If a sales opportunity does not move down the funnel, the sale will not happen and the opportunity should be removed, hence the “leaky” funnel. A leaky funnel is not necessarily bad; as a salesperson, you want to focus on opportunities that are likely to yield results. It is the nature of sales to have to remove an opportunity from your funnel. It does not mean that you will not sell to that account (a positive action by the customer can put them back into the funnel), but for the time being, you should centre your attention on opportunities that remain in the funnel.

According to this research by McKinsey, a customer narrows down their options based on the initial consideration (brand awareness) and active evaluation (seek information about the products/services). When both of the former factors are in place, it leads to a purchase decision a.k.a sales, albeit just for that moment. This then needs to continue towards the next stages in the sales funnel, .i.e. customer engagement and customer loyalty.

sales funnel meaning


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). 
The definitions of MQL and SQL (SAL) should be spelled out, and agreed upon, in a service level agreement (SLA). The SLA outlines the terms of how sales and marketing will work together. The SLA should define what MQL and SQL look like, as well as state the time frame and process each team must follow. For example, an MQL has reached a score of 75 through a combination of content engagement and web engagement and fits the ideal customer profile. It must be accepted by sales or sent back to marketing within 24 hours of being assigned. The SLA should be drafted together by both marketing and sales leadership and signed off on by both parties.

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For some businesses, sales come naturally. Leads can arrive from various marketing campaigns or existing client referrals. Through a number of conversations, those prospects may later convert into paying customers. Among many small and midsize organizations, though, the sales process can be haphazard and unstructured. As a result, sales can be unpredictable.

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Probability to close. Even if your sales team has hundreds of high-value leads in the pipeline, salespeople may not be successful in winning a majority of those opportunities. Estimate how likely each lead is to convert into a customer based on your team’s conversations with them, their current stage in the sales pipeline, and other criteria that signal their eagerness to strike a deal.  

sales funnel diagram


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.
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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By now, most marketers understand the importance of mending the traditional rift between sales and marketing. The mistrust and miscommunication that’s so often found between the two teams can act like an anchor on your company’s growth rate. In fact, organizations with good alignment between sales and marketing teams achieved 20% annual revenue growth in 2010, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group. By contrast, companies with poor alignment saw revenues decline by 4%.
Data insights are again the key to funnel optimization. Three other data-driven technologies follow analytics and sales reporting as the most popular sales tools: account and contact management (65%), sales forecasting tools (56%), and customer relationship management (CRM) systems (58%). The latter is a particularly crucial tool for optimization, enabling your business to organize all customer-related data in a central location.
AWeber – It’s often the case that you’ll let people try your service for free or for a limited time. Of course, as a good marketer, you’ll ask for their email in exchange for the free trial membership. Once you’ve got that email, you’ll need an autoresponder like AWeber to keep in contact with them. AWeber makes it easy to email contacts en masse and also tracks analytics about individual email campaigns. If AWeber doesn’t suit your fancy, have a look at competing tools such as MailChimp and GetResponse. Any of these will work well and keep your prospects engaged.

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Resource gaps and overallocation. Within your sales pipeline, you may notice some salespeople are focused on leads who may never convert while unintentionally neglecting prospects who are eager to purchase your products and services and tend to sign larger contracts and deals. Find out ways to better utilize your team’s time to drive better results long-term. 

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Getting this timing right prevents losing prospects by bombarding them with too much information or giving them the hard sell too early. This is why moving prospects through the funnel is often called “nurturing.” Seventy-eight percent of business buyers seek salespeople who act as trusted advisors with knowledge of their needs and industry. Prospects should ideally only receive the information and sales help they need when they need it.
Revisit your sales funnel from lead to close. Earlier in this guide, you’ve already mapped this out. Now, it’s time to think about potential flaws in your system that make it hard for a prospect to do business with you. It’s too easy for companies to sacrifice customer experience for internal process. Make sure that you break down barriers and make it easy for prospects to engage with you at every stage.

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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.

sales funnel health


The execution of sales funnel stages depend on your efforts and resources. By improving brand visibility and making information related to your product/service readily available, you can build a strong database of customers and prospects. This can help you set and achieve future goals. More importantly, it is also essential to focus beyond the purchase stage, as it is relatively cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one. 

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As “State of Sales” finds, salespeople believe a combination of human skills and data-driven insights is needed to convert prospects into customers. In fact, the ability to listen is seen by 78% of those surveyed as an important attribute needed for landing deals. But sales reps also have to demonstrate industry knowledge (74%), trustworthiness (74%), and knowledge of prospects’ business needs (73%).

The content strategy for sales funnel would vary at each stage. This is because potential buyers all go through different sales journey and as such, you can’t fit them all in one frame. With major competition in the eCommerce business, you can‘t expect your customers to have the same starting points. Thus, the content should be aligned according to the modern customer behaviours.


Before you start building your sales funnel, it is essential to have a clear business vision, develop an ecommerce marketing strategy, and then define your target audience to work towards your business growth. If, for example, you are looking at how to create an online clothing store, you need to follow specific steps to develop your business and stay successful.
Before you start building your sales funnel, it is essential to have a clear business vision, develop an ecommerce marketing strategy, and then define your target audience to work towards your business growth. If, for example, you are looking at how to create an online clothing store, you need to follow specific steps to develop your business and stay successful.
Salesforce – It’s arguably the case that the “go-to” tool for managing people who are stuck somewhere in the middle of the sales funnel is Salesforce. Of course, once you’ve said “Salesforce,” you haven’t said everything because the company offers a suite of marketing tools. At this stage, though, you’re mainly interested in the Salesforce CRM tool so that you can keep track of your prospects and gently push them forward into the final funnel stage.

sales funnel software

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