Marketing Funnel Vs Sales Funnel: Their Key Differences

Marketing funnel vs sales funnel. What are the core differences between these two terms? In this post, we will learn about the marketing funnel and sales funnel and also understand the key difference and how to apply them when running your marketing campaign in other to boost sales.    As a business owner, if you...

Marketing funnel vs sales funnel. What are the core differences between these two terms? In this post, we will learn about the marketing funnel and sales funnel and also understand the key difference and how to apply them when running your marketing campaign in other to boost sales.


 As a business owner, if you are conversant with digital marketing, you must have probably heard the word “funnel” more times than you can count. This is because funnels are the engine that drives a successful marketing campaign. Driving traffics, generating leads and finally converting prospects to customers. 


But the question has always been on what kind of funnel to apply for my campaign. How do I start my funnel and ensure it generates the best results? 


Although funnels may seem a little complicated, you don’t have to let that confuse you. All you need is to understand what you want to achieve with your campaign. Once this is done, creating a suitable funnel becomes easy. 


While you are pondering on the best approach that will help you increase conversion, this post has been designed to help you eliminate the confusion between two of the most essential funnel types, which are the sales funnel and the marketing funnel.


Each has its unique traits, and they can be used to achieve different but similar results


Let’s look at both the marketing funnel vs sales funnel in more detail. But first, let’s define both terms to have a better understanding. 


What is a marketing funnel?

A marketing funnel is a series of stages designed to guide a target audience throughout their journey with a business or brand. The funnel comes to play from the first time they hear or see your business to when they make a purchase. The marketing funnel helps capture every step they make and also makes it easy for them to make purchases.


The marketing funnel also helps the marketing teams plan and measure efforts to attract, engage, and convert prospects through marketing materials, like landing pages and ads or blog content.


One fundamental function of a marketing funnel is that it is designed to enable your prospects to understand the company/business, products, or services and help guide them through making a purchase decision, either instantly or in the feature. 


Every good marketing funnel should possess three key traits. This includes building awareness, keeping the interest of potential customers, and evaluating leads before they are handed off to sales. Keep in mind that the key aspect of the marketing funnel is to generate increased demands, improve lead, and also nurture leads. 


1. Increased Demand/Awareness

When you carry out your marketing funnel right, you will be able to increase demand — this is the process of building brand, product, or service awareness through various marketing strategies and campaigns.


These marketing campaigns include inbound marketing, email marketing, blog content, mentions, ads, and more. This step is at the very top of the marketing funnel.


2. Lead generation

Lead generation is the process of gathering your target contacts, which may include phone numbers and emails. 

At this stage of your marketing funnel, you are more focused on getting your prospects and leads to get familiar with your brand, products, or services. This can be done through detailed email copy, sales copy, and blog content. You can utilize landing pages, emails, website copy, lead magnets, socials, and other messaging to help the lead get on board with your product.


3. Lead nurturing

When you start your marketing campaign, you are expecting good leads. These leads will come through if you have carried out a good marketing funnel. However, without proper lead nurturing, you may still not close the sales. 


When an audience has shown interest in your products/services and provided their contact details, it is important you nurture the lead to conversion. 


Always have a mapped-out plan to keep them interested and on track. Nurture them, and guide them to the end of the funnel where the sales are made. At this point, building a relationship between the lead and your brand is of the utmost importance.


You can achieve this by creating personalized and tailor-made content — resources, case studies, email messages, etc. that will be suitable for your lead. 


Remember to always treat your leads as individuals and make them feel special — this makes them feel comfortable. So, don’t see them as just another number or person to sell to. Connect with them, as this will build and increase your brand trust.  

Most people feel comfortable and prefer to buy from someone they know and trust. 


What is a sales funnel?

As the name implies, it simply helps you convert the target audience or interest clients to buyers — this ensures that the sales are closed. 

A sales funnel is a system designed to take a lead from the marketing campaign through the journey of making a purchase, — this is the final conversion of the sales funnel. 


In other words, here is one key difference between the marketing funnel vs sales funnel, — while the marketing funnel is designed to attract potential leads, drive traffic and increase brand awareness, that can be transited into customers, the sales funnel takes every qualified lead from the marketing stage to conversion where the purchase is made.


With a sales funnel, you are not dwelling on awareness because it has already been established. The main objective of the sales funnels is to get your leads to see your unique selling points and what makes you different from your competition in an effort to make a conversion. Once this is achieved, they are pushed to the final stages, where they will be converted. This could mean a full purchase or a free trial.


The uniqueness of the sales funnel over the marketing funnel is the ability to help you retain every qualified lead. This is usually the final stage of every good sales funnel. Your sales funnel process should be able to retain your customers, upsell them, and provide you an opportunity to sell more products to your leads in the feature. 


If you are able to achieve this with your sales funnel, you are sure of the following:


Sales boost—a great and well-organized sales funnel is sure to help you increase sales by up to 33%, and you don’t have to spend extra cash on marketing. 


Sales automation—It provides a perfect way for you to automate your sales process, especially when your customers are already aware of your brand, what you sell, and the process that goes along with it. This saves you a lot of time, human resources, and legwork. Also, it increases customer retention, saving you more time and money.


They help identify problems—When you have a good sales funnel, your customers are less likely to point out issues because you may have probably taken care of every little detail and issue that may arise. 


The key differences between a sales funnel and a marketing funnel?

From our discussion, you can see that both the marketing funnel and sales funnel are different in some aspects and are very similar in others. 

Their major aim is to bring customers to conversion. However, they do this using a different approach.

To help you understand the marketing funnel and sales funnel fully, I am going to break down both processes according to their structures. — Having the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.


The Marketing funnel stages


Marketing Funnel Vs Sales Funnel: What Are The Difference?

Top of the Funnel, also known as (TOFU)

The TOFU is where you find all those who are interested in your business or services. This is the widest part of the funnel, — since its aim is just to reach out to as many as are interested in your brand. 


This part of the funnel makes use of the widest criteria during the marketing campaign in most cases. Because you are just looking for leads after all. But the truth is that not all who are able to reach this stage will make it to the next stage. Not to mention the conversion stage. 


However, the top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) has its own objectives. Which are education and sensitization. You want to educate your readers, viewers, prospects, and leads in other to sensitize them about your product or service as much as possible. 

This is where you create your brand awareness, to help differentiate your business from everyone else. When you do this right, you also build trust at this level. This trust builds up over time thereby generating more qualified leads that may eventually turn into buyers. 


Some of the materials and strategies you can apply at this level, are the use of blog posts, YouTube videos, and social media content that may be targeting the general audience. — You apply this alongside your marketing campaign. 


Remember, you are only creating brand awareness at this level and generally target all possible audiences. So, you need to collate as much data as possible, — if you want to increase sales in the feature. Because in the end, most of this data is what makes its way to the end of the funnel — where conversion is made. 


Middle of the Funnel — Known as (MOFU)

The next session of your marketing funnel is the MOFU. At the MOFU, your audience or leads are looking for reasons to make the purchase. These are in the form of evidence, reviews, and benefits of choosing your brand, products, or services. 


What makes your brand different from others? Why should they choose your brand over your competitors? 


Here is where you need to address every issue that your lead is trying to solve. You need to answer all the questions they have in their head. You need to provide them with AHAA! Solution. Something that just sinks and answers all their questions and takes away doubts. Something that addresses their pain point and provides a real solution. 


This is where you need the technical content — for instance, case studies, results that show real proofs, not doctored or copied results. eBooks, white papers, and webinars that are geared toward sharing solutions. 

At this stage, you are nurturing your leads, so you need to carefully plan this out, — because it is critical in determining how the last session of your funnel will convert. A slight error at this stage may be very detrimental to your brand, products, or business. 


While all of these are going on, your sales representatives should be very active and fully ready to locate the leads that are ready for conversion in other to take over the communication.


Bottom of the Marketing funnel — Known as (BOFU)

If you have handled stages 1 and 2 correctly, you should be excited at this stage, — because all your efforts are ready to pay off. This is the bottom of the marketing funnel, and it is where the money is. And to make sure that this process goes smoothly and truly pays off, you will also need some content. However, this content is very different from the content of the first two processes. 


Here, we are talking about content like call-to-action (CTAs), — to get your leads to take action, and free trials — to capture serious leads, demos, and sign-ups. You need to prepare this content in a manner that makes it easy for the leads to take the required action. 


Doing all of this right will enable your lead to convert without a further push. They can easily sign up, subscribe, or even make a purchase and checkout without too many hassles.  


However, there are some who may still need that extra push to convert. So, you need to have your sales team ready for this task. 


The good part is that your marking team or sales reps now have more refined data to work with and drive up sales for your business. 


The Sales funnel stages


Marketing Funnel Vs Sales Funnel: What Are The Difference?

In most cases, the sales funnel can also be referred to as a marketing funnel with just a few exceptions. This is where the sales and marketing need to be in agreement if they want the business to succeed. 


While it is the work of the marketing team to bring in the leads through their marketing campaign, the sales team plays the role of conversion. 


However, we are going to break down the key parts of the sales funnel for a better understanding. Just as the marketing funnel has its sessions, which are the TOFU, MOFU, and Bofu. The sales funnel has its own stages as well. 


Since the sales funnel is more about turning leads into conversions rather than just general brand awareness, we are going to have a more detailed campaign geared toward bringing qualified leads. 


The Marketing qualified lead (MQL)

The first stage of your sales funnel is the MQL, — which is the marketing qualified lead. These are called qualified leads because they are people who have indicated an interest in your product/services. They are those sets of people who have filled out a form, downloaded your material, signed up for a free trial, or carry out an action that notifies the sales team of their interest. 


By carrying out any of the actions listed above, you must have taken their contact details if you carried out your sales funnel correctly. And this will also enable you to know the kind of products they are interested in. 


If the content they’re downloading relates to your business, then it is a marketing-qualified lead, meaning you will benefit from increasing your marketing efforts with them.


The Sales Accepted Lead (SAL)

Just as the name implies, this is the lead that the sales team has accepted — and is ready for the product.  Once this lead has been determined, it is easier for the sales team to sell to them and upsell to them as well. These are the people that give your business more money because they also give you recurring sales.


At this stage, you don’t need to keep them waiting for too long. This stage is usually the shortest because the more time you waste in closing the deal, the easier it is for them to become uninterested. 


Ensure your sales team and marketing team are able to act on the leads at this stage as quickly as possible so you don’t lose the lead. 


Sales qualified lead (SQL)

At the end of the sales funnel, we have the SQL, which is the sales-qualified lead. These are the people who can easily come back without further marketing or push.


But to make this happen and your clients happy always, your sales team needs to develop a good relationship and build trust between the business and the lead, and the final goal is to make that conversion happen.


This is where negotiations are done for high-ticket products and deals close. Furthermore, you can also find out from the leads other products they may be interested in and see how you can upsell to them.


NB: In most cases, at this stage, the deals are usually closed. However, there are situations where the clients may still back out, — depending on the negotiation in play. 


If the lead gets to this point on your funnel and still backs out, then there is a problem somewhere. This could be with the qualification process, the messaging of your marketing and sales collateral, the value of your product, the price, or something else. 


It is advisable to always review your funnels and see areas where changes are needed urgently to strengthen your marketing and sales funnels.



Following my explanation in this post, it is clear to see that it’s just a thin line between the marketing funnel and the sales funnel. Also, both play vital roles in the growth of every business. 


While a marketing funnel is designed for promoting businesses and creating brand awareness, — thereby taking customers from being completely unaware of your brand to loyal customers.


The sales funnel is designed as a system that is focused on converting leads — making them take action. That action could be signing up for an email list, downloading an ebook, or getting contact information from them. 


Just like the marketing funnel, the sales funnel also has its own process, which includes putting up content that’s designed to take a lead from the beginning to the end.