Last updated on April 18th, 2022
One major condition to the sustained growth of a business is how to convert leads into paid customers. To make sure of the conversion, businesses need to consistently review their marketing strategies. While doing so, sales funnel optimization is the central concern of marketers. They review their different ways of taking a target customer to an offer. Designhill conducted an online session where the marketing expert Tim Hughes showed how to make your sales funnel customer-oriented in the best possible way. Know more.
Grabbing the attention of customers is perhaps the biggest challenge for modern-day marketers. This is because hundreds of competitors of all scales present in any business field. Then, keeping that customer thoroughly engaged in your offer and business is another challenge. Overall, the sales funnel or sales process of your business must not only be professionally set but updated as well.
Considering the importance of sales funnel for business growth, Designhill conducted a session on the topic: How To Build A Sales Funnel To Convert Leads Into Customers. The leading creative marketplace invited the marketing expert Tim Hughes to share his experience and expertise on the issue.
During the session, Tim gave insight into how the present social media scene has changed dramatically during the pandemic. He gave three vital steps to creating a funnel that converts people into buyers. The session was full of illustrations and case studies to make the issue understandable to the audience.
Tim is CEO & Co-Founder of DLA Ignite. He is considered widely an expert on marketing issues. He is also an author of the best selling book called “Social Selling” – which is about techniques to Influence Buyers and Changemakers”.
In this post, we’ve shared the session’s video and the complete transcript of the video in the form of Q/As. Have a look!
Transcript: Here Is How You Should Build A Sales Funnel That Helps You Convert Your Leads Into Customers
Tim Hughes: We quite often ask companies what have you done so far now that we are in the middle of a pandemic. They may have led some people off, have cut down some of their product lines. But, they are still doing exactly what they did before COVID. But we all know that our lives have changed.
One of the things about the recession during COVID is that it is very different from all of the other recessions. This time everybody in the world is being impacted the same. I run a global organization, and I can be on calls with India, the US, Germany, and Peru. Everybody says the same thing, we are in lockdown, and we’ve all transferred our lives online. We are seeing this very much.
They are not able to visit people to have meetings. They are doing it virtually. So we are seeing this a lot with organizations where they haven’t changed the way. They are getting the meetings.
Social media is the key today
So, let us get some background. This is some research that comes out from we are social and Hootsuite. The person who puts this together is Simon Camp. Out of 7.8 billion people in the world, 4.66 billion people are on the internet. That is 60% of the world’s population and out of them, 4.14 billion people are active on social media. So, 53% of the world’s population is now on social media.
Now, two-thirds of the world’s business population is on social media. So the days of saying that our clients aren’t on social media are over. We are now used to being online. During the lockdown, we were buying just about everything online. We all avoid salespeople because we don’t like them.
Now, most people, and certainly in the b2b you will go online if you are a buyer. Then, you will research it first. We all avoid salespersons because we do not like them. Now, 60% and some research say 80% of people go through the buying process. Then only they contact a salesperson.
But, as sellers what we need to do is to be visible online. That is simply because our buyers are online. But it gets worse than that. What we find is that certainly in b2b, the number of buyers or the buyer team has increased. Five years ago to get a decision, there were about four to seven people. Now, it is probably 10, or even more than that. So, now more often, decisions are quite often going to the CEO to be signed off.
Relationships across the organization
So, form relationships quickly with multiple people across the organization. Do not be restricted just to people who may be in the middle of management. Therefore, one of our clients is a human resources supplier. They have 18 monthly sales cycles. They will build relationships with the people with human resources, the HR team. But they will also build relationships with finance because they need to sign off a business case. They also now, because of COVID, are having to build relationships with the CEO. This is because a lot of the spending that we are asking for was seen as discretionary.
Have relationship-building mechanism
We need a mechanism that allows us to build relationships quickly. COVID has changed the world. In the past, we could use conferences and exhibitions as a way of meeting with clients. It is unlikely that there are going to be any conferences and exhibitions now. So, it makes good business sense planning 2021 that will have no conferences and exhibitions. So, what are we going to do? How are we going to meet the clients and build relationships with them?
Well, let us imagine that you need to get to the airport. But you are late, and you are going to need to get a flight, during pre-COVID, of course. How are you going to get that? You have two choices to make. You can choose either a modern car or a vintage car. You will most probably choose the modern car. That is the way to reach the airport quickest. But, it is a mock-up of a new car that is coming up. It does not have an engine.
Buyers look for your social behavior
That is what happens when we jump to conclusions. Our buyers are out there jumping to conclusions about who we are. They do that through our passive social presence. So, we have a LinkedIn profile, it is up 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They also judge us by our active social behaviors of every single day within social media. All that has an impact.
For example, there was this client who sent a connection request. But you can’t tell anything about that particular profile. Whereas there is another from Katherine Cole, who is one of our clients. What you have is a complete profile of her of who she is, her belief systems, the story of her life, and her accomplishments.
When you have a meeting with a client, the first five minutes you talk about formalities. So, you say how are you? How’re things going on in London or India? You do that to build rapport and find an area where there is a cross between you and the person. This is done to build trust.
Similarly, we have a LinkedIn profile, which is a CV to get us a job. Our LinkedIn profile is a mechanism to enable us to jump through that process of building a relationship with the client. You jump through the process of forming a bond, even before the person has met you. So, while you are asleep, people could be looking at your LinkedIn profile. They would be forming a bond and saying, that looks like a really interesting person. I would like to meet that person.
Classic salespeople situation
We are now in a classic salespeople situation, finding people and getting them to like you. Then you try to build a relationship with them. You spend your time running around after them saying, please like me. We know that most people don’t like salespeople. Whereas here, what we have is a visit situation. Here, you will automatically see yourself as a salesperson. They see that you are a person that provides the expertise that you need. They will approach you directly, or they see you as the right person that can help them.
So, here’s another example. This is Adrian Spink, Adrian is the CEO of Telstra purple, a client of ours. He has a very different profile from a lot of people’s LinkedIn profiles. His profile has a banner at the top and has a very nice picture. So, if you could meet him in a room, you’d see him across the room. There is Adrian over there, I am going to have a chat with them.
What we have done is that if you think of your LinkedIn profile as a fold, your summary title, and the About section, your summary is in effect, your why. There is a video by Simon Sinek for a couple of minutes on YouTube. He talks about your limbic brain, your limbic brain is your old brain. But what that does is it doesn’t understand language. It understands gut reaction. So, it is like I don’t know what it is, but I do like that person.
Show who you are
This is about you appealing to your buyers’ limbic brain. It allows you to get over your belief system, shows who you are. Again, it is not about your company and your products, that pushes people away. People are interested in your company, they are not interested in your products. If you want to sell more, appeal to people’s limbic brains and get people to come closer to you.
On LinkedIn, there are currently 20,183,711 business development managers and 8,552,815 sales directors. And, that doesn’t differentiate you. When I first moved into sales I was told to be different from everybody else. By putting this on your LinkedIn profile, certainly, in your summary title, it doesn’t differentiate you. Now, why does that matter?
There is something called Gestalt thinking, which is a human condition. It means that we lump things that we see as similar together. So, all the cell’s directors are lumped together. The brain then creates two different lumps. If you decide to go with the masses, then you have a one in 16 chance of winning. But if you look unique and stand out. Then, you have a one-in-two chance of winning. So, just by making yourself stand out and doing some things, which is slightly different.
Google likes LinkedIn content
Google loves LinkedIn because LinkedIn is full of content. So, Google also sees a LinkedIn profile as one big string Text. What you can do is take all of the different keywords that you may be supporting. Getting your team to hide them doesn’t matter where they are because it sees it as a string of text. Hide it in their LinkedIn profile, and immediately you are getting some SEO and some Google juice for that.
Your ability to be found increases through your LinkedIn profile. Mention your education in your profile. There may be people that have also been to Trinity College of Music. Get some recommendations from your clients. I am not saying that you are going to win some business based on recommendations. But they may pick you due to your recommendations.
The other thing is that your clients are social and online. They are going to look at you and your competition. The more you can get the people to look at you, the less they will look at your competition. It makes sense. That’s what you need to be doing.
Designhill: How to use social media as a way to generate a pipeline?
Tim Hughes: Now, we talk about marketing and networking selling. So, traditional marketing is based on waste. What you do is your go-to app to market, and you try and talk to and sell to as many people as you can. So it is based on the hope that somebody will find that. You throw stuff at the wall and you hope it will stick. Gradually, you bully or cajole people to buy something.
Whereas in networking, building each of your salespeople and people within your organization will start as a micro influence. They influence the people that they need to their accounts, clients, prospects, and anybody within that grouping. Also, people in your network will be willing to take on your beliefs. They will take your content and share that with you.
Selling through your network
So, you are not necessarily selling to your network, but you are selling through your network. Let us talk about network marketing, and selling. The important thing is that you need to have a network. This is not about contacts and networks are very different in b2b sales. There is a big difference between business to business and business to consumer sales. The difference is that in b2b sales, the buyer remembers your name.
There are now 720 million people on LinkedIn that you need to stand out and be memorable. So, here is an example. One of my colleagues Eric works for me, on the left-hand side is NCR Corporation. He has no context in NCAA Corporation. So, the likelihood of him influencing that account is small to zero.
Be always connected to people
Whereas the workgroup on the right-hand side, he is now contacted to I think about 900 people. So, the ability for him to influence that account is far greater. When selling into certain accounts, target accounts, and customers, you need to be connected to people. You should connect to more than one person for you to influence those people.
Now, to give you an example, I asked Eric how long it takes him to connect to 455 people in this case. He said he took three days to build those slides to connect with people. This is not a long time to spend connecting to people if you want to get influence. Let us look at marketing here. We have two people posting the same thing. It gives you an understanding that one network is important.
On the one hand, we have Sydney. She has only 86 connections and no engagement on the top. On the other, Leanne has about 9000 to 9275 connections. She got 168 likes and 89 comments. Now, while likes and comments are interesting, they are a great indicator of the importance of your engagement.
What we see here is that the average person on LinkedIn is connected to 903 people. So if you multiply 168, likes by 903, that gives you some idea of the reach that content has got. Think of it as an email list, 168 times 903 could be an email list. You might have sent out an email to that many people in the old days. That gives you some idea of the reach that piece of content has got.
Now, the way that LinkedIn works is that when you are scrolling through your timeline, what you’ll get is that you get content from your connections. But what LinkedIn wants you to do is connect to people you are not connected to because it is about networking.
Reach out to the unconnected
If you see on this slide, this is all the content that’s been presented to me based on people that I am not connected to. What you can do is get your insight and thoughts in front of the people that you are not connected to. What you can do is show insight, and educate content. In this way, people will engage with it, and then that will be presented to that network. Your influence and your ability to share and get your ideas across to more and more people increases.
So, what we have done is that we’ve created based on our research. People often create corporate content, which usually says buy my product, because it is great. But here we are creating content that appeals to us and our network.
For example, Eric works for me. He shares corporate content. He used to work in the oil and gas pipeline industry. The two likes he got were from the person who wrote the content in marketing, and the sales leader. Nobody else was interested. that sits within the corporate campaign co branding. Here what Eric has done is he decided what I take someone else’s content and share that out.
Matt Pybus’s audiences are interested in Matt Pybus’s content with Eric’s audience, Eric’s audiences are interested in Eric’s content, not Matt’s content. So again, he’s got a little bit more engagement, but not that much. Whereas, if he’s created his own, which he’s done here, he’s got 9463 views. what he’s done is that he’s authored something himself.
This post was about cryptocurrency. Since we get loads of spam, about cryptocurrency, he was asking people, do you agree that it is annoying? That created a lot of interest in the discussion. Whereas there is another post of someone Eric celebrating his son’s 16th birthday. He was talking about the impact of COVID. Now, we’ve all seen this sort of content and we may have posted it ourselves. All of us see it probably every day. The difference is that people like Eric and I have a methodology to monetize this content.
So, what Eric and we do is take 10 minutes to create the content. But he was able to create 124 leads, 28 new outbound connections, 13 new inbound connections, and he got six C-level meetings off the back of it. At this point we created this slide, we got, it had one proposal. He had 20,000 people coming and looking at his profile, which is in effect, checking him out and saying, you know, 97% of the people in the world are not buying for you from Not right now. But they may go, Eric’s a really good guy.
Next up, when I want to buy some social selling, I will check Eric out. I will give him a call. He makes sure that he sees that. But from this piece of humanized content, he got 60 level meetings. That gives you some idea about the things that you can do to create some pipeline.
Engage your old connections
A quick takeaway here is that you go back into your LinkedIn profile and connect. Then, find people that have been connected to for six months or more. They are probably the people you have never spoken to. Now, you send them a nice connection request, but do not sell. Because people do not like selling.
So, I just go back here in case Angela, whom I connected to 11 months ago. Now, I want to talk to her. I have set myself a rule. That is talking to the people that I connect to in the network, which I think is important. Why don’t we get on a call, and you’ll find at least 50% of the people will say yes. But there is no need for you to run. That call is not to get on there and start pitching to them.
The way you get around that call is you get on the call and say, Angela, I have been connected to you for 11 months. But I do not know what you do. What do you do? Then when she has told you what she does, she will ask what you do? Then you have an opportunity to talk to her. Now, how you run that meeting is up to you. I wouldn’t necessarily pitch but you are getting a free opportunity to do that if you want to.
Designhill: What is the best platform to have a sales funnel?
Tim Hughes: I think in terms of social media, you need to go where your clients are. From a sales funnel perspective, you probably need to have a CRM, a customer relationship management system. We use Nimble. But there are plenty of other CRM systems out there. You have heard of Salesforce, and people like that. That’s the way I can see the sales funnel in effect, in a diagrammatic form.
Designhill: What mistakes have you seen people making while creating a sales funnel?
Not worrying about qualifying
Tim Hughes: I think that the mistake that I see is that there’s not much time spent on qualifying. When generating a sales funnel, first, make sure you understand who your ideal customers are. So that’s about working out. You may have sold the product before. But if you are a new startup, find out who it is that you would like to sell to. Then, make sure that you understand and can qualify the opportunities that come to you.
Ask the right questions
You need to understand that not everybody’s going to buy. Some people will say that’s kind of interesting. Others will say give me a call in three months. There may be people who will say that is amazing and they want to buy now. So, don’t be too hard on yourself. But you need to make sure that you are qualifying. And qualifying is about asking the right questions.
What I would do is have a meeting or call. And decide what questions I need to ask? Because you do need to make sure that you ask questions on the flow. But because we can get nervous in meetings, have the questions in front of you.
Designhill: You have a roadmap or brief of who, who this may have worked for?
Tim Hughes: We are our reference site. So we are a four-year-old company. We have never advertised and never made a cold call. And, we don’t have an email list. We don’t do any of those things. Instead, we connect to people and build relationships. Our conversations on social are with clients of people like Telstra RingCentral Alan ovary, Cushman and Wakefield, BMW, a whole bunch of organizations, BMW, while it is a b2c business to consumer organization. It is a considered purchase. So it is kind of b2b, but it is b2c.
For example, last November, a year ago, in pre-COVID, they got 28 pieces of inbound marketing through LinkedIn. They were able to convert 14 of those. The average price of a BMW is $50,000. So, they got $700,000 additional revenue for zero marketing spends. The same month, Jaguar Land Rover, their competitors, said they weren’t selling anything and made excuses for a general election in the UK. Brexit etc. BMW had the same market digit conditions but was selling.
So, we are seeing a real change taking place in the market. There are now winners and losers in terms of analog and digital. COVID-19 has accelerated that. We, as soon as the lockdown came in March work, they came to us and said, We need to sign up with you. Because we have been talking to them for months, there’s always another party, and they just said, we need to do this now. We are getting a lot of people right now signing up because they want to be digital for 2021. Get ready for that.
Since the pandemic, our clients have seen their prospecting ability go up, not down. Because people have migrated online. That is where the clients are. That’s where we have to be as socialism. Marketers.
Designhill: How do you convert the people who are cold when it comes to the last section in sales funnels?
Tim Hughes: We do a service for one of our clients where we de-risked their pipeline. There was a deal that could not be made with a pizza company. That was because the salesperson did not have relationships with the people of that client. What we need to be doing as salespeople are building multiple relationships. We can build it at scale, across the whole of our targets and our clients.
When clients go into meetings to make buying decisions, we need to make sure that we have those relationships. If we are doing it by phone, it takes time. We have to annoy people by ringing them up and interrupting them. Whereas if we are doing it socially, we are doing it at their time. We are not interrupting them, and we can build out more relationships at scale.
When doing a discovery, you should be asking questions that your competition won’t have thought of. You should share your insight and be educated in the way that you are sharing content.
Most people write content to cover everything. Because it covers the top of the funnel. After getting too close, you can be creating content for that particular client. So, you build a relationship so they get to know and like you. Those are the people who will buy from you. If you are building that relationship, you will find that you will close more.
Designhill: Do you have any recommendations on an initial post?
Tim Hughes: I was a startup for four years. You go to my LinkedIn profile and go back four years. My initial post was probably rituals. It was something like I am starting a new business and wish me luck. People love a bit of vulnerability in and something humanized. You know, going up to a door with a key to the new office or something like that.
If you are excited as I am and start a business, then educate and provide insight. I get ideas from losing deals and from winning deals. Also, I get ideas from coming on here and reading these questions out. There is inspiration all around us and running a startup is a wonderful thing.
Designhill: When launching your business, what is the most effective way to announce and engage social media?
Get connected with people
Tim Hughes: I don’t know if you are just about to do it. There is a famous saying that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is to plant one. Now, I always advise you to get connected with people, so as soon as you can. So, we started our business in September. I knew that we were going to start the business back in March. We just connected to everybody that we wanted to connect with. And we were building those connections in stealth mode, even before we started the startup. Then, I just announced it.
What you’ll find is that the people that know you and love, you will go good on you. That’s brilliant. They share that through their network. A good friend of mine just launched a book today. I mean, it has taken him ages throughout the book. But we are all pleased about it. He sent me a copy. I am really happy and energized. I am helping promote it. So you will find that your network should step up and help you.
So, just share insight. Don’t send them to say, hey, buy my product. That is because it is great to share inside that what people are looking for is to tell me something I don’t know.
Designhill: Do you advise converting few leads, or could be loyal customers than to have as many leads, even if you are uncertain, and there’ll be few customers?
Tim Hughes: There probably are so many leads that you can manage at one time. In my world of business to business enterprise, the view was that you could only manage about five active things. The difficulty always as a salesperson is your I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a circus act, where they have a stick, and then they put a plate on it. they spin plates. Then the plate starts to wobble. If they don’t start spinning the stick, that plate falls off.
Similarly, you are going around spinning in as many places as you can. You need to be putting time in your diary for prospecting and moving things down the funnel. Prospecting is the only way you can do it.
Initial clients are crucial
The first few clients you get are important. They are really important for two things. One is they follow your belief system of what you want to do. That, for me, was more important than the money. The reason what can happen is you can go and get clients. They offer you money, and it distracts you from what you want to do.
Adam Grey, my business partner, and I have walked away from the business. We bid and we walked away from it because we said we are doing it wrong. They said, well, that’s the way we want to do it. We could have gone in there and said, okay, and taken some money. But, we didn’t want to do that. It is so important because that would have distracted us. We went into a client the next day and signed up on what we wanted to do.
So, it is not just about when you start a business and sales. It is about making sure that the co-founders do the business. Ensure that the business that you do is the right business. Sometimes that may not be the most profitable, but you need to make the decision yourself. You are the owner and the leader in that business in the first place.
Designhill: With so much noise in the way of digital or email marketing, what have you found works consistently?
Email marketing is not much effective
Tim Hughes: The recent HubSpot report showed email marketing has a 98% failure rate. Personally, that’s not something that I want to do. I don’t believe that interruptive marketing works anymore. Although, I am sure that there are people that are making it work. I am sure that 2% of people are justifying email marketing, but because they get the 2% return.
I have just shown people how they can get six C-level meetings by using posting content. They take 10 minutes to do something that is bigger. This return is bigger than all of the different types of interrupt marketing that’s going on right now. This marketing includes advertising, cold calling, and email. That’s the fundamental change and transformation that’s taking place in sales and marketing right now.
Now, there may be people who are getting a response, but the response they are getting is consistently going down. At some point, you have to decide on switching your budget. Because other people are getting a response that is only going up.
Designhill: What is the one most important step in the sales funnel?
Tim Hughes: I think the most important step for me always is about qualification and qualifying for the opportunity. You can spend the worst if you think about sales. But we know the best place is winning it. So, where’s the worst place? The worst place you can be is coming second in a deal. This is because you will have put an awful lot of time and effort into the deal.
You may be using resources across your business. And for me, excuse me walking away? Walk away from stuff. Don’t be afraid to do that. If it doesn’t smell right. If you don’t, that’s a gut reaction. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If the people aren’t, there are all kinds of reasons why you’ll lose business, cultural fit, money.
Designhill: What do you think about the video messages, are they good for the connection method for cold outreach?
Tim Hughes: One of our clients recently experimented with video messaging. They got a very senior VP to spend some time creating some video messages. And, they sent out 100 videos and they got zero response. The reason why we believe they got zero responses is no different from a cold call or an email. Which is that you are saying buy my product. You are just another salesperson. Your video connections are just adding to the noise.
I will get people pitching to me over LinkedIn and email every day. What it shows you is that that organization has run out of ideas, and they are desperate. Unfortunately, a lot of salespeople don’t know the difference. I mean, someone sent me an email yesterday and said even made you a video. I didn’t even notice it. But as I am a CEO, I am really busy. I don’t have time to watch your video. Why do you even think about me having time to watch your video? She sent me this long email. Why would I even read it?
I wrote back to her and said, Why are you doing this? We connected on LinkedIn, you are far better than this. I told her that there is my book, and read it to understand that there is a new way of working. This new way works with people rather than pushing them away.
Designhill: Why are your sales strategies not on advertising, is it because of the choice you made or because of the modern buyer behavior?
Advertisements do not work anymore
Tim Hughes: Nobody looks at advertising. An average person gets hit by 10,000 different messages every day. You may have infinite amounts of budget and get Hollywood stars. Fly the Hollywood stars to the Atlas Mountains or get David Bailey to take the photos. You can get the best copywriter and the best advertising company in the world. Still, you just have an advert that’s just the same as everybody else’s. It is just in the noise.
What do we do is bias? We just collate it and ignore it. You also got the problem that in most territories now, 70% of people use ad blockers. Most people use between the ages of 16 and 28. But 80% of people use ad blockers. Nobody looks at ads anymore. It just doesn’t work. I have shown you on social how you can build relationships with people and get C-level meetings by spending zero amount of cost per 10 minutes of your time. You don’t need to do it anymore. Nobody’s interested in advertisements.
Designhill: Do you think that culture fits? Could it be a problem in the sales funnel if dealing internationally?
Tim Hughes: The answer is yes. I have a job where I sold across Europe, Middle East, and Africa. Most different geographical. Cultural changes are having an impact on doing business. For example, in Singapore, we were going up an escalator in a shopping mall. If you just want to stand on the escalator and not go fast, you stand on the right-hand side in London. The people who want to go fast will stand on the left.
Whereas in Singapore, if you want to go slowly, you stand on the left, and the fast people go on the right. So, when I was in Singapore, I would get in and stand on the right. So, everyone pushed me out of the way. I have got one of these people pushing me away, saying I was standing on the wrong side. It is a great example of how cultural differences do make a big difference.
So, pay heed to these expert tips from Tim Hughes when you intend to revisit your sales funnel. Make sure that your overall sales process is an updated one and as per the new aspirations of your target customers.
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Your unique sales funnel is the key to growing your business in a competitive market. Marketing expert Tim Hughes advises using social media cleverly, especially LinkedIn to reach out to the target audience. You should build relationships with not just one or two clients but with many people in the organization at different levels.