middle funnel, where the easy, cheap and fast opportunities for improvement lie! It is here where the current process is most typically broken. It is here where a dollar spent can result in many hundreds in return.” Intrigued? You can read what Stu has to say about funnel math here, but suffice it to say that raising your mid-funnel conversion rate is a lot easier (and less expensive) than it is for the top or bottom tiers. Oh, and it results in the same major payback—double revenue! Why? In the middle, the legwork is done—you’ve got an intrigued audience with the power to convert, and all you have to do is empower them to do so. Get it right, and you’ll get the profit.
Fine-tune your message. Your mid-funnel message should convey urgency of action and encourage trust. Adding urgency could be as simple as running a limited-time offer available to a select group (like social media followers). Build trust with your customer base in the now not-so-messy middle by playing up testimonials, third-party reviews or guarantees. Remember that content marketing works, but only if it is seeded in relevancy. Your audience isn’t going to absorb (and eventually act on) your content for the fun of it—you have to make it matter.