Do Online Sales Funnels Work? (A Non-BS Guide for All the Haters)

Have you ever felt skeptical of something new?

You don’t quite understand it. You may even label it as BS.

A few months back, I was chatting with my buddy Stuart Brent on Skype.

Stuart is the founder of He also runs a t-shirt printing company for startups.

Here’s a snippet of our conversation.

Stuart: My business partner thinks that sales funnels are BS.

Me: That’s interesting. Why?

Stuart: He has his reasons. If you were to write a “no-BS guide,” I could share it with him and convince him it’s worth investing in.

Me: All right, well then that’s my next article.

Just like that, it was decided.

Here’s a quick recap for those of you new to the blog: online sales funnels are a real thing. Yes, they’re overhyped by some marketers, but they continue to earn their place as the best strategic framework for online marketing.

So what exactly is a sales funnel?

It’s a series of steps that attract prospects, lead them towards a purchase decision, and work to convert or upsell them.

I’ve defined sales funnels in greater detail in the past.

For the rest of this article though, I’ll focus on showing you how the sales funnel concept (sometimes called the marketing funnel) works and how it gets results.

How Sales Funnels Work: What Makes Them Different From a Website?

A website is just one piece of the sales funnel puzzle. (We’ll talk about other key ingredients later in this post.)

You’re not just going to create a webpage or a blog post and call it a day when creating a sales funnel.

Instead, it’s a strategic choice to arrange your sales funnel into a system of steps, using your website as the foundation.

First, you’re going to want to add links, buttons, call-to-action buttons (CTAs), and opt-in forms to your site.

You’re including these for a specific purpose: to move people from one step to the next within your sales funnel. That way they go from being a prospect visiting your website for the first time, to a subscriber on your email list.

Next, you want to move these people into qualified leads if you’re a service business, or into sales if you’re selling a product. Nurture and follow up with them via email after they have subscribed.

You may also add other key parts into the top phase of your funnel where you’re attracting traffic, like Facebook (as a whole, not just ads), Pinterest, YouTube, or AdWords.

These are designed to drive sales decisions and grow your business. At, we can help you meet those objectives while saving you time because do all the heavy lifting.

Now, because I’ve mentioned email follow-up, you may be saying, “I’m confused. So is an email funnel part of the sales funnel?”

The answer is yes.

People sometimes refer to email funnels as email autoresponders or marketing automation. These are all the same thing, though.

An email funnel (or follow-up phase to be more exact) is the second of the three components in your sales funnel. Recall that the the first phase was your website).

Follow-up happens at the bottom, after someone has already arrived at your website and has decided to engage or opt in by filling out a form requesting a quote, or to “see pricing” if you’re a service business.

Like the sales funnel as a whole, the email funnel occurs as a series of steps (or in this case, emails) that happen automatically for people who opt in.

You can make your funnel as simple or as complex as you want.

Generally, as a best practice, you want to start simple and work your way up to a dynamic email automation that personalizes the experience for each prospect. For instance, the emails can be paced slower or faster based on whether or not the subscriber has clicked or opened the first email.

Or perhaps you may send them different content based on what they say is their biggest challenge.

What Are the Key “Ingredients” For Any Successful Sales Funnel?

We call these key ingredients the Three F’s: foundation, follow-up, and fuel. They should be implemented in that order.

(This concept is core to our upcoming 6 Figure Sales Funnel training program. Sign-up for the waiting list, and grab our sales funnel checklist while you wait)

Foundation refers to the website itself. This is the foundation off which you work to move people along your email sales funnel.

Follow-up is the email funnel and retargeting ads. This step occurs after people opt in or engage on your website.

Fuel keeps you accelerating and growing faster. You can scale the foundation and follow-up system that you’ve built into that fuel “tank.” The fuel, in this case, is traffic.

You send the traffic into the sales funnel “engine.” Since it’s a system, as long as the quality of the traffic is maintained, your ability to grow sales and profits is directly related to your ability to grow traffic.

How Sales Funnels Get Results: Stats Proving the Effectiveness of Sales Funnels

Upselling Gets Better Results Than Cross-Selling in E-Commerce

These days, it’s not enough to simply get new customers. You also want your existing customers to continue to buy from you.

You can get better results by upselling and cross-selling, which are additional ingredients you can add to your sales funnel. Check out this example here.

Behavioral analysis company PredictiveIntent published an interesting study. The company discovered that cross-selling is not as effective as upselling on e-commerce sites.

You may recall that the difference between upselling and cross-selling is that upselling tries to offer a higher end product than the one in question (think: “Do you want to ‘super-size’ that?”) versus cross-selling which is all about offering complementary products in addition to the one(s) being consider (think: “Do you want fries and a coke with that?”).

PredictiveIntent sampled their own clients and found that sales were at just 0.2% through cross-selling and up to 4% through upselling. That makes upselling an alternative that’s 20 times more efficient.

And what is one of the best ways to upsell clients? With automated email and retargeting follow-up.

Ultimate Marketing Automation Statistics Reveal Surge in Use of Automation

The following stats prove how email funnels are a necessary part of any sales funnel. Marketing strategy resource EmailMonday published its Ultimate Marketing Automation Statistics for 2017.

Here are the key findings from the report:

  • By using email funnels, 77% of marketers had more conversions and 80% had more leads, according to 2015’s “Marketing Automation, How to Make the Right Buying Decision” from VB Insight.
  • It can take time to make more money using marketing automation, according to 2015’s Benchmarking Report Marketing Automation from Circle Research and The study found that in six months, just 8% of companies will have higher revenue. Up to 32% will have more revenue in a year, and up to 40% will have more revenue within two years or more.(Note: If you want to be part of the 8%, be sure to checkout my upcoming free 4-part video training series on how to create a 6-Figure Sales Funnel)

  •  Email funnels are everywhere. In last year’s The Ultimate Marketing Automation Stats from EmailMonday, 55% of B2B companies and 49% of other companies favored marketing automation.

Examples of Real Small Businesses Growing Their Own Sales Funnels

Apollo Answering Service, LLC

Kelly Cammack, the owner and general manager at Apollo Answering Service in Houston, Texas, called on us to redesign her sales funnel.

If you check out her website now, the blog drives more and more of the traffic these days because she’s investing in the content there. Previously, the traffic came from a focus on commercial SEO keywords and email marketing.

As a client of AutoGrow, Apollo Answering Services saw a 400% increase in conversions after working with us to build her funnel.

Take a look at Kelly’s testimonial below which includes a brief overview of her case study story.

Double Your Freelancing

Brennan Dunn at Double Your Freelancing offers expert advice for freelancers and agency owners. I’ve talked about him in the past on this blog.

When I interviewed Brennan, he discussed the 7-figure smart sales funnel that he had created. This is probably one of the most sophisticated sales funnels on the Internet.

It shows you how advanced you can get with creating an automated marketing funnel.

When you first come to his website, if you scroll down and read one of his articles, you’ll see a pop-up bar at the bottom.

This is inviting you to participate in his free course. If you subscribe and then come back to the website later, the site will “remember” you and show you another pop-up bar.

This one gives you another offer, this time for his introductory product. So the site remembers you and, based on what stage you’re at in the sales funnel, you’re going to see different offers.

That’s why we call it a “smart” sales funnel.

While this concept is pretty advanced, it helps to further highlight the steps in a successful sales funnel, and how real small businesses are using them.

A Sweet Pea Chef

A Sweet Pea Chef is a food blog founded by Dustin and Lacey Baier. It introduces the concept of clean eating with recipes, meal plans, and tips for success. The couple sells meal plans and cooking supplies on their website.

The Baiers were having issues with conversions, so they turned to their sales funnel and started over.

Their new sales funnel includes a lead magnet, introductory offer, inline bump offers (for taking advantage of extra offers), and a core offer. This four-part funnel isn’t complicated, but it did the trick.

With their old funnel, each month, A Sweet Pea Chef generated just about $200 in revenue.

Once the Baiers implemented their new sales funnel, sales jumped to $2,000 monthly. That’s 10 times more money each month!

Loud Rumor

Fitness marketing company Loud Rumor was founded in 2009 by Marjon and Mike Arce in Scottsdale, Arizona.

They started a program for their clients called Fit FLAVER (which is purposely misspelled). FLAVER is an acronym for Facebook ads, Landing pages, Automation, Video, Email drip, Retargeting.

They tested this new program on one of their clients, a women’s boxing studio, and started marketing towards women who were into fitness.

First, they promoted the boxing studio on Facebook. That link brought the visitor to a landing page, which included a discount.

Visitors had to opt in before they could receive the discount. Once they did that, they were taken to a page with an extra bonus. This might be free classes or something similar.

This new sales funnel worked well. Loud Rumor had 31 new leads for their client in 24 hours. That number more than tripled to nearly 430 leads in 31 days.


In a way, the idea of the sales funnel being the marketing system you use online is an all-encompassing concept. You need all components in this system to work together to drive sales.

To review:

  • The purpose of of your sales funnel is to get your prospect to make an initial or repeat purchase by guiding them through a series of steps that nurture, nudge, and educate. .
  • Your website needs opt-in forms, CTAs, buttons, and links to work as part of your sales funnel.
  • Email funnels must be included as well. These can be simple or more complicated.
  • I’ve mentioned them before and I’ll mention them again: my three F’s—foundation, follow-up, and fuel—are key components for sales funnel success.

Now that you’ve read about my online sales funnel ingredients and how these work, are you ready to start creating your own sales funnel? If you already have a funnel, which changes are you going to make? Let me know in the comments.

Keep Hustlin’, Stay Focused,


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