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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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.
“Aligning marketing and sales during the sales funnel does more than just align the teams — it creates better business outcomes,” said Mathew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce. His stance is validated by a SiriusDecisions study that found brands with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth. The three easiest ways to ensure marketing and sales alignment will succeed is a common language, co-created shared programs, and a policy to abide by a service level agreement.

sales funnel dashboard


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.

sales funnel graph


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.

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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.

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.

Your content should be able to effectively communicate to your audience the benefits of a product and service. Sharing success stories, through case studies and testimonials, to show how your brand fulfils the needs and preferences of the customers, has also proven to be a productive approach for marketing. With so many emerging startups, it’s the intriguing stories that can help you stand out.
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.
The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.
LinkedIn Sales Navigator – If you’re in the B2B space, then hopefully you’re actively marketing your brand on LinkedIn. With the LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you can take marketing on that social media site to the next level by finding lead recommendations that are tailor-fit to your business. It makes navigating through your sales funnel much easier.

You can also promote your leads magnets on social media to generate leads or include a link to the landing page to your email signature. According to a recent Newoldstamp report, 34% of businesses that use email signatures for marketing generate leads by adding CTAs or clickable banners to their sign-offs. Email signature marketing platforms like Newoldstamp or MySignature allow us to automate the process.
Beyond terms and process, one of the best ways brands can align both sales and marketing is through shared programs such as account-based marketing (ABM) and lead nurturing. In 2018, Salesforce Research found high-performing marketing organizations to be 1.5x more likely to use ABM methods, and 1.9x more likely to use lead nurturing than underperforming marketing organizations. They are “shared programs” since both marketing and sales should work together to create them. Marketing handles the technology and setup while sales pick the targets and help create the content. Sharing in the creation of the programs allows sales to feel ownership of the programs, increasing their use and overall effectiveness.

sales funnel email


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 flowchart


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:

“Aligning marketing and sales during the sales funnel does more than just align the teams — it creates better business outcomes,” said Mathew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce. His stance is validated by a SiriusDecisions study that found brands with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth. The three easiest ways to ensure marketing and sales alignment will succeed is a common language, co-created shared programs, and a policy to abide by a service level agreement.

sales funnel dashboard


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.
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


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. 

sales funnel description


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.
To automate reporting and connect even more of the dots between each salesperson’s activity and overall performance, use sales management software such as a CRM platform. Teams armed with the right sales pipeline and dashboard generally are able to use the information and insights gleaned to improve their sales, cut costs, and outperform their goals. 

sales funnel free


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.

how to create a sales funnel

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