What Shape is Your Funnel?

Funnel Shape

When it comes to sales and marketing funnels, most people picture an inverted triangle with each stage getting progressively smaller as prospects move down the funnel. This symbolizes the buyer’s journey from first contact to becoming a paying customer. In reality, many real-life funnels do not follow this pattern. Sometimes they do not look like a “funnel” at all.

Classic Example of Bulging Funnel Syndrome

Classic Example of Bulging Funnel Syndrome

Revenue funnels may have lower stages with more records in them than the stage above. Another term for this is “bulging funnel syndrome.” A bulging or misshapen funnel can be a symptom of different problems:

  • Your funnel may not be designed properly and the funnel blueprint needs revisited.
  • Processes aren’t being followed properly and need to be reinforced.
  • A large volume of records are skipping certain stages or entering the funnel at a midway point – also known as side movement.
  • Or it may be a combination of all of these problems.

One professional I know has referred to this as the “python swallowed a rabbit” shape for a funnel (although in the example above, the python appears to have swallowed two rabbits, not just one).

You are probably familiar with the inkblot test (also known as a Rorschach test), where mental health professionals show pictures of inkblots and ask the subject what they think it looks like. I oftentimes think of this example when looking at different “funnels.” You can learn a lot from examining the shape of your funnel and listening to what it tells you. Let’s take a look at some examples of misshapen funnels.

Funnel Shape Example #1

Funnel Shape Example #1

This example above denotes a “top heavy,” funnel. The stage at the top, usually owned by marketing, is generating a high volume of leads. The two stages directly below it are not being used properly or perhaps are being skipped entirely by some records. The next three stages are all equal in size, so records keep moving to the next stage and there is no reduction in volume, which could indicate an issue in processes. Finally, a closed-won stage at the end, is smaller than the stage above, which should be expected because not every record makes it to closed won.

Funnel Shape Example #2

Funnel Shape Example #2

This example above is a bit more interesting. There is a miniature upside-down funnel in the top three stages, with each stage being bigger than the one above. This could be because records are entering in the second or third stage, skipping the stage above, signaling that a process is not being followed internally as records are being added to the CRM or marketing automation platforms. Then the funnel narrows significantly, except for one stage that becomes larger. At the bottom, the closed-won stage is larger than any other stage in the funnel, implying a large amount of records skipped all of the stages above. This is a sign of a process issue, or perhaps an issue with how this company’s funnel blueprint was set up because records are entering closed won, but don’t meet the criteria to enter any other stages prior to that.

Funnel Shape Example #3

Funnel Shape Example #3

This last example is almost a complete upside-down funnel. The stages get progressively larger as records move through the funnel, with the only exception being the third stage. It is an indication that the funnel blueprint needs further revisions or perhaps the existing blueprint has not been communicated properly within all areas of the organization since it is not being followed properly.

These examples are just a handful of the many I have seen. Recently, I saw an organization where each of the sales rep sub funnels had a different shape! Imagine if a company had three sales reps and they each had a funnel that looked like examples 1, 2 and 3 above. For the organization I saw, it was a sign that their sales team was not on the same page about their processes and opportunity stages. By highlighting these discrepancies visually, we were able to have a great discussion about what the right processes should be moving forward.

Looking at the shape of your “funnel” is a critical component to understanding what is working successfully and what is not. Examples like these provide valuable clues to help you determine where adjustments need to be made or where processes aren’t being followed completely.

Need to Adjust Your Funnel Blueprint?

If your funnel looks like any of these, download our eBook, Revenue Funnel Building 101, to build or rebuild yours today.

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