Sales Funnel vs Sales Pipeline: The Difference

In sales, two of the most thrown-around terms are, without a doubt, ‘sales funnel’ and ‘sales pipeline’.

Often used interchangeably, as if synonymous, the two are believed to encompass the same thing. This is not exactly right, and there is a fundamental difference between the two terms.

Let’s jump right in and break down the difference between the two and what exactly sets them apart along the sales journey.

An Overview

As a general overview, a sales pipeline lays out the various stages potential leads go through along the sales journey to becoming a client or customer of the business. A sales funnel is used to represent the prospective leads that end up making it through the stages of the sales pipeline.

Sales Funnel

A sales funnel identifies the prospective journey a potential client will go through as a lead. This entails breaking down how they become a lead and what their habits are along the journey in order to understand the potential client more and more.

This holds the end goal of the potential lead converting into a paying customer and eventually making a purchase with the business.

What are the stages of the sales funnel?

The five stages of a sales funnel include:


The starting point of a sales funnel can be considered when a prospective client is aware of your business and the product or service it provides. This first stage is the ‘biggest’ as it can vary depending on each case. Being the first interaction, it could be through word of mouth via a customer’s recommendation, through visiting your website or coming across the business on social media.

As it stands initially, this prospective client may not have a problem or might not be aware of one just yet. Through awareness, they understand what is on offer and how it can help them. This comes back to the whole aim of this step, making leads aware of what product or service you have on offer and why they need it.

Multiple strategies can be implemented here, the first of which would be to have a brand message and mission statement. This should be clear and concise, clearly outlining what your service or product is and how it solves a potential issue.

The aim is to understand who your target market is and outline the demographics alongside the needs and habits of this ideal client.

Possible ways of building brand awareness include creating a significant social media presence alongside a strong website. Various tools can be used to augment this, such as SEO, to build presence and credibility online. Email marketing and in-person brand building through networking are great ways to achieve this.


Following up from the initial awareness is creating brand interest that would allow a lead to learn more about the product or service and why they need it.

This step entails developing and building a brand’s reliability, credibility and authority overall. From becoming aware of your brand, a lead is now understanding more how you are able to solve an issue of theirs through providing a product or service. Interest can be present in various forms, being an email list subscription, sending a message or submitting a form, or choosing to follow on social media and have exposure to posts.

A few strategies can be implemented to build interest, the first of which is putting out relevant, relatable and valuable content for potential customers. This can be in the form of social media posts, blog posts or general website content.

Above all, you need to understand what leads are searching for and why. This would include what the top keywords are and what leads want to come across through their searches. Once you know the focus, use online tools to send more targeted traffic to any social media platforms and your website.

Furthermore, creating engaging content allows a customer to connect on a given point, whether it is a pain point, solution or general shared interest. Potential ways of promoting products or services to build interest could be running email campaigns and retargeting campaigns to keep interest. Blog posts and other relevant content across social media accounts can also help develop and sustain interest. And when all else fails, an excellent free trial can grab attention and pique interest.


This step entails potential customers’ connection with the solution you offer through the creation of desire. This will naturally have to meet their needs, requirements and, of course, their budget. Here, the focus is running with the creation of desire to develop trust in the brand and what it is offering.

Your brand will be among many coming up in the search results, so the aim is to ensure you stand out and define what sets you apart from the rest. This can be further reinforced through great client reviews on the products and services offered. This builds further rapport, trust and value surrounding the brand.

Various strategies this could entail include social media posts, online ads and landing pages that feature lead magnets. Great options here are free trials and samples, subscriptions to e-books, emails and newsletters, as well as online events to get leads involved.

Possible ways of promoting your product or service to create desire include having client reviews and testimonials on offer or even relevant case studies to portray previous wins. You can also develop product desire by offering product specs and comparisons along a client’s decision-making process.


Here, a customer is taking action and deciding to make a purchase. With this, the company’s aim is to meet the customer’s needs, requirements and expectations.

To augment the experience at this stage, your company can include demonstration or tutorial material as a means of helping the client. You can also find ways to offer added support and value along their journey of committing to your product or service.

The strategy here would be to build and nurture a relationship with relevant, engaging emails that are sent consistently. Include quick and helpful follow-ups on any questions and queries potential customers might have as a means of helping them make a decision.

You can also run specials, offer discounts through promo codes, or create packages to provide an irresistible deal. Offering live demonstrations of how to use products can be a great way of helping a customer take action. This could even be in the form of Q&A sessions and consultations to help meet their needs.


Here the name of the game is retention, and this comes down to rapport, trust, and of course, loyalty. Booming sales in the long term comes down to retention, which in turn entails repeated sales from customers and less money spent on acquiring new leads. The main thing to keep in mind is that with sustained customer satisfaction comes sustained customer purchases.

Various strategies could be implemented in the loyalty stage; amongst these would be promotion strategies. This could be in the form of reward programs and loyalty memberships, offering discounts that retain customers and build loyalty.

A key element here to ensure sustained loyalty is customer service overall but also, more particularly, customer support every step of the way. This should be responsive, helpful and genuine. Check in now and then, even after a purchase has been finalised through email retargeting campaigns, follow-ups, and customer satisfaction check-ins.

Sales Pipeline

sales pipeline breaks down the different sales process steps from the beginning to the end. This includes great attention to detail in laying out everything from the actual acquiring of the lead, to then gaining a potential client, to eventually closing the sale.

A sales pipeline represents the multiple stages of taking a consumer from a lead to a customer. And so, in its function, a sales pipeline outlines the steps of the sales process implemented by a business.

What are the stages of a sales pipeline?

The Seven Main Sales Pipeline Stages

With potential clients starting as leads, they follow a process facilitated by the sales pipeline. This takes them from the initial discovery of a brand, product or service to the sales and then further as they convert into returning customers. There are seven key stages of a sales pipeline stages which include: 

  1. Prospecting – This is the stage where potential customers are finding out about the business. This happens through PR, adverts and word-of-mouth. Here, techniques to specifically target a particular market of potential buyers will be applied as means of prospecting.

  2. Lead Qualification – Here, the purpose is discovering which leads are not only interested in the product/service but also would commit to purchasing. In this, leads will be offered lead magnets (such as a free offer, an e-book etc.) to gauge how much they qualify.

  3. Meeting or Demonstration – In this step, the business is introduced on a personal level to potential buyers. This could be in the form of a meeting or demonstration to show how your products or services can solve their problems. Furthermore, it entails assessing whether, after the introduction, a proposal should be formed in the next step.

  4. Proposal – In this stage, the whole focus is presenting how your product or service meets the needs and requirements of the potential customer to solve their issues. This is, in turn, a summary of what sets you apart from competitors and how you aim to deliver the best service to the client at your given price.

  5. Negotiation and Commitment – Here, it is all about finding the best possible agreement for both you as the business and the customer as the buyer. You can potentially make pricing adjustments, increase or decrease the magnitude of work, or change expectations to create a best-fit agreement for both parties involved. 

  6. Opportunity won – At this point, the sale has been closed, and the customer receives the product or service.

  7. Post-purchase – This stage is all about maintaining the quality that hooked the lead in the first place. Keeping customer service consistent, helpful and trustworthy from the get-go makes it easy to maintain post-purchase. Once a customer is committing, or even once they have been onboarded, cross-selling can happen at a great success rate. You can also upsell them on added services or more premium solutions.

  8. At this stage you can also ask for reviews and testimonials from existing clients. Another thing to consider post-purchase is contract expiration, which can entail options to renew.

Key Differences

By now, we’ve established that a sales pipeline focuses on the market of the business, aiming at understanding how to navigate each step of the sales process. It breaks down the entire sales journey from start to finish, seeking to gauge the point of view of a prospect, from initial interest to engage with the sales team.

On the other hand, a sales funnel is considered to be the set of actions undergone by the sales team to acquire, convert and close on a lead.

BaseCloud CRM For Sales Processes

Setting up the right steps in your sales funnel and pipeline can often become overwhelming, but this is where CRM software comes in.

BaseCloud CRM enables businesses like yours to have seamless sales processes from start to finish. Allowing you to stay on top of every lead, team member, and stage along the journey, CRM is a seamless way of having an overview and full access to every aspect of your sales.

Simplifying the process for your business, the power of automation allows you to ensure your sales funnel and sales pipeline are foolproof from the get-go. Let us show you what BaseCloud CRM can do for your business and its sales potential. If this is something you are interested in to allow your business to grow like never before, get in contact with us today.

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