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Several years ago, I was hired by a B2B firm that was in the midst of a perfect storm: missing net-new revenue forecast with severe attrition issues. Clients were leaving and the sales funnel was not performing.
This scenario is familiar to many businesses. Below, I outline my process for reviewing the sales funnel that other marketers can emulate to gain a better understanding of their sales and marketing efforts.
Identify a root cause.
Initially, I was asked to identify a root cause. Why, why, why, why and why was this happening? (The five whys are from my days being trained in Six Sigma). In order to receive strategic answers, here are a few of the many questions to ask:
1. What is the variance between forecast and actual revenue?
2. How are you trending currently to meet year-end goals?
3. What gaps appear in your existing strategy?
4. What has been the core driver of successful inbound leads?
5. What channels provide the fastest velocity in the sales funnel to a positive outcome?
6. Is there disruption in the market that you can capitalize on?
7. Within the sales funnel, are there areas where prospects get stuck?
8. Does the prospect want to see more or learn more prior to getting to the next stage?
9. From an attrition perspective, what is the rate? What is the lifetime value of a client? What is the key driver?
These high-level questions will enable you to peel back the onion and gain an understanding of current marketing, sales and business operations using data-driven answers. When I dug deep, I realized that this firm had Salesforce as its CRM, but wasn’t fully using it with best practices.
As you start the process of uncovering the root cause, first look at marketing. Review all brand awareness and lead generation campaigns, as well as the foundation of marketing, the actual prospect data and overall content strategy. After reviewing all data, develop recommendations in terms of what has failed, what requires a course correction and what campaign should not be implemented again.
Then it’s time to review the sales funnel, where many answers will be revealed from both the sales and marketing perspectives.
Review the sales funnel.
The sales funnel should be renamed the sales and marketing funnel. In my twenty years of marketing, I have only seen a few B2B companies that truly aligned marketing and sales, and that was due to solid leadership at the top. As marketers, we all know that the key metric is revenue growth. Missed revenue opportunities occur when marketing is not a part of the sales conversation in terms of a prospect’s journey through the funnel.
By using a CRM solution and the right data, marketing can create automation rules based on prospect behavior through the sales journey. The goal is to provide the right message at the right time to the right person to enable a highly-engaged prospect who moves through the sales funnel to close.
To gain an understanding of the sales funnel, look at the following reports:
Closed won opportunities: Review the days between sales stages. The goal is to gain a historical view of the average time between stages.
Closed lost opportunities: In the CRM solution, there should always be a drop-down list of reasons why the opportunity was lost. Review the list by taking a deep dive into the data. Generally, I look at the data based on segmentation.
Closed: These are leads that were closed due to poor fit. Using the functionality of lead grade, set up the non-fit segments with an F grade.
Pipeline report by stage and duration: From a business perspective, you want a prospect to move fast to reduce sales funnel cycle times. You also want the prospect to travel through each stage of the sales funnel so that, at the end of a closed won, they don’t have buyer’s remorse and will provide referrals.
Review the data.
When reviewing sales funnel data, ask these questions:
1. How long does the sales cycle take through each stage to closed won?
2. Why are prospects getting stalled along the sales journey as they move from stage to stage?
3. What channels were used to engage the prospect? What is the attribution associated with the top of the sales funnel through each engagement to purchase decision?
4. Are you targeting decision makers versus influencers with strategic content?
5. Do you know their pain points? Do you have the right educational stories to show how you can mitigate their pain?
6. What was the behavior of the prospect at each stage? Were they engaged?
7. Should you reexamine your A/B testing plan? Can you test to see if you can speed up pipeline velocity?
8. Have you tested direct mail?
9. Is there disruption in the market?
Empower your marketing team to work with sales.
The key takeaway for marketers? You can make a big impact on revenue by asking these key strategic questions and understanding sales funnel and attribution. Rather than have marketing only focus on the top of the funnel and then pass leads to the sales team, enable them to make decisions and develop a strategic vision with sales based on the key marketing metric: revenue growth.

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