In the past three years since I started FunnelWise, I have had the chance to review hundreds of marketing and sales funnels. While every company’s funnel is slightly different, ultimately they tend to follow one of three patterns.
Before I get into the details of those patterns, it is important to understand the word “funnel” is a synonym for the business process that your organization uses to generate, transition and nurture leads from marketing through sales on the journey to becoming a paying customer. It is discrete from the buying process for your customers, although the two processes should be aligned and complementary.
One of the foundational elements of the Revenue Funnel Science methodology is to implement a funnel blueprint. A funnel blueprint is a written description of your funnel process that includes both business definitions and technical criteria for each step in your process. A great way to think about your blueprint is to draw it as a flowchart or process diagram and to include “swim lanes” or functional bands that indicate which team or area of the business owns each step of the process.
Funnel Blueprint Pattern 1: Sales Only
Some companies have a funnel that consists primarily of a series of sales opportunities stages. This model is common when a company does not yet have a strong marketing or demand generation engine. Sales sources its own opportunities and follows a series of steps to move them to closed won.
The number of opportunities stages varies from company to company. I have seen examples of anywhere from two to ten or more stages before closed won. The titles for those stages also vary. The most common steps include some type of discovery or qualification stage early in the process, and then a proposal or price quote step further along in the process.
Funnel Blueprint Pattern 2: Marketing + Sales
Once a company has an active demand generation engine, their funnel process typically evolves to include these components:
- Marketing owns and manages leads
- At some point, marketing determines that a lead is marketing qualified and is ready to hand off to sales
- The lead is then passed to sales, and sales confirms that it is qualified
- If it is qualified, an opportunity is created and the sales process continued
- If it is not ready to move forward in the sales process, it may be sent back to a nurture or recycle stage where marketing continues to manage the lead with the goal of eventually sending it through the process again
This approach introduces new complexity because leads or opportunities can enter the process at multiple points. Some leads start with marketing, while others may still be sourced directly by sales.
While not shown in the diagram, typical processes also include additional funnel leakage stages. For example, if a lead will never be a fit to sell to, it may be marked as disqualified instead of nurture or recycle.
Funnel Blueprint Pattern 3: Marketing + BDR + Sales
The third pattern is the most complicated but also the most common, especially amongst technology companies. Over the past ten years, many companies have added Business Development or Sales Development teams that qualify leads from marketing and also may conduct outbound prospecting. These teams can be called many different titles, such as BDRs, SDRs, LDRs, MDRs or just Inside Sales. For purposes of this explanation, I will refer to them simply as BDRs.
In a business utilizing a BDR team, the funnel process diagram evolves to add a third functional band. Marketing still manages leads and a stage exists where marketing determines that a lead is qualified and ready to hand off to the next step.
The lead is then passed to the BDR team. The terminology tends to vary from one company to the next, but generally there is a stage that indicates a BDR is “working” the lead from marketing. The BDR schedules a meeting with the lead and then hands it off to sales. Or the BDR and an account executive from sales may complete the meeting together.
With this pattern, there are multiple different entry points. Some leads originate with marketing. Others are sourced by the BDR team, and sales frequently still sources some opportunities on their own as well.
The starting point for optimizing your funnel process is to first make sure that you have clearly defined it. It is surprising how many companies have not put their funnel blueprint in writing, or if they have, marketing and sales have not both signed off on it.
When defining your funnel blueprint, it is also important to consider ideal state vs. current reality. For example, many people approach the funnel like it is always a sequential process, where records move neatly from the very first stage to the very end of the process. This is never the case. Most funnels have a lot of non-sequential movement with different entry points, records skipping stages, and backwards movement.
Once you have defined your funnel blueprint, you can then start to work through the next stages of the Revenue Funnel Science Maturity Model.
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