Some think this is a matter of semantics with no material difference between sales funnels and revenue funnels. They’re wrong. Manage sales funnels for transactional sales. Manage revenue funnels for customer lifetime value.

While every sales and revenue funnel there ever was is a variation of AIDA, the sales funnel AIDA is Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action with the Action being the sales close. The revenue funnel AIDA is Awareness, Interest, Decision, Action with Decision being the moment the customer decides to buy and Action encompassing everything that happens after that.

Heads of sales play important roles at the bottom of sales funnels, leading efforts to close sales.

Chief revenue officers link marketing, product, sales, partnerships and the after-sales delivery and service efforts to maximize lifetime value for and lifetime revenue from customers.

Sales funnel: Awareness – Interest – Desire – Action

The “action” is closing the sale. Hence the term “Sales” funnel


Revenue Funnel: Awareness (Marketing) – Interest (Sales) – Decision (Buyer) – Action (Whole organization)

The “action” is everything that happens after the buyer decides to go forward. Hence the need for a CRO to link marketing, product, sales, partnerships and the after-sales delivery and service efforts to maximize the lifetime revenue from and lifetime value of customers.

Warren Zenna, founder of The CRO Collective, took me through his thinking on the difference between heads of sales and CROs. He explained three industry factors that CROs are up against and five things CEOs get wrong.

The three industry factors are:

1) The VC/ Investment community (‘quick tech’)

VCs invest to accelerate growth. “Customer needs are almost always in direct conflict with revenue growth goals. Feeding the pipeline at scale and putting more new buyers into the funnel by next quarter has direct impact on the effectiveness of marketing strategies, sales planning, customer success functions and profitability.”

2) Hyper Growth = Automated Programmatic Deployment

“The pursuit of scale has resulted in a massive sub industry of automation technologies.” Mass deployment of automated programs has led to growth in contacts that outpace the capacity of sales people to build relationships.

3) Obsession with Analytics and CRM Software

“Data driven culture has resulted in too much information and not enough insight to actually make any of it useful. Too much data = too much confusion and too many variables.” In many cases staff is spending 50-60% of its time on data input, updates, setup and maintenance—a massive distraction from focusing on customer outcomes.


Five things CEOs get wrong when hiring CROs:


  1. “Not really understanding what a CRO actually does.
  2. Hiring a CRO too soon.
  3. Hiring a CRO for the wrong reasons (usually to grow the sales organization.)
  4. Not knowing what competencies, skills and experience that a CRO should have (not vetting properly, not assessing properly, etc.)
  5. Failing to first build a CRO-Ready organization.”


Implications for you

Ultimately, all value is created by providing customers benefits greater than their costs. The value you create for them leads to revenue for you. Manage and track progress through the revenue funnel like this:



Prospecting: Mass and content marketing, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), public relations.

[Track impressions on target and awareness]



Discovery: Targeted content, social media, e-books, videos

[Track “visitors” – web visits, emails, calls, etc.]

Qualifying leads

[Track interactions – calls, contacts, opt out, opt in]

Initial meetings: info about solutions

[Track meetings and buyers: economic, user, technical, coach]

Define prospect needs

[Track prospect understanding dimensions including which column they put you in: column A (65% likelihood of buying), B (30%), C (5%)]

Evaluation: Make offers: demos, trials, proposals

[Track demos, trials, proposals: opt out, opt in]

Intent: Negotiation/finalize proposal

[Track wins and losses]



Purchase: Close the deal

[Track sales (Yes. You care about transactional sales. They’re just not the end-point of the revenue funnel.]



Loyalty: Deliver on all promises and build ongoing relationship to understand and meet their future needs by modifying your offerings as appropriate and providing them new benefits.

[Track customer satisfaction, revenue and your profitability by customer]

Bottom line: Switch from transactional sales funnels to revenue funnels focusing all on the lifetime value of customers and the long-term health of the business.

Click here for a list of my Forbes articles (of which this is #765) and a summary of my book on executive onboarding: The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan.

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