A Brief Yet Informative Primer On Sales Funnels

get more leads with sales funnel

Everybody and their mother in the online marketing world is talking about the revered sales funnel and the significant importance of having one set up for your online business. People will throw all kinds of jargon like “upsell” and “downsell” in your face, and you have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Are they speaking in an alien language? Fear not, because once you understand how a basic sales funnel works, you’ll realize that it’s really easy stuff to understand! However, let’s talk about what is a sales funnel?



In short, a sales funnel can be defined as a marketing system, process or journey that turns prospects who know nothing about you into interested leads, leads into customers, and customers into lifetime buyers through a series of steps. These steps are designed to sell various products and services that you are selling, each at varying price points. At each step, you can press a button to either buy a certain product or direct yourself towards the next page in the funnel sequence.

In other words, a sales funnel allows you to automate the process of online selling. And even if you don’t want to sell products, you can still use sales funnels to grow and build your email list! Rather than direct all of your hard-earned traffic towards a static website with vague instructions, you direct them towards a sales funnel that only gives them a single option and makes that option blatantly obvious. This is a basic idea of what is a sales funnel. 


One of the greatest (and most annoying) things about sales funnels is that they literally come in all shapes and sizes. They can be as simple as a two-page funnel, or it can be an elaborate 20-page scheme which also involves integration with a complex email autoresponder sequence. Regardless of how you choose to design and set up your sales funnel, there are certain elements which must be present within each and every step of your funnel. This will answer the question of what is a sales funnel system. 


Your sales funnel needs to be just as easy to read on my smartphone browser as it is on my laptop’s Internet browser. Whether you like it or not, we are living in a world that is becoming increasingly mobile. If any page in your sales funnel takes too long to load, or cannot be easily read by your prospect, you have already lost the battle. People do not have the time or the patience to wait around for your sales funnel pages to load!

Visually appealing

When thinking about what is a sales funnel, a sales funnel needs to be pristine. While it is true that great copywriting plays an important role, a clean design combined with high-quality images and graphics are equally (if not more) important in keeping your prospect’s attention glued to the screen.

An effective combination of emotion and logic

“But wait, isn’t persuasion all about getting people to make an emotional buying decision?” Yes and no. Let me explain… When looking at what is a sales funnel system, it needs to be LOGICAL in that every purchase within the selling sequence makes sense, whether it’s your freebie or your high-ticket mastermind. Everything has to be related and connected. As an example, if I am selling a blogging product for $7, an appropriate and logical upsell would be a product about improving your blog’s rank on Google through search engine optimization.

Another way of defining exactly what is a sales funnel system is the understanding that every product needs to provide EMOTIONAL security to the buyer – you either solve an emotional pain point, or you provide emotional pleasure. This ties in to the next essential element of high-converting sales funnels…

Pain vs. Pleasure


Tony Robbins popularized the ‘pain vs. pleasure’ concept as the twin motivating forces that guide and drive all forms of human behavior. In some form, they must be present in each step of the sales funnel sequence. PAIN would be used to demonstrate that your product/service solves an emotional pain point. PLEASURE would be used to demonstrate that your product/service provides emotional pleasure to the buyer. See how that ties in with the previous element?

Inject scarcity and urgency

What’s the difference between the two, you might ask?

Good question!

Another way of looking at what is a sales funnel system, it is developing the sense of urgency for a potential buyer. Urgency is when a buyer feels like they need to act quickly and take immediate action. It is important, has everything to do with time (i.e. act RIGHT NOW), and it is a feeling you are in control of. Scarcity, on the other hand, is the feeling that a product or service is going to quickly run out because it is in limited supply. It is often perceived (i.e. it is created), and it can be regulated by the supplier. Without those two elements being used in harmony on the sales copy within each page (and through visual elements like countdown timers), you won’t be able to convince people that it’s worth their while to make an immediate investment into themselves.

NOTE: The fastest way to lose your prospect’s trust and ruin your reputation is to create ‘false’ urgency and scarcity. This is commonly seen when a timer on the top of a page within the sales funnel hit zero, and yet nothing happens. Or, you may claim that you only have 15 copies of a DVD series left despite having 100 in stock.

By being fully transparent and honest about the scarcity and urgency present within your offers, you actually increase your sales in the long-term. Why? When customers try to buy your product after time (or the supply) runs out, and they really see that they can’t physically do anything, it sticks in the back of their mind. “SHOOT! I was such an IDIOT! Why didn’t I invest while I had the chance?! ARGH!” And the next time your product/service within the sales funnel becomes available, they’ll rapidly jump and buy immediately. No way that they’re going to miss out twice in a row!


Let’s look at a really simple sales funnel structure, starting from a valuable item that’s being given away for free to a high-priced item that costs $297.



This is a free item which provides a specific type of value to an ideal prospect by promising the achievement of one specific outcome. As an example, let’s say our freebie was an eBook that contained 100 tested, high-converting copywriting headlines. The sales page for this freebie would be really simple, and you’d have the following things: If you are going to create an opt-in funnel, the key here is simplicity. You need the following things:

  • Attractive logo. If you are giving away a product such as a free digital product, it would be helpful to put the product logo here or a picture of the product itself.
  • Captivating headline. You want to provide the benefit of a benefit. If you sell a fitness product, the benefit is that they lose weight. The benefit of the benefit is that they have increased confidence. Here’s an example: “You’re About To Discover A Fool-Proof, Science Based Method That’s 100% Guaranteed To Melt Away 12 to 23 Pounds Of Fat In Just 21 Days.” The key here is to get them to take action. Additionally, make the headline a moderate size so that your mobile users can read it clearly.
  • Call to action. “Simply fill out the form below and get instant access now.” This is asking for information before the affiliate offer or the free bonus that they are going to receive. This gives them direction and implies that the process will be very easy.
  • Two boxes for name and email. “Enter Your First Name” and “Enter Your Email Address” will suffice. Again, we want to give people simple directions.
  • Engaging button. “YES! TEACH ME THE METHOD!” would be a good example.
  • Promise of security. Remind people that this process is 100% secure and that you will never share or sell their email to anybody.

You can use a report, case study, video – whatever works best for you and your specific niche/expertise.

Tripwire / Direct Offer

There are differing names for this step of the sales funnel, but you are basically selling a very low-cost product that complements your freebie (or is related in some fashion). Generally, the price point that most people will use for such an offer is $7. Going back to our copywriting example, a great choice to use for the direct offer would be 1-hour audio interview with an A-list copywriter who talks about the importance of writing great leads (i.e. the introduction of any sales message).

The design in the above example is a little amateur-ish, but in terms of setting up all the persuasive elements of the tripwire stage in a sales funnel, they’re killing it!

NOTE: In every step following the initial page, you always want to acknowledge their previous purchase. This allows them to follow along in the sequence and see how each consequent offer is related to their first purchase. Sometimes, having an ‘order progress’ bar that visually shows buyers how far they are into the funnel can help boost conversions.


Generally priced anywhere from $17-37 (sometimes $27), you want to up the ante. You want to help somebody do something better and/or faster, or stack a bunch of bonuses that they literally cannot get anywhere else.

NOTE: Make sure these bonuses are EXCLUSIVE to your sales funnel only, otherwise you will lose out on the scarcity and urgency that people will experience in deciding whether they should buy them or not.

In the context of copywriting, we could possibly use a small collection of eBooks that achieve a set of targeted outcomes. One could be about market research and learning more about your direct competitors, one could be a quick guide about combining best SEO practices with persuasive copywriting, another one could be an “Everything you need to know about writing killer bullets” report, and so on.


At this point (if not earlier), your prospect – now a customer – is in buying mode. Since they have justified smaller purchases and are this deep into the sales funnel, they are that much more likely to buy more things. In fact, people are TWO times more likely to buy an upsell following their initial purchase.

In this case, we want to continue our logical sequence and keep the products related to one another. However, if upsell is TOO related to the previous product (i.e. yet another copywriting product), you may find yourself with lower conversion rates. For instance, you could offer a more expensive upsell on increasing traffic towards their website, that’s something that would entice them to buy again. It could be a lifetime purchase for a piece of software ($297) or an exclusive membership where they get private coaching on boosting website traffic ($97/month). No point in having amazing copy if nobody can see it!


If your buyer refuses the upsell and wishes to complete their purchase for the entire funnel, sometimes they might be directed towards a downsell. A downsell can be defined as an alternative yet related product which is sold at a far lower price. You want to highlight how you understand that this product is not for everyone, and YET you believe in them and you want to give them one last chance to get their hands on the product while they can. A cool copywriting idea would be a comprehensive sales letter system that ties in all of the previous elements together and shows you how to rapidly publish, edit and test high-converting sales letters for any niche at the one-time price of $49.

The downsell takes advantage of a concept called ‘anchoring.’ $49 on its own might seem like a hefty price, but when placed alongside $297 or even $97/month, it’s a bargain worth having! In other words, $49 is a great deal when compared to something far more expensive.

Confirmation / Thank You

Last but most certainly not least, we have the page where we re-confirm all of the products the customer has purchased and direct them to links where they can immediately download their products/services (if it is entirely digital).

Make sure you provide clear instructions on what they should do next, what they can expect to happen and when those things are going to happen. In order to build the trust in a customer that eventually turns them into a lifetime buyer, you cannot leave them hanging!

MODELING (a.k.a. “Funnel Hacking”)

I’d like to finish this article by talking about the importance of modeling when it comes to building and testing out your own sales funnel. This is a game-changing insight shared by ClickFunnels CEO Russell Brunson that you NEED to hear! Tony Robbins is known for saying that the fastest way to learn anything is through modeling. If you wanted to be a more effective leader in the workplace, for example, you would model the thoughts, behaviors and actions of effective leaders around you until you eventually become an effective leader yourself! Russell learned this the hard way, and realized that he would be so much more successful if he used what already worked in the real world.

You find DIRECT competitors (i.e. people selling the SAME product in the SAME market) and you model (NOT COPY) their sales funnel. Quite literally, you dissect the sales funnel piece by piece. You take screenshots of every single phase, going through each and every possible permutation of the sales funnel. You BUY the products, all the upsells and downsells, to see exactly what the structure of the sales funnel is.

Every little immaculate detail you can think of – the pricing strategies, the colors being used, the copywriting techniques being used, the design of all the forms – gets recorded and stored for your own use when creating your sales funnel. Really sit down and try to think about WHY the sales funnel works and what makes it so unique – what is it about the funnel that makes it so compelling to buy the product/service? The big mistake everyone makes is that they try to be a pioneer when they start off, thinking that they are smarter than the tried-and-true methods that have already been proven to work.


Those people know something you don’t, and there’s a good reason why they’re investing multiple millions of dollars into these sales funnels. Leverage what other people have already done and tested. Create your own sales funnel using a fully functional software platform like ClickFunnels and relentlessly reverse-engineer what your competitors are doing. You get to toy around and split test every small detail AFTER you finally have success. Additionally, you may want to use software such as SimilarWeb on your direct competitor’s sales funnel and see where the traffic is coming from. It will allow you to see the referring sites that took people towards the sales funnel.


Now you know what a sales funnel is, the elements needed to make them successful, the basic structure of a funnel, and a mindset shift that allows you to achieve rapid sales funnel success in whatever niche you’re working in. Even with all the right tools and systems in place, you may find the entire process of building out your sales funnel to be slightly awkward and confusing at places. It’s perfectly OK! Think of it like driving a car for the first time – eventually, all those tiny little actions become one smooth and effortless action. As you achieve your very first success with sales funnels, you gain the confidence, knowledge and experienced needed to replicate your success many times over at a faster speed through higher conversions and increased profits!

The best part about the funnels is that you don’t have to include virtually every single element that I talked about earlier. You can choose to leave some of them out or do more of them, depending on what’s appropriate for your niche and what gets you the best results. The sales funnel is the ultimate weapon for online success in the 21st century, but it’s up to you to build them and use them wisely.

Note: I am an independent ClickFunnels Affiliate, not an employee. I receive referral payments from ClickFunnels. The opinions expressed here are my own and are not official statements of ClickFunnels or its parent company, Etison LLC.

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Houston Web Design Jeremy McGilvrey

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