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Sales Lead Funnel Stages, Explained

SEO Blog
Sales Lead Funnel Stages

For this report on sales lead funnel stages & conversion rates, our team parsed data from 160+ clients between 2017 and 2022. Having a clear understanding of your sales funnel stages as well as the conversion rate between each stage has several clear benefits. It allows you to:

  1. Identify points in your sales process that need improvement, thereby exposing the biggest areas of opportunity in your sales and marketing departments.
  2. Create more accurate revenue projections based on expected conversion rates between stages
  3. Make more informed decisions about the effectiveness of your lead generation strategies

We’ll begin by defining the sales funnel stages a lead travels through, which are:

LeadMQLSQLOpportunityClosed

The main section of the report is a table with industry-segmented conversion rate benchmarks for each stage of the sales funnel.

Sales Lead Funnel Stages, Defined

Here’s how we define each stage of our sales funnel:

  • Lead: Any non-spam contact who has shown some interest in our services (via filling out a contact form, reaching out via email, or another method) but has not indicated a clear intent to buy, or is not currently within our target market.
  • MQL: A contact that: (a) has indicated some intent to buy (whether by filling out a contact form, reaching out via email, or via another method); (b) has been determined to be within our company’s target market (i.e. is a prospective customer who can afford our services).
  • SQL: A prospective customer that: (a) has moved through marketing to sales with an intent to buy; (b) has been vetted by a salesperson and determined to be a good fit; and (c) has a meeting scheduled with a salesperson.
  • Opportunity: A prospective customer that: (a) has had a meeting with sales; (b) sustains intent to buy; and (c) is in possession of a proposal or contract.
  • Closed: A prospective customer who has signed a contract and will move to customer status upon payment.

Note that the sales funnel is distinct from the marketing funnel, which describes the path that potential customers travel before taking a conversion action to become a lead. The entire customer acquisition process, from marketing to sales, can be thought of as two connected funnels with the output of the marketing funnel filling the input of the sales funnel.

Next, we share conversion rate benchmarks for each industry.

Sales Lead Funnel Conversion Rate Benchmarks

As mentioned, the benchmarks below come from our customers’ proprietary data, extracted in the 5 year period between 2017 and 2022. Our clients are approximately 77% B2B, and 23% B2C.

IndustryVisitor to LeadLead to MQLMQL to SQLSQL to OpportunitySQL to Closed
Addiction Treatment2.1%23%39%45%48%
Aerospace & Aviation1.4%18%32%49%61%
Automotive1.0%21%42%46%49%
B2B SaaS1.9%39%38%42%37%
Biotech1.8%36%40%48%55%
Business Insurance1.7%23%51%49%52%
Construction1.9%17%37%50%54%
Cybersecurity1.3%24%40%43%46%
eCommerce1.6%23%58%66%60%
Engineering1.2%27%36%48%52%
Entertainment1.1%19%41%54%61%
Environmental Services1.3%20%43%58%54%
Financial Services1.9%29%38%49%53%
Fintech1.7%21%46%49%58%
Healthcare1.2%24%38%51%51%
Heavy Equipment1.7%29%48%58%56%
Higher Education2.8%45%46%61%66%
Hotels & Resorts1.0%21%47%58%60%
HVAC3.1%42%51%55%49%
Industrial IOT2.6%22%39%46%51%
IT & Managed Services1.5%19%38%41%46%
Legal Services7.4%32%35%48%46%
Manufacturing2.1%26%41%46%51%
Oil & Gas2.6%32%38%42%47%
Pharmaceutical1.9%41%56%51%64%
Real Estate2.8%27%33%40%53%
Software Development1.1%28%39%60%59%
Solar1.8%45%36%58%61%
Staffing & Recruiting1.4%25%32%45%52%
Transportation & Logistics1.4%31%44%49%56%

Filling Your Lead Funnel

If your sales team isn’t hitting the benchmarks above, it’s possible that the quality of the leads coming to them isn’t high enough. Producing high quality leads for your sales team is as much an art as a science, and even for seasoned professionals can be time and revenue-consuming.

Many companies outsource the production of high quality leads to specialists such as our agency. We produce a long-term stream of leads using thought leadership and SEO, a process that involves an experienced team of 7 people focusing on distinct areas of lead generation including getting to know your company and brand intimately; working with a current member of your industry to produce content; and creating detailed personas of your customers. If you’re interested in discussing a partnership, you can contact us here.

Evan Bailyn

Evan Bailyn is a best-selling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.

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