Sales Funnel Management

Close won or close lost? In the end, that’s all that matters. As a small business owner, you understand this better than anybody. Nobody feels the pain of a close lost quite like you do—not even your sales reps. Too many “close losts” and the doors close—for good.

Despite this, most small business sales funnels are a leaky mess of patched together spreadsheets, cold calls, sticky notes, missed appointments and follow-up, and inconsistent messaging.

Yet, despite this, you power forward because you are a badass small business owner who will figure out how to make it work, no matter what.

But there is a better way. This article gives you a powerful “aha” moment. We want to show you how you can use sales and marketing automation software to plug the holes in your sales funnel.


A sales funnel is the upside-down pyramid that represents the journey potential customers go through to become customers. Funnels are widest at the top and narrow down as a potential customer gets closer to the sale.

sales funnel stages

The top of the funnel is often referred to as the “awareness” stage. At this stage, your customers are becoming “aware” of your product or service. They are most likely only interacting with your marketing efforts, such as your blog or any paid advertising.

Take Action: List out all of your “awareness” activities. How are you making potential customers aware of your company? How effective are these activities?

At some point, a percentage of these potential customers will express further interest in your offering and will move down the funnel. How and why this happens is largely dependent on your business model. These lower funnel stages—everything below the awareness line—represent your true sales process. Leads in the middle and lower part of the funnel are those that have the highest probability of purchasing, and they are the leads that you want your sales representatives working.

Find the cracks in your sales funnel stages:

pic of funnel with leaks and a magnifying glass for sales funnel article

Leads can leak out of your funnel at any stage. The best way to analyze what sales stage the loss is happening at is to get crystal clear on your sales milestones. Think of milestones as sequential and individual steps in a staircase that lead to the sale. Here is an example:

Sales process staircase

Note the following:

  • “Demo Scheduled” (stage two) and “Demo Complete” (stage three) are separated. It would be tempting to simply combine these into one stage called “demo.” This would be misleading because those two steps represent very different stages in the buyer journey. The golden rule is: Separate whenever possible.
  • Notice “prospecting and marketing” at the bottom. These represent all of your efforts to simply get people into your sales pipeline. You may have different methods of qualifying a potential buyer, but for the sake of the example above, we are assuming that by the time they hit stage one “Pitch Made,” they are qualified.
  • Also notice that you can lose leads at any stage of your sales process. The more granular you focus your stages, the easier it will be to identify where the leaks are happening.

Your particular sales process will likely have different steps than the example above. Here are some questions to help you identify those steps:

Where are the bottlenecks in your process?

What are the trigger points? In other words, what are those specific actions that typically result in a sale?

The primary causes of a leaky funnel and how to fix them

picture of plugged funnel with money coming out for sales funnel article

While there are many reasons that leads might get lost along the sales pipeline, we have identified three primary causes.

1. Throwing away the “no’s” too quickly

In a sales process, often an objection or a no really means, “not until later.” When pitching your product or service, there are numerous reasons why somebody might object. And many of those reasons might be enough to kill the deal in the moment—but only in the moment.

Let’s take a look at an example. A common objection for email marketing, automation and CRM software is this: “I don’t have time to get my content together to make the platform useful.” What the prospect is saying is, “I’m interested, I see the value, but I just don’t have the time or expertise to take advantage of it.”

It’s very tempting to dump this lead and move on to the next, hotter and juicier lead.

But there’s a better solution:

Build out an automated email follow up campaign that speaks specifically to this objection. Whenever your sales reps encounter this problem, they can opt to send the prospect some information to educate them on their content problem. They can put this prospect into a six-month educational campaign that reduces the anxiety around content creation and nurtures them toward a sale. Yes, it’s work up front, but once the work is finished, this campaign will work for you always.

Take Action: What are those common sales objections that can be turned around with some education and follow up? Where are you dismissing prospects in your sales process too early?

2. Lack of consistent follow up

Here are some stats for you:

  • 48 percent of sales reps never follow-up with a prospect
  • Only 10 percent of sales reps make more than three contacts with a prospect
  • 80 percent of sales close between the fifth and 12th contact


If you do the math on those stats, then you are likely losing a lot of sales due to a simple lack of consistent follow up. The pain is real. It’s difficult to follow up with a prospect multiple times, especially with those shiny new and untouched leads begging to be called.

This is a consistent and pervasive tension for sales reps. Do I call new leads that could be hotter? Or, do I follow up with an old lead for the sixth time? The latter always feels like a waste of time, but the numbers prove otherwise.

The solution again is found in automation. Before sales automation, this was an “either/or” game. Your reps either followed up or called new leads. With automation, this becomes a both/and game. Automation frees your reps by providing consistent touch points throughout the sales funnel while they in turn focus exclusively on working the hottest leads and not burning hours of their day hitting that magic 5-12 touchpoints follow up number.

Take Action: Analyze your sales process to discover how many times you contact a prospect. How can you bolster those efforts using emails and educational resources?

3. Not following up quick enough

Did you know that leads are nine times more likely to convert if you follow up within the first five minutes of the prospect expressing interest? If you wait more than 30 minutes, then your lead is 21 times less likely to turn into a sale. (source)

Sound significant? It is. But you’re probably asking, “How the heck am I supposed to contact a lead within the first five minutes? That seems impossible.”

Again, the solution is found in automation. Without automation, this would be virtually impossible. You would likely need somebody watching your email or your server database 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to respond within five minutes.

With automation, though, you can set up a campaign to respond immediately to an interested prospect. As soon as you capture a lead, or your lead passes down the funnel at a pre-defined moment, your sales automation platform can send a personalized email with whatever information you like.

And this is why you need a CRM attached to your sales funnel automation software. A good CRM gives you the power to pull in every piece of information that you have in your database and use that information in an email.

The key to plugging the leaks in your sales funnel is follow up

If you haven’t noticed the common theme, the primary reason people slip through the cracks in your funnel is lack of follow up. And who has time for all this follow up?

This is exactly why sales and marketing automation software is they key to fixing your funnel. It takes the massive and necessary follow-up responsibilities off of your sales reps and helps them focus on what they are best at: closing sales.

Start small by building one follow up campaign with a very specific focus. Perhaps it helps your reps handle the details of scheduling a demo of your product. Or perhaps you have identified a handful of common objections and you build a specialized campaign to address one of these objections. Nobody knows your business better than you. So, you have to come up with the solution. Begin small and build your sales support structure, keeping in mind that automation will never fully replace your reps working their pipelines.

sales stages with buckets

As the image above indicates, your sales automation campaigns act as buckets to catch potentially lost leads and re-route them back into the sales process when they are ready to purchase. Let’s zoom in on one bucket and look at what a campaign might look like.

In the example above, this sales process has identified two common objections that happen at the first stage, “pitch made.” They built two separate email campaigns that are each one month long to address each objection. When sales reps encounter either of these two objections, they now have a powerful tool to thoughtfully address them.

So what does this ultimately mean? It simply means you get to hear more of your two favorite words:

Close won!