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A Complete Guideline for Sales Pipeline Stages

What is a Sales Pipeline

A sales pipeline visually maps out the journey a prospect undertakes, from their first interaction with a company or sales representative to the final purchase, and potentially beyond. Each step in the pipeline is associated with particular activities and tactics designed to progress prospects towards becoming a customer.

By establishing and agreeing upon a sales pipeline, sales teams can better prioritize tasks, predict revenue, and pinpoint any obstructions in the sales process. This clarity aids both management and team members in monitoring the sales operation's effectiveness.

Benefits of a sales pipeline

Implementing a sales pipeline in your organization can bring significant benefits, simplifying the sales process and enhancing overall performance. It serves as a roadmap for sales activities, offering a systematic approach to managing customer interactions from initial contact to closing the deal. Here's how establishing a sales pipeline can transform your sales operations and drive business growth.

Enhanced Visibility into Sales Activities

Implementing a sales pipeline provides a comprehensive view of your company's sales activities, mapping out each step of the sales process in your sales CRM software. This structured approach offers sales teams a clear, standardized pathway, allowing for effective management and tracking of every deal, ensuring that opportunities are not overlooked.

Boosted Productivity and Focus

A well-structured sales pipeline enhances work productivity and efficiency by categorizing deals according to their likelihood of closing. Sales teams may more efficiently manage their time and resources by focusing on leads that have the best chance of converting and wasting less time on less promising leads, thanks to this prioritizing.

Accelerated Sales Cycle

Utilizing CRM software that improves cloud storage simplifies the sales process, reducing manual tasks and improving data accessibility. This efficiency enables sales representatives to close deals more swiftly, contributing to an increase in the company's sales revenue.

Progress Tracking and Target Setting

The sales pipeline offers clear transparency and insight into the sales process, enabling managers to monitor the team's progress effectively. Setting reasonable sales goals and ensuring that sales teams actively pursue these objectives are made possible by this visibility, which promotes a more structured and goal-oriented approach to sales management.

Sales Pipeline Stages

Sales pipeline stages offer a systematic approach for sales teams to monitor and cultivate leads effectively, with the ultimate goal of concluding deals and generating income. Here's a closer look at each stage:

Lead Generation or Prospecting

Lead generation, or finding potential customers, is key to growing your business. It's about spotting people who might be interested in what you're selling using different methods like ads, website inquiries, or events. Then, you start talking to them to build a relationship and see if they're really interested, aiming for more chats in the future. This involves two main tactics: inbound and outbound marketing. Inbound is about drawing people in with great content and SEO and making them curious about your services. On the other hand, outbound is more direct, like making cold calls or running ads to actively get their attention. Using both strategies helps in effectively attracting and keeping leads, which is essential for moving them through the sales process and turning them into dedicated customers.

Lead Qualifying

Lead qualifying is about sifting through potential customers to pinpoint who's most likely to buy, looking at how interested they are and if they can afford it. It's about figuring out which prospects should get the most attention because they fit well with what you're selling. This is where lead qualifying frameworks (e.g: BANT criteria (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing)) and profiling come into play. They help understand a lead's budget, who makes the decisions, what they really need, and when they plan to buy, making sure these factors match the sales team's offerings. By doing this, the sales process gets more focused, zeroing in on leads that have a real shot at turning into sales.

To know about the lead qualification frameworks, how to choose the relevant framework for your business and establish a mechanism, look at this article.

Contacting & Lead Nurturing

After figuring out who's interested and likely to buy, the next step is to keep in touch with these potential customers, using engagement tactics to build rapport and offer helpful insights. This means personalized communication and follow-ups to keep their interest alive, providing content and solutions that click with what they need and like. Good lead nurturing is all about creating strong relationships and clearly showing the value of what you're offering. By earning their trust and showing how your product or service solves their specific issues, you lay the groundwork for a lasting bond, setting the stage for a successful sale. This method keeps leads interested and well-informed as they move through the sales process, making them more likely to eventually make a purchase.

Proposal & Negotiation

In the proposal and negotiation phase, you present a formal proposal to potential customers that details what you're offering, the costs, and the terms. This often leads to conversations regarding pricing or product customization. When drafting the proposal, you must produce an extensive paper that details the features, advantages, and expenses, all of which must be customized to the lead's unique requirements and goals and demonstrate how your offering addresses their issues. Handling negotiations means taking a strategic approach to talk over and settle on the terms, prices, and conditions. It's important to communicate clearly and understand what the lead considers most important. Being flexible in making adjustments is crucial for reaching an agreement that works well for both sides, leading to a successful end to the negotiation phase.

Closing the Sale

At the last stage of the sales process, known as closing the transaction, the prospective client makes the decision to either accept the proposal and become a client or to decline it. To seal the deal, you need to convince them to buy, clear up any lingering doubts or questions, and show them how your product or service will be beneficial and meet their needs. Completing the sale involves laying out the details of the transaction, like how payments will be made, when things will be delivered, and what support will be available after the sale. It’s essential to make sure everyone agrees on the responsibilities and expectations before signing the contract and starting the business partnership. This stage is key in turning prospects into clients and laying the groundwork for a strong, ongoing business relationship.

Post-Sale Follow-up

After closing a sale, following up is important to make sure the customer is happy, to build loyalty, and to encourage them to come back or refer others. This starts with good onboarding, where you help new customers get to know your product or service and make sure they have the support they need to get off to a smooth start. This step helps customers feel comfortable and start using the product naturally. Getting feedback from customers after they’ve made a purchase is also crucial. It helps you understand how satisfied they are and what you can improve, which can make your product or service better. This follow-up not only strengthens your relationship with customers but also shows that you value and act on their feedback, which is essential for building trust and loyalty.

Tips For a Successful Sales Pipeline

To build a sales pipeline that effectively supports your business goals, there are strategic measures to consider that can enhance its success. A well-structured sales pipeline not only clarifies the sales process but also optimizes the productivity and efficiency of your sales team. 

Identify Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Determining your ICP is crucial once you start receiving leads. Understand the characteristics of your ideal customer, such as age, income, and location, by analyzing your business's sales history and examining competitor client testimonials. This strategic focus helps direct your sales efforts towards the most promising prospects.

Lead Nurturing

Recognize that not every lead will convert immediately. Some require time to explore and understand your offerings. It's essential to nurture these leads progressively through the sales cycle, adapting your engagement tactics to their stage in the funnel. Utilize educational content for those in the awareness phase and more direct engagement methods, like personalized emails or video calls, for those further along.

Create Relevant Pipelines For Different Segments

Not every customer segment will have the same pipeline. An Enterprise will generally have more stages in the pipeline than a SME that you’re selling to. So an Enterprise might have 8-10 stages in the pipeline while an SME has only 3-4 steps in the pipeline.Regular Pipeline Review

Keep your sales pipeline strong by regularly clearing out leads that don’t seem likely to buy. Put your effort into leads that are more engaged and likely to result in sales. But don’t completely write off the less promising leads; instead, plan to check in with them from time to time to see if their interest has changed.

Streamline the Sales Process

Dragging out the sales process can hurt your chances of sealing the deal. Set a clear timeline for each sale and have a specific plan for handling leads. Look at your past sales to see how long each part of the process usually takes, and keep tweaking your methods to speed things up.

CRM Software Automation

Incorporating CRM software can significantly enhance your sales pipeline management. Automation tools provide valuable insights and streamline lead movement through the pipeline. Opt for a CRM system that offers cloud-based operations, customizable options, visual analytics like graphs and reports, and the flexibility to adapt to your business needs. Choose a CRM that standardises all the pipelines in your company, gives you a singular view of all of them and identify the bottlenecks in the pipeline solving which can help you achieve your sales targets 

Common Sales Pipeline Mistakes

Creating a sales pipeline is an essential step in streamlining your sales process and boosting your organization's efficiency and revenue. However, navigating the complexities of pipeline management can be challenging, and certain common mistakes can undermine its effectiveness. Understanding these pitfalls is key to developing a robust and productive sales pipeline. In the following sections, we'll explore some typical errors to avoid and strategies to enhance your sales pipeline management.

Avoiding a Depleted Pipeline

Keep filling your sales pipeline to avoid running out of potential deals. Because it's hard to predict how many leads will turn into sales, it’s smart to aim for more deals than you actually need. For instance, if you want to close five deals per quarter, try to have about eight to 10 in the pipeline.

Shortening the Sales Cycle

Long sales cycles can slow down the buying process and lower the chances of making a sale. To speed up deal closures and boost revenue, make the sales journey smoother. This way, sales reps can hit their targets more effectively.

Ensuring Seamless Coordination

Smooth handoffs between teams or departments are crucial as prospects move through the pipeline. Effective communication is key to avoiding deal losses and ensuring a seamless experience for the client.

Understanding Customer Needs

Sales reps need to correctly assess how interested and informed a customer is about the product to prevent rushing them through the sales process. It’s crucial to fully understand the customer's needs and challenges to effectively nurture the relationship and close the deal.

Gaining Deal Insights

Bombarding sales reps with too many leads can make it hard to focus on the most promising ones, leading to missed opportunities. Using a detailed CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system can help sales reps get the insights they need to identify and prioritize the most promising leads efficiently.

Holistic Pipeline Management

Focusing exclusively on one stage of the pipeline can lead to overlooked opportunities. Sales reps should adopt a comprehensive approach, ensuring all stages are adequately resourced and managed to facilitate lead progression and conversion.

Enhance Your Sales Pipeline with Thriwin

Streamlining your sales pipeline with Thriwin involves using their sales CRM designed for B2B companies. Thriwin's platform helps businesses sell more, faster, and save money by engaging better with leads, closing deals quicker, and reducing costs through pay-per-use pricing. It offers features like lead management, conversation intelligence, deal and pipeline tracking, insights, and unlimited lists for targeted engagement. Thriwin supports various sales activities, ensuring a comprehensive management of the customer journey from lead generation to closure.

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