Effective sales funnel management is a key tool in optimizing your sales team’s performance. A well-managed sales funnel will move prospects through the sales process faster, reduce unnecessary losses, and help your team win more deals.
What is a Sales Funnel?
The sales funnel, also referred to as the purchase funnel, describes how your prospects move through your sales process, from initial awareness of your company to becoming and remaining customers.
The top (or beginning) of the funnel has a wide mouth, to capture as many qualified opportunities as possible. As prospects move through your sales process (and down the funnel), the funnel narrows to include only those prospects who continue along the buyer’s journey with you at each of the sales funnel stages.
Every funnel is different based on your unique product, service, position in the market, and other factors. Common stages of the sales funnel include:
- Qualified Leads
What Is the Difference Between the Sales Funnel and The Sales Process?
The sales funnel describes how potential customers move through your sales process. The sales process describes the steps your team takes to help them move from one funnel stage to the next.
It’s important to note a third process that runs alongside the sales process and the sales funnel, which is the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and make a decision to purchase a new product or service.
What Is the Difference Between Sales Funnel Management and Sales Pipeline Management?
Sales funnel management is closely connected to sales pipeline management.
Pipeline management refers to the process of ensuring there are enough potential customers in each stage of the sales cycle to meet sales goals.
Sales funnel management refers to managing each prospective customer’s journey through the sales process.
The most effective sales teams align the sales process with the buyer’s journey and engage in best practices for both pipeline management and sales funnel management.
4 Best Practices for Sales Funnel Management
1. Connect the Marketing Funnel with the Sales Funnel
Marketing and sales alignment is critical to maximizing revenue generation.
To ensure your sales and marketing funnels align be sure to:
- Specify the metrics that matter. Agree together on what defines a marketing qualified lead, sales qualified lead, etc.
- Establish accountability. Service Level Agreements between marketing and sales teams should define goals for the quantity and quality of leads that marketing pushes to sales. Likewise, define goals for response times and closing ratios for the sales team to strive for.
- Meet regularly. Regular meetings allow your teams to address any changes in the marketing funnel and/or sales funnel, and to share new information related to customer behavior.
This process takes time and investment, but it’s worth the effort. According to Marketo, when sales and marketing teams are in sync, companies increase deal closing by 67%.
2. Track Prospects Through the Funnel
Clearly define criteria for prospects to move from one funnel stage to the next. Create a sales funnel chart and communicate criteria and expectations to all of your sales reps.
Make sure sales managers are communicating clear expectations to salespeople about maintaining accurate and up to date data on each potential customer’s location in the sales funnel.
This information can be used to target messaging and optimize the sales process. It also helps to ensure more accurate sales forecasting.
3. Target Messaging Based on Funnel Location
Knowing where sales leads are in the funnel helps your sales reps to target messaging that is appropriate for each stage.
Work with your marketing and sales enablement functions to ensure every member of your team has access to content appropriate for every stage of the sales funnel.
Train salespeople to change the way they communicate with sales leads based on where they are in the funnel, and to maintain a steady cadence of communication appropriate to each funnel stage.
4. Measure and Adjust
Measure key metrics at every stage of the funnel. Conversion rates from one stage to the next will help you identify where there may be problems, as well as to define when a lead has become “stale” or should be moved out of the pipeline.
Rather than allowing stagnant leads to clog up your pipeline, coach your salespeople to deploy prepared outreach once a lead has crossed a threshold of no contact. For example, if after 30 days no contact has been made with the lead, your team members can create reminders to take a specific action.
Maybe they send a direct mail package as a final outreach attempt. Maybe they send a final “breakup” email to the contact letting them know they’re parting ways.
Keeping the pipeline unclogged results in higher quality communication with qualified leads, and more accurate sales forecasts.
The Bottom Line
Sales teams that are organized and follow streamlined processes outperform teams that allow salespeople to “fly by the seat of their pants.”
Train your team with a repeatable, buyer-focused sales process like IMPACT Selling, and give them a road map to follow for closing more business in less time.
Hear from one client on how IMPACT transformed their sales team from operating like the “wild west” to having structure and a system.
The fundamental truth is this: sales believes that the rest of the company wouldn’t have jobs if not for them…and the rest of the company feels sales wouldn’t have a job without them. Learn how to undo this unproductive dynamic and create a well-oiled machine that will drive more revenue.