Most sales funnels leak at the top, not the bottom


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Most sales teams spend the majority of their time worrying about leakage and conversion at the bottom of their funnel. And that’s perfectly acceptable, of course. The more of your active opportunities you close, the more successfully you’ll be able to meet and exceed this month or quarter’s goals.

But the real problem for most organizations isn’t the bottom of the funnel but the top. And I’m not talking about generating new leads.

The vast majority of prospects you speak with aren’t active opportunities, and aren’t even short-term leads. They’re in the “qualified but not ready to buy” category. Some studies show that this prospect group can be 4-5 times as large as those that are both qualified and ready to buy.

So if you’re cherry-picking the short-term sales opportunities and ignoring the long-term prospects, the volume and value of opportunities down the road that won’t be in your future opportunity pipeline is extremely high.

This isn’t a sales problem. It’s a marketing problem. Qualified but not ready to buy prospects shouldn’t talk to sales because they’re not ready for sales (and might even be turned off if they’re passed to sales too early). Those top-of-funnel prospects need to be nurtured, educated and watched until they exhibit signs of readiness.

This can be done in a number of ways, but it’s one of the most direct ways that marketing can impact sales and revenue performance for the organization in future months and quarters. And every bit of that can be tracked and attributed back to the nurture efforts.

Your funnel is going to leak. It’s why we call it a sales funnel, not a cylinder. Just don’t let it become a sieve.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


  1. Matt: interesting view on funnel management. Though I use the funnel model too for some of my projects, there are a number of flaws that limit its value, including the idea that there’s a “top” and a “bottom,” and that the sales opportunities follow a linear, gravity-powered pathway through it. Few things in B2B work that way.

    But let’s stick with the model for a moment. I think attrition at the bottom of the funnel is no less problematic than attrition at the top. By the time opportunities have reached the bottom, companies have typically invested significant sales and marketing resources. The projected revenue has often been included not only in a sales forecast, but in the CFO’s cash flow projections. In the case of organizations that have submitted proposals to win government contracts, sales and business development expenses can be in the millions of dollars. So ensuring the conversion late sales cycle opportunities is key.

    But I think the “ready to buy” judgment is one that most sales executives would not want to delegate to Marketing. What constitutes “ready to buy?” Can sales involvement catalyze decision cycles? These are issues that need to be addressed within the organization. There is rarely a crisp delineation between the roles of marketing and sales.


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