Understand the Sales Pipeline

How it works and how to build one

What is a Sales Pipeline?

A Sales Pipeline is way of tracking prospects during the sales process. In Sales Pipeline Management improving the efficiency is a priority for any sales team. Win more deals! Each Pipeline stage brings sales opportunities (deals) to the next phase, keeping in the previous stage those who have not passed the process.

  • Decide how many stages your Pipeline will have
  • Name your Pipeline stages as you prefer
  • Create as many Pipelines as you wish
  • Assign / reserve a Pipeline for a specific sales team

Pipelines are often visualized as a bar, divided into stages of a company’s sales process. Sales reps move leads and prospects through the sales process as they progress (e.g. when they receive a response to a cold email or when a potential customer is marked as a qualified lead).

Build a Pipeline that works

Given that a sales pipeline is such a vital sales tool, you should take care to build it properly. Before starting to build one, make sure you have detailed information about your company, sales team, clients, target market, and pricing.

If you’re just starting out and want to organize your pipeline, using a spreadsheet template makes perfect sense. However, if you need to manage more than 5 deals simultaneously, you’ll want to find a tool to do so.

A Sales CRM is more efficient if you have more deals or more salespeople. CRM software help teams manage deals collaboratively, move deals through a sales pipeline easily, and link to prospects’ contact information effortlessly. They also allow sales managers (sales leaders) to track an entire team’s progress toward revenue goals.

Funnel Vs. Sales Pipeline

Sales pipeline and sales funnel are often confused for being the same thing. Sales pipeline and sales funnel are often compared to the two sides of a coin, but they are actually quite different. Sales pipeline data is represented differently than sales funnel data.

A sales pipeline is about deals, while a sales funnel is focused on leads. This distinction is reflected in the way the data is represented.

Benefits of a Sales Pipeline

Insight

A sales pipeline provides insights into which deals are most likely to close, based on financial metrics.

Team performance

A sales pipeline lets you see how your salespeople are doing and how close they are to meeting goals.

Forecast

A sales pipeline is also a measure of the value of deals that are likely to convert, and it helps forecast monthly income.

Visualize your sales process

A sales pipeline in a CRM will help you visualize your sales process. It will show the number of deals and where your deals are. A visual pipeline makes revenue goals easier to achieve by breaking any process down into trackable tasks. It can make the difference for your conversion rates.

The stages you should have

The number and type of your sales pipeline stages depend on both how you obtain leads and your typical sales. The stages through which a new lead must always pass are:
New Contact > Qualification > Proposal > Negotiation > Sale

Sales process phases

If you already have a defined sales process, you already know the steps of your pipeline. If not, this will help you build out your sales process. Each company has its own way of managing the sales process and customer contact points. We can distinguish them in minimum three phases. Link the stages of your sales pipeline around these stages.

Awareness:
In this stage, sales prospects turn into Leads. It’s time for your sales rep, to ask relevant questions and qualify the lead.

Consideration:
Your Leads are now Qualified since you talked to your prospects and they answered questions that help you understand if you can solve their needs.

Decision:
It is when your Qualified leads go through a Proposal and a Negotiation.

Find insights

Sales pipelines help you find important insights like:

Anticipated revenue: Only a percentage of your leads will convert into deals won. Knowing this, you can forecast sales to help plan budgets and adjust sales goals.

Overallocation: You may notice that some salespeople are focused on deals that will never convert.

Sales cycle: For some businesses negotiations can last months. Use your pipeline to understand how long it typically takes your sales team to close a deal.

Bottlenecks: You might find that a stage regularly delays the sales process.

Sales rep success: A sales pipeline also provides insight into which of your salespeople closes the most sales.

How to build a Pipeline in 3 steps

 

1. Identify buyers and stages

First, identify your potential customers and prepare different deal stages, according to your real sales process. Let’s take an example. If your sales rep first contacts the potential customer by phone to define if there is a deal (opportunity) then the sales pipeline will have a stage “first contact”. If the same customer has requested a presentation or a demo, then the deal should be placed in the “presentation and demo” stage, and so on.

2. Assign activities for each stage

Although sales activities may differ depending on the deal, defining a process helps sellers. Even if it is not easy to standardize, you know very well how your product is sold and you know what the sales processes are in your company. So, when you define the stages of the pipeline, you just translate what actually happens every day into a crm system.

3. Duration of your stages

How long it takes a salesperson to manage the stages of the sales pipeline is a very important aspect. Depending on the company, the sales cycle typically includes 5 to 7 stages and often a stage for handling objections. The B2B sales process duration often depends on the product or service sold and the value of the deal. On average, a B2B sale takes about 3 months, but for larger sales it is likely that the deal can be closed between 6 and 9 months. 

10 Ways to Manage Your Sales Pipeline and Boost Revenue

Metrics that you should consider

 

Number of open Deals

You need to be able to see how many deals your sales team is pursuing at any given time. The number of deals in the pipeline equals the number of qualified opportunities in the pipeline.

Deal Value 

Every lead has the potential to generate some amount of business. By keeping an eye on the average deal value, you can predict revenue more accurately.

Total value of deals / Number of deals

Conversion Rate

What is the average win rate for all opportunities in the pipeline? Tracking this metric will help you identify ways to improve an individual salesperson’s performance and provide different approaches that work.

Won deals / Number of opportunities 

Sales process length

How long does a salesperson take to run a lead from the initial contact to a sale? The length of a deal can vary from one company to another, and it often includes steps such as  lead nurturing or objection handling.

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