How to build a Sales and Marketing Funnel

We often get asked about how to build a Sales and Marketing Funnel or improve existing sales funnel performance. How to increase conversions and of course, how to be more efficient across all elements.

But what if you’re just starting out with building a sales and marketing funnel? What the heck is it in real life and how can you use it to improve your performance? If you’re new to Funnels then check our online Funnel Builder here 

First and foremost we didn’t invent either the sales funnel or marketing funnel, but we have been working with them for the past 17 years and so we’ve learned a thing or two about how to build a Sales and Marketing Funnel

The most important starting point for anyone building a sales funnel is the understand and define what you’re trying to achieve, building a funnel for the sake of it will only add complexity to your current methods. Instead let’s think about why this magic sales and marketing funnel is so important in solving the nagging problems most of us face everyday:

  • “We always get rubbish leads”
  • “Our close rate is 1/100”
  • “The data that comes from online leads is poor”
  • “These leads aren’t the right fit”
  • “Our conversion rates are low”

A good sales and marketing funnel will enable you to really nail quality and quantity at all stages in your process, from Impression to Click, Click to Form Fill, Form Fill to Lead and all the way to Closed Business. Bringing Sales and Marketing closer together for better results and helping you increase revenue through performance increases.

Sales and Marketing Funnel Definitions

Getting your sales and marketing teams talking a common language is critical to any funnel roll out, we’d suggest getting all the teams (or representatives) together in a room to really talk through their own experiences and what stages they experience in the process. Typically the point of lead handover will be the trickiest to agree a definition for between Sales and Marketing but, get it right and immediately you’ve created a “handshake” between the teams and set some key standards for both teams to expect.

Here at The Demand Generation Team we’ve seen a host of definitions, some super complex, others remarkably simple – we like to work with a mix or Forrester’s SiriusDecisions Waterfall definitions and practical real world additions based on our clients.

Stage Definition
Impression (IMP) Web/ Social/ Online Impression
Visit (Vi) Visit to your web property
Dormant Lead (DL) Known contact with zero engagement in past 90 days
Inquiry New (INN) New contact completing form (becoming known)
Inquiry Response (INR) Existing contact re-engagement
Automation Qualified Lead (AQL) Lead has engaged with additional content, email, or web.
Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) All data populated

Lead has reached high enough scoring criteria to be passed over to Sales

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) Lead has opportunity associated
Sales Rejected Lead (SRL) Lead has been rejected by sales (disqualified)

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and your teams may need more or less but for anyone starting out to build a Sales and Marketing funnel these definitions will be a good starting point.

Once your definitions are mapped out and you’ve reached agreement between sales and marketing it’s time to get your systems aligned to your new world order. Most organisations will plug these into around 3 different systems depending on the funnel stage;

Above the line | Marketing Owned | Sales Owned

Above the line, i.e. prior to becoming known to you, will need to plug into GA/ Search Console and any Ad platforms you’re running – they should be fairly simple metrics to plug in but can be exceptionally powerful when combined with your conversion data. For example Display ads may be giving you huge impression exposure but very little in the way of traffic, less in conversions and next to nothing further down the funnel – great for exposure but as the saying goes “impressions for vanity, sales for sanity”.

Marketing Owned – typically Marketing owned leads would normally span DL > MQL definitions, with everything below typically “supported” by marketing however e-commerce led organisations often reclassify SQL and SRL to reflect different nurture programs. Integrating these types of lead statuses into your platforms will normally require groups to be created in your Marketing Automation (MAP) or CRM platform based on behaviours, scoring and demographic. If you’re holding all marketing data in both MAP and CRM you’ll need to build your groupings in both platforms for consistency.  Whether your storing in one or both it’s important to ensure that data passes seamlessly and correctly to and from Sales and Marketing.

Creating these groups within your platforms will allow you to better understand the real quality of the leads you’re creating – a poor Inquiry to Marketing Qualified lead rate may suggest that the type of buyers you’re attracting needs attention or you need to build a better nurture program to help increase the likelihood of conversion.

*Top Tip* as well as understanding and improving conversion rates between these funnel stages most organisations will eventually look for increases in the speed (velocity) of sale, creating date stamp data when you implement your funnel stages will short cut this when you do need to improve velocity.

Sales Owned – From SQL onwards most organisations will use their own pipeline stages (needs analysis, proposal, close etc) and we’d fully recommend using these stages as part of any deep dive analysis. As well as improving the quality of leads handed over, using these broad definitions within CRM will help you to better understand which inbound channels are performing good, better, best (and vice versa).  Assigning these values across the funnel will also give you transparency around individual performance and of course any improvements needed to help your sales team increase their own sales conversions.

Setting Funnel Benchmarks

If you’re just starting out with a Sales and Marketing funnel you may not have any data driven benchmarks to work from. If not don’t panic we’ve included some broad line benchmarks we’ve developed across the years. These are not industry specific but guidelines around best practice:

Impression to Click/ Visit 0.10%
Click/ Visit to INQ 3%
INQ to AQL 90%
AQL to MQL 50%
INQ to MQL 60%
MQL to SQL 50%
SQL to Sale 20%

Starting to track your own benchmarks will open a new world of insight and help you make big leaps in your own effectiveness; we’d recommend starting with aggregated data (across all channels) to identify your biggest gaps before delving down into each channel for specific performance improvements.

In setting up your sales and marketing benchmarks typically multiple data sources need to connect to give you a full funnel view. Tools like DataStudio, PowerBi or Tableau can be invaluable in connecting your data together, as is a good, experienced agency that can bring the sources together.

Roll out

You’ve done it! You’ve built a Sales and Marketing Funnel. You’ve defined, integrated and set your own Sales and Marketing funnel benchmarks – all that needs to happen now is your teams need to start using it….

Unfortunately without the buy in of all of your teams and their commitment to really using it the sales and marketing funnel will only give you half a picture. To counteract this we’d thoroughly recommend a genuine roll out with your teams. Try group led training sessions, drop in opportunities and regular reviews with team leads to ensure that your sales and marketing funnel will helps you to really nail quality and quantity at all stages.

Posted by daniel on Saturday 25th July 2020