Investing in marketing channels such as SEO, PPC , trade shows and inbound is key for businesses to fill the funnel full of ripe leads. But, If you’re spending hard earned money on marketing to bring in leads only to drip out a few customers through the sales pipeline each month, you’ve probably sprung a leak. (And duct tape won’t fix it this time)

A leaky pipeline is bad news.  It can mean that your pool of customers stays stagnant – or even shrinks. Here’s how to spot leaks in your sales funnel and patch any holes so that your pool of customers can grow.


Spot the Leaks

We all remember the devastation that resulted along the Gulf of Mexico when BP pipelines burst and caused the biggest oil spill in U.S. history. Just like an oil company uses a pipeline to shift goods from wherever they are to wherever they are needed, companies use their sales pipelines to transport leads to sales conversions.

Your sales pipeline should be built to take each lead at whatever point they are in the sales process and help them move in the right direction towards a purchase. One small crack in a poorly maintained pipeline can mean a disastrous result.

So how do you know if you have a leak?  

Dive into Your Data

In order to assess the main reasons for losing potential sales, you need to be able to understand what opportunities are won and lost by each channel and sales stage.

If you’re tracking leads and customers in your CRM, you have access to a host of reports such as:

  • Pipeline report by sales rep: Is there a particular sales rep that is having trouble winning deals?
  • Pipeline report by lead source:  Are there any lead sources that fail to produce customers?
  • Closed – Lost report:  Is there a recurring reason why customers are choosing a competitor over your business?

By reviewing these reports, you can make sense of where you are running into roadblocks in the sales process.

Insights can also be found from Google Analytics. If you’re using Google Analytics already, you probably know you can measure the performance of your website, but is also a great tool to measure the effectiveness of your funnel.

In Google Analytics, set up the goal conversions you want to track. Then back up and look at the typical user flow on your website to build a funnel and identify points in the funnel where users tend to drop off or get stuck.

Need help? Here is a great resource from Kissmetrics to get you started: The Google Analytics Conversion Funnel Survival Guide

With the right website tracking tools, you can identify leaks in your pipeline.


4 Ways to Fix a Leaky Funnel

Now that you know where your leaks are, you can get to work sealing your pipeline.

Top of the Funnel: Attract the Right Buyers

If you’ve sprung a top-of-the-funnel leak, and are losing interest early in the sales process, it’s time to evaluate the type of leads and prospects you are bringing into your sales pipeline.

Focusing sales efforts on prospects that aren’t a good fit for your product or service to begin with is a waste of time – and money. Ultimately they will want features you don’t offer and get lost in your sales process, never making it to the customer stage.

Your website content, emails, call to actions, and landing pages should be designed to ensure they attract your ideal buyer and keeps them moving in the right direction.

Make it easy for your visitors to get into the funnel. The sales pipeline should look like a funnel aligned to your buyers journey, with one goal and not a spider web, ant farm, or corn maze.

Need help?  Check this blog post on identifying your ideal buyer, The Simple Introduction to Personas.

Middle of the Funnel: Invest in a CRM

If you’re collecting leads from your website, email subscriber list, or tradeshows, but have trouble moving them into a sales opportunity, a CRM can help you get organized.

60% of leads in your funnel will buy from someone down the road.  But if you aren’t consistently touching base with the people in your pipeline, they might end up buying from someone else.

An integrated CRM and marketing platform can track your leads activity, and then follow-up with them automatically.  

The result is, your business stays top-of-mind. The people in your pipeline stay engaged with your business, and when they’re ready to buy, they’ll reach out to you first.

Bottom of the Funnel: Use a Lead Scoring Process

When you score and rank your leads in your CRM, it gives you a chance to prioritize which ones to respond to first. In fact studies show that 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. (Source:

Research done by Steve Olenski on, and prior to that in Harvard Business Review and demonstrated a 341% lift in results just by responding immediately and persistently to leads.

If you aren’t tracking and scoring your leads, you could be wasting time following up with the wrong leads, while valuable opportunities slip through the cracks.

Post-Funnel: Heat up the Leftovers

Not all presentations and proposals close. It would be awesome if they did, but the reality is even with a 30% close rate the majority don’t make the cut. But what happens to them after they make their decision to not buy from you?

Let’s take software or life insurance. If your lost opportunity is under contract with your competitor, automate ongoing communications with them based on their renewal or contract date and be there when it’s time for them to make their next purchase or decision.

Spotting leaks and patching your pipeline is key to running a healthy business. As you drive more and more leads for your small business, it becomes tougher to follow up with each and every one in a personal way, causing leads to seep out the funnel. Being intentional about attracting your ideal buyer, and investing in a CRM with integrated marketing automation tools gives you the ability to follow-up with leads, nurture prospects, and receive notifications once someone is ready to buy.