What is a Sales Pipeline? 

How it works, and how to build one

The Sales Pipeline is the process that makes cold prospects ready to buy. Improving the efficiency of the Pipeline 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

Visualize your sales process

A sales pipeline 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 sales pipeline. If not, 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 three phases:

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

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.

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 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 Sales 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. 

See the Sales Pipeline in action

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Onpipeline™ is a cloud-based CRM software that helps companies improve customer relationships. Our CRM systems help sales teams manage contacts, deals, activities, automations, and the entire sales process from anywhere. Should you have any questions about features, pricing or anything else, please contact us.

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