Sales Funnel Management: 10 Methods to Manage Your Funnel

Learn a powerful step-by-step process for conducting sales funnel management that will help you generate more revenue with fewer inputs.

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Sales funnel management is the ongoing process of monitoring, analyzing, and improving your business’s sales funnel, which is the visual representation of the customer journey from the buyer’s point of view. Funnel management involves activities like tracking conversion rates between stages and identifying weak points in the funnel. Consistent, methodical sales funnel management results in more closed deals, improved forecasting, and lower customer acquisition costs.

How Does Sales Funnel Management Work?

Salespeople and marketers engage in a range of sales funnel management activities — from monitoring funnel metrics to A/B testing marketing material — in an ongoing effort to remove funnel friction, improve the customer experience, and gradually optimize their funnel. There are many sales funnel management activities to choose from, and you can do any of them individually, but following a systematic process often gets the best results.

Below is a step-by-step sales funnel management process:

  1. Review the Customer Journey: Gain a deep understanding of the stages of the funnel and the different marketing and sales material and tactics that buyers encounter.
  2. Assess Your Sales Funnel Software: Decide if your current software gives you the sales funnel features you need to manage and automate your funnel effectively.
  3. Align Sales and Marketing: Make sure that the marketing and sales teams are on the same page when it comes to initiatives, funnel entry conditions, lead quality, and more.
  4. Scrutinize Every Customer Experience: Critically analyze every step in the customer journey and identify individual pieces of content or entire stages that need an overhaul.
  5. A/B Test Your Sales and Marketing Content: Test the effectiveness of your email subject lines, landing page copy, sales page images, and other material leads see.
  6. Identify and Patch Funnel Leaks: Find places in your customer journey where leads typically drop out, and take action to eliminate these bottlenecks.
  7. Track Key Funnel Metrics: Monitor metrics like sales funnel conversion rate, sales funnel duration, and others that will keep you abreast of funnel performance.
  8. Optimize Your Re-Engagement Process: Ensure that you have a process in place to bring fallen leads back into the funnel via email marketing, phone calls, and other tactics.
  9. Interview Current Customers: Via calls or surveys, ask customers questions that reveal ways you can improve the various stages of your funnel.
  10. Leverage Software Automations: Set up automations in your sales funnel software to automate marketing tasks like email follow-ups or content delivery.

Some of these tasks you’ll do more frequently than others. Tracking funnel metrics is an everyday action if it’s on your sales dashboard. But evaluating your sales funnel software to see if it needs a tune-up is something you’ll do once every year or two.

If this is your first time analyzing your funnel in a while, follow every step. Otherwise, prioritize the methods that you haven’t done in recently. Whether you’re doing them all or skipping some, try to do them in order, as some steps build on previous ones.

1. Refresh Yourself on Your Customer Journey

Sales funnels help salespeople understand what potential customers are doing and thinking at every stage of the customer journey so you can use the most relevant sales and marketing techniques to move them forward. A seller who's familiar with their customer journey will have an easier time predicting a certain lead’s experience so far and current thoughts about the brand than someone who has forgotten the journey’s steps or never taken the time to learn it.

Therefore, it’s a good practice every six months to pretend to be the average customer and go through the customer journey as they would, from initial awareness of the brand to the first time you decide to renew the service. See what the landing page they see, feel the excitement they feel. Afterward, you’ll have a better sense of the journey, and you’ll know almost instinctively what leads need from you in each stage.

2. Assess Your Sales Funnel Software

Sales funnel software helps you build and manage your sales funnel, track leads as they move through it, and automate marketing tasks that push leads down the funnel. These tools also make managing your funnel much easier. For example, many come with funnel metric monitoring, funnel reporting to spot leakages, and A/B testing capabilities. Though there are point solutions, most businesses use CRMs as their sales funnel software.

Here are three of the best CRMs for sales funnel management on the market:

  • Freshsales: Sales-forward CRM with affordable plans and high quality sales funnel creation and management features (free starting price)
  • Zoho CRM: Powerful omnichannel CRM boasting seamless integrations with social media platforms and other sales funnel tools (free starting price)
  • Pipedrive: Easy-to-use sales CRM offering an intuitive interface and helpful templates for setting up your sales funnel and sales automations (14-day free trial)

If you already have a CRM, check to see if it offers sales funnel management features. If you discover that it’s lacking some functionality you’d like, consider finding a point solution that you can integrate into your current platform. For example, if your CRM is great for funnel management but lacks a landing page builder, you can probably find a tool like Leadpages to connect it with, or find another CRM that satisfies your sales funnel needs.

Sales funnel management Example Freshsales sales funnel management
Example Freshsales sales funnel management

3. Align Sales & Marketing

To improve interdepartmental cooperation, hold monthly meetings between sales and marketing leaders and align on various aspects of your sales funnel, including sales funnel key performance indicators (KPIs), the requirements for entry into each stage, what makes an ideal lead, and any current sales or marketing objectives. This will enable marketing to support sales with the right content and lead generation initiatives.

Let’s go over the details sales and marketing should agree on:

  • Sales Funnel KPIs: Choose metric targets that will tell you if your sales funnel is succeeding or failing. Typical KPIs include stage-to-stage and overall conversion rates.
  • Conditions for Stage Entry: Know what action a lead has to take to enter into each stage. For instance, they might have to submit contact info to enter the interest stage.
  • Lead Qualification: Agree on the ideal demographic and behavioral makeup of a lead, and ensure that marketing is focusing on attracting these individuals into the funnel.
  • Current Initiatives: Whether you’re trying to break into a new market, evaluating new CRMs, or changing your sales process, make sure marketing is in the loop.

Frequent communication outside of these regular meetings is also essential for quality sales funnel management. Imagine that a sales rep suspects a problem with the lead magnet’s landing page based on their conversations with leads, but doesn’t have the power or software access to change it. To address the problem, the rep needs to be able to easily communicate with marketing, who can get into the landing page builder and fix it.

4. Scrutinize Every Part of the Customer Journey

In step one, you reviewed the average customer journey in an effort to understand it and its various parts. Now it’s time to review it with a critical eye. Review the various things a lead experiences — welcome emails, landing pages, sales pages, web demos, sales calls — and think about their merits and faults. Questions help to guide your critical analysis.

Stop at each step along the journey and ask the following questions:

  • Excitement: After seeing this, am I excited to take the next step in the customer journey? Why or why not?
  • Confusion: Is there anything about this experience, content, or messaging that I find confusing?
  • Depth of Info: Does this content or experience provide me with the answers to the questions I have at this point in the journey?
  • Frustration: Is this step in the journey frustrating in any way? Are there ways to streamline it or make it less work for the buyer?

For example, imagine that a rep is assessing a welcome email that leads receive if they sign up for a webinar. The email looks good, but it doesn’t answer a question leads might have at this point: “Will the webinar be recorded?” So the rep makes the change to the automated email. Writing down your findings as you go can help you manage A/B testing and prioritize which content to test.

5. A/B Test Your Marketing & Sales Content

In sales funnel management, A/B testing is the act of comparing a current version of your content to an alternate version in order to find the optimal layout, messaging, or strategy. Often, the metric you’ll use to determine the winner is conversion rate. For example, you could test a landing page with no image versus one with an image, send 100 leads to each version, track what percentage submits their contact information for each, and then go with the winner.

Here are some common pieces of your sales funnel to test:

  • Advertisements: Test headlines, subheadings, sales messaging, images, call-to-action (CTA) buttons, and ad placements.
  • Emails: For marketing and sales emails, compare subject lines, body text, CTA messaging, images, sending times, and even sign-offs.
  • Landing Pages: Test your landing pages’ headlines, sales copy, images, CTA buttons, fonts, and color palettes.
  • Web Pages: A/B test the fonts, colors, layouts, and messaging of pages leads commonly visit — home page, product pages, pricing pages, etc.

You can test any part of your customer journey, from two web demo flows to different subject lines of a follow-up email. Prioritize testing content that is underperforming or that you believe could benefit from a change based on your qualitative judgments. Most sales funnel software platforms help you conduct these A/B tests, showing half of your leads one version and half the other while tracking conversion rates, open rates, or other success metrics.

Sales funnel management ClickFunnels A/B test example

6. Identify & Patch Funnel Leaks

Figure out where leads are exiting your sales funnel at an unusually high rate. Narrow down the leak’s location first to the stage of your sales funnel, and second to a specific webpage, email, or experience within that stage (e.g., the proposal review call in the decision stage). Look for steps in the journey that are usually the last ones leads take with your brand. Then you can figure out their cause and patch them up.

Here are some strategies to quickly identify potential leakage points:

  • Check Stage-to-Stage Conversion Rates: In your sales funnel software, if you find that a conversion rate between adjacent stages — say from interest to evaluation — is below your standards, there's a leak in that stage.
  • Run Funnel Reports: Use your sales funnel software’s reporting functionality to identify which steps of the customer journey have poor success metrics.
  • Use Google Analytics: Look for pages on your website with high bounce rates, exit rates, and high traffic/low conversions. 

Once you know the leak exists and its location, figure out why it’s happening. Often, this takes some learning on your part, then A/B testing. If you found that a major leakage point was your product’s pricing page, you should read articles on how to create effective pricing pages to come up with some reasons why yours is suffering. Then you can try these ideas out and A/B the new page against the old one.

Remember to consider the small details of whichever piece of content or action you’ve determined was a major leakage point. Sometimes a simple word change in your CTA can be enough to double an email’s clickthrough rate. The more you know about sales, marketing, and your target audience, the better you’ll be at finding the cause and coming up with a solution, so keep reading about how to optimize the various parts of your customer journey.

7. Monitor Important Sales Funnel Metrics

Tracking key sales funnel metrics and comparing them over time enables you to determine whether initiatives to improve your sales funnel are working. For example, if the sales funnel conversion rate rose for three consecutive months after altering your lead nurturing process, you can be sure that your strategy worked. Monitoring funnel metrics also helps you discover weaknesses in your sales funnel and find opportunities to improve it.

Here are some of the most critical sales funnel metrics to monitor over the long haul:

  • Entrances: The number of leads that entered your funnel over a given period of time, typically a month. This helps you assess your lead generation tactics.
  • Funnel Conversion Rate: The percentage of leads that enter your funnel and turn into paying customers. Tracking this over time shows you the effectiveness of your funnel.
  • Funnel Stage Conversion Rates: Calculated for each stage, this is the percentage of leads who move into the next stage (e.g., from awareness to interest).
  • Sales Funnel Duration: The average length of time it takes someone who entered your sales funnel to become a customer. Aim to increase this rate by reducing friction.
  • Sales Funnel Stage Duration: The average number of days a lead is in a funnel stage (e.g., 10 days in the interest stage). 

Most sales funnel software tools track these metrics for you and allow you to visualize this data in graphs, charts, and diagrams that you can keep on a dedicated user dashboard. This way, you always have a finger on the pulse of your sales funnel. You know how many people are in each stage, what actions you should prioritize, and anything else you want to track.

Sales funnel management Example Zoho CRM sales funnel dashboard
Example Zoho CRM sales funnel dashboard

8. Improve Your Re-Engagement Process

Make sure you’re doing all you can to effectively re-engage leads who drop out of your sales funnel. Whether they left in the awareness or the renewal stage, it’s likely that they’ll be easier to close than people totally unaware of your brand. Define what amount of time has to pass without interaction for a lead to be considered out of the funnel. A common standard is 30 days. Then, create a process that sales reps and marketers deploy to re-engage them.

Below are some strategies you can use to reignite relationships with leads:

  • Use Email Sequences: Via a series of emails, share content, such as ebooks and blog posts, that relates to the part of the process where your lead dropped out.
  • Make Phone Calls: In B2B sales or higher-priced B2C sales, it can help to try to connect with past leads or customers personally over the phone.
  • Share Brand Updates: If your company makes a change to its offering or is running a discount, share this news with leads. Sometimes the change revives their interest.

The best re-engagement processes use multiple channels to get in touch. They also deliver content that’s relevant to the lead’s situation. Sometimes salespeople even monitor a lead’s LinkedIn or website and look out for trigger events, like a promotion or a change in address, that they can use to get their foot back in the door. For more on this topic, check out Spectrio’s article on the best re-engagement tactics, and see this example of a targeted discount email:

Sales funnel management Example reengagement email
Example re-engagement email

9. Interview or Survey Current Customers

Interview current customers to find out what they liked and disliked about your customer journey. This can provide you with valuable insights for improving your funnel. You can do this in person, over the phone, or through an online survey that you ask them to fill out after becoming customers. It’s easy to create one of these surveys with a tool like SurveyMonkey.

Below are some examples of questions to ask customers in your conversations or surveys:

  • Awareness Building: Why did you keep interacting with our brand after finding it on Google?
  • Lead Magnets: Did you find the webinar you signed up for helpful? Is there anything you wish it had covered?
  • Sales Process: Was there any part of the product evaluation process that you found to be wasteful or tedious?
  • Onboarding: After product training, was your team able to use the product effectively, or was there some confusion around certain features?
  • Usage: Are there any features that don’t meet your expectations? If so, what would you want to change or add?

Leaving your questions open-ended will provide you with the most honest and comprehensive answers. Of course, these are easier to get someone to answer over a phone call. If you have customer success managers, have them arrange these calls with customers immediately after the implementation phase. For those who don’t personally interact with buyers, consider incentivizing leads to fill out surveys by entering them into a raffle or by giving them a discount.

Sales funnel management Example survey email with incentive
Example survey email with incentive

10. Set Up Sales Funnel Automations

Most sales funnel software tools provide you with the ability to create automations such as automatic follow-up emails, automated email campaigns, scheduled social media postings, and chatbots on your web pages. Tools with marketing automation and personalized workflows will even analyze a lead’s past behavior and current funnel stage and then send them content that best addresses their likely questions and concerns in an effort to move them to the next stage.

Automation features ensure that leads receive the right messaging, content, and outreach at the right time without needing you to send it to them. Plus, they free you up to focus on work that requires a human touch, like running a demo or negotiating a contract with a prospect. If you’re using software and unsure of what tasks it can take over for you, message the customer support staff or visit their knowledge center to learn what’s available and how to set it up.

We’ve covered a bunch of sales management methods, from refreshing yourself on the customer journey to identifying and repairing leaks in your funnel. After you’ve completed the process, set a reminder in your calendar to go through it again next year. Meanwhile, continue to do the more frequent methods, like A/B testing and monitoring metrics, as needed.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Do Sales Pipeline & Sales Funnel Management Differ?

Sales pipeline management involves analyzing and optimizing the various activities that salespeople do to move customers toward a purchase. Sales funnel management, on the other hand, focuses on analyzing and improving the average customer experience across all interactions with marketing and sales. Sales pipeline management also only focuses on stages where salespeople are involved, while funnel management starts at the brand awareness stage.

Bottom Line: Sales Funnel Management

Sales funnel management conducted regularly over the long term will help you progressively advance toward a state of sales funnel optimization, where a high percentage of your leads that enter the awareness stage convert into long-time customers. If you want to learn more about how a sales funnel works, check out our ultimate guide on sales funnels, where we cover its benefits, common stages, and more.

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