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.
Post-purchase. In business, the sale should be considered closed at the first contract signing. Instead, your reps should invest in providing exceptional service during onboarding and regularly monitoring the account’s progress. At opportune times, you can cross-sell existing customers on new services and upsell them on premium solutions. When the contract is about to expire, you can explore renewal options with them. Among your happiest clients, ask for referrals to other potential customers.

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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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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. 

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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%).


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:

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Often, one of the biggest blockers for sales and marketing alignment is the very different views each team has of the funnel. For example, they might disagree about the number of stages a lead passes through before becoming a customer. Furthermore, they often use different terminology to describe those stages. But in order to adopt an effective SMarketing (get it?) strategy, sales and marketing must have a unified picture of the funnel and standard definitions of each stage in the process. For example, HubSpot’s SMarketing team uses the following funnel stages:
You should be looking at these metrics all the time so you can assess whether you're slipping in any one area ... because you don't want to suffer a blip in your funnel. If your funnel develops a clog or hole somewhere along the way -- and it will, it's only natural -- you need to be able to identify it and fix it to keep your sales and marketing machine efficient. And if you are working with multiple different types of leads, these metrics should be considered for each segment of lead, too, so you know if some segments are more valuable to your business than others (or, even better, if some segments have more potential than you once realized)!

But what’s a sales funnel? It’s a visual representation of a traditional sales process from start to finish. It represents the buyer’s journey. From their first contact with your business until they make a purchase. It’s called a funnel because of its conical shape. Also because it “filters” visitors and converts them to customers. Confused? We got you covered.


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 journey mapping


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.

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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.


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.

sales funnel for service business


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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