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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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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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.
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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The first stage is to make people aware of your brand and products. Whether you are a design agency or running an eCommerce website, then you must use WordPress plugins. If a person doesn’t know about the existence of your brand, how will he become your client or make a purchase? In the initial phase, products or services don’t get much exposure. However, through efficient marketing tactics, your brand can trigger curiosity leading to sales.


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.

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. 

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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.

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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.
LeadCrunch – “Imagine if you could reach the right person at the right company with the right message at the right time to find a new customer?” That’s the opening question in the marketing video on the LeadCrunch website. The company uses a sophisticated algorithm to help you find people in your target market. As of this writing, though, it’s meant for companies in the B2B space.
These metrics closely relate to each other. For example, the number of deals in your funnel matters only if you know what percentage of your deals you win on average. The average size of a deal impacts the amount of deals you should be closing in order to hit your revenue goal. And sales velocity helps you understand how much of your time can and should go towards each quality deal, so you can manage your days effectively.
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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The first stage is to make people aware of your brand and products. Whether you are a design agency or running an eCommerce website, then you must use WordPress plugins. If a person doesn’t know about the existence of your brand, how will he become your client or make a purchase? In the initial phase, products or services don’t get much exposure. However, through efficient marketing tactics, your brand can trigger curiosity leading to sales.

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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.

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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%.

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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.

sales funnel chart


Qualified prospect: Qualification is the most critical and demanding stage of the sales funnel. In the qualification process, you verify that the prospect has a need for your product, that the prospect sees value in your offering, that there is sufficient budget for a deal, that you have access to the decision-maker, and that there is an agreed-upon timeline for the sales process. The qualification process can be complex and lengthy, and can be managed with a Sales Call Talk Track and stakeholder management chart.
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.

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