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Sales funnel management

What is the profession of business development if not to spot opportunities and convert them to happy, paying clients?

In the last month, we had several requests to “increase commercial awareness” in our clients / prospects. Where do we start? What does it actually mean to be commercially aware?

It could be argued that the core discipline of all sales and business development professionals is sales funnel management. If we get that right, then many other areas in sales are enablers, not drivers. So what is sales funnel management exactly?

Quality and quantity

Any farmer knows instinctively what sales funnel management is: Plant seeds, nurture them, protect from harm, and in a period of month, hey presto, a high quality crop that brings in the bucks.

If we are responsible for “making the numbers” then sales funnel management is critical. We cannot manage “sales”, but we can manage the activities that lead to a sale. Therefore, our core responsibility is to very regularly track what is in the incubator, and systematically carry out activities that bring opportunities to a close.

And it’s not just the volume of business, but the type of business. By proactively choosing what we put into our funnel, we can influence what comes out.

sales funnel management

How should we visualise sales funnel management?

By building it from your sales process. Create headings for each phase (e.g. first contact, building relations, discovering needs, proposal stage, closed) and then classify each opportunity under a heading. As opportunities move through, the potential sales number becomes clearer as does the % chance of success. Totals can be created for each phase, to give a sense of how likely it is we will meet our target.

Many organisations will use CRM or spreadsheets to do this: The means it is less important than the discipline of doing it often (At least weekly).

sales funnel management

Advice for sales funnel management

  1. Brutal honesty. As quickly as possible, move away from “wish list” thinking to pragmatic realism. Understanding that your funnel is actually only half as full as you previously thought is a very useful insight, especially early in the sales year!
  2. Careful selection above the funnel. It’s all too easy to fill a sales funnel based on what comes our way. Beware – our opportunities are then being dictated by others!
  3. Manageable quantity. More is not necessarily better. If we have too much work in progress, then spinning plates can break on the floor. Better to carefully nurture and guide good opportunities through the funnel
  4. Learning on the job. Over time, we start to see a reflection of our strengths and weaknesses in a sales funnel: Where do most opportunities drop out? Which parts of the sales process are we best at? Where do we need so seek help or develop?

sales funnel management


Accurate categorisation of opportunities, with realistic numbers and probabilities of success next to them, leads to accurate forecasting. At a personal level, this enables us to take responsibility for our targets, and get early warnings of actions we need to take. At a business level, good forecasting enables budgets to be managed and a firm to evolve effectively over time.

At least one definition of “being commercially aware” is to have a keen sense of the business opportunities we have, and to take responsibility to deliver them. That is, good sales funnel management.

sales funnel management

Getting started

For help to implement good sales funnel management, these services can help:

Sales process

Sales skills (sales 101)

Revenue engine analysis

Sales and marketing interface






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