How to Define and Configure Your B2B Marketing Funnel

“Chaos is the enemy of any organization that strives to be outstanding.”

Keren Martin

Great quote, right?

If you’re in Marketing Operations, you’ll know this firsthand. And if you’re like me, you might have a few extra wrinkles and gray hairs to prove it! 😐

One of the main goals of Marketing Operations professionals (and Revenue Operations while we’re at it) is to bring order to the chaos and achieve alignment – around your goals, terminology, and processes  – within your organization, from the executive level all the way down to those in the trenches. 

In practice, this is done through the implementation of efficient processes that can help your organization hit its revenue and pipeline goals and are easily followed and highly scalable.

This can be quite overwhelming, especially in larger, geographically distributed organizations.

So where does organizational alignment start? 

With clear definitions of your sales and marketing funnel stages and the documentation of those funnel stage definitions.

In this article, we are going to help you define the stages of your funnel AND provide a simple template that you can use within your organization to document your funnel stages and definitions to achieve the dream of alignment.

* If you’re just here for the template, you can get it here →

Defining Your Sales and Marketing Funnel… Properly

When defining your funnel stages, you need to account for both the buyer journey/experience and your own internal processes. It also needs to reflect your sales and marketing strategy.

Are you selling to enterprises and primarily running ABM campaigns? Your funnel stages should probably be based on account and persona engagement.

Are you selling mid-market and focusing on generating inbound traffic and leads? Your funnel stages should probably be based on more traditional stages like leads, MQLs, etc.

Great! Now that you get the idea of the considerations, let’s dig into the basic funnel stages that should be included in your sales and marketing funnel.

Leads – Yay! 😏

Call them leads, target accounts, prospects, or whatever your heart desires, but the idea behind this stage is the same…

This is the lowest entry-level to your funnel. The best practice here is to create a definition that reflects the understanding.

Essentially, these should be people who have expressed interest in your brand but have not “raised their hands” to indicate potential buying consideration.

Some examples may be contacts and/or companies that:

  • Consumed a piece of content/registered for a webinar
  • Were included in a list purchase
  • Submitted a contact request or engaged in a chat
  • Met you at an event
  • Were prospected by your ADR/SDR/BDR team

On a technical level, leads should be the point where they are entered into your CRM.

Bonus: Leads should be an internal marketing metric to keep track of. It should help you understand how many MQLs you can potentially generate going forward. You shouldn’t be talking about lead numbers with your executive team or even Sales. Nothing is more cringe-worthy than having your CEO asking about how many “leads” we generated. These are contacts who have not expressed actual buying intent and that should be well understood across your organization.

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) – Moving on Up 🎶 

B2B Marketing teams’ primary focus is to source opportunities and build pipeline. This is done by delivering quality leads to your sales team.

You need to understand that the MQL stage is where you begin passing leads to Sales to do their own qualification to determine fit and the potential for closing the account. These are leads who have met the qualification criteria of marketing.

Understanding this should help you craft an effective definition for a marketing qualified lead.

Marketing Qualified Leads should generally:

  • Have “raised their hands” to learn more about your product, use cases/features, and/or pricing (often in the form of requesting/scheduling a demo or consultation)
  • Meet certain firmographic qualifications to ensure they fit your defined ICP

On a technical level, MQLs can be automatically classified using workflows in your CRM/Marketing Automation Platform.

A word of caution: A lot of marketing teams create LOOSE definitions of MQLs which look pretty on reports but do little to produce actual results. Don’t fall into this trap. Make sure your definition of MQLs actually has a chance to produce results (ICP qualified AND requested a demo/consultation – no b******* webinar registrations and content downloads, those are leads).

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs) – Hello Sales 👋 

Now, this is the point where a contact/company becomes the primary responsibility of the Sales team. This does not mean that marketing is hands-off, but Sales is definitely in the driver’s seat from here on out.

To define a Sales Qualified Lead, the Sales team needs to provide their input into what makes an MQL qualified from the sales perspective. At the base of it, an SQL is a prospect that’s worth actively pursuing.

A best practice here is to phrase the qualification criteria in the form of yes/no questions that Sales can use to determine SQL status.

Some examples are:

  • Can they actually use our product? (example: Your product is built on SFDC meaning a customer HAS to use SFDC to be relevant)
  • Does the prospect have a real PAIN/PROBLEM that we can solve?
  • Do they have a NEED for a solution to this pain/problem?
  • Are they actively looking for a solution to the pain NOW (the right stage in the buyer journey)?

You may determine that a YES to all these questions means an MQL can become a Sales Qualified (SQL).

Opportunities – Revenue and ARR are in the air 🤑 

Opportunities are the lifeblood of subscription businesses and are under the purview of the Sales team.

The Sales team will be the main determinant of when to open opps. Marketing and Revenue Operations can run analyses and provide insights into the opp creation criteria, but at the end of the day, Sales should be enabled to decide when to open Opps (sorry Marketing 😂 but deep down, you know it’s true).

Some criteria often used to determine whether to open Opps are:

  • Do they have the budget for your solution?
  • Can you potentially close this deal within a reasonable about of time?
  • Are there next steps scheduled?

Closed Won – Take it to the bank! 🏦

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

The only thing that determines closed won is once the contract has been completely negotiated, signed by the correct stakeholders, and returned to your company.

No verbal commitments! Only signed contracts are closed won.

Now for the fun part – documenting everything

This is for you, my fellow Marketing Operations people!

To prevent those awkward conversations where your CMO thinks an MQL means one thing, Demand Gen thinks it’s something else and the VP of Sales has no idea, you NEED to clearly document your funnel definitions. At least until Elon Musk creates alignment by putting chips in our brains…🤯

Now I know what you’re thinking. 

Creating documentation is super time-consuming. And you have a million other tasks and requests to take care of. Just look at your [JIRA/Monday/ClickUp/Trello/Asana/🙄] board!

No worries! We got you.

Use this simple and easy template to document your funnel in a way that won’t take much time from your busy schedule.

We’ve built the base – now go forth and customize!

* Get the template here →

Ready to join the revenue marketing movement?

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