Anton Antich

General Partner at The Untitled Ventures

Low-performing sales funnel?
Look for invisible leaks

Whether you are a sales or a marketing leader, you have been talking about your funnel for a long time. You most likely also talk about the inefficiencies when it comes to your funnel.

The biggest problem is that most of us focus on visible problems, like objections, questions, and doubts that make leads turn the other way. But what about the invisible ones?

The invisible leak is the loss of potential customers at any stage of the sales process that sales and marketing teams cannot easily spot and might never know about it. To spot these leaks you have to understand each stage of your sales funnel, identify at-risk points, assess sales team activities, and find correlations between sales activities and their results.

Today, we’ll go through the sales funnel stage by stage, explaining why revenue generation teams miss invisible leaks in it and highlighting a few places where the leaks might be hiding. Finally, we’ll discuss how to put a closed-loop system to move leads that dropped back into the funnel.

How do you miss invisible leaks in your sales funnel?

Here comes the known problem of survivorship bias – the flaw of our brains thanks to which we look at the most obvious information and generalize it. It makes us forget to take into account other factors or things that are not there before convincing ourselves.

The idea of survivorship bias goes back to World War II when the military’s bombers were returning with damage on various parts making them difficult to reuse. The military knew armor would help but couldn’t protect the whole plane or made it too heavy to fly well.

When you look at the pictures of the bullet holes in the airplanes, what do you conclude?


Where would you add the armor?

Would you decide to add armor on the wing and tail to save the planes? If you did, you failed to consider the planes which never returned. You’ve just added armor to areas that could take damage without causing the plane to crash. After all, the airplane that had these damages, returned. It was the damage in other areas that was lethal for the planes that never returned.

By analyzing the data of only the survivors, you would make the wrong decision. The right decision was to add armor in the areas that showed no damage.

Like engineers who look only at the visible holes in the wings, salespeople write cheat sheets, battle cards, and scripts based on these very visible holes in the sales funnel. But that’s not enough to make the sales grow. You have to use a different approach by finding and fixing the invisible leaks at each stage of the revenue generation funnel.

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    How do leads drop out of your sales funnel?

    The invisible leaks in the revenue funnel can help answer one of the most critical sales and marketing questions: how do my leads become closed-won deals?


    When leads drop out of your funnel, the source of the problem is usually your processes or technology, or both. Unfortunately, it can happen at many points in your buyer’s journey and salespeople neither understand the reasons for the leaks nor have a closed-loop system in place to move leads back into the funnel.

    Lead Generation

    At the lead generation stage, it frequently happens that leads suddenly leak out of your sales funnel. The marketing team spends time and money attracting leads at webinars or offline events, or by encouraging them to subscribe to a newsletter list. Still, then the sales team never has a single contact with those potential buyers.


    That’s one of the great examples of invisible leaks appearing at the top of the sales funnel.

    Why does it happen? It’s usually because there’s no defined process for what to do with incoming leads and no system in place to move the potential leads across the funnel.

    You need a process for nurturing leads all along the way, with content that maps to each stage of the buyer’s journey and keeps them moving further along. For example, you’ll want to ensure that every piece of content’s Call to Action (what you’re asking a lead to do) matches the stage of the funnel they’re in. If a blog is intended to generate initial awareness, it’s too soon to link the reader to a Request a Demo form. But if your lead has downloaded a gated guide with detailed information that can move them to the marketing-qualified stage, then encouraging them to schedule a demo may be the right Call to Action.

    In such a way you put a closed-loop system in place to move the leads to the next stage of the funnel and can use analytical tools to define any leaks on the way. As you know where your lead is at each point in time you can easily track them and get back to the funnel when required.

    Lead Handoff from Marketing to Sales

    The point when marketing hands off a lead to sales is one of the most common times for a funnel to spring a leak and a combination of process and technology issues makes these leaks practically invisible.

    Imagine you have a lead that’s reached the Sales Qualified Lead stage. That means they’re ready to be contacted by sales and in a good position to buy. It’s time for marketing to pass that lead onto sales. But often the process isn’t well defined, or it isn’t followed consistently. Maybe the people involved don’t understand their roles. Maybe they don’t know what the process is. If your marketing and sales teams operate in silos or aren’t aligned, your odds of a poor handoff process are especially high.

    Your technology also could be contributing to the lead handoff problem. Sometimes we find clients but do not add all the information about them to the CRM, our CRM does not capture the data properly, or the salespeople are not well-trained to use the tool.

    You need a single up-to-date source of truth about your leads, properly configured, and thoroughly trained, with alignment and buy-in from sales and marketing. With such a system in place, you’ll make visible any leaks at the SQL stage and never lose leads during the handoff process.

    Moving to the Opportunity Stage

    Let’s say a lead makes it to the middle of the funnel and completes a form asking to arrange a demo. That’s a success, but there is still a risk that leads will drop out of the funnel.


    There are many invisible leaks that can lead to this unfortunate outcome:

    • The BDR team has not transferred the prospect to the Account Executive
    • The lead was poorly qualified and at the demo appears that the product does not fit the expectations
    • The demo was of bad quality and the prospect’s expectations were not met
    • The demo was great, but the prospect chose the competitor

    And most of these leaks are not evident to the sales team.

    Some of the strategies to address these leaks are:

    • Ensure your salespeople are using the discovery stage to get the buyer to explain their problem in as much detail as possible and state their desire to change before jumping into demos
    • Check that your salespeople are driving the buying process by setting an upfront agenda for each call and scheduling the next call before hanging up.
    • If you have a separate sales development group doing the initial qualification of leads before handing them off to your salespeople, check that they are qualifying prospects as having a valid problem rather than just booking meetings to fill up calendars.

    Again a closed-loop system in place is the only possible way to move leads back into the funnel. The revenue intelligence platform can help you see what’s happening within your funnel and guide your sales team through the sales process.

    Closing the Deal

    Your prospect has finally reached the ultimate conversion stage, signaling that your sales funnel is a success, but time goes by and the deal doesn’t close. Wouldn’t you want to know why?

    Again invisible holes in your sales funnel might be the reason:

    • The product lacks some important features
    • The value of the product is not clear to the potential customer
    • The decision-maker is not involved in the deal


    You can address these challenges in a number of ways. One of the options is the formation of a joint success plan. The plan should state the buyer’s challenges, desired impact, and expected timeline for seeing results, details the steps to reach the first value milestone, and identify who owns each step. This plan should include the list of potential decision-makers who can influence the deal moving forward, the responsible salespeople to communicate with them, and the milestones for this process. You’ll need a revenue intelligence platform to put this plan into action, automating its execution at scale and guiding sales reps to the win.

    Key strategy for building a high-performing sales funnel

    A leaky sales funnel is every business’s nightmare. It can make you look inept, increase operating costs, and cause revenues to be impacted. Unfortunately, sales and marketing teams focus on the visible leaks in the funnel and miss the invisible ones. That’s the logical error that leads to unpredictable losses.

    To avoid it, you should analyze each stage of your sales funnel, define the hidden leaks at these stages, and put a closed-loop system in place to move leads back into the funnel. If you want to build a system that consolidates every possible data point, optimizing your sales funnel and achieving great sales results stay tuned to Revenue Garage and subscribe to the “Optimal Revenue Generation Process” series.