A healthy, effective sales pipeline is absolutely key to maintaining consistent revenue within your organization. The sales pipeline describes everything that occurs from lead generation to post-sale, encompassing each stage of the buyer’s journey through the sales process. An effective pipeline helps your team visualize precisely where in the buyer’s journey a prospect is, monitor sales and sales rep performance, and evaluate the number of incoming prospects to forecast sales growth—all key components of a strong, effective sales team.
Building an effective sales pipeline can be done simply, with a few steps blending your existing sales processes into a seamless pipeline.
1. Define Your Sales Process
To begin building an effective sales pipeline, it’s crucial to define your sales process and what, exactly, that looks like. A complete sales process follows your buyer through every step of their journey. Most sales processes consist of 5-7 steps, beginning with lead generation all the way through to post-sale. This process is the set of repeatable steps your sales team takes to guide leads through a sale, and often includes any preparation, approach, and presentation your team executes. Defining a process that works for your company is simple: evaluate the repeated steps your sales team consistently takes in successful deals, and define the order and process of each.
While the process is never quite the same and varies with each unique buyer, the basic structure is consistent. Starting with a defined sales process is key to visualizing your sales pipeline. Knowing and understanding the basis of your process helps determine the rest of the pipeline that is built around it, creating a foundation for everything else.
2. Determine Your Sales Stages
Sales stages define what step of the sales process a potential buyer is currently in. Understanding the different stages a buyer could potentially exist in helps further develop an effective sales pipeline by defining the individual sections of your pipeline. Typically, a sales pipeline consists of the following stages:
- Prospecting: The phase during which lead generation and qualification occur, wherein your sales team determines potential buyers to reach out to.
- First contact made: A buyer moves into this stage once a sales representative has initiated communication and begins investigating their potential interest.
- Discovery call scheduled: Once a buyer becomes sufficiently intrigued, they enter this phase after an initial call is scheduled to further discuss the ways your product can benefit them.
- Live demo: This stage encompasses the more concrete sales conversations, during which sales representatives often directly show the buyer how your product works.
- Verbal confirmation: After the buyer indicates they would like to make a purchase, but no formal action has been taken, they enter the verbal confirmation stage.
- Agreement Sent: No buyer will agree to make a purchase without understanding the cost and conditions. Sending a proposal or agreement is an essential stage in the B2B sales pipeline.
- Negotiating: The negotiating stage includes the back-and-forth between your sales team and the buyer to settle on a final deal.
- Contract signed: Once the deal closes, the buyer has reached the final stage! This often also includes any follow-ups made by your sales representatives.
3. Align Sales Activities to Each Stage
To create an effective sales pipeline from the stages your buyer goes through, it’s crucial to align the typical activities in your sales process to each stage. Certain sales activities, like cold emails, follow-up calls, and scheduling a meeting, can motivate the buyer to move down the sales pipeline. Identifying each of these activities and adhering them to the appropriate sales pipeline stage can help your sales team to better identify the next steps and accelerate deal velocity.
Consider which activities fall under each stage. For a buyer in the prospecting stage, cold emailing, calling, or sending a LinkedIn message could be the initial step to setting up communication and pushing the prospect into the next stage of the pipeline. For those in the first contact stage, emailing available times to initiate a meeting or calling to further discuss your product could push buyers to the next phase. Simple steps like passing along a first contract offer could move buyers from verbal confirmation into negotiation—it’s important to recognize which sales activities create mobility within your sales pipeline.
4. Use a CRM to Build an Effective Sales Pipeline
Creating an effective sales pipeline becomes significantly easier when using customer relationship management (CRM) software. One of the biggest criteria for sales success lies in your ability to track leads and maintain relationships, which can be difficult when you’re managing a large number of prospects. A CRM can easily help you build an effective sales pipeline. Having a space to see all of your leads and prospects gives your team an easy way to keep track of how many prospects are in each stage of your pipeline and how many could soon move to the next stage.
A CRM also gives you valuable insight into important metrics such as the last time a lead was contacted, lead scoring, and patterns in sales closure. Noticing patterns in your CRM can help you identify better processes for sales. For example, if you notice that clients who are called routinely end up purchasing your product more than those who are emailed, you can leverage this information to better inform the way your team initiates first contact.
5. Leverage Sales Automation for Easy Outreach and Activity Logging
Once your sales pipeline is built, managing and tracking pipeline activity increases your sales effectiveness. Sales automation eliminates the time spent on repetitive tasks and easily tracks key metrics, making the entire sales process much more streamlined for all parties involved. 81.6% of top sales performers spend, on average, over four hours per day on easily automated sales activities. Using your CRM or sales enablement platform can take simple tasks, such as scheduling meetings, assigning leads, or maintaining email lists significantly easier.
Automating something as simple as assigning leads and tracking activity can save time so you and your reps can spend your hours on more valuable tasks that will move prospects down the sales pipeline. Sales automation not only takes over these repetitive administrative tasks but can also track valuable data on activity and deal closure that you can later use to improve your sales team’s performance.
A healthy, effective sales pipeline is key to any successful business. Building your business’s sales pipeline takes a few simple steps to help your team visualize each prospect’s journey and forecast sales growth for the future.
Looking to elevate your sales team’s performance? Get in touch with us and our sales consulting experts can help your team create an effective sales pipeline.