Sales pipeline is the term used to refer to the sales process—from start to finish—and the steps followed by salespeople. It’s also sometimes referred to as a sales cycle or a sales process.
The concept of a pipeline is widely used in the sales profession, and it’s an effective way of managing the sales process. A sales pipeline is a visual representation of the sales stages, each of which requires different types of activities and activities such as lead generation and sales calls that need to be carried out in order to move a prospect further down the sales funnel.
The sales funnel concept has been around since the 1940s but in recent years, technology and software advancements have made the concept more accessible and useful for sales teams.
The idea behind sales pipeline management is that it allows businesses to track and measure the progress of their sales deals. It’s a powerful tool for sales teams, who can use the data collected to focus their efforts and identify any bottlenecks or opportunities in their sales process that require additional attention.
The sales pipeline is typically made up of several stages, and it’s important to identify the stages, objectives and activities required for each stage in the pipeline. Examples of these stages might include: Lead generation, lead qualification, discovery, negotiation, Proposed solutions, and Closure.
Lead generation is the process of finding potential prospects (leads) and convincing them to enter the sales cycle. This is usually done through methods such as cold calling, emailing, attending events/trade shows, online/digital advertising and search engine marketing.
Lead qualification is the process of identifying which leads are suitable for further sales activities and which are not. Qualified leads are those who are likely to mean a sale is closed. Common criteria used to score leads include demographics, psychographics, budget and timeline, and who the decision maker is.
Discovery is where sales people begin to understand the prospect’s specific needs, wants and desires. In this stage they will be asking questions and looking to form relationships with their prospects.
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Negotiation is the process of two parties coming together to try to agree on a mutually beneficial solution. It’s the point where price, timelines, payment and delivery terms etc. are discussed.
Proposed solutions is where the salesperson can demonstrate their expertise and present the prospect with their recommendations. This stage might involve showing case studies, industry benchmarking, return on investment and any other factors that could convince the prospect to become a customer.
Closure is the stage where an agreement is reached and a sale is completed. This stage is often the most difficult, as it often sees salespeople negotiating hard with their prospects.
Managing and optimising the sales pipeline is an important task for businesses of all sizes. In addition to tracking and measuring the progress of sales deals, it also helps to identify any workflow blockages or bottlenecks that could prevent a sales deal from progressing.
When managing the sales pipeline, it’s important to ensure that all salespeople have a clear understanding of the process, the stages and activities required for each stage, and the resources available to support them. It’s also important to make sure that everyone is on the same page – that the sales process and stages are agreed upon and that everyone is focused on the same goal.
It’s also important to make sure that your sales team is following best practices. This could include making sure that they are able to accurately track leads, ensuring they are able to efficiently qualify and segment prospects, providing resources such as research materials to help make better decisions, and offering adequate training and support to ensure your team has the right skills needed to close a deal.
In order to optimise the sales pipeline, it’s crucial for sales teams to measure, analyse and monitor its progress. This could include using tools such as dashboards to track metrics such as prospect engagement and pipeline value, focusing on lead conversion rates, tracking the time taken to move prospects from one stage to the next, and monitoring the effectiveness of the sales process over time and making changes as necessary to optimise the process.