“Aligning marketing and sales during the sales funnel does more than just align the teams — it creates better business outcomes,” said Mathew Sweezey, Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce. His stance is validated by a SiriusDecisions study that found brands with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieve 24% faster three-year revenue growth and 27% faster three-year profit growth. The three easiest ways to ensure marketing and sales alignment will succeed is a common language, co-created shared programs, and a policy to abide by a service level agreement.
As people progress through your funnel, their intent to buy steadily increases. You always lose people with each new commitment you ask for (we refer to these actions “conversions”), but the more people you can get to convert at each step in your funnel, the more sales you will ultimately produce. In marketing, we call this process “widening the funnel.”

No matter what kind of purchase customers are making or how much they plan on spending, all of them follow a fairly identical path when it comes to deciding what to buy. This process, or the different stages it is composed of, was first introduced by John Dewey in 1910, but even now — more than an entire century later — it still is the ultimate basis of comprehending buyer behavior and marketing funnel creation.


No matter what kind of purchase customers are making or how much they plan on spending, all of them follow a fairly identical path when it comes to deciding what to buy. This process, or the different stages it is composed of, was first introduced by John Dewey in 1910, but even now — more than an entire century later — it still is the ultimate basis of comprehending buyer behavior and marketing funnel creation.
First, a common language needs to be set up to ensure marketing knows when a lead should be moved from marketing’s control, and placed in the sales funnel. There are two terms, "marketing-qualified lead" (MQL) and "sales-qualified lead" (SQL) or “sales-accepted-lead,” which all sales funnels must embrace to keep both teams aligned. When marketing has a lead ready to talk to sales, the lead should be marked as an MQL, meaning marketing has gotten it to the point where they believe sales should take over. If sales agree the lead is sales-ready, they accept the lead and move it from MQL to SQL (or SAL), and the handoff is complete. If not, the lead goes back to marketing.
The entrance to the CVS funnel combines a massive physical footprint with a growing digital presence. CVS has about 10,000 retail stores. Eighty percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a CVS store. With the expansion of CVS’s HealthHUBs to 1,500 locations, one analysis suggests that 75 percent of Americans would live within 10 miles of a HealthHUB. In addition, CVS/Aetna has access to about 18 million Aetna medical insurance members in all 50 states. On the digital front, CVS has 62 million loyalty program members whose purchasing patterns can be tracked and who can be the target of tailored promotions.
Of course, if you're going the paid ad route, you could also use Facebook and Google re-targeting to keep that awareness and interest level high. For example, if you've ever noticed after leaving a particular website, that you begin to see their ad everywhere, there's a particular reason for that. Especially if they've already entered your sales funnel, this is a very powerful way to get them to act.
Here’s where you can position yourself as the industry expert they’re seeking with content that helps them. Try doing some keyword research to figure out what types of content you should be creating for the middle of the funnel (MOFU) audiences — you can find out which search terms in your niche attract high volumes of traffic and create content around those queries later.
Exits from stage. The exits from stage metric is very similar to your time in stage metric, but it allows you to see how many potential customers you are completely losing in a particular stage. For example, if your potential clients spend a year on your email list before they buy (but most of them do eventually buy), that’s a time in stage problem. If people spend 5 days on your email list before they buy, but 98% of them unsubscribe within 5 days, that’s an exits from stage problem.
However, the best part about this, and the most powerful route that entrepreneurs take to scale their businesses, is that if you know that sending 100 people to your site costs you $200, for example, but you get two people to convert at $300 each, then you have a $600 return on $200 invested (300 percent). When you know that, that's when the entire game changes and you can infinitely scale your offers.
The entrance to the CVS funnel combines a massive physical footprint with a growing digital presence. CVS has about 10,000 retail stores. Eighty percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a CVS store. With the expansion of CVS’s HealthHUBs to 1,500 locations, one analysis suggests that 75 percent of Americans would live within 10 miles of a HealthHUB. In addition, CVS/Aetna has access to about 18 million Aetna medical insurance members in all 50 states. On the digital front, CVS has 62 million loyalty program members whose purchasing patterns can be tracked and who can be the target of tailored promotions.
In brief, we are inclined to go along with someone’s suggestion if we think that person is a credible expert (authority), if we regard him or her as a trusted friend (liking), if we feel we owe them one (reciprocity), or if doing so will be consistent with our beliefs or prior commitments (consistency). We are also inclined to make choices that we think are popular (consensus [social proof]), and that will net us a scarce commodity (scarcity).
According to one recent study published by Pardot, 70% of buyers turn to Google at least 2-3 times during their search to find out more about their requirements, potential solutions, companies offering those solutions, etc. Many people also turn to public forums and social media platforms for recommendations. At this point, they aren’t looking for promotional content; they’re only looking to learn more about potential solutions.
We’ve written a bit about defining your target audience, but suffice to say that if you still haven’t done this, then don’t bother moving on to the next steps in the sales funnel. You must have some idea of what people are interested in your topic, where they are hanging out online and what motivates them in order to begin creating awareness of your course at the top of the funnel.  If you just start sending out emails and tweets willy nilly with no real plan, your efforts (and you will read later on that it is a lot of effort) will be wasted.  You need to know that you are creating the right content for the right people.
For instance, if you’re selling marketing automation software to a startup, showcase a startup that 10X-ed their leads.  If you’re selling the enterprise version of that marketing software, share a case study from another enterprise company.  The enterprise case study is too aspirational for the startup, and the startup case study doesn’t work in front of a huge global marketing team.
If you're wondering what a sales funnel is, simply imagine a real-world funnel. At the top of that funnel, some substance is poured in, which filters down towards one finite destination. In sales, something similar occurs. At the top, lots of visitors arrive who may enter your funnel. However, unlike the real-world funnel, not all who enter the sales funnel will reemerge out from the other end. 
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