Focus on the definition of a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). This is the crucial handoff point between marketing and sales, so it’s essential that the teams agree on the terminology. Every company’s definition of an MQL will vary, but it should reflect a combination of traits and actions that indicate a lead is both a good fit for your company and ready to talk to a salesperson. Here’s one way to examine your funnel to assess lead quality and determine whether a lead is ready for sales follow-up:

Your company might target financial services companies with 5,000 or more employees, or small service businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Or, you may be only interested in manufacturing companies of a certain size. Within those categories, you also might identify individual lead profiles, such as title or job description and role in the decision-making process -- e.g., economic buyer, end user, influencer. How closely a lead aligns with your ideal customer profile will determine whether and when you hand it over to the sales team.

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Committed: Ideally, you want to close the deal when all red flags have been dealt with. In reality, most deals close while critical red flags still exist. At this point, you have provided the customer with a proposal that outlines key contractual terms. When a customer has agreed to move forward with a deal, they are “committed” (also known as “verbal commitment” or “verbal”). What remains is to work out the details of the contract, delivery and payment, all of which have the potential to“undo” the commitment. The commitment may be offered contingent upon certain terms being met.
First, a common language needs to be set up to ensure marketing knows when a lead should be moved from marketing’s control, and placed in the sales funnel. There are two terms, "marketing-qualified lead" (MQL) and "sales-qualified lead" (SQL) or “sales-accepted-lead,” which all sales funnels must embrace to keep both teams aligned. When marketing has a lead ready to talk to sales, the lead should be marked as an MQL, meaning marketing has gotten it to the point where they believe sales should take over. If sales agree the lead is sales-ready, they accept the lead and move it from MQL to SQL (or SAL), and the handoff is complete. If not, the lead goes back to marketing.
John Lincoln (MBA) is CEO of Ignite Visibility (a 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Inc. 5000 company) a highly sought-after digital marketing strategist, industry speaker and author of two books, "The Forecaster Method" and "Digital Influencer." Over the course of his career, Lincoln has worked with over 1,000 online businesses ranging from small startups to amazing clients such as Office Depot, Tony Robbins, Morgan Stanley, Fox, USA Today, COX and The Knot World Wide. John Lincoln is the editor of the Ignite Visibility blog. While he is a contributor, he does not write all of the articles and in many cases he is supported to ensure timely content.

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Sales and marketing teams need to adapt to these increasing demands. They have to work more closely together. While the marketing team still hands leads to the sales team at a point in the funnel, they have to stay involved to maximize customer retention and advocacy. The sales team needs to be involved early on, providing the benefits of their customer knowledge to help increase qualified leads and conversions.

sales funnel conversion rates


Sales rep success and skills shortage. A good sales pipeline also provides insight into which of your salespeople closes the most sales, has the highest ticket values, and needs more help and training to hit their quota. With this information, you can provide them with the assistance they need to improve their performance and get their sales numbers on track. 

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To overcome this, companies can develop and analyze their sales pipeline. When leaders track the volume of leads coming into their funnel, the number that are qualified buyers, the percentage that make it to the proposal stage, and more, they gather valuable insights into where there are areas for improvement in their sales process. This can help them strategically grow their overall sales. In fact, managers can use their pipeline to develop a more disciplined and structured approach to sales, making it easier to determine larger business needs (such as hiring) and goals (such as revenue and cash flow). 

Growbots – If you’re looking for a high-quality outbound sales solution, you should absolutely evaluate Growbots. According to one online testimony, using Growbots is as simple as setting up a customer profile, creating a must-read email with a clickbait headline, and then launching your campaign. It’s a bit pricey, though. The service starts at $500/month billed annually. However, when you think of a typical sales funnel, catchy emails probably comes to mind first. So, if you’re serious about utilizing sales funnel stages to your advantage, Growbots is worth the price.
Instapage – Instapage allows you to create landing pages at lightning-fast speeds with their large library of customizable templates. This tool also allows you to create fast-loading AMP landing pages which reduces bounce rates and increases conversions. The platform also provides post-click optimization for campaigns that send out a personalized thank you page and email. This is a useful sales funnel step for later on in the process.

sales funnel creation


Visual Website Optimizer – As a smart marketer, you already know that it’s important to test different versions of your website design to see which one works best. That’s why Visual Website Optimizer is so valuable. It uses heatmaps to show you which design elements on your site are getting the most attention. VWO also enables you to receive feedback from visitors so that you can see exactly which parts of your site need improvement and which parts are working well. This is a critical sales funnel step that can help you pinpoint any problem areas on your site and even expedite your company’s growth. 

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LeadForensics – Even if you incorporate a sophisticated lead capture form using Leadformly, there will always be leads that slip through the cracks. LeadForensics lives up to its name by capturing the IP address of your anonymous visitors and uses that address to determine important information about the visitor, such as contact information, demographics, and financial data.

sales funnel graphic template


To overcome this, companies can develop and analyze their sales pipeline. When leaders track the volume of leads coming into their funnel, the number that are qualified buyers, the percentage that make it to the proposal stage, and more, they gather valuable insights into where there are areas for improvement in their sales process. This can help them strategically grow their overall sales. In fact, managers can use their pipeline to develop a more disciplined and structured approach to sales, making it easier to determine larger business needs (such as hiring) and goals (such as revenue and cash flow). 

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