Marketing

What is a Sales Pipeline? – Stages, How to Create, and More

What is a Sales Pipeline?

A sales pipeline is an organized and visual way to follow multiple potential buyers through the various stages of the buying process. In this way, it is very similar to other pipelines in different industries. The above definition that pipelines are a way to track progress toward a goal through a series of specific steps is what a pipeline is for businesses across industries.

Pipelines often think of a horizontal bar, sometimes as a funnel, divided into stages in selling a business. Potential buyers move from one location to another as the sales process progresses: when contact is made, for example, or when a potential customer is qualified.

It’s a way of illustrating where potential customers are on their journey, from lead to the customer (hopefully); With a pipeline, sellers can see exactly where their money, transactions, and other sales efforts are at all times. It’s an essential tool for salespeople, who often juggle many sales prospects and offers and can’t afford to let just one get away with it.

It is also an important tool for sales managers who want more data on how well their sales process is working; Because a pipeline tracks a salesperson’s activities, it provides more visibility into the sales activities that give the business the best performance.

Stages of the Sales Pipeline

Placing the sales pipeline in stages helps teams understand where prospects fit in the sales process and which techniques best suit each scenario. The more rigorously you best and analyze data based on interactions and results, the better equipped you are to optimize every step of the way.

Step 1: Prospecting

The first step, of course, is to involve people in the process. This is handled differently by the organization and traditionally viewed as a marketing function, but modern salespeople are increasingly empowered to feed the pipeline independently. Staying active on social media can help you identify new prospects and even lead you to gain specific interests.

Commercial prospecting advice:

  • Frequently talk about important topics to your business and share relevant content on social media to show users your industry or niche.
  • Beware of “prospect lists” available for purchase.
  • Work with Marketing to mature brand awareness campaigns, building familiarity at this early stage.
  • Start on the right foot: don’t cover new connections with immediate selling points
  • Many organizations are moving to a “quality over quantity” approach to prospecting, especially in account-based frameworks.

Step 2: Qualification

This is where the pipe begins to narrow. It highly recommends that you implement some level of qualifying filtering at the prospecting stage to keep things manageable. This is where the sales team can narrow down and exclude prospects that don’t align with the solution or have a clear need to purchase. You can use many metrics and gears to qualify candidates, and LinkedIn can be extremely valuable for this purpose.

Suggestions for eligible prospects:

  • Align with marketing on qualifying thresholds (consider removing the MQL / SQL distinction that divides)
  • Take intent signals into account when qualifying prospects (e.g., are there tangible indicators that this person or company has a real need for what we offer?)
  • Determine if the person in question has a real impact on buying decisions (i.e., if this person can influence the buying committee?)

Step 3: Meet

Once a lead is on your channel and qualified as an actionable lead, it’s time for the sales team to take action. This third stage of the sales process is where you start engaging with prospects and moving forward in business conversations. The label “meeting” seems a bit outdated since many of these conversations now take place in a virtual environment; This step is also commonly called the “Engagement,” “Follow Up,” or “Relationship” step. (We tend to favour the latter because it recognizes the value of relationship-building even in the absence of a potential sale.)

Tips for meeting with prospects:

  • Bring a solid understanding of the prospect’s business and industry to the conversation, or risk losing them quickly
  • Collaborate with colleagues in marketing, sales, and other external contact points to ensure message coordination and consistency.
  • Rather than just thinking about a sale, make it your goal right now to develop strong and lasting relationships.
  • Try different channels of communication with potential customers (phone, email, LinkedIn messaging, etc.) to determine which ones generate better response rates and more substantial engagements.

Step 4: Proposal

You have now clearly established an adjustment, and the prospect has indicated that they are considering solving it as an option. At the proposal stage, it’s time to practice these sales skills and make a powerful, persuasive speech.

Selling Proposition Suggestions:

  • Provide proof and validation content, such as authentic customer testimonials, relevant case studies, and third-party references.
  • Make sure you influence multiple members of the purchasing committee and don’t fall victim to blind spots
  • Trust is key here – be honest and transparent
  • Video can be very powerful at this point, either to illustrate what your solution does (product demo) or to create a ‘face-to-face’ dynamic that goes awry in online interactions.

Step 5: Close

The final line. At this point, the prospect signs in and becomes a customer or moves on. However, thinking of this as the end of the sales cycle is wrong. Existing customers are key sources of upsells, renewals, and referrals, so don’t take them off your radar because they’ve left the new sales line.

Resources for closing deals:

  • New Study Reveals Key Features of Sales Navigator Influenced Closed and Won Deals
  • B2B sales closing techniques
  • Know the 5 preventive measures to close deals

How to Create a Sales Pipeline?

Now that you know what the pipeline stages are, it’s time to take all the information you’ve gathered and start building your own.

Step 1: Take Stock of Your Potential Buyers

At the start, before you even have a pipeline, all you will have is a list of the people you think would like to buy your creation. If there is a ratio, you will find it essential to help you manage those contacts and your connections.

One way to do this is to usage a spreadsheet like Google Sheets or Excel. Also, you can make use of free CRM template to get you started.

Using a spreadsheet pattern like this makes perfect sense if the number of trades you need to manage simultaneously is less than 10, or if you are starting and want to organize your portfolio before you find a tool specifically designed for it, manage it.

However, a CRM is a more effective tool if you have multiple offers or multiple sellers. CRMs allow a team to collectively manage agreements, easily move contracts from one stage of a process to another, link to contact information and allow sales managers to monitor the progress of any process. Team towards revenue goals. Need more reasons to search for a CRM? We will dig deeper into CRMs a bit later.

Step 2: Configure your Scenes

It’s easy for sales reps to be overwhelmed by their goals; Sometimes, a quarterly or yearly number may seem too large to achieve. There is a way to control this overwhelm: breaking down each transaction into the day-to-day activities that a representative must perform to close a sale. By managing and concentrating on sales activities, your team will likely succeed in achieving your sales goals.

To usual up the stages in your pipeline, think about which activities your team does most often and which ones you think have the most impact on your sales. You can use the list of steps above to guide you or develop the steps for your own sales process.

Step 3: Refine your Steps as you Go

Once things are going, you can see certain types of conversations unfolding cohesively. You need to decide if these regular events lend themselves to sales milestones in your pipeline.

For example, if you’re a real estate agent, you might want to add a “reassure buyer” column if you’re dealing with many nervous buyers.

When clearly defined and planned, sales milestones are essential parts of your pipeline and guide you in forecasting your sales revenue with decent precision.

Don’t worry about receiving it right the first time. It may take several trials to determine what works for your business. You will find that some steps end up being unnecessary, and you will discover others you need.

Step 4: Keep your Pipeline up to Date

You have created a pipeline. You have included your existing contacts and agreements. Now how can you make sure you stay up to date?

This part can be tricky. Often, when a team hasn’t worked with a pipeline, they can struggle to adjust to the habit of entering contacts and agreements into the pipeline and moving them through stages. The key here is to develop the habit of moving transactions through the channel.

The calmest method to do this is to think of the stages in your pipeline as a to-do list. Each step corresponds to an activity for your team to accomplish. Once an action is complete, your team will take an agreement to the next step. It may take a while for your team to get used to it, but after a time, the pipeline will be an invaluable tool for them as it will show them what they’ve been up to, what they need to do, and the pipeline each.

Conclusion

A sales pipeline is an organized and visual way to follow multiple potential buyers through the various stages of the buying process. In that way, it appearances a lot like other pipes in different industries. The definition above that pipelines are a way of tracking progress toward a goal through a series of specific steps is what a pipeline is for companies in all industries.

Pipelines often view as a horizontal bar, sometimes as a funnel, divided into stages of a company’s sales process. Potential buyers move from one location to the next as they progress on their sales journey – when they make contact, for example, or when a potential customer is qualified.

Also Read: Project Scope – Definition, Statement, Key Steps, and More

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