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Sales Pipeline

A common misconception is that the sales pipeline definition is the same as a sales funnel. In simplest of terms, a sales pipeline works as a visual guide to where your team is in sales process. Within a sales pipeline example, you will see current deals among team members and the projected closing dates for these deals. A sales pipeline tracks the entire client journey from new lead to paid customer. In comparison, a sales funnel is a visual representation of the sales process in a v-formation. Sales funnels are designed to demonstrate that volume drop as a client moves through each phase of the sales process.

A sales pipeline analysis allows for the manger to see an overview of current deals in the works and determine if team members will meet their sales goals for the period. Analysis of past sales pipeline statistics permit the manager to view a percentage of how many deals went from lead to client. Sales pipeline best practices also ask for managers to pinpoint any possible stages that prospects seem stuck in. As an example, managers can address any issues with team members if they note clients are not consistently moving from qualifying lead to contract client.  

Sales Pipeline Stages

Sales pipeline stages differs between company and company, but common stages include: Assessment, Meeting, Detailed Proposal, and Closing.

During the initial stages, the sales team member and lead are exchanging information. Sales team members ask questions during Assessment to determine needs and the potential budget of prospect. The Meeting stage details when the salesperson presents a solution to the client’s needs. From there, a Detailed Proposal stage features the project cost and timeframe of solution provided to the client for consideration. Closing is the final stage where negotiations are finished and contracts are presented for signing.

When searching for a starting point, a sales pipeline stages template can be downloaded as an example for your company to view. Most often, a sales pipeline stages template is available as an Excel spreadsheet. Each deal is placed in a dedicated row and moved from column to column based on how the client is progressing through the process. Probability formulas are built into the template and help with sales pipeline stages best practices. The probability function estimates the likelihood of the client moving to the final stage (Closing).    

Industries such as B2B and Software as a service (SaaS) may use different sales pipeline stages. B2B sales pipeline stages could include Nurturing the Lead, Qualifying the Lead, and Closing the Deal. Note that B2B sales pipeline stages are fewer than standard types. B2B sales pipeline stages are shortened because leads are qualified in simpler steps. If your company doesn’t have a solution that works for the B2B client, then there’s no need to further nurture the client relationship.

The SaaS sales pipeline stages will be very close to the standard model with one key exception. Many SaaS companies also offer a phase before closing known as a Free Trial stage. This stage lasts for approximately 30 days and allows the client to understand the software product better. The final SaaS sales pipeline stages are often called Win/Loss instead of Closing the Deal. At this point, you will either win or lose the client’s business at the conclusion of the free trial stage.

How to Build a Sales Pipeline

Once you decide to incorporate a sales pipeline, you have to develop strategies on how to get team members on board. Creative ways to build pipeline will involve looking beyond templates or a sales pipeline formula. Not all pipelines work for all companies. One of the key strategies any company can benefit is sales pipeline forecasting. Sales pipeline forecasting involves determining what type of target market fits into each stage of the pipeline. Create targets for the ideal customer and ideal company. Once you determine your target market, use that model to determine what type of businesses you should be prospecting. Attracting prospects is always the first stage for any sales pipeline.

Another type of strategy for building a new pipeline from scratch is generating a weighted sales pipeline. A weighted sales pipeline is used in two different ways. First, it can be a tool that gives a client a numerical value based on what stage of the sales pipeline he or she has completed. In addition, a weighted sales pipeline may be used to set a value for a client based on the size of the deal.

No matter what type of sales pipeline formula you decide on, the important thing is to have consistent tracking tools and good communication between team members.   

Sales Pipeline Template

An Excel sales tracking template is most often seen across industries. Within this type of sales pipeline tracker, formulas are entered and updated automatically to provide the most accurate projection figures. A sales pipeline velocity calculator formula is the most common type used in an Excel sales tracking template. For this sales pipeline formula, the number of sales-qualified leads in the current pipeline is multiplied by the average success rate for sales team and then multiplied by the average deal size. The quotient is then divided by the number of cycle days for the sales team. With the sales pipeline velocity calculator formula, managers estimate revenue from sales each day. To make it easier, download the sales pipeline template xls file from a software provider. This allows for the template to already be filled in, but customized to your specific needs. As an alternative, generate your own Excel spreadsheet to be shared among team members. Cloud-based computing makes it easy for the sales pipeline tracker to be stored in a password-protected folder with access controlled by management.     

Customer relationship management (CRM) software also present an opportunity if wondering how to build a sales pipeline in Excel or another productivity program. CRM management software provides an interface for all sales team members to share sales pipeline data. Within the software, you view how many deals each specific team member is currently working on and projected figures for the cycle. Within the CRM software, managers assign new deals inside the pipeline. The manager may also add set tasks to assist each team member with moving from one stage to the next.

Sales Pipeline Metrics

Sales pipeline metrics notify you of the overall health of your pipeline. Sales leaders and managers often look at the win rate to confirm how well the pipeline is doing. Although the win rate is very important, managers can also use other metrics to their benefit. Salesforce recommends looking at four key metrics to judge the vitality of your sales team. Salesforce pipeline metrics include win rate, deal size, qualified leads, and sales cycle length. For early stages, a healthy pipeline will have a high qualified lead rate. Qualified leads mean the prospect has gone one step beyond initial contact. Deal size ia important because larger deals have a higher tendency to move slower through each stage of the pipeline. The cycle length is the total time the lead took to travel through all stages of the pipeline. If you find team members are not moving the client through the sales pipeline quick enough, you may need to strategize solutions.   

The win rate metric is not only demonstrating how many closings your team has completed—the win rate is also a useful tool for zeroing in on what stages prospects are most often dropping off at.

Sales Funnel

Sales funnel vs sales pipeline is a frequent comparison. Although you can use both tools, sales funnel stages are not always the exact same as sales pipeline stages. Sales funnel examples often appear as an inverted triangle. Leads are at the top of the funnel, and then the funnel grows smaller through stages such as Sales Calls, Follow-Ups, Proposals, and Sales. A sales funnel is useful for developing strategies that coincides with each stage. As an example, during leads and sales calls, you are using attraction techniques to get clients to move onto later stages. At this stage, social media advertisements and product discounts are tools used in sales funnels examples. In later stages, you rely on different types of techniques to retain the client. Techniques may include demonstrating your expert knowledge or your superiority over the competition. Before the final Sales stage, a Proposal stage is commonly found. At this point, sales team members are expected to give their best offers to secure the contract.

Sales funnel vs pipeline also have significant similarities. As an example, most templates don’t allow the client to skip stages. Leads can’t go from step one to step five. Another feature is both sales funnels and pipelines offer up the same result: a new client.

HubSpot CRM

HubSpot CRM is a popular tool for sales managers and teams. The sales pipeline HubSpot tool is built into their productivity suite. HubSpot login information can be shared with team members with all personnel viewing the same pipeline data. To set up a new pipeline, managers create their own dedicated steps and win probability figures. Revenue figures are generated automatically and managers view exactly where a team member is stuck. A benefit of the sales pipeline HubSpot tool is that other CRM features are accessible within the program. This includes contact records, company insights, email tracking, and meeting scheduling.

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