THE BLOG
01/27/2016 02:31 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2017

Q&A With a Sales Funnel Expert: How to Build a Sales Funnel That Converts

Business owners don't have to reinvent the wheel.

In the world of sales, this principle is essential. Selling is challenging at best, so why create a sales funnel that's never been tested? Why not learn the secrets of successful businesses and apply the same strategies to your own business?

That's the theory behind "funnel hacking". It's examining a successful sales funnel and using the same fundamental principles to create your own version. It's not copying everything word for word, but building a similar framework for your own business.

Stephen Esketzis, founder of an online marketing blog and agency specializing in sales funnels, has built successful funnels in a wide variety of industries, including health, fitness, and music. Called a "Funnel Architect," Stephen now helps other business owners create new profit streams with his free sales funnel builder.

In our recent interview, Esketzis shared some of his strategies on how to build a sales funnel that converts prospects into buyers.

Could you explain "funnel hacking" and how you use it to build your own sales funnels?

"Funnel hacking" is purchasing products from your competitors and seeing what offers are being made to your target market and when. The process of spending money with your competitors to uncover their sales funnel might seem strange. But it can save you thousands of dollars in split tests.

Think of it as buying data.

My competitors have already spent money testing price points, landing pages, advertising banners and more. I prefer to leverage their testing when building out my own funnels. This allows me to start with what's working (or as closely to it as possible) then I can innovate from there to make the funnel convert even higher.

To be completely honest, I start by spying on my competition before I ever build a sales funnel. I'm far more likely to build a high converting funnel by seeing what's already converting in the industry. To do this, I use various spy tools to see what types of landing pages are being used, and what advertisements are being run on platforms such as Google and Facebook.

What's the first step in building a high converting sales funnel?

Before you even launch your sales funnel, the number one priority you should focus on is building your customer avatar. Finding out whom your ideal customer is that you want to sell to, is the key differentiator between building a sales funnel that converts, and one that doesn't.

Building your customer avatar isn't as flashy as split testing your homepage to see which button color converts higher. But it's a fundamental process that you need to go through that will yield the biggest results.

The easiest way I've found to do this is to turn your avatar into a "Day In The Life Of My Customer Avatar." For example, "John, 37 years old, wakes up at 7 a.m., drinks the venti coffee he purchases from Starbucks, then drives his BMW to the office..." The more detailed you make your customer avatar, the higher the conversions that lay ahead with your funnel.

What tools do you need to build a successful sales funnel?

There are many tools on the market when it comes to building out a sales funnel that have many similarities and accomplish different tasks.

When I build a new sales funnel, I generally use a conversion-tracking platform, an auto responder, a landing page/funnel building platform, a heat mapping/visitor recording software and lastly a spy tool program.

One of the key decisions you need to make when building a sales funnel, is not to overwhelm yourself with all the products on the market and start with the tools that are responsible for 80% of your results. (For more information, Stephen has created a complete marketing tools list with his favorites.)

What is the biggest mistake business owners make when launching a sales funnel?

Most sales funnels that struggle to become profitable have one main problem in common: they try to sell their core product upfront (they try to make all their money on the front end).

There are 2 main parts in every sales funnel: the front end and back end. The sole purpose of the front end of the sales funnel is helping you break even on your paid advertising costs.

While the marketer might think this is a great opportunity to sell more of their product or service, it drops conversions considerably and reduces the LTV (lifetime value) of your customer.

The key to a profitable funnel is knowing your numbers inside out, so you can afford to acquire a customer for more than your competitors in your industry. You can only afford to do this by having a backend to your sales funnel, which allows you to spend more to acquire customers on the front end.

Where do you see sales funnels going in the future?

Sales funnels are going to change a lot as the Internet continues to evolve. I think the biggest change that's going to be evident is an increase in personalization and segmentation as prospects move through the sales funnel.

I can see them both playing a more serious role in the mechanics of a funnel moving forward in the coming years. Additionally with the improvements of targeting becoming so much more specific on advertising platforms, it will become a deadly combination for marketers and business owners to put their products and services in front of the right audience.

I'm looking forward to architecting more funnels in the future and am excited to see what the future has to hold for marketers and business owners.