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.
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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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.

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Create content and use tactics that help to keep them connected with your brand, even when they are not actively engaging with it. One of the most effective ways to boosts engagement is through Newsletters. This will keep them up-to-date about your latest products and discounts, major sales that they shouldn’t miss or any changes you make with regards to the terms & conditions of your service.

In brief, we are inclined to go along with someone’s suggestion if we think that person is a credible expert (authority), if we regard him or her as a trusted friend (liking), if we feel we owe them one (reciprocity), or if doing so will be consistent with our beliefs or prior commitments (consistency). We are also inclined to make choices that we think are popular (consensus [social proof]), and that will net us a scarce commodity (scarcity).

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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.

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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Lots of Interest, But Not a Good Fit: Leads in the lower right don’t necessarily fit your ideal customer profile, but are highly engaged with your brand. They might have subscribed to your blog and email newsletter, downloaded your ebooks, and attended your webinars. It’s worth having a sales rep do a low-cost follow-up with these fans to see if there’s an easy sale to make from a non-traditional customer. Sometimes leads that don’t seem like a fit have a good reason to buy your product. They can also turn into great evangelists for your products or services, thus providing you with indirect support as non-customers. That’s why you can’t automate the entire sales and marketing process. At some point, a good marketer or sales rep can spot an opportunity that your systems might overlook.
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.

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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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However, video conferencing and other apps offer an opportunity to engage prospects at a time and place that suits them. In fact, 60% of sales reps say they spend more time selling virtually than they did in 2015, according to the third edition of Salesforce’s global “State of Sales” study. Meanwhile, 52% of sales reps say they spend the same amount of time or less meeting with customers in person.

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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.

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.

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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Intercom Acquire – Ever visit a website and notice a happy face in the lower, right-hand corner next to a message like: “I’m Sadie! Can I help you with anything?” That’s a marketing chat system run by a company like Intercom. When people hit your landing page, you can use Intercom’s Acquire service to answer any questions that might not be answered on your web page.

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Review your initial lead response time. According to InsideSales.com, 35-50 percent of sales go to the vendor that responds first. Speed literally wins deals! The time it takes for your company to respond to leads once they hit their inbox may be the first source of a leak, so make sure to review this and make time in your day for prioritizing responding to leads.

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Create content and use tactics that help to keep them connected with your brand, even when they are not actively engaging with it. One of the most effective ways to boosts engagement is through Newsletters. This will keep them up-to-date about your latest products and discounts, major sales that they shouldn’t miss or any changes you make with regards to the terms & conditions of your service.

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You need to understand your audience like you do your very own yourself. You are aware of your dislikes and likes, you know what problems you face and you know the sort of people you will let help with those problems. If you learn to know your audience in the same manner, the chances of you establishing a genuine connection increase vastly. You will also be able to guide more people through your sales funnel and get those coveted ‘closed-wons’.
Transacted: A sale has transpired when a contract is signed by both parties. From a salesperson’s perspective, the fulfillment of the contract is the responsibility of other parts of the organization, and the salesperson can now focus on the next opportunity. In the case of early-stage start-ups, however, frequently the person that sells is also involved in fulfilling the contract. A signed contract can be booked as revenue from an accounting perspective.

sales funnel stages

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