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Sales Enablement

4 Steps to Build a Strong Sales Pipeline

Luke Marthinusen | October 31 2019

All sales pipelines are custom to a company, but they all largely follow a similar core structure. A contact in the pipeline is moved from stage to stage until they either fall off the pipeline or are closed and become a customer.

Modern CRMs display the sales pipeline in a visual roadmap for your sales team. This makes it easy to see in which stage of your buyers journey a prospect is, at any pint in time. 

This allows salespeople and managers to create realistic revenue forecasts as it enables them to see how many opportunities are pending, what probability of closing they have, and how many of those might close in a given timeframe.

Pipeline flexibility

Not all opportunities will move through every stage in the sales pipeline.

For example, referrals tend to jump a couple of pipeline stages because they enter the pipeline pre-qualified. They don’t need to go through ‘Prospecting’, and ‘Qualifying’ stages because they have proactively sought your business out.

Opportunities in any sales pipeline will all have a range of interest, urgency and context about your company, products or services. A flexible point of entry into your pipeline is a must.

4 steps to building a strong sales pipeline:

Step 1: Define the stages of your sales pipeline

The stages of your sales pipeline (also called your sales cycle) will depend on multiple factors including, your business model, sales strategy, sales process and your products and services.

Some businesses might have a sales pipeline for each department, some might have a pipeline for each product or service, and for some businesses just a single pipeline for the entire business is adequate.

Pipeline-Board

Image source: Salesforce.com

The most common stages of a sales pipeline include:

Prospect > Connect > Qualify Lead > Present Offer > Closed Won > Generate Referral


But it can also look like this:

Prospect > Connect > Appointment > Qualify Lead > Product Demo > Solution Design > Present Offer > Closed Won


Or this (This is our own ‘New business’ pipeline),

Prospecting > Appointment Scheduled > Needs Analysis > Qualified to Buy > Presentation Schedules > Decision Maker Bought In > Quotation Presented > Signaled Intent to Sign > Closed Won


Your pipeline needs to reflect your sales process’s unique requirements.

Step 2: Figure out your sales funnel metrics

Figure out how many opportunities move to the next pipeline stage. If you have 100 opportunities in ‘Prospecting’ how many typically move onto a ‘Connect call’? 30%?

Sales Pipeline Funnel PercentagesImage source: HubSpot.com

Not every opportunity will move to the next sales pipeline stage. Some opportunities are simply not a great fit. Some may not have the required budget, and some might only what to move on the purchase next year.

Working backwards, calculate the number of opportunities needed at every stage of your pipeline to hit your revenue goals.

You need to establish a clear baseline of how many opportunities generally move from one pipeline stage to the next. This analysis will give you a solid idea of how many opportunities you need to target in each stage to hit your revenue number.

Step 3: Look for patterns of success

Analyse the commonalities that convert opportunities from stage to stage in your pipeline. Are there common triggers like a demo or a particular follow up email? If you can understand these metrics, you can start to understand what makes your opportunities convert.

Having a defined process enables you to see the patterns, and if you can see the patterns you can improve the process to optimise ROI on your sales efforts.

Step 4: Evolve your sales process

Create a sales process or adapt your existing one around these new numbers and patterns of success. Now that you have data-driven information at your hands, it’s time to create a rock-solid sales pipeline.

Just remember that the best processes are ones that can evolve over time and adapt to the demands or the business, sales team and particular industry.

By keeping your eye on the numbers and breaking your sales cycle up into stages in your sales pipeline - you can constantly monitor the success of each stage and have the ability to tweak stages at any time.

Final thoughts

We are always surprised to see how many companies mange their sales process on multiple spreadsheets. Some of these companies run highly profitable sales teams - imagine what their performance could be if they could dig into and remove the bottlenecks in their sales process.

Have you got a sales team or process that you’d like to optimise? Give us a call we love sharing our thoughts.

Interested in how we do it at MO? Download this guide:

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