Replace Your Sales Funnel with a Sales Bow Tie

Replace Your Sales Funnel with a Sales Bow TieThe problem I’ve always had with sales funnels is that they’re completely inaccurate. What gets qualified and converted at the bottom of the funnel is by no means everything you’re going to get from the opportunities and/or leads that start at the top. It may be what you get most quickly, this month or quarter, but it’s just the beginning.

For every qualified and ready-to-buy lead you generate, you likely also meet 3-5 qualified but not-ready-to-buy leads. In a traditional sales funnel, you ignore these and go for the right-now sale. But we’ve seen again and again that those 3-5 other leads are going to buy…eventually. You want them to buy from you, so you need a strategy to stay in touch and engage them more actively when they’re ready. The funnel doesn’t allow for that. So at minimum, the traditional sales funnel is far too narrow.

Traditional sales funnels also only reflect half of the story. What about repeat purchases? Referrals? Word-of-mouth opportunities that turn one sale into four? That first sale may be the narrow part of the funnel, but if you know what you’re doing it widens again significantly from there. Renewals, repeat purchases, referrals, etc.

Flip the funnel on its side and you’re getting somewhere. Worry today about how much you can naturally drive through the middle of the bowtie for immediate closed business, but put even more focus long-term on expanding each end of the bowtie. That’s the trick to long-term revenue leverage, and it’s likely a far better way of managing current and future sales.

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Matt HeinzMatt Heinz is principal at Heinz Marketing, a sales & marketing consulting firm helping businesses increase customers and revenue. Contact Matt at or visit

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Matt Heinz




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No Comments

  1. Joseph Jaffe on August 3, 2010 at 1:38 am
  2. Doug Davidoff on August 3, 2010 at 8:51 am


    It’s a great point. As a coach of mine once said to me: you can only get hurt in two places – the short-term or the long-term.

    We teach a technique that we call the Focus 50 (you can use whatever numbers you want). The Focus 50 is broken into 2 lists:

    – The Warboard 20 – these are your 20 best opportunities that are in an active sales sales and you expect them to close within the next 90 days (extraordinarily long sales cycle times can change that timing). These 20 are actively reviewed weekly (and in some industries daily) to ensure we are maximizing the possibility of success.

    – The Farm 30 – these are your 30 best opportunities that you are cultivating for future sales.

    Thanks for pointing out a major weakness of traditional pipeline management.

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