Introduction

Sales pipeline management is an important tool for sales teams. In fact, according to learnings revenue growth is related to pipeline management. And, businesses that have a well-defined sales process have a higher revenue growth than those who don’t. A clear indication that a sales pipeline is critical for your sales force.

Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the sales pipeline and how an effective pipeline management system can make a wealth of difference for your business.

visual-sales-pipeline

What is a sales pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a comprehensive visual snapshot of your opportunities in different stages of your sales process. It is essentially a specific set of steps taken to convert a lead into a customer. This visual representation of your deals helps you keep track of every deal’s status as it moves through your pipeline.

sales-pipeline

Difference between a sales pipeline and sales funnel

Sales pipeline and sales funnel are often misunderstood to be the same thing. Like, two sides of the same coin carrying the same value but different design. Except not. Sales pipeline and sales funnel are discrete, both in data and the representation of the data.

Sales pipeline is about deals. Sales funnel is about leads.

Sales pipeline comprises of every stage in your sales process a sales rep takes to move a deal from start to close. Whereas, sales funnel is the stages in the buying process your leads go through before becoming customers. Ideally, your sales process should align with the buyer’s journey.

sales-funnel

What is sales pipeline management system?

Let’s face it—there’s no business without sales. Sales is the lifeblood of every business, irrespective of its size. It’s a measure of how your business is performing. That explains why having a sales management system is pivotal for your business.

But barriers to sales management lead to clogged sales pipelines, lengthy sales cycles and non-existent lead management eventually leading to uncertainty. The need of the hour is to empower sales teams with tools to build a thriving sales management system. While sales management focuses on the application of sales operations, techniques and processes to meet sales objectives, sales pipeline management focuses on one key element—the sales process.

Modern systems like CRM system help you visualize the number of open deals, status of each deal, expected sales, distribution of deals among sales reps, and more through a visual sales pipeline.

Do you need one?

Have your ever wondered why your sales team always falls short of its quarterly targets? Why has maintaining a healthy sales pipeline management system become a challenging task? Sales audits of various sales processes in different organizations often reveal that sales reps want to sell more than anything else. They find thrill in surpassing their quarterly targets. What’s stopping them? A messy sales process in tools like spreadsheets and unproductive manual data entry prevents you from achieving their full potential.

With the changing expectations of customers and burgeoning target pressures, sales teams need a comprehensive system like a sales CRM that accelerates focus on relationship building, automates the sales pipeline and helps close more deals faster.

visual-sales-pipeline

How to define and build your sales pipeline?

In your effort to make smarter and informed decisions, sales pipelines work as a beacon of light as leads transition into the next stage of the buying cycle. The pipeline breaks the deal into different stages according to your business requirements based on which sales teams take circumstantial decisions to engage with leads.

Using CRM software, sales teams can easily build a comprehensive sales pipeline by defining your business specific stages in one or more pipelines.

For a business that follows a typical B2B sales process, here’s how your sales pipeline stages might be:

  • Deal created: An opportunity is identified with a potential buyer, and a record is created as the first step to closing a deal successfully.
  • Initiate contact: A sales rep attempts to contact the lead to understand their business and requirements. This stage helps you map your business services against the lead’s needs.
  • Schedule meeting or demo: After your initial conversation, if the lead is convinced with your services, then based on your business, you may schedule a product demo. If otherwise, then you may try to set up a meeting with the decision maker towards negotiating the deal.
  • Negotiation: The lead has expressed interest to buy your services and now arrives at the negotiation stage. You negotiate on price, services, conditions, etc. to make a profitable sale, and submit your proposal.
  • Won or Lost: The final stage in your sales process where you record the outcome of your deal. If it’s finalized between you and the buyer, you mark the deal as won or lost. Alternatively, there are times when the buyer is not ready to buy yet. In that case, you may mark them as nurture to check back later.

A CRM with good sales pipeline management system lets you customize the stages in multiple sales pipelines based on your business needs and internal structure.

How to manage your sales pipeline?

Sales pipeline helps you evaluate and improve your sales process by providing a quick overview of your open opportunities. It’s not enough to simply define and build your pipeline, but also learn how to effectively manage it. CRM software reduces the burden of managing your sales pipeline by systematically organizing your pipeline opportunities. The representation helps sales teams be more focussed and organized to close more deals faster. An efficient CRM allows you to perform actions directly from the sales pipeline view and manage your deals without having to switch screens for every action. For example, you’re in the pipeline view and noticed that you missed to follow-up on a deal. Now, you can email or call the lead straight from the pipeline. After that, you can simply drag and drop the deal card to the next stage.

How to measure your sales pipeline?

The sales pipeline shows you where your money lies in your sales process. It segments opportunities by each stage and shows you the count of deals and the total value of those deals. The sales pipeline tells you if a deal has spent too long in any given stage so you can take steps to move the deal. You can also know how your team is performing by creating custom pipeline views. Some CRMs show color coded icons for deal tasks in the pipeline giving you a quick idea if tasks are complete, pending or overdue. This is helpful to know how efficient each sales rep is in closing deals and meeting business targets. The sales pipeline is helpful for you to track your opportunities and manage your business’ health.

visual-sales-pipeline

Use Freshsales for your sales pipeline management

Freshsales sales pipeline is a visual treat for your pipeline management system. You can customize multiple sales pipelines, and know the value of your deals in each stage. It helps you estimate incoming cash flow and plan your business accordingly. You can filter and sort deals, save views for quick access and switch between pipelines in just a few clicks. Now you know how much business you’re likely to close in the coming months, spot bottlenecks, and drive them to closure.

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