To most people Sales Funnel and Sales Pipeline are two sides of the same coin. Both refer to a strategy for turning prospects into customers. Check our Sales Management coaching tutorials for much more information and ideas.
Personally I like to think there’s a difference between a Funnel sales strategy and a Pipeline sales strategy. The choice of whichever is appropriate depends upon both “sales model” – how it works in your business -and “sales philosophy” – how the individual sales guy likes to work.
Sales Funnel people are the ones playing the numbers game. For example in my first computer industry job I was told for every 100 phone calls I should expect to get 10 demonstrations and for every 10 demonstrations I would get one sale. It was simple – the more calls, the more sales. So the funnel goes from 100, to 10, to 1. Sales Funnels are typically based on activity rates – do more things and hope some of them work. Nice thought, but it’s never worked for me.
Sales Pipeline people are the ones playing the process game. They have a fixed process through which prospects turn into customers. For example as a sales manager I implemented a Qualify, Propose, Negotiate, Close process. Sales Pipelines are based on doing the right thing at the right time, because that’s been proven to work. And I’m a Pipeline guy.
Funnel to Pipeline
Another way to look at the difference is a strategy where the Sales Funnel feeds the Sales Pipeline. This is the most sophisticated model and probably the best for high value B2B sales. In this model the Sales Funnel will contain Territory, Targets and Suspects. Once the Suspect becomes a prospect he/she moves from Funnel to Pipeline.
Why doesn’t the traditional approach to selling and sales management work so well any more? What can the modern sales professional do to stay relevant in today’s customer driven markets? Check out our eBook Reengineering Sales Management for ideas on how to embrace the new order of customer driven buyer/seller relationships.