August 13

Building a Marketing Funnel and More Lead Management Tips

Lead Nurturing


I was recently interviewed for an article on lead management by Chris Koch who works for ITSMA, the Information Technology Services Marketing Association.

In the article titled, “Building a Marketing Funnel and Other Lead Management Tips,” I give the following five tips on how you can make your B2B lead management more effective, which are:

  1. Create a marketing funnel.
  2. Create a universal definition of a lead.
  3. Use the phone.
  4. Ask about goals—don’t sell.
  5. Define lead nurturing—and the right people to nurture.

Here’s a short excerpt from my interview.

1. Create a marketing funnel.

Most organizations don’t have a marketing funnel; they have a sales funnel that looks more like a bucket with lots of holes in it where leads leak out. Marketing needs to create its own funnel to understand whether leads are sales-ready or not.

The purpose of the marketing funnel is to bring leads into one spot and qualify them. By qualifying them, I mean that the leads are ready to talk to someone from a sales perspective. Then there is the hand-off process between marketing and sales. I find that connecting the marketing and sales funnel together is really a big challenge. You have to understand your sales process to know at what point the sales team views a lead as an opportunity and begins actively pursuing it.

Lead generation really is about building relationships. It’s how can I help my sales team build relationships with the right people and the right companies. The marketing funnel creates sales-ready leads and nurtures the leads that aren’t sales ready.

The bigger and better you make your marketing pipeline, ultimately the bigger and better you make your sales pipeline. In the end, this isn’t about generating more leads; it’s about generating actionable leads.

Continue reading Building a Marketing Funnel and Other Lead Management Tips

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About the author 

Brian Carroll

Brian Carroll is the CEO and founder of markempa, helping companies to convert more customers with empathy-based marketing.

He is the author of the bestseller, Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and founded B2B Lead Roundtable LinkedIn Group with 20,301+ members.

  1. One thing that has helped us with the marketing to sales handoff is getting sales involved during the lead nurturing process. Send emails out in their name and have the reps make calls to the prospects.

  2. The concept of a Marketing Funnel is proof the line between marketing and every other department, sales, web design, etc. is fading away in this service driven economy. Marketing’s responsibility as other departments are changing and evolving.

  3. Great post. “Marketing needs to create its own funnel to understand whether leads are sales ready or not” this is right on! I feel that with some companies this is a gray area as to who is responsible for qualifying them and sometimes that’s where the disconnect between marketing and sales can happen.

  4. Hi Brian,

    I like the idea of the Marketing Funnel, but I personally loath the sales funnel. My preference is to call it a pipeline and envision a pipe. Even the largest players in any market only close about 15% of the deals in their sales pipeline forecast. So your leaky funnel analogy is quite good. We have to fix the leaks by improving what we put in the top. Which is exactly what you are saying.

    I suggest measuring what is put in the top and setting a goal of converting 50% of ones pipeline to sales in any given quarter. When you set this as your goal you become more careful about what you include in your forecast. You start to ask tougher questions such as, what companies provide me with the best opportunity for success? Were do I fit operationally? Who is the person in a postion of power on most of the deals that I end up closing? And finally what value do I usually create for prospects who turn into customers? When you answer these questions, you start to get better at putting quality into your pipeline. The result is you and everyone else who touches your prospects waste less time. You close the deals you should close, and even a few more of the marginal ones, because you are focused.

    Just think, if the best companies only close 15% of their sales pipeline on a quarterly basis, that means that sales, presales and everyone else who touches these prospects waste 85% of their time!

    Finally, if you want to close the loop between lead hand-off and sales, remember that compensation drives behavior. Don’t pay for a lead until sales calls it a lead. How do you measure when sales calls it a lead? When it ends up on a sales persons sales pipeline forecast – it is a lead.

    And, in conclusion, if the goal is to close 50% of thes sales pipline forecast in any given quarter (and incidently we recommend eventually setting a goal of closing 90%)imagine how much cleaner the process will become when marketing and sales target so susinctly and collaborate toward closing business rather than counting activity. As you said, the only activity that matters is the sale.

    Target more, count less is our creed.

    Our approach does require some thinking. Then again we hope to be considered as the THINKING PERSONS SALES GUIDES.

    Zebrajeff and

  5. I agree, the job of marketing is to ultimately help the sales team sell…not just drive more activity.

    What you described is what I call measuring the lead-to-opportunity conversion rate. Most have no idea how many or what percentage of their leads actually enter the sales pipeline.

    That’s why I wrote a post, “Why cost-per-lead budgets fail and fewer leads are better”
    If we can measure and improve our lead to opportunity ratio, can dramatically impact the lead to sales ratio which is what it lead generation is all about.

  6. Brian, THANK YOU for making the point that was echoed by one of your commenters, who agreed with you, there’s “some level of disconnect between sales and marketing.” This is exactly the topic of my next book, “The Integration Imperative,” which is targeted to B2B and professional service firms. (It’ll be out in early 2009.)

    You are RIGHT ON to make the point about including Marketing in the traditional sales funnel. My research findings support your point – B2Bs and PSFs don’t as yet put enough focus on DEFINING the prospects who might eventually become the firm’s most strategically appropriate clients; and there’s not enough astute targeting beforehand to make sure the right leads get into the funnel.

    So I love your point that marketing and sales should work together, but I’d caution PSFs and B2Bs that the funnel should not be thought of as only a one-way street. It’s a continuous loop, actually!

  7. Hi Brian,

    So true – the connection of the marketing and sales funnel is always a challenge. We are a smaller company without the benefit of an inside sales team. Our outside sales folks own the lead nurturing process and make the call on who to nuture. In order to make this less overwhelming for them, we in marketing have provided a variety of emails they can use based on business need. They can pick and choose the emails they want to use out of without having to write their own emails. Providing sales with the right tools helps build the collaboration between the two teams.

  8. Hi Brian,
    I think you hit the bullseye with this post by identifying some of the most critical reasons that most companies today are only closing 15% or less of their sales pipelines. Like you said, it’s really all about ‘helping your sales team build relationships with the right people and the right companies,’ and pursuit of only leads that are ‘sales ready.’

  9. I’d also add that “…in the rush to make a sale, asking questions and listening…” to why marketing presented sales with the lead(s) would help both departments better understand the thinking and targeting behind the lead. Often marketing passes the leads without much follow through (and follow up), and sales takes those leads and runs. But the whole process feels pretty weak!

    P.S. Love the bucket of holes analogy!

  10. Hi Brian,

    I just came across you site and found it very informative so I signed up for the newsletter. About the above post, in my career I’ve always found some level of disconnect between sales and marketing. To minimize this an organization needs leadership that actively educates its employees about the importance of each function so folks in different departments can put themselves in another person’s shoes. In your experience have you seen any particular strategies or exercises that improve the team work of these two groups?

    Justin Baker

  11. Brian:

    #4 is indispensable and usually forgotten (if unknown to begin with).

    “The goal is to be a trusted advisor or a relevant resource to your audience until they move to the point of being ready to talk about initiatives or a project.”

    In the rush to make a sale, asking questions and listening are all too often casualties.

  12. 8-15-08
    Great analogy of a “funnel”…so appropriate re. TARGETED lead administration…look forwwardd to more!
    Best, Chan {;-)

  13. Brian, Great points here. I’ve got one comment and a caution. CSO Insights just did a whitepaper, based on their reserach of some 2,000 sales and marketing types, and they identified lead quality as important factor. When Sales and Marketing agreed on lead quality companies performed better– 10% more closes and 5.7% more revenue. Here’s a link to the report if you wish to include:

    The one caution I would make is that the hand off from Marketing to Sales must be timely. Sales needs to strike while the lead is hot and too often leads languish while being qualified or scored by Marketing.

Comments are closed.

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