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Sales Funnel Vs. Sales Pipeline: A Comparison

2021-06-18

If you have been using ‘sales pipeline’ and ‘sales funnel’ interchangeably to mean the same thing, you have probably been misusing them and should make sure you learned the difference so you can use both effectively. 

Sales pipeline and sales funnel are both terms that describe the flow of prospects through a sale, but there is an important difference between the two terms, although they are often mixed up.

What Is A Sales Funnel?

A sales funnel or conversion funnel is the marketing term for the journey that a potential customer goes through to make a purchase.

sales funnel

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A few steps to a sales funnel are usually called the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel. These steps can vary, depending on the sales model of your company. 

What Is A Sales Pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a visual way to track potential buyers as they progress through the purchasing process. 

sales pipeline

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We often visualize pipelines as a horizontal bar or a funnel, split into the stages of the company’s sales process. Buyers are moved through the stages as they move through the sales process. 

It is a way of showing where potential buyers are in their journey from lead to customer. 

The sales team can see where their money, deals, and sales efforts are all the time. It can be a vital tool for salespeople dealing with multiple prospects and can’t afford to let one fall by the wayside.

It is essential for sales managers as well if they want more data on how the sales process is working. 

A pipeline tracks the activities of the sales team and offers more visibility of which sales activities are delivering the most significant returns.

Why Is A Sales Pipeline Important?

As a company, it is essential for you to have an effective tool that will allow you to forecast your potential revenue, whether that’s monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.

A good sales pipeline will let you do this by showing you the areas in your sales that could be getting close to their quota, or those that are weak points causing leaks in your pipeline. 

Forecasting your possible revenue is important, as it will help you to determine whether or not you are heading in the right direction to reach your financial goals, or if you’re falling off track and will need to adjust your marketing strategies. 

What Is A Funnel Report?

A sales funnel or conversion funnel report gives sales managers a snapshot of all of the current pipeline opportunities. 

sales funnel report

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These opportunities are broken down into the individual selling stages. 

A manager can take a quick glance at the funnel report to get a sense of how many opportunities their sales team is currently working on and what stages each of these opportunities are in. 

The historical data in these reports can also give a clearer sense of how the pipeline is growing over time. 

Sales managers can use this information to prioritize the best opportunities. The opportunities that are most likely to be closed, based on the current stage and how long they have been there, should be engaged with the most. 

All sales managers can make good use of an accurate sales forecast, and the information in the sales funnel report can be a helpful step on the way to producing one.

Suppose you know what to expect from each pipeline opportunity at every stage of the customer journey

In that case, you can set more realistic expectations for your sales team, leading to better performances. 

What Is A Pipeline Report?

A sales pipeline report shows the value and quantity of all deals in each stage of the pipeline when the report is run. 

sales report

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Pipeline reports are used to keep track of the status of each deal and understand if they have an appropriate distribution of deals to meet any sales targets. 

What Is A Pipeline Meeting?

A sales pipeline might be shown in a spreadsheet, on a whiteboard, or inside your sales CRM. 

A pipeline meeting or pipeline review will give you an overview of the overall health of your team’s sales pipeline. 

ecommerce pipeline

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The team will be better able to understand the external and internal context of the deals being made, discuss any challenges or threats in the pipeline, get insight into the performance and capabilities of sales representatives, and make sure that sales forecasts are accurate and up to date. 

A pipeline meeting can function as a training tool for sales reps, and an evaluation tool to determine how successful your sales are.

If you do these reviews correctly, you should close more deals and earn more revenue. 

These meetings could be carried out in several different formats. Depending on the structure of your sales team, consider how often you should have these meetings, whether they would be better one-on-one or with the whole team, and how long they should last. 

What structure will they take? For example, will you review all the deals in the pipeline or only the highest priority deals?

A pipeline meeting should have clear action items for each sales rep and the deals they are looking after. These actions could be how to tackle an obstacle or how to negotiate a deal. 

You do not have to have a set structure. Instead, trial and error of a few different options is the way to go. 

See what works for your team and your business, and adjust accordingly.

How Can You Optimize Your Sales Pipeline?

There are several ways to optimize your sales pipeline to maximize your closed sales and revenue. 

Know Your Audience

If you do not know much about your audience, how will you optimize your sales funnel most effectively? It is important to remember that customer journeys are not always linear.

The more you know about each of your prospects, the better you will market to them and convert prospects into paying customers. 

If you are reaching out to the wrong people, or they have set your sales funnel up to target the wrong audience, you will just waste your time and money. So it is crucial to get these things right. 

The first step is to build out a few detailed audience personas. There are lots of guides online to help you do this. 

Make sure you understand your competitors, especially the competition you know is performing well and getting great results. 

You can use traffic analytics tools to help you get some insight into what sources of traffic your competitors have and their top-performing content to understand what is working for them and what appeals to their audience. 

You need to work to better understand your market, including your key demographics and audience interests. 

Creative Informative Content That Answers Questions

Educational content that answers questions makes your customers a lot more likely to decide to buy from you. 

Also, simplicity and ease of understanding are often the hardest to achieve in your sales pitch without coming across as way too salesy. And if the prospect doesn’t get it in the first instance, then you lose the opportunity. 

When you produce great content that educates your audience looking for solutions to their problems, you will be able to position yourself as an expert in your field, build trust with your audience, and grow a reputation for being knowledgeable and helpful. 

Start by thinking about the buyer personas you created and asking yourself some questions about them like, ‘what are their problems’, and ‘what solutions are they looking for’?

A brilliant way to identify some good opportunities for helping, informative content that targets the awareness stage of the conversion funnel is to find the keywords and questions which your target personas are already searching for. 

One good technique to find some valuable topics and keywords which you could use to inspire some awareness-based content is to use the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool. With this tool, you enter a keyword, domain, or URL (such as a competitor) and get ideas for keywords. 

You can even choose to filter by questions to make sure you are answering what your audience wants and needs to know. 

Gather Email Addresses From Prospects

To nurture a lead or a prospect through your sales funnel, you need to build a relationship with them and earn their trust. Without getting their email address, you will find this hard to do. 

A prospect who is willing to share their email address with you is a good sign that they are interested in building their relationship with your business and are actually interested in what you are offering them. 

Getting Email Addresses

You should already be creating engaging content, both at the awareness and interest stages of the funnel. This content can help you to capture email addresses from your prospects. 

The simplest way to do this is to use a sign-up form in a visible place alongside your content. Again, this is simple but can be very effective. 

conversion rate optimization

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After all, what better time is there to offer your prospects the chance to sign up when they are already engaging with content that you have produced.

Just make sure you very clearly state what you will deal with their details and what they can expect from you if they sign up. 

However, just putting a sign-up form on your website is not usually enough, and the sign-up rate is going to remain low. 

Instead, think about holding onto some of your best content and only offering it to a prospect once they sign up and enter their email address. You can do this by using custom landing pages that show off the quality content you have on offer to increase signups. 

Use Engaging Media To Stand Out

Once you have caught the prospect’s attention, you will need to work hard to maintain this level of attention and keep on standing out from your competition. 

One of the best ways to do this is to use engaging media to help your prospects explore and get a better understanding of your services and products. 

engaging media

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At the consideration stage of the sales funnel, the more information you can give prospects to help them to understand why your product is right for them, the stronger your chances will be to get the prospect to convert. 

Engaging Media

Fantastic visual content can go a long way to help you sell your products and improve your visual communication

However, make sure you go beyond the basic studio shots and stock images to help you stand out from your competitors’ websites. 

For example, use images of your products to showcase some of the most important features. You can highlight the critical elements of your products by getting creative with your imagery. 

Using this kind of visuals will help you stand out from the crowd online and go a long way to help you sell your products and move prospects through the sales funnel. 

If you have more budget to invest, you can use some of the technology that is now available to businesses to up their image game.

Using AR

For example, you can use AR to help your customers to get to grips with your products. 

ar in e-commerce

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Think about how a prospect would interact with a product in person. They would pick it up and turn it over to see it from other angles. How can you recreate this kind of experience online? 

Creative imagery can do this. 

You need to use your images and other media to stand out from the competition to help your prospects to connect more with your products or services. Engaging media, such as rich visual content, viral videos, or AR, can be the best way to do that and capture their attention. 

Optimizing a sales funnel and sales pipeline is something that every business needs to be able to do. 

Without optimization, you will lose prospects to your competitors.

By taking the time to understand what sales funnels and sales pipelines are, what the difference is, what yours look like, and how you can improve them, you can improve your conversion rate. 

With a better conversion rate, you can also generate more revenue and make your business more successful.

Summing up

The journey that a potential customer takes to make a purchase is referred to as a sales funnel in marketing. A sales pipeline, on the other hand, is a visual representation of how potential buyers go through the buying process.

A sales pipeline is useful because it allows you to track potential buyers as they advance through the buying process visually. These reports’ historical data can also help you see how the pipeline is changing over time.

Also, a sales pipeline report shows the value and quantity of all deals in each stage of the pipeline when the report is running. 

Optimize your sales pipeline by knowing your audience, creating informative content, gathering email addresses, using engaging media to outperform your competitors and increase your conversion rate. In this Sendinblue review, you can read about an affordable email marketing tool.

Optimizing a sales funnel and sales pipeline is something that every business needs to be able to do.

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