Today’s buyers want fast, streamlined sales cycles. They also want to know that they can trust their sales reps and need more touch points than in the past before committing to a sale. Those demands add up to a sprawling and complex sales process that can be hard to track.
And when you don’t have a good sales tracking method it’s easy to lose leads, sales, and revenue. Enter the sales pipeline: the handy structure takes your sales process and divides it into visual, easily understandable stages that everyone on your team can follow.
This guide will take you through each stage of the sales pipeline so you can see how it helps your sales team run more smoothly. Plus, we’ll show you how to build and manage your sales pipeline with a sturdy CRM, like the one offered by monday.com.
What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a series of defined stages or activities for turning prospects into customers. It’s essentially a method of organizing the complex sales cycle, breaking it up into identifiable, visual steps. The necessary tasks a sales rep should take are organized based on each phase of the sales pipeline, so their actions can have the biggest impact.A good sales pipeline — one that’s clearly outlined and regularly followed — makes tracking leads and sales more efficient.
And the best sales pipelines also give you insight and data on every piece of the sales process. For instance, in this crm template from monday.com, you can see the status of each deal and how much revenue it’s expected to bring.
That kind of data can be organized into a dashboard for quick updates for your team and stakeholders with monday.com too — we’ll elaborate on that later.
What are the sales pipeline stages?
Sales cycles used to have cookie-cutter stages that almost everyone could use in pretty much the same way. But since sales is a constantly evolving field, that’s not necessarily the case anymore.
As sales teams adapt their sales pipeline to meet the needs of their target audience, there’s no single formula for building the perfect sales pipeline.
But there are still some essential sales pipeline stages. They might occur in a different order — or even concurrently depending on the needs of your buyers — but it’s pretty likely you’ll need something from each of these stages.
Phase 1: Prospecting or lead generation
Before you can start selling to potential customers, you need to figure out who they are and they need to know you exist.
Identifying your prospective customers or target audience gives your sales pipeline a focus. You’ll know exactly who to reach out to or follow up with. This first sales pipeline stage can happen through traditional or digital marketing strategies, PR initiatives, or good ol’ manual research and outreach. Like most things in this guide, the best approach will depend entirely on your specific target audience.
You’ll need to know: does your customer prefer content marketing as a first interaction? Or are they old-school enough that it’s worth picking up the phone and calling them directly?
Phase 2: Initial contact and lead nurturing
Now that you know who your prospects are, it’s time to start getting them to trust you. 88% of today’s buyers consider their sales reps to be trusted advisors in their industry. To stay competitive, you’ll need to build a relationship before you get anywhere near making a sales pitch.
Prove your value early, and your conversion rate will thank you. You can nurture your leads using all sorts of tactics — lead magnets, drip campaigns, or even cold calls or emails. It just depends on what will have the best impact on your target audience.
To keep an eye on all of your lead nurturing strategies, it’s smart to use a CRM that consolidates all your lead information in one, easy-to-access place.
with monday sales CRM it’s simple to view the status of all your leads and deals at a glance, so you know exactly when your leads are ready to move into the next stage.
Phase 3: Lead qualifying
As much as you might want to follow up with each and every lead that might convert, it may be an inefficient way to build a sales pipeline.
Instead, you can use lead qualifying to focus your sales efforts on the most valuable prospects. A qualified lead meets a certain set of criteria that indicates their likelihood to make a purchase. For instance, you might disqualify a lead when you realize they just don’t have the budget to buy your product. Sometimes this is quantified in a lead scoring system, which you can also track in your CRM software.
Phase 4: Product demo or free trial
Right before you make the sales pitch, you’ll need to pull out all the stops to show what your business is offering. While this sales pipeline stage often takes the form of a product demo or free trial, it could also be a sales meeting or a detailed proposal that demonstrates your unique value.
Phase 5: Proposal or negotiation
This is the actual sales pitch. Everything in your sales pipeline so far has been building up to this moment. By this point, you should have built rapport and proved your value so the sales pitch comes naturally. In your proposal, it’s important to give real data on how your product will improve your customer’s business or workflow. 44% of buyers say an ROI calculator helps them make a decision, so providing the real ROI for your client can go a long way.
If you’re working in enterprise sales or selling custom solutions, this stage might also include negotiations or outlining the final terms of the deal.
Phase 6: Closing
At this point, you’ll know whether you’ve won or lost the deal. Now, you just need to wrap up all your loose ends. Start fulfilling the client order, gather any additional information or feedback, and close out the sales process for this client.
If you lose the deal, take it as an opportunity to analyze what went wrong so you can avoid it in the future.
Phase 6: Post-sale follow-up and support
Following up after the sale might not seem like part of a sales cycle, but it’s a key factor in customer retention and satisfaction. A simple email asking how the client is doing — combined with reliable and helpful customer support — is really all you need to do to follow up.
And since 70% of sales professionals say they are prioritizing customer retention, it’s worth spending time and energy on following up. That’s how you remain competitive.
What are the 6 steps for sales pipeline management?
To create and manage effective sales pipeline stages, you need to understand what your sales team is doing, what the end goal is, and what every salesperson needs. To get you started, here are the 6 key steps for building and managing your sales pipeline stages.
1. Outline your sales process. Make a list of every task or activity that needs to take place between first identifying a prospect and closing the sale. Remember that the sales process includes all the actions you need to close the deal, while the sales pipeline is what organizes these actions into stages.
2. Determine your revenue or sales goals. Figure out how you’ll measure the success of your sales pipeline. Choose the right KPIs to reflect these, and share them with key stakeholders in a dashboard like this one.
3. Collaborate with other teams. Get input from the marketing and support teams on how the sales pipeline stages should be set up. Ask them about tasks that should be included in the sales process, or what sales data will be most useful to them in reaching their goals.
4. Define your sales pipeline stages. Using the stages outlined above as a guide, start dividing up your sales process. Think about the goal of each action, and assign it to the sales pipeline stage that’s the best match. If you have a complex sales process, it’s perfectly fine to create multiple pipelines if you need them.
5. Set up your sales CRM software. Convert your sales pipeline stages into CRM entries. With customizable CRM software like monday sales CRM, you can adjust it to exactly match your sales pipeline stages. You can track KPIs and even set up automations to tell you what you should do next for any lead.
6. Test and refine your sales pipeline. Chances are, your sales pipeline won’t be perfect on the first try. Test it and adjust it to best match your actual sales process. Make sure to check it regularly so that it’s always up-to-date.
Keeps your sales pipeline organized with monday.com
monday.com sales CRM is an all-in-one platform that helps teams build the tools they need to work at their absolute best. And considering most salespeople only spend 37% of their time actively selling, that’s a lot more sales the monday sales CRM can help you make. Let’s sum up some of the key features of our product:
- Automations: Take advantage of no-code automations for manual processes to give your salespeople more time for selling and less time for administrative work. For example, our built-in sales automation will automatically move sales opportunities to the proper sales stage.
- Integrations: Perhaps you need data from old CRM software. Or, maybe you want to connect the data from an existing platform you’re using to track interactions with customers. The good news is, you can manage your entire sales pipeline without switching tabs. Salesforce, Pipedrive, and many hundreds of apps seamlessly integrate with monday.com
- Customizations: A good CRM system is one that can be tailored specifically to the individual needs of your team. With monday.com you can edit deal stages, add as many columns as you’d like, manage multiple pipelines at once, and more. Pick from 8+ data visualizations, custom columns, and color-coated statuses to create your ideal workflow.
Best of all, monday.com isn’t just a sales CRM. It helps marketing and support teams track their processes too. It’s a single source of truth for everyone in your organization.
Sales pipeline stages are a signpost to action
Sales pipeline stages are only as good as the CRM that manages them. You need a way to track every prospect and every action from discovery all the way to closing the deal and beyond. monday.com lets you build the exact CRM you need, no matter what industry you’re in or what your sales goals are. Try it out today and boost your sales revenue to new levels.