What is a sales pipeline? What are the common stages of the sales pipeline?

No matter the industry, a company’s ability to sustain profits and grow its business is strongly related to the number of deals it can make. The most efficient way to streamline and reinvigorate the sales process is to build a great sales pipeline and automate parts of it.

But how do you make the most of your sales pipeline when you’re just getting started?

We have what you need! Fortunately, every salesperson can successfully manage their pipeline with the right tools and knowledge.

In this article, we’ll explain the importance of a sales pipeline and give you sales pipeline management tips that will help you meet or exceed your revenue goals. Let’s head in! Digital Prospecting: What is it and how to do it

What is a sales pipeline?

A sales pipeline visualizes your entire sales process, starting with opportunities and ending with a completed sale.

It is often confused with a sales funnel, but the two terms are quite different. A sales funnel is a series of steps your prospects go through before purchasing your product or service. Meanwhile, a sales pipeline refers to a series of steps your sales reps take to convert a prospect into a paying customer.

Having a visible, up-to-date, and accessible sales pipeline allows your sales team to track the progress of their efforts, provides an accurate overview of your entire sales process, and helps you identify what needs to be done to increase revenue. company. How to prospect customers: 8 strategies to increase sales

In addition, a sales pipeline:

  • Gives explanations on how to attract new potential customers;
  • Allows you to win over your potential customers;
  • Shows the number of open deals;
  • Shows money potential from different perspectives;
  • Shows what happens at various stages of the sales pipeline;
  • Provides clear reporting on critical financial metrics;
  • Explains how to deal with reluctant buyers, etc.

Viewing the sales pipeline also helps you determine sales velocity, which is the rate at which a potential customer passes through a company’s sales pipeline and generates revenue. With the help of this, you can reflect on the health and productivity of a sales team, and identify areas where the sales process can be improved. Sales Prospecting: The Complete Guide to Making Your Business Take Off!

What are the common stages of the sales pipeline?

common stages of the sales pipeline
Source: snov.io

Sales pipeline stages vary from company to company depending on the industry, but a typical sales pipeline includes seven steps:

Step 1. Prospecting

Prospecting is the process of identifying, finding, and generating a list of potential customers, with the aim of connecting with them and converting them into paying customers. The better you understand your buyer’s personality and your ideal customer profile, the better you can segment your potential buyers.

Our tip here is to run a few different lead generation campaigns simultaneously. Everyone loves a free sample or a discount, so use these strategies and fill your email list with potential buyers.

Step 2. Lead Qualification

Lead qualification refers to the process of evaluating whether a lead meets your ideal customer profile and whether there is a high probability that the lead will become a long-term customer. Some sales reps underestimate this step, but don’t skip it! If you do, your sales team will be wasting their valuable time and efforts on people who won’t complete the purchase. Lead Prospecting: What is it and How to Do It

Step 3. Needs Analysis

Once you figure out which leads to focus on, you need to take a step back, perform a needs analysis, and consider where the customer is coming from and what pain points they are trying to solve. How do they conduct business, what are their goals, and do they need your product or service?

Step 4. Value proposition

The next step is to define your value proposition based on the information gathered in your needs analysis. Here you should showcase your product or service with a demo, and prove how beneficial your solution would be to the consumer.

Ask your leads what they are currently using instead of your product, and build your case on that answer. Don’t put too much focus on features – your customers aren’t interested in your service or brand. They want to know what benefits they will get when they buy from you.

Step #5. Proposal

If the demo is successful, your customers will likely ask for a business proposal. Send them a detailed quote outlining the cost and terms, your needs, and how you will resolve a problem they are experiencing.

This is one of the most critical stages of your pipeline, as it creates a space for you to demonstrate your expertise, and convince your client that you are the best person for the job. Don’t be afraid to list your references and show that you are an authority in your industry.

Step #6. Negotiation

The lead has shown interest in purchasing your product and is now ready to negotiate. To create a profitable sale, you can negotiate prices, services, terms, and so on, and then resubmit your proposal.

Step #7. closing a deal

If all goes well, you’ll finally get to the deal closing stage, where you’ll sign the deal, and your prospect will become your real customer.

Of course, your work doesn’t end there, as you still need to take care of all the post-purchase communication, follow up with your customers, make sure they’re satisfied, and build a relationship that leads to repeat purchases.

How to build and manage your sales pipeline? action tips

Create a sales strategy

Your sales strategy needs to be well thought out, detailed and flexible. Having one is important to shape your sales efforts and ensure everyone on your team agrees. Having a clear sales process makes your team more efficient and gives you a better view of what’s working and what’s not.

Build a prospecting list

Once you know who your target audience is, start by creating a list of prospects — people who are in the market for your product and have the resources to buy it. The list should include their names, contact information, company details, and an assessment of how likely they are to buy from you.

The more detailed the better! You must make sure that you are talking to the decision-makers in the company.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to generating leads; instead, consider your industry and target audience. If your target audience spends a lot of time on LinkedIn, this might be the way to go.

Segment and qualify your leads

Not all leads are equally important. In fact, only 79% of marketing leads result in sales, leaving you with the unsatisfying reality of a small number of leads.

Segment and qualify your leads
Source: snov.io

Even when you think you’ve secured a deal on the fly, take the time to find out more about your potential customers rather than immediately pitching your proposal. 24% of predicted sales fail, and the lack of segmentation and lead qualification is the reason for this.

If you only focus on promising sales opportunities, you are putting your resources in the right place. To help you qualify your leads, you’ll need to invest in good software (we’ll discuss this a little later!), and choose a lead qualification method that you can depend on – ChAMP, ANUM, FAINT, MEDDIC, GPCTBA/ C&I, or NEAT — based on what your company values ​​most.

And to make your job easier, we’ve looked at the most popular lead qualification frameworks and compiled a list of questions you can use to weed out unqualified leads quickly. Check it out here!

We know it’s hard, but you need to give up dead prospects. Don’t put too much effort into potential customers who will never buy from you. Make sure you remove useless leads from your pipeline regularly. Otherwise, it can detract from the accuracy of your sales analysis, and you won’t be able to determine factors such as:

  • The speed of your sales process;
  • Sales forecast;
  • Which KPIs to focus on, and more.

Invest in a good CRM

CRM is a bargain for any business!

It helps you to collect, organize and manage all the information about your customers. You can track the buyer’s journey for each prospect you deal with, personalize your communication with them, improve their experience as a customer, and manage data with the help of CRM. What is CRM Program? What Does the CRM Program Do?

Still not convinced you to need one? Let’s list some of the benefits of CRM:

  • Helps to optimize your sales process;
  • Shortens your sales process;
  • It shows where your leads are at any given time;
  • It allows you to analyze your sales efforts;
  • It helps you to avoid losing big deals.
Invest in a good CRM
Source: snov.io

If you’re interested in using a new, easy-to-use CRM, we recommend you take a look at Free CRM Tool. In addition to multiple pipelines, deal stage management, and unlimited teamwork, it offers a lead generation tool that collects lead emails from any website and integrated email service, to scale your reach with personalized campaigns. Triggered Email Drip Icons.

Make sure your sales cycle is short

B2B companies generally have a longer sales cycle than their B2C counterparts, with research showing that 75% of sales take at least 4 months!

You need to be faster than that, or else a long sales cycle could demotivate your prospects. It’s simple: the longer it takes, the more likely your leads are to change their minds. And with so many competitors in the market, you need to have an optimized sales cycle that leaves nothing to chance.

Try to reduce the number of steps your leads have to go through before they get to the point where they buy your product or service. Also, reduce the time between follow-ups to keep your prospects engaged.

Create specialized content for each stage of your pipeline

Leads at different stages of the sales cycle will be interested in different types of content. This is where your marketing and sales teams should work together to create high-converting TOFU, MOFU, and BOFU content to spark interest in your product.

Create specialized content for each stage of your pipeline
Source: snov.io

The sales team will know your most significant selling points, and what potential issues need to be addressed. In the meantime, the marketing team will know how to create content with specific objectives, aimed at different audiences.

Don’t stick to one type of content; experiment with different formats to find what works best! For example, in the early stages of your sales cycle, try using brand awareness, with blog posts, online ads, infographics, etc.

In the later stages, try to play with people’s emotions through case studies, free trials, and demonstrations. Show them how the service or product you offer can be useful, and inspire them to choose you.

Do follow-ups!

Don’t lose sales just because you forgot to follow up. As buyers have many solution providers to choose from these days, you need to be persistent. Set up reminders in your CRM to follow up with your qualified leads. It will take up to 8 follow-ups to close a sale, so keep going! Just make sure you know the difference between doing follow-ups and being annoying.

Write down your metrics

With the influx of new information, you need to constantly keep an eye on your sales results. Be sure to monitor these sales pipeline metrics at least weekly:

  • Number of deals in your pipeline;
  • The average lifespan of a business;
  • The average size of deals in the pipeline;
  • The number of new leads;
  • MQL to SQL conversion rate;
  • Customer lifetime value, etc.

Keep training your sales team

Think of coaching as an essential part of your business because, let’s face it, everyone has room to grow.

As the market changes and customer expectations continue to rise, you need to update the training of your sales reps. It should not only encompass external influences; you should also update the training regarding the product.

Over time, you will develop new features and services, and your salespeople need to be educated about them. That’s the only way they can sell their product and service. And while your sales team members aren’t providing customer support, they need to be able to answer questions from potential customers. Sales funnel vs. Marketing Funnel: What’s the Difference?

Conclusion

Now that you understand the importance of a sales pipeline and know how to build one, the rest is up to you. With our 9 tips for managing your pipeline, you’ll easily increase your revenue and streamline your sales process.

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