There is a lot of confusion on the web these days regarding what a sales pipeline is and how to build one. Even some experienced salespeople sometimes cannot define a sales pipeline and often mistake it with a sales funnel. This is why we decided to create a full guide on building a sales pipeline, which will help you stay productive and improve your performance.
What is the sales pipeline?
Before speaking about the pipeline creation, let’s first discuss the very definition of a sales pipeline.
A sales pipeline is first and foremost a visual representation of the whole sales process, including leads, prospects, existing clients, and their current position in a sales funnel. Sales managers use the pipeline to stay on top of the sales process and to predict the number of deals they are about to close. Sales pipeline reports help them estimate how much time they may need to lead the prospects down the funnel, check if they need to conduct any extra steps to close certain deals, and remember to send out all the necessary follow-ups.
Perfect sales pipeline
Probably the first and the most obvious question, in this case, is whether a perfect pipeline exists. Well, we are sure that it is possible to build a perfect customer pipeline, yet it will vary on a case by case basis. As there are no two identical businesses, there can’t be a one-fits-all sales pipeline template.
When building a sales pipeline, you should pay attention to your business’s peculiarities and the customer journey. However, some standard stages may fit any company.
- First contact. As you acquire a lead, you have to contact them first via a message or a call to find out if they need your product or service.
- Appointment. Some customers require a personal meeting or at least a video call to proceed with the deal. During such an appointment, it is necessary to discuss the pains and needs of your prospect in order to find a way your company may help them.
- Solution. As soon as you find a way that you can solve the prospect’s problems, it is high time to discuss your offer. It can be done during the primary appointment or later via other communication channels. Be ready to make some adjustments to your solution if necessary and always go the extra mile for your potential customer.
- Proposal. When you reach the point of consensus with a prospect, you may send them your proposal to be reviewed and discussed in detail.
- Follow-up. Sometimes, your sales pipeline stages may require not only one follow-up, but several. Be persuasive but never obtrusive, and you will achieve the goal. The optimal time to send a follow-up is usually from three to five days.
- Closing the deal. Finally, the last point of any sales pipeline should be closing the deal, signing the contract, and providing the customer with the purchased goods or services.
Of course, you may consider some additional stages to build the exact sales pipeline that is best suited for your business. Now, let’s move to the process of building an ideal sales pipeline which will benefit your business the most.
How to build an ideal sales pipeline
There are plenty of sales pipeline examples on the web, but to get an ideal system that will work for your team, take into account your customer journey and note the following steps.
Identify your ideal customer profile
First, think through your target audience. What is your ideal customer interested in? What are they looking for, and how can you meet their requirements?
At this point, it is important to spend some extra time to go over every little detail. This way, you will be able to find the most suitable approach and build your sales pipeline accordingly. For instance, a customer profile will help you estimate how much time it may take for the prospect to review the deal or how many follow-ups you should send.
Identify your ideal target market
Every business takes a certain niche, and each niche has rules which need to be adhered to. Thus, try to identify your ideal target market from the start. This way, you will be able to create your proposal accordingly and use the relevant sales pipeline software.
Your sales pipeline metrics, such as the number of deals in your pipeline and the average deal size may vary depending on the industry you’d like to target. For example, certain B2C sales in retail usually require much less time to close the deal, yet the number of deals in the pipeline should be bigger compared to the B2B sales.
Research your target companies and clients
As soon as you get a general idea of your target audience, it’s the right time to start generating leads. In order to do that, you should research the market looking for some potential customers. Find out more about these leads and search for internal contacts that will allow you to make the first contact.
Segment your prospects and build a pipeline
When you contact your leads for the first time, you will start leading them down the sales funnel. All the steps on your way will form a sales pipeline, which should fit the best for your business. Now, you should segment your prospects according to the newly built sales pipeline and make sure to update the information as soon as necessary.
Develop discipline in filling out the pipeline
Sales pipeline management is not that hard, yet it requires dedication and precision. All team members have to fill out the pipeline in time and update it regularly. Otherwise, what’s the point in making a pipeline, right?
Various software tools may help you maintain and improve your sales process. First of all, these are sales pipeline CRM systems. Let’s take a look at what they have to offer and why they may benefit your business.
Dedicated CRM software for sales pipelines
If you don’t want to start from scratch and create a whole sales pipeline on your own, you may turn to the sales pipeline CRM software. Such tools mostly give you pre-set options of a pipeline that you may adjust to your needs. Besides, CRM systems help you stay on top of your sales process and facilitate your work greatly.
Further reading: How to Integrate CRM into Your Sales Process
Some pre-set sales pipeline CRM stages may include Lead, Prospecting, Proposal/Quotation, Closed/Won, and Lost. Of course, most CRM systems are customizable, so you can easily change the aforementioned stages, add some new ones, or even build the whole sales pipeline from scratch.
One of the systems that provide users with the possibility to use a pre-set sales pipeline or adjust it to their needs is NetHunt Gmail CRM. It is a system natively integrated with Gmail so that your team can use it right away – no training required. Also, when it comes to the pipelines, NetHunt allows users to filter out unnecessary information, create custom views that they may save and access later in one click. You may test the system with a free 14-day trial and see how it works for your team.
- There is no such thing as a perfect sales pipeline, yet you can build the one that will fit your business perfectly well.
- Identify your ideal customer profile and the target market to adjust your sales pipeline to your needs as much as possible.
- To build a sales pipeline, do research and find out as much as you can about the lead before initiating the first contact.
- Certain CRM systems allow you to use pre-set sales pipelines as well as create new ones tailor-made for your business.