Sales Pipeline is essential for growth, it directly affects the organization’s revenue generation system. A healthy sales pipeline provides a company with a swift revenue process and vice versa.
But do you know if your pipeline is effective enough? Or if it needs to be changed?
Only 46% of sales reps feel their pipeline is accurate, rest 54% say they need modification.
Building a right sales pipeline is the most essential thing for a sales team to start their work and move towards their goal.
This article will help you with all your queries about how to build a sales pipeline and manage it effectively.
What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a visual representation through various stages where a new lead starts the sales journey towards becoming a customer. The sales pipeline also helps the sales team in monitoring the lead’s progress and in predicting the revenue for the company.
The initial process of an ideal sales pipeline starts with sales prospecting and ends with customer satisfaction. This detailed sales pipeline process moves through six key stages.
To further understand the sales pipeline, let’s check each stage and its contribution to the sales pipeline.
6 key sales pipeline stages
Stage 1: Prospecting
Sales prospecting is the initial step in the sales pipeline. This process includes designing ICP (Ideal Customer Profile), proper customer research followed by lead generation, and finding the right prospect for your product or service.
Usually, sales professionals do ideal research on lead generation and build a proper prospect database in this stage.
Stage 2: Qualification
Qualification is the phase where a sales representative filters out their ideal prospects from the database. In this phase, the SDR researches gathering information about their prospect. They try to find out their prospect’s business problems, needs, and also their buying potential.
Many SDRs ask some simple questions like the company’s turnover, use of products to know the qualification possibilities of the prospect.
Stage 3: Consideration
Now the SDR is aware of the prospect’s needs and problems. The prospect is also acknowledged about the SDR’s product. In this consideration phase, the SDR helps the prospect in providing solutions to their problem. These solutions include case studies, reports, and other helpdesk articles. These will create an engagement with the prospect and build a healthy relationship.
The consideration phase is also used by the SDRs to prove themselves a step ahead of their competitors. While providing various engaging solutions, they also offer some insights and USPs, proving themselves superior to their alternatives.
Stage 4: Decision
The fourth step of a sales pipeline is where your prospect has been qualified to be an opportunity. Your prospect believes that you provide the best solution and has started trusting you. Before reaching this phase, your prospect must have tried your product or have collected sufficient information about you.
It’s now the call of the SDR to pull him towards the price discussion part. The SDR should communicate with the decision-maker and process the quotation. He should also take care of all the queries and make sure all the stakeholders are on the same page before moving to the closure phase.
In this phase, the SDR might need to provide some more demonstrations or explanations to some more members, but it’s fine as this is the last step before generating revenue.
Stage 5: Closure
The closure is the final stage of the sales pipeline process. This stage is more of the legal process where a contract is signed between both parties (seller and buyer). The sales prospect converts to one of your paying customers, and the amount of engagement from the sales team decreases.
Further, the signed contract is booked as revenue for the company and achievement for the SDR.
Stage 6: Post-sales service
Customer retention is also a big challenge after closing the deal. So, the post-sales stage is also considered as an equally important stage of the sales pipeline. Although everyone does not consider this phase in the sales pipeline, still some sales teams believe post-sales engagement helps them in retaining the customers and analyzing their repurchasing behavior.
In the post-sales stage, companies try to provide a successful journey to their customer as long as they are doing business together.
These stages are essential parts of every sales pipeline. Further, these can be customized according to your convenience for building your pipeline.
Now in this article, we will explain to you how to build a powerful sales pipeline.
How to build a sales pipeline?
See it big, and keep it simpleWilferd Peterson
When someone asks us how to build a sales pipeline, the first reply goes keep it simple.
A simple sales pipeline will help you in understanding your process clearly and further you can customise it according to your need.
7 basic steps to build sales pipeline
Step 1: Build an effective ICP
Building an effective ICP (Ideal customer profile) is the first step of building a sales pipeline. You must be having some existing users. Those are mostly innovators or product testers. You can work on their use case to check the ideal customer profile for your product. Your product might be efficient for different segments of users but will be best for specific segments only.
Building an effective ICP is done by researching the use cases of existing users, check your competitor’s client base, and other case studies relevant to your business domain. This task is executed by the top management executives (founders and CEO) or senior members of the sales team (VP Sales or Head of sales).
Step 2: Make a powerful prospect list
Once you are ready with your ICP, you need to build your prospect list. Building an efficient prospect list can be performed through various lead generation techniques like lead magnets, landing pages, social networks, business events, or from your email list. Make sure you build a powerful prospect list to get more conversions at scale.
You can’t merely add any contact in your list, thinking it will help. You need to do detailed research on the prospect before adding in your list.
A good prospect list has a comparatively higher conversions rate from prospects stage to opportunity and ultimately helps in shortening your sales cycle.
Step 3: Reach out to your prospects
Now, you must have built a long and productive prospect list to move forward. Time for outreach. This is the phase where the SDRs start their first step towards prospect engagement.
In this outreaching phase, the SDR introduces his product and provides a short solution to add some medicine to the prospect’s pain point.
Step 4: Help your prospects
The outreach drives engagement, this converts leads to sales prospects. Thus by now, you might have received some replies from the initial outreach. There must be many who haven’t replied yet and some who didn’t even open your emails. Don’t worry! You are not alone.
This is the most crucial phase of the sales pipeline. You need to keep your sales prospects continuously engaged with resources to make yourselves trustworthy from the prospect’s perspective. You can follow up with more useful articles, case studies, and business statistics, which will help your prospects.
When you start getting responses from your prospects, provide them with personal assistance, and make sure their problems get solved quickly. Try your best to create a positive impression of your product in your prospect’s mind.
Step 5: Schedule a meeting
Once your prospects get qualified with your product and start engaging, you can ask for scheduling a short meeting. This meeting will solely consist of demonstrating your product or talking about your services. Show how they can be benefited from your product, solutions, and services. Make sure you make the prospect believe your product is cost-effective and trustworthy.
You can also provide free trials, discount coupons, or some additional benefits with your product/service. This can help your prospect with better product understanding and avail some benefits in real-time.
Eventually, It increases the chances of winning the deal.
Step 6: Close the deal
When a prospect enjoys your solution and product, they move to the closure state. In this stage, they purchase your product and become a paying customer from a prospect. This process is followed by signing a contract.
The SDR has to keep some extra focus in this step to make the process come about smoothly. They should also take care that their prospects do not face any issue with payments or in adopting your product. The closure journey should be extremely smooth for both the buyer and the seller.
Step 7: Post-sales customer delight
Once your prospect becomes your customer, he starts using your product or services to get benefits from it. It’s also essential for the company to make sure their users have a great journey. The customer support team should help them continuously with any queries related to their product/service.
Eventually, the sales team should also keep track of the user journey. They should maintain some engagement in a regular time interval and help them in necessary conditions. This will help the sales team in retaining the customer and can influence them in their repurchasing behavior.
After building a successful sales pipeline, managing it becomes one of the biggest challenges. Now let us check the best ways to be followed to avoid pipeline leakage and maintain a good flow in the pipeline.
Best practices to manage your sales pipeline
Best practices always act as a catalyst in your work processes. While managing a sales pipeline, you should also follow the best methods and avoid usual mistakes to extract the most from it. We are curating a list of best practices that have always proven our users with better results and ultimate growth.
1. Connect with your prospect’s decision maker
You can reach out to many prospects in a target company, but it’s best if you can engage with the decision-maker. The decision-maker has the authority to make the final call about the purchase decision in the company who eventually makes your sales cycle shorter.
Approaching the decision-maker directly helps the SDRs in eliminating the middle persons in the process and also in influencing the buying decision to the right person.
2. Follow the lead scoring practice
Lead scoring is one of the best practices followed by the sales experts to prioritize their leads. This lead scoring is the technique of assigning points to your leads based on various attributes.
The score is calculated by evaluating the lead’s engagement with content, emails, calls, messages, social media activities. The team also checks for the type of engagement and finds out the probability of getting the lead qualified.
These attributes are designed according to the use cases required for your sales process.
Once you assign rank points to your prospect, you can easily prioritize them and provide focus accordingly. You can also use the lead score to decide if your prospect can be moved to the qualification phase of your sales pipeline.
3. Send engaging email content to prospects
You need to do the best with your emails while sending it to your prospect. While outreaching and nurturing, make the emails effective enough to engage your prospects. You need to follow some basic emailing guidelines for lubricating your pipeline and converting your leads:
3.1. Personalize your emails
Whenever you send an email to your prospect, make sure it’s well personalized. Personalized emails make the prospect believe that the email is dedicated to him. According to statistics by Evergage, personalizing your emails will help you with an increase in ROI by 59%. This is a great boon to any SDR to become super productive.
3.2. Continuous follow-ups
Pull out any sales article, blogs, or books. Follow-up is always an essential part of the sales process. It is necessary to follow-up effectively to engage with your prospects and build trust in them.
80% of the sales require 5 follow up stages after the first interaction with the prospect. Buyers wish to receive adequate information and solutions from a specific organization before actually connecting with its SDRs.
So continuous follow-ups help them in prospect’s decision making and knowing more about your product.
3.3. Add engaging content
Don’t send a lame email pitching your product or providing the benefits of your product. No one loves to read a sales email. You need to add value to your email. Make your emails engaging enough for your user to know more about your product. Some of the best practices to make your email engaging are:
- Provide solutions rather than showing the benefits of your product
- Focus your email solving the pain point of your prospect
- Add valuable resources in your emails
- Share your research, insights, and case studied in the follow-up emails
If you add the following spices in your emails, the recipient will open your email and will love to respond with a positive note.
3.4. Provide only one CTA
Adding many call to action (CTA) in a single email makes your email look like a salesy pitch, which provides low results. Your email should be more focussed on the prospect’s point of interest, with only one CTA in the right position.
When you include a message for reply back, a calendar booking link and also a social connection in a single email, the email becomes a multiple intended message. The prospect is likely to get confused and will ultimately affect your sales pipeline process. Always keep your email single goal-oriented.
4. Update your prospect list periodically
In this long duration, there are possibilities of change in the decision-maker in a company or your prospect becoming a dead lead.
The SDRs and account executives need to check their prospect’s status periodically and update it accordingly. If any of their leads is not a prospect anymore, then the process should be followed by finding a new prospect and removing the dead lead from the pipeline.
5. Design a simplified sales process
A simple sales process helps you make the sales cycle shorter. It consists of basic lead generation, prospecting, outreach, nurturing, and closure. If you make the sales cycle more complex, it will create congestion and confusion in the prospect’s mind. This might harm your sales process.
A simple sale cycle helps you with a direct approach, relationship building, and revenue generation. It also helps your sales team by making it easy to understand and with a new joiner’s onboarding process.
6. Share more content with your prospect
Sharing content with your prospect is one of the essential parts of nurturing. Good nurturing leads to swifter flow in the sales pipeline. Although you share valuable insights, articles, and other resources with your prospects, you should also know the best sequence to send all these.
The resources are classified into 3 categories:
6.1. ToFu (Top of the funnel)
Type of content: Blogs, FAQs, Infographics, Definitive Guides
Time to send: Initial phase of nurturing
Purpose of sending: To educate your prospect about your solution
6.2. MoFu (Middle of the funnel)
Type of content: Research reports, case studies, ebooks, podcasts and video tutorials
Time to send: Post-initial phase of nurturing
Purpose of sending: To provide deep insights about the product and convert him to an opportunity phase.
6.3. BoFu (Bottom of the funnel)
Type of content: Free Trials, coupon codes and product demonstration
Time to send: Final phase of nurturing
Purpose of sending: To convert the user from opportunity to close phase.
7. Evaluate your pipeline process
Evaluating your sales pipeline process should be a continuous process. It helps in checking if there is any leakage in the sales pipeline and needs repair. Ths pipeline leakage usually occurs when you find:
- Decrease in closure rate
- Majority of your SDRs are unable to achieve their targets
- Prospects are getting stuck at one place in the pipeline
- Decrease in the speed of your sales cycle
In either of these conditions, you need to audit your sales pipeline metrics and check the source of the problem. This has to be done as a ritual practice to ensure smooth productivity through the sales process.
Pro-tip: Consider leveraging a CRM tool for your sales pipeline. This can help you reduce the time spent on the laborious sales pipeline activities and focus on more value-add perspectives.
A sales pipeline is considered as the body of a sales cycle. This helps the sales team in starting the sales process, monitoring it, managing the flow, and assessing if the process is moving in the right direction.
This guide must have helped you with the process of how to build a sales pipeline which can assist you in starting your sales cycle and managing it effectively. Along with that, you will need to update your pipeline according to your requirement and time.
We have tried our best to cover every detail required for building a sales pipeline. Still, we will be grateful if you can add some valuable tips in the comments below.
Also, share this article with your connection for helping them with the efficient methods of building sales pipeline.