Sales Pipeline 101: Management, Stages, & Tools
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Even if you’ve been in sales for a while, you may have not developed a pipeline yet. Maybe one has been imposed upon you in the past instead of creating your own. Maybe you didn’t have that many contacts to keep track of due to high price point sales. Whatever the reason, we’re here to help you develop, manage, and track your sales pipeline activities efficiently.
Read on to learn about creating your own functional sales pipeline to give you consistent leads and make it manageable.
What is a Sales Pipeline?
Your sales pipeline is the process your prospects or leads go through in their journey to becoming a customer. This process helps you raise your conversion rate and close more deals because you have an organized system in place that carries your prospects through the process easily and effortlessly.
Why should you use a Sales Pipeline?
If your daily scenario involves dozens of calls, hundreds of names and companies, and different ways you follow up with each of them, you need a way to track it all. Not having a process means many of your leads will fall through the cracks.
A good sales pipeline is used for managing your leads, and contacts, and keeping track of the reps and where they are in your sales cycle. Your daily routine consists of managing varied lead statuses, creating a pipeline will give you a guide to follow. This way your prospects as well as you will have no problem understanding the next steps.
To make sure your work does not go unnoticed, you need to set up a path for each client to go through. The best way to do that is by creating the stages and managing your sales pipeline properly.
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What are the typical Sales Pipeline stages?
Not to be confused with a funnel, your pipeline helps you track where your prospects are in the buying process. Depending on your business’ product or service, it will look different for everyone. There are, however, generally used stages and pipelines definitions which are:
- Prospect — A company or individual you have identified as someone who may benefit from your business’s service(s). This should also identify where they came from (ie. LinkedIn outreach, you met at a networking event, etc). Using LaGrowthMachine in this stage helps you contact prospects through multiple channels.
- Qualified lead — Typically identified via lead scores, these are the people who are more likely to buy than a prospect.
- Contacted or meeting scheduled — Once you’ve had a conversation with your lead and scheduled a demo or meeting, you’ve moved them onto this new stage.
- Proposal requested or sent — Once you have determined what their needs are, you can now send them a fitting proposal.
- Closed — Whether you’ve won or lost this lead, move them into a closed stage. This will help you know not to spend more time on them.
- Retention — Now that they are a client, you want to maintain a good relationship with them (if that is your business model). If not, Marketing typically takes on this last stage.
Define your Sales Pipeline
Now that you’ve identified how you currently work with clients, you can determine the goals – from signups to deals for example – you’d like to accomplish. These goals can then be turned into a relevant metric and help you focus on how your workflow is designed.
Yes, your ultimate goal is to sell. We’re talking about the smaller pieces and opportunities that lead up to that sale. For example, how many leads does it normally take you to make one sale? How much is your average sale? Did they go through your entire pipeline?
Answering these questions will tell you what’s most important to your customers. Then you can streamline the process for both of you. It also helps you focus on what you can control rather than what is left up to the client.
Metrics for sales pipeline goals can include things like the number of calls you make, how many upsells you suggest, or how many proposals you send. Whatever you choose, be sure it’s SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based).
Your workflow should be a natural one to you so you maintain the process. Create one that is the least painful to maintain and you’ll be more efficient and less stressed.
Quick tip 💡
Make sure you assign each goal at least one SMART metric that determines if you succeeded in attaining said goal or you failed. You will probably get some things wrong at first and that’s okay. Practice makes perfect.
Best practices for your Sales Pipeline management
Creating your sales pipeline requires a number of different parts from evaluation to creation to management. This means there are some aspects you’ll want to consider when you create it.
Build-in appropriate wait times between contacts and reach out to see where they are in their buying cycle. This also gives you the opportunity to stay top of mind with your leads.
If they’re not answering your outreach, don’t spend too much time on them. Spend your time wisely by speaking to those who are genuinely interested. Identify the best length of time that fits with your sales cycle.
Review and clean up
Set a regular interval of reviewing your leads and cleaning up your list. It will save you a ton of time when making your calls or contacts. For example, you can send the leads who aren’t ready to buy over to marketing and let them maintain contact.
Choose an interval to do a sales pipeline analysis of all your results (possibly at the same time as your cleanup). For example, every month or quarter you can update lead scores, number of sales, ways to improve the pipeline, etc. Understanding your prospects and your data is the best way to improve.
Ask your leads questions that confirm your client is where you think they are in their decision process and cycle. Learning this will help you match your expectations with their stage. It will also help you determine what the next steps are.
Track and record
Remember that the more stages you have, the more complicated the process will be for both you and your prospects. Keep it simple and focus on the sales pipeline metrics you’ve chosen.
Let it become your work Bible.
Maintain it every week with statuses, enter notes on each communication, and write down sales ideas. The tool you choose can help you build more significant relationships and ultimately more sales revenue.
Incorporate these into your pipeline process or have a sticky note attached to your monitor. Create and maintain a sales pipeline that will be easy and clear for you. Otherwise, it simply won’t help.
Sales pipeline tools
There is a great deal of tools out there to help salespeople or your team to create and maintain a successful sales pipeline. Here are just a few to check out:
- LaGrowthMachine – Set up an outreach workflow across multiple channels that helps you contact people throughout your sales pipeline.
- Trello – A helpful online software you can set up to visually track your customers by stage.
- ClinchPad – Similar to Trello with added tools like reports and lead scoring.
- Hubspot CRM – A flexible system that helps you manage your pipeline visually and log sales activity.
- Zoho CRM – Includes territory management and forecasting.
- Pipedrive – Tracks pipeline stages and calls or emails for each lead.
- Salesmate – Features power dialing and email campaigns
There are many others, of course, but this will get you started in a direction that works for you and your business. Whichever you choose, be sure it’s easy enough for you to adopt so you’re not tempted to go back to your old habits.
If you don’t know everything about your sales process yet, that’s also fine! All you need to do to get started is review what you already do and see where you can fill in any gaps. The beauty of this process is that it’s smooth. It can constantly change and adapt to your customers and your way of working, so just get started and go with the flow