I’m going to take a wild guess that you’ve heard of a sales funnel. The last time I did a search for ‘sales funnel’ on Google there were 18 million results so it really is quite a ubiquitous term.

The thing is, it’s also a really dangerous one. Metaphor and language are so powerful. Every time you use the term ‘sales funnel’ you’re reinforcing the idea that it actually exists. I know you’re smart and I know that you know that it is shaped like a sales funnel. It is a diagram that shows an ever reducing number of people moving through the process.

It looks like a sales funnel, it doesn’t act like one.

But every time you use the language as if it does, you are kidding yourself, because I doubt you have a sales funnel. I’ll be willing to bet it looks more like colander, because at every stage in the process you are losing potential customers and you are losing potential profits. If you’re old enough, you might remember the film The Matrix and there is a scene where there is a young child holding a spoon. It’s bending and it’s turning and the child says “what you need to know, is there is no spoon”. And what you need to know is there is no sales funnel.

What I’d like you to do is to replace it with a better metaphor, because if you speak as if there is a sales funnel, you will start to act as if there is a sales funnel. In fact, there is not. If every time you hear the word, you replace it instead, with a bucket, several funnels and filters, and a number of taps, then you’ll have a much better picture of how marketing and sales truly works. And, you will also understand that if you see marketing as simply filling the funnel, i.e. the taps, if you have no bucket and you have no funnel, you are unnecessarily wasting money.

So, what I want you to know about sales funnels is: First of all, they do not exist — in most marketing operations, if you truly wanted to choose a kitchen utensil, it would be a colander. And, if you could replace your mental image with a bucket, funnels and taps, you’d see that the taps part (which is how most people define marketing) is the last thing you should do. 

© Bryony Thomas – The Watertight Marketer

Bryony Thomas

Bryony Thomas

Author & Founder, Watertight Marketing

Bryony Thomas is the multi-award winning creator of the Watertight Marketing methodology, captured in the best-selling book of the same name. Bryony is a popular professional speaker for entrepreneurial audiences. Bryony's impressive career includes heading up the Microsoft account in the UK aged 26, and securing the role of divisional director of marketing for FTSE 100, Experian, aged 28.


The second edition of the Watertight Marketing book will be released on 31st March 2020.

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