Note from the Editors: Balaji hits on two super important topics for prospectors that contribute to a leaky funnel, i. segmentation and targeting and ii. keeping personal statistics.

If you are putting the wrong leads in the funnel it will be really leaky. Also by keeping personal statistics you and your manager will be able to work on problem areas to plug the leaks in your funnel so you close more business.


We know that in some companies, the proverbial sales funnel has more leaks than a rusty old bucket.

In a poorly run sales operation no sooner do leads enter the top of the funnel, than they begin leaking out of the many holes in our bucket. When our funnel is really leaky, salespeople will spend all their time prospecting to fill the top of the funnel, without sufficient volume of qualified leads in the mid-funnel to nurture and turn into closed deals. In effect our funnel is void of opportunity before we can close anything.

One of the primary causes of the leaky funnel is due to poor market planning and segmentation. Many sales hours are wasted every month by sales people who are not focusing on the right segments, not speaking to the right set of people and not articulating the right value proposition which leads to a low lead to customer conversion ratio.

This article is for sales leaders and salespeople who are struggling with weak conversion ratios.

Let me say at the outset that is vital that individuals and managers keep track of personal prospecting and selling KPI’s. If you are not measuring it, how can you improve and coach around areas for improvement?

There are two major top of funnel factors contributing to a leaky bucket:

  • Putting poor quality leads into the funnel at the outset and these are typically caused by poor definition of the target market segment and ideal prospect and the lack of a formal definition of a qualified lead.
  • Lack of a lead scoring method that makes sense for your market segment and buyer journey.

According to CSO Insights 2014 Sales Performance Optimization study, less than half of those 1200 companies surveyed had a formal definition of a qualified lead.

Of those companies on average, 25% of leads were generated by marketing, and salespeople generated 47%.

Less than half of the companies surveyed were able to convert a qualified lead into a discussion more than 50% of the time. In essence, salespeople are wasting half of their time speaking with prospects who are not qualified.

This is the perennial problem of marketing and sales alignment around lead definition in the case of marketing generated leads and a compromise on quality of leads generated by salespeople, where pressure to make a quantity of calls (activity) is confused with progress.

I have researched a number of different sources to provide a set of statistics to help B2B salespeople and their managers to know what good looks like in various sales conversion ratios.

These B2B numbers are from OpenView Venture Partners

Dials leading to a meaningful conversation 9%
– Calling before the start of the business day and at the end of the day and using multiple-channels can help.

Conversations leading to an appointment 23%
– This exposes telephone skills deficiencies, messaging effectiveness & targeting

Appointments leading to Opportunities 38%
– This is inversely proportional to the stringency of qualification criteria, were working on a smaller set of well qualified leads will produce more revenue than a larger set of unqualified opportunities as wasted time spent with non-buyers is eliminated.

Lead to Opportunity Conversion 12%
– Points to a weakness in targeting and segmentation as discussed above. Lead nurturing can help.

Pipeline Coverage 306%
– The best insurance policy is to have sufficient pipeline to cover the deals that leak out of the funnel.

Win Rate of Opportunities 27%
– A good metric to assess qualification and selling skills.

About Balaji Chakravarthi:
Balaji has been a start-up sales leader over his 20-splus years of experience in the IT industry. He has worked in 3 start-ups and has bootstrapped the sales engine to sell software services on the phone, acquired the first customer for his organizations 8 times and has built sales organizations from scratch many times over in his career in multiple markets. He is now the founder of ScoVelo Consulting that advises emerging and expansion stage B2B IT firms in establishing a consistent sales engine.

prospecting tips

Topics: sales conversion, sales funnel, lead conversion


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