When looking at how lead generation via social media effects your sales funnel, recognize that now more than ever, you need to manage your sales and contacts via a simple CRM like Base.

Think you know the sales funnel? You know: scrounge up leads, tell them why your product is great, then close the sale? An updated version of the sales funnel now applies in this age of social media. It’s time to take a new look at your sales funnel, taking in account the social factor.

GetSatisfaction illustrates the new sales funnel marvelously:

Old: Prospecting; New: Attention

These days, the consumer is in charge.

In addition to seeking out leads in a more traditional sales funnel, the social sales funnel has people looking for you, if you’re doing it right. Your prospects now come in as people seeking solutions to their problems online. It’s up to you to get their attention.

Say someone is looking for information on top client gifts for the holidays. If you sell corporate gifts and have a fantastic blog post on this very topic on your blog, the potential customer falls into your funnel through that channel.

Likewise, prospects find you through Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Maybe someone’s searching Twitter posts for ideas on web design and stumbles across your Tweet. This provides an excellent opportunity for you to latch on to a potential lead.

You have to account for all the different places your marketing connects to prospects to go through the sales funnel. Keep your brand active on all of these channels by providing value, creating conversations and sharing content.

Old: Qualifying Leads; New: Capturing Interest

These days, customers disqualify themselves as non-leads when they lose interest. Maybe that person searching for client gifts couldn’t afford what you were selling, or wasn’t ready to buy. These people won’t be customers. But for those who are excited to have found your brand and the information you provide, you now need to keep their attention to move them down the funnel.

This is where interacting directly and personally with customers on social sites comes into play. It’s about back and forth dialogue on Twitter, responding to people’s posts on Facebook and sharing other users’ content.

Old: Pitching the Sale; New: Creating Desire

Sure, you still have to pitch a customer to make the sale happen, but they’ll come to that of their own accord if you let them. If you’ve got a ton of content on your site about your services, as well as testimonials from past clients, you make their mouths water for what you’re selling. It’s all about creating desire.

Look to social sites like Yelp to encourage customers to post reviews (hopefully good ones) that will entice new customers. The more places you can create a demand for your product, the better chance you have of driving new sales. From here, the customer decides to buy from you, making your job easier than ever.

Old: Make the Sale; New: Action

You might expect the sales funnel to end here. After all, you achieved your goal of making a sale, didn’t you? But it doesn’t. This is where you can position your relationship with your new customer to continue. Keep interacting on social media and staying in the loop with your customers after the sale.

Old: Start at the Top of the Funnel; New: Advocacy

As Marci Reynolds on The Sales Operations Blog says, “By using social media you have an opportunity to engage your customer(s) beyond the actual point of purchase and create evangelists for your brand.”

So rather than saying, “thanks for doing business with us; can you refer us new business?” you have the opportunity to continue your relationship with your customers, which makes them want to tell others about you through social channels.

If you shift your thinking to let customers find their way into your funnel rather than pulling them against their will, you’ll see great results!

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