A funnel has been for centuries just a pipe, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, used to guide liquid or powder into a small opening. A simple yet genial tool.  When it comes to Marketing, however, it takes on a totally different meaning: a method many strategists adopt to lay down the most effective purchase path. In recent years Marketing Funnels are being increasingly used and many different models have been developed that try to understand how to channel customers’ behavior in order to make them buy a product. Of course, there is no passe-partout. Different models are designed for being applied to different realities, specific goals, and targets. Yet some of them can be used as blueprints implementing your best approach.

So, let’s take a look at one of the most well-known models, the AIDA model. It is made up of 4 main steps:

  • Awareness: getting your customer’s attention. Every day we’re constantly bombarded with all sorts of different stimuli and we consciously perceive only a small part of them. Among those, very few are able to have a significant influence on us. Being aware of this, it’s really important to set up the right campaign and to focus the efforts toward the most responsive targets.
  • Interest: looking to engage a potential customer. Here you are trying to selectively capture the attention of someone who has shown some interest in the product. Someone who wants to deepen their knowledge of the product and gather information through further searches and comparisons. At this stage, you don’t want to waste resources or get your interlocutor bored. Instead, what you want to do is raising your value by using the right wording.
  • Desire (or Decision): it’s time to close the deal. The customer is ready and finally wants to get what you proposed. Secure that purchase by making the best offer.
  • Action: the deal is closed and it’s time to lay the path for the next purchase. If everything went well, the prospective customer decides to make the purchase. The bottom of the funnel is reached; it’s time to start working on the prospect’s return to the top of the funnel again.

The journey is broken down into different stages, and each step represents a pivotal moment in the overall success of the operation. We should also remember that success is very much determined by the ability of a team of professionals to work in a collaborative and synergic way. This AIDA model is by the way not so dissimilar from general models of behavior during sales discussions. The stages in negotiations can vary in number, of course, but we can easily identify 5 common steps that characterize any negotiation process. Let’s now take a closer look. The first one is Preparation and Planning. Before going into the “battlefield”, one must be fully aware of who you’ll be dealing with, determining the overall political, economic and social context of our interlocutors as well as their values and biases. At the same time, we need to take into account our competitive advantages, key-strengths, and weaknesses.  Preparing a bullet point speech draft can be very useful. It’s going to be the backbone of the perfect first talk. The second step is the Information Exchange and Validation. Assessing your counterpart’s interest is a very delicate matter that requires a continuous evaluation of signs. Being able to understand body language, nodding, or make someone feeling comfortable can be the real added value when meeting a potential customer. Asking questions and let them talk while mirroring is often the right move to get the most out of a meeting. This will require you to adjust your speech and tactics as you go. That’s where Bargaining comes in. Now it’s the time for your problem-solving skills to shine. There are many issues that need to be addressed and agreements need to be struck on many different fronts. With the exception of very few lucky cases, the way to go is flexibility from both parties. Once all of the details have been discussed and settled, the following stage is the Conclusion. That’s where you finally reach an agreement on every single aspect and capitalize your efforts. In order to get there, never lose focus or drop your attention and adrenaline. It is true that sometimes differences in positions are just overwhelming. In this case, the sooner you realize it, the less time and resources you’ll waste. It’s neither clever nor useful to persevere. Better going right away for a “let’s keep in touch for further opportunities” rather than being hated and losing your contact. If parties have managed to find a common ground, it’s time for the Execution of the agreement and the Follow Up. In the pharmaceutical business, this can include all sorts of different tasks, such as developing the right marketing strategies (for internal and external KOI), putting in place structured business plans, or begin the registration process if you’re out-licensing abroad or in-licensing in-house a product. Furthermore, having established a positive atmosphere due to the successful outcome often allows for new seeding opportunities with the partner.

So, isn’t all this just another funnel? Every step requires the successful completion of the previous one.  At the same time, all steps need to be planned and clear from the very beginning. There’s no negotiation without awareness or interest, no bargaining without desire. Preparation, consciousness, and knowledge of your counterparts will certainly make a difference when you face a true competitor in the same market. You cannot expect results coming out of the blue; just as you cannot expect them to be the result of a single’s work. Choosing the right negotiation strategy and designing the right funnel does not secure success. Indeed, the most common ingredient of many success stories is effective teamwork and communication. Synergy and coordinated collaboration among the members of a team are as important as a good strategy. Marketing Strategists, Business Development Executives, Sales Representatives, or anyone covering a front-line role, should not forget that. The analysis and work carried out behind the scenes is key to success.


  1. Moynihan, D., and Titley, B., 2001. Advanced Business. Oxford: Oxford University Press