The State of the Funnel in B2B Sales and Marketing

As you might imagine, I kinda like the funnel. It’s actually not a passionate deal for me. I did name myself the funnelholic, but if you don’t like the funnel, so be it. Interestingly, when people bash the funnel when I am around, they like to say: “No offense Craig”. Like I am genetically a funnel. Since we started doing the Madlibs series, I have collected a lot of opinions on funnels from sales and marketing experts. It’s a range. Some people like, some don’t. The results are a fun read. So read on and then give me your take on the funnel in the comments. I am not sure what to make of this photo by FaceMePLS…but it seems to be a dude with a funnel stuck in him




  1. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is my favorite controversy. It’s like everyone is looking at me for my reaction when some blogger comes out and bashes it. Please go ahead and make the point that buyers don’t go in straight line. It’s still a funnel when you look at it – Tons of people at the top (known as leads) — less people at the bottom (known as deals or revenue). Funnelholic
  2.  In b2b, the idea of a funnel is being extended from prospect to customer to advocate. Nick Bell, Eloqua
  3. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is still relevant; it’s just more complex and should be customized for each company and type of sale. Garth Moulton, ScanBizCards
  4. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is also misunderstood. Jay Hidalgo,
  5. In b2b, the idea of a funnel: has changed from marketing just stuffing the top, to a more collaborative full-funnel approach with Sales. Brian Bachofner, InsideView
  6. In B2B, the idea of a funnel is oversimplified. Liza Sperling, ClearSlide
  7. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is still valuable for creating process and consistency across marketing and sales organizations for how they execute, as long as you don’t go so far to assume that your buyer actually follows the funnel from top to bottom. Matt Heinz, Heinz Marketing
  8. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is one way to represent leads at a specific sales stage. Like any metaphor, be it a waterfall, pyramid, etc. all are designed to show where things are working and breaking during the buying cycle.  Greg Hyer, KnowledgeTree
  9. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is: multi dimensional, its a cloud. Mike Damphousse, GreenLeads
  10. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is still important. You need simple, clear goals to lead people. Trying to motivate a busy sales team to work their leads through a “multi-channel buyer’s journey of inbound content engagement” (or whatever) won’t get you there. Vernon Niven, NeedTagger
  11. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is not synonymous with the buyer’s journey. Amanda Maksymiw, Lattice Engines
  12. In b2b, the idea of a funnel encourages enormous waste. Every lead deserves a resolution. Simon Blackburn, CedarCone
  13. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is a better analogy than anything I could come up with. Kyle Porter, SalesLoft
  14. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is still there. Not going anywhere… Chris Snell,
  15. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is: still alive but flattening. Tony Zambito,
  16. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is still a useful way to focus on key conversion points in the customer journey. Karl Wirth, Evergage
  17. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is crucial to sales and marketing. Aseem Badshah, Socedo
  18. In B2B, the idea of a funnel gets brought up too much. We all know it and get it. We agree that it’s important. You put lots in up top…smaller amount comes out of the bottom. Got it! Peter Gracey, AG SalesWorks
  19. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is omnipresent. Joe Chernov, Kinvey
  20. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is still relevant despite protestations to the contrary. Toby Murdock, Kapost
  21. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is important. Koka Sexton
  22. 10.  In b2b, the idea of a funnel is getting over complicated. If people spent as much time disqualifying as they did pouring crap into the top of the funnel we wouldn’t need a 22 stage funnel with diagrams that look like eye charts. Trish Bertuzzi, Bridge Group Inc.
  23. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is: Dynamic. Don’t get complacent with a linear approach. Mobile is changing how and when we reach and engage our audiences. Shannon Ryan, Archetype DNA
  24. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is a helpful visual tool for understanding the buyer’s journey.  At Vorsight we have funnels written everywhere on whiteboard walls throughout our office. Steve Richard, Vorsight
  25. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is – over (for now).  Until we can get past first and last touch attribution and measure the impact of multiple touches via social, it’s just a dashboard in Salesforce used to beat up marketing for more leads at the top. Gretchen DeKnikker, SocialPandas
  26. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is — not as straight a pipe as it used to be. Jason Stewart, Annuitas
  27. 10. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is – consistency.  Your pipe, funnel, or whatever analogy you want – must be consistent.  It will go up and down, but if you’re always mindful to address your funnel, you’ll be in good shape. Jamie Shanks, Sales4Life
  28. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is essential. Mike Volpe, Hubspot
  29. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is essential to understanding your buying cycle and the marketing that goes along with it. Jason Miller, LinkedIn
  30. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is always morphing. We now have waterfalls and other ways to explain how marketing and sales are working together to create an environment for buyers to buy. Lori Richardson, Scoremoresales
  31. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is– a great diagnostic tool. A funnel will never close a deal. But, AIDA, for example, has been helping sales teams craft compelling value propositions for years. The funnel allows a team to understand, and remove, the revenue bottlenecks. Greg Alexander, Sales Benchmark Index
  32. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is as relevant today as it has ever been. Sure, there are lots of new, cool views of the funnel – but the reality is that the funnel is a great way to picture and manage lead flow. Dan McDade, Point Clear
  33. In b2b, the idea of a funnel still exists but movement through the funnel is generally not be linear.  I think we need “a funnel” to visualize the steps in a “selling” process because there is a natural progression with measurable stages or gates.  Businesses are ultimately using that funnel concept to forecast sales.  On the marketing side, I think we have much better data to expose how someone progresses inside, outside and around the funnel.  The challenge in marketing is trying to keep that buyer on the linear path and help sales be more predictable. Howie Levy, TwoTwentyTwo Media
  34. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is killing real progress. Justin Gray, LeadMD
  35. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is important and needs to consider that leads don’t necessarily follow a traditional path anymore. As Jim Keenan puts it, “A lead today can be a complaint on Twitter, a question on LinkedIn or discussion on a Facebook page.” I think companies need to think differently about how they capture these types of leads and integrate them into a process that helps them nurture, qualify, kick over to sales and then measure and track results. Barbara Giamanco, SCS-Connect
  36. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is becoming antiquated. Brian Vellmure,
  37. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is outdated. Think concentric circles… Dan Waldschmidt, Edgy Conversations
  38. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is a good way to align marketing and sales internally, but should not be misunderstood for the buyer’s journey. Carlos Hidalgo, Annuitas
  39. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is critical to the long term valuation of an organization. Whatever shape your funnel, the process for creating demand, converting demand into opportunities and opportunities into sales is the lifeblood of a business. Dennis Shiao, DNN Software
  40. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is  not something I ever think about. I much prefer to go after the targeted few. Jill Konrath,
  41. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is myopic. So is the idea of a waterfall, a pipeline or any other metaphor that leads marketers to believe that leads flow in a linear fashion. Steve Gershik, Identified
  42. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is still relevant but not perfect. It’s more of a cloud or bow tie now…Matt Heinz, Heinz Marketing (2x!)
  43. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is: misunderstood, talk to 3 sales people and you’ll get five different definitions, which is better that the 6 you get if you talk to three VP of Sales. While it is not important to have universal definition, it is important to have an organizational one. Tibor Shanto, Renbor Sales Solutions 
  44. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is dependent on the configuration. The classic funnel has always reminded me of a meat grinder. My model places a higher value on all prospects. Gary Hart, Sales Du Jour
  45. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is just a metaphor for the buying process. It was never alive and will never be dead. You can draw any shape you want to reflect the process but in the end it comes down to buyer roles, buyer needs, the types and places buyers go to find solutions. Mapping that process will always be required. Michael Brenner, SAP
  46. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is turning on its side and losing its defined shape. (No reference to Craig, btw) The assumption that we pour leads in at the top and force them to come out the bottom as customers has always bothered me. Buyers move freely and at will into and out of the buying process. A marketer’s job is to engage them enough to have them choose to take the next step with them. Ardath Albee, Marketing Interactions
  47. In b2b, the idea of a funnel is to provide the sales person a set of metrics to help identify whether he/she is going to make the number. David Brock, Partners in Excellence

In b2b, the idea of a funnel is…(insert your take in the comments below)

  • I think we are all saying the same basic concept above which is:

    The funnel is a concept, but if you structure your lifecycle in a manner which places emphasis on creating many names to get a few clients – guess what – you will get just that. Yes, interest tends to be greater in number than advocacy – that’s life, it takes less effort to be interested than it does to change. Change into a client, change into an advocate, change into a referral partner – it all takes trust. Building trust can take time, messaging, influence, resolution but there’s no set formula to any of this. The minute a marketer says that they want to “work backward” to start putting numbers in place for funnel stages they NEED to feel 100% confident that they know each area of the buyers journey intimately and have optimized it.

    The funnel often becomes an excuse to simply jump in with a ‘more at the top’ philosophy and it hurts, rather than helps. For these reasons you see a funnel backlash – as always the theory is sound, but the execution hurts the proof.

  • Funnels are also useful for changing oil and drinking beer quickly.

  • Chris Jablonski

    In b2b, the idea of a funnel makes your prospects wish they took their business elsewhere.

    • Now that one deserves a “no offense Craig”. (:

      • Chris Jablonski

        Of course! 🙂

  • Go2Markit Consulting

    I think Michael Brenner hits the nail on the head – it is a way of identifying the buying process. We tend to get too hung up on visual shapes (concentric circles are just a top-down view of a funnel after all), what we do in sales and marketing and trying to divide it up by our job roles rather than how customers buy.

  • Barbra Gago

    I think it would be interesting for you to do your “funnel” eBook again get everyone to show their manifestation of the funnel and then compare it to those in 2009 – see what has/hasn’t changed in almost 5 years…

  • Charlie Rudkin

    The concept of a funnel doesn’t work for me, either (I agree with Jill Konrath, If you “forced” me to use the funnel paradigm, one with a perforated cone would make the most sense. Only the most qualified would make it through…