What is a Sales Funnel?

If you’re wondering what a sales funnel is and how it relates to your business, then you’ve come to the right place!

By definition, a sales funnel is the ideal process that your customers go through as they move from being someone who could potentially be a customer to an actual one.

It’s a fairly simple concept that is best illustrated with this–
Marketing Funnel

A basic sales funnel would have these 4 tiers.

  • Suspects are those who or may not be your market.
  • Prospects are the people who have shown some sort of interest in what you have to offer.
  • Leads are those people who definitely are interested.
  • Customers are those who actually buy.

The concept of a sales funnel is to move people through these different stages and whittling down a large number of suspects so they become actual customers.

For Example…

Let’s say your were running a coffee shop…

Your suspects would be everyone who passes by your shop. You don’t know whether or not they want your coffee.

What you want to do now is to determine who your prospects are, basically anyone who signals interest in buying a cup of coffee. This would be anyone who stops by the door to browse at your menu, or pull up on your parking lot.

Your prospects become leads when you find out that they are definitely interested, in this example, if they walked into your shop.

And finally, they become customers when they actually go up the counter, order something and pay for it.

These same mechanics can be applied online…

Let’s assume that you’re selling coffee beans online…

Your suspects would be everyone online. You don’t really know who is and isn’t interested in your product and your goal now would be to turn these suspects into prospects.


A blog would be a medium to do that. If people are searching for something related to you coffee beans and they find your blog and begin to read it, they move from “suspect” to “prospect.”

Your next step is to turn these prospects into leads, and using an opt-in form can help you pick them out. Anyone who now opts-in from your website means they are actually interested.

The final step is to turn your leads into actual customers. Sending out an email offering a discount on your coffee beans can help you accomplish this and move them to become customers.

To Wrap Up…

A sales funnel is just a way of describing the steps involved to move potential customers to paying customers.

Suspects → May or may not be interested

Prospects → Might be interested

Leads → Definitely interested

Customers → Those who have actually paid for your goods or services

So there you have it. We hope this post helped explain what sales funnels are.  If you found this post helpful, please take a moment to like and share on your favorite social network.

Have a question about sales funnels?  Please leave a comment below…

– Mercer

About The Author


Chris Mercer, who typically goes by "Mercer", has a sales and marketing background that stretches over 20 years. He began his online marketing career in 2009 and has become a sought after analytics & conversions expert, helping other top-marketers to improve their own offers and sales funnels. Now decades of real-world experience are brought to you post-by-post as he delivers Seriously Simple Marketing tips that you can use to build your own business!