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B2B Inbound Lead Funnel. Have One? Yours Working?



Here’s our quick summary, including how sales and marketing should work together along the way:

  • Top of the Funnel: Marketing attracts prospects, stimulating interest and awareness in your offering
  • Middle of the Funnel (Interest vs. Intent):
    • Marketing deploys relevant, valuable tactics to motivate prospects to demonstrate proactive interest, now a Marketing Qualified Lead or MQL, via direct discussions at a targeted event or web conversion requests for demos/consult/content
    • MQLs are handed off to Sales, often via CRM, to be filtered and categorized as Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs); Sales then nurtures these SQLs using marketing-supplied tools that justify and validate the offering, motivating the SQL toward intent to buy (an Opportunity)
  • Bottom of the Funnel: Sales converts SQL into a sales success, either new business or upsell

While this collaborative process may seem simple enough, it can be fraught with challenges and missed opportunities if sales and marketing are not tightly aligned regarding how leads are managed and by whom. This, of course, requires that both teams are using the same vocabulary to discuss, capture, and categorize who is in the pipeline and where they are in the buyer journey.

Now let’s talk about Sales “Accepted” Leads or SALs. Notice that this term does not appear in the funnel summarized above. Why? While this new term is getting some buzz, we believe it is entirely superfluous. Instead of adding clarity and accountability to the process, we’ve seen how this extra layer can be easily used as a scapegoat when a lead gets stuck in the pipe.

If marketing is working hard to generate “top of the funnel” prospects with proactive interest, yet they are not ready to buy, this does not indicate marketing is ineffective. Instead, it suggests that additional motivation and/or justification is needed. When this is the case, sales and marketing need to work together (not point fingers) to determine how best to move the lead down the funnel.

Our recommendation, instead of adding layers to the process (i.e. SALs)? Institute a regularly scheduled Sales and Marketing feedback loop. Sales should report on what they see and hear in the field—sales objections, misconceptions, preconceptions, and competitor noise. From this, Marketing Managers can determine where and how to improve the messages, campaigns, and collateral.


The Inbound Lead Funnel should be centered on conversion metrics. How many MQLs are needed to help reach sales goals? What percentage MQLs become SQLs? How many SQLs are projected to close?

It is critical that sales and marketing share realistic revenue goals and expectations on funnel metrics. Proper alignment here will drive your marketing strategy and marketing plan tactics.

Remember: We’re talking B2B, not consumer marketing/selling. B2B offerings are typically expensive and complex. The B2B buyer must make careful assessments and decisions on behalf of the his/her organization. As a result, the sales cycle will likely be longer and require more justification and validation than an consumer product might. Again, expectations must be realistic.


You can slice and dice metrics and intelligence six ways to Sunday depending on the size of your company and the breadth of your solution offerings. Most of our small business customers care about the conversion metrics, but here are other metrics you can consider once you have reached an agreement on your Inbound Lead Funnel and MQL goals:

(Quick note: A solid CRM or marketing automation platform speeds access to these analytics.)

  • Volume metrics: An accounting of activities like email opens, clicks, shares, impressions, visits, and downloads.
  • Velocity metrics: The average time it takes for MQLs to move through the Inbound Lead Funnel and convert to SQLs to Close.
  • Value metrics: The cost per lead over a span of time either against the overall marketing budget or by campaigns or events.
  • Performance metrics: Continually testing and fine-tuning marketing is essential. With a focus on higher conversions or registrations on your landing pages, you may need to tweak email subject lines, creative direction, offers, messaging, event choices, media buys, etc.

TME’s Remote Marketing Cubicle was founded in 2003 to support the sales process and ensure sales and marketing are properly aligned. Too often, during our corporate days, my colleagues and I saw them operate on separate islands which will effectively stall your business growth altogether.

If these sales and marketing challenges sound familiar, Talk to Us.