Marketing and Sales Funnel

If you have missed my last blog post about marketing and sales alignment, I strongly advise you to first read that post. In that blog post I have explained why I believe companies are not using marketing and sales teams in the right way. Also, I have explained why they need to work together in order to provide best experience for the end user. In this blog post let’s see what does it mean, for both marketing and sales teams, to speak the same language. Let’s go through marketing and sales funnel.

If you take a look at some sales funnels you will notice that they start with prospecting or initial contacting. Prospecting stage is actually step 0 because it happens independently of the sales process. “Old-fashioned” way of prospecting is better known as cold-calling. To be clear, cold-calling still works, it’s still used and probably should be used in some scenarios. I am not going to write about cold-calling but rather, I will explain the funnel that connects marketing and sales activities. In that case, first “sales” contact is not “cold”. It has context for specific person (even though terminology defines “contact” at the end of the day it is a person not just contact with email and number).

6 Stages of the Marketing and Sales funnel

If you take a look at a funnel above you can notice that it defines 6 stages which are splitted into 3 groups:

  1. Top of the funnel
  2. Middle of the funnel
  3. Bottom of the funnel

Top of the funnel (Marketing)

It is all about attracting visitors by providing them a value. Giving them reasons to visit your website, social media channels, events etc.

Prospects or visitors are persons who, for instance, visited your website or signed up for your newsletter but you don’t know much about them.

Lead, on the other hand, is a person who has submitted a form on your website in order to access content that he/she may find more or less valuable. It can be eBook, whitepaper or even better – case study of your solution in some specific industry. The last one shows you that there is some interest in your solution.

Middle of the funnel (Marketing and Sales)

In this stage of the funnel, company should have a great sense of importance about marketing-sales alignment. Here is important to understand mutual goals and ways of working. It is important to agree on metrics and definitions what MQL and SQL are.

Marketing Qualified Lead is a lead more likely to become a customer compared to other leads. Basically, MQLs differentiate from other Leads either by using some scoring model (more details later) or by comparing that lead to previous buyers/ideal buyer personas. MQL leads standout from other leads and they are sales-ready.

Sales Qualified Lead is a MQL that sales team has determined to be worthy of a direct follow-up. It is a lead that has been research by both marketing and sales departments and is classified as a lead worth contacting.

Bottom of the funnel (Sales)

Generally speaking, this is the beginning of the sales funnel. From software solutions perspective, this is just simplification of funnel for the needs of marketing-sales alignment story.

Opportunity is a SQL that has a sales representative communicate with and is classified as a potential customer.

Customer. Well, it is a customer 🙂

Understand Lead Quality

Every company should have their own definition of marketing qualified leads, sales qualified leads or even leads in general. It depends on what is the core business of the company, how they collect leads, in which industry they are and generally, what activities they are taking in order to “fill” the sales funnel etc.

Based on your specific method you will distribute leads in this four quadrants:


Leads with low interest and low fit are leads that you should avoid. They are not worth of any additional activity (except they are everything you have). On the other hand, if you have a lead that is great fit for your company and shows genuine interest in your solutions than you should follow-up immediately!

> Sales reps that follow up with new contacts are 60x more likely to qualify a lead than sales reps who wait 24 hours or longer. – Harward Business Review, 2011.

More about developing of MQL definition and lead scoring using HubSpot you may find in this article.


This is not one unique funnel that your sales and marketing teams need. This funnel is representation of marketing and sales alignment. Sales team should definitely have more steps between opportunity and customer. Well, it would be better if you could convert opportunity to customer in just one step but that’s not how things are going 🙂

With all the mentioned steps above, you can see that there is a huge benefit of marketing-sales alignment because once lead enters the sales funnel, there are great set of information for that lead. It allows sales team to better understand potential customer and to be more focused on leads that are worth contacting and meeting.

Moreover, this is not process that goes in one direction (marketing→sales). One important thing in the marketing-sales alignment is feedback that is undoubtedly important. In order to get the best possible results there must be a feedback from marketing to sales, and from sales to marketing in order to completely understand what is happening in the market. More about these topics in some future writings.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts! 😊

Ivan Markovic

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