What is a sales pipeline? Meaning and Definition
A sales pipeline is a visual representation of the different stages of the sales process, from initial contact to closing, that shows the sales team where their prospects are in the buying process.
Sales Funnel Vs Sales Pipeline
Sales Pipeline and thesales funnel are often confused as analogous, but in reality a sales pipeline is about deals, while a funnel is about leads.
The sales pipeline refers to each step in your sales process that a salesperson follows to move a prospect along from start to close.
On the other hand, a sales funnel encompasses the steps in the buying process that your leads go through before they become customers.
What are the stages of a sales pipeline
The steps in the sales pipeline vary for each industry, but here are the common steps.
1) Lead Generation with Digital Marketing or and Prospecting + Outreach
Prospecting, which Jeb Blount in Fanatical Prospecting defines "proactive prospecting" as the first and most important stage of a sales pipeline. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most dreaded stages of the sales pipeline: according to one statistic, 40% of salespeople believe it's the most challenging part of the sales process.
Always in Fanatical Prospecting , Jeb Blount attributes the main reason for the lack of sales to the empty pipeline and in this regard theorizes the law of turnover: the pipeline must be constantly enriched with new opportunities that will replace those that are naturally missed. And this must be done at or above the rate of closure.
There are many ways to cold contact a potential client (outreach), including:
- Cold calling: this is one of the oldest and most effective ways to connect with prospects. Here you connect with prospects who have no prior knowledge of your call.
- Cold Email: Cold email is another powerful way to reach the potential customer. If the prospect is not available to return your call, they can respond to your email at a time that is convenient for them.
- LinkedIn. Prospecting and Outreach with LinkedIn Sales Navigator e LinkedIn Automation Tools: this is a search for the potential customer using LinkedIn Sales Navigator filters and whose subsequent contact (via direct message, InMail, or email) is automated with tools similar to theemail marketing automation.
Next to this approach, very push and sales oriented, there are often more "inbound" approaches that use typical tools of Digital Marketing such as advertising campaigns of Facebook Ads,, LinkedIn Ads, Google Ads or organic traffic (SEO) often directed to Landing Page and other lead interception tools, such as popups (OptinMonster). Sometimes the contact is acquired directly on the advertising platform, without a landing page, as is the case in native formats such as the Lead Ads Facebook's Lead Gen Forms, LinkedIn Ads' Lead Gen Forms, Google Ads' form extensions.
Sales Pipeline for Inbound and Outbound Leads
Different products, different markets or modes of prospecting and lead generation different can result in different sales pipelines. A typical example is given by an Outbound approach versus an Inbound approach: in the first case, after prospecting the potential customer, you move on to attempting to contact him, while inbound leads, who fill out a form on a Landing Page or call in, often proceed more easily along the pipeline, since they are warm leads.
#2 Lead Qualification
This is a crucial step in the steps of the sales pipeline. You identify an opportunity with a prospective customer and create a record as the first step in proceeding down the pipeline.
Qualification is a vital step in the sales pipeline so you don't waste time with leads that won't convert to sales or off-target.
One method of qualifying leads is through the BANT methodology.
The BANT methodology
This is one of the most advanced lead qualification methodologies that helps determine if the potential customer is a good fit based on their buying ability, internal influence, product need, and time frame.
BANT stands for:
- Budget: does the potential customer have the budget to buy your product?
- Authority: who plays a decisive role (Decision Maker) in the company to purchase a product?
- Need: What are the needs of potential customers?
- Timeline: what is the timeline for implementing the solution?
#3-6 Contact to closure
- Initiate Contact: In this stage of the pipeline, a representative attempts to contact the lead to understand their business and needs. This phase helps you post qualify the lead. This phase can sometimes be followed by a meeting where you schedule a demonstration in case it's a demo or with the decision maker if the first meeting was exploratory.
- Negotiation: The lead has expressed interest in purchasing your services and now comes to the negotiation phase. In this second phase, once the quote has been submitted, you respond to concerns and negotiate (if necessary) on price, services, conditions
- Closing the Deal: The final stage of the sales process where you record the outcome as won or lost. There are times when the buyer is not yet ready to buy. In this case, you can mark it as 'nurture' to check back later.
10 metrics to track in the sales pipeline
Here are a dozen useful metrics to track in your sales pipeline:
- Number of agreements in pipeline
- Average deal value
- Average success rate
- Conversion rate or lead to opportunity ratio
- Sales cycle length
- Pipeline value
- Conversion rate from MQL (marketing qualified lead) to SQL (sales qualified lead)
- Average sale size
- Customer acquisition cost
- Customer lifetime value
The best CRM software to manage the sales pipeline
Which software to rely on? Let's see an overview.
Pipedrive (www.pipedrive.com/) is a cloud-based customer relationship management software that allows you to manage your sales pipeline and visualize your sales processes based on planning, completing and tracking tasks with visual pipelines.
In essence, Pipedrive simplifies every sales-related action. Since it's a cloud-based application, you can access it 24 hours a day from a browser or dedicated mobile app.
Let's list the main features of Pipedrive:
- Potential customers and business management
- Monitoring of calls, emails and contact history
- Automating repetitive administrative tasks with artificial intelligence.
- Insights and reports
- Privacy and Security
Pipedrive offers three subscription plans. The Essential plan starts at $ 12.50 per month, and the Advanced plan at $ 24.90 per month. Professional and Enterprise are also available at a higher cost. You can test Pipedrive's features for free with a 14-day trial period.
HubSpot is a software that offers landing page, email marketing and CRM functionality. With HubSpot CRM (https://www.hubspot.com/products/crm) you will no longer have to manually update reports. The service offers the following features:
- Report Control Panel
- Corporate insights
- Business tracking
- Pipeline Management
- Email tracking
- Monitoring of potential customers
- Scheduling meetings
- Live chat
A valid and comprehensive free edition is available. As for the pay-as-you-go plans, prices start at $41 per month with annual payment with the Starter. The Professional and Enterprise plans are also available at a significantly higher cost.
- Visualize sales pipelines
- Centralize your data in one place
- Keep all current and potential customer information in one organized place
- Find out where all the deals with unlimited sales pipelines are located.
- Use a timeline to keep track of all activities with your contacts and get detailed information on what needs to be done
- Manage your marketing operations in one place
- Use high-level dashboards to monitor your goals, sales pipelines and team performance
- Easily manage your funnel using powerful workflow automations
- Set up custom automations in a few clicks
Prices start at € 24 per month with annual payment with the plan Basic. A free plan is available, and you can take a 14-day trial without having to provide credit card information.
Freshsales (https://www.freshworks.com/crm/sales/) is a comprehensive sales force automation solution for sales teams. In essence, Freshsales provides everything a salesperson needs to attract quality leads, engage in contextual conversations, promote deals with AI-based insights, and cultivate customer relationships.
With integrated email, phone, chat and telephony, Freshsales gives teams more time for sales by automating processes and increasing efficiency and productivity in their daily operations.
Let's list the features offered by Freshsales:
- Contact management
- Cloud Telephony
- Deal Management
- Email Integration
- Freddy AI
- Sales Reports.
The paid plans are:
- Growth, at $15 per month with annual payment
- Pro, at $39 per month with annual payment
- Enterprise, at $69 per month with annual payment.
Freshsales also offers a completely free plan, and you can request a demo.
Used by more than 250,000 companies in 180 countries, Zoho CRM serves as a single repository to bring together sales, marketing and customer service activities and simplify processes and policies into a single platform.
Some of the various features offered by Zoho CRM include:
- Sales force automation
- Process Management
- Sales enablement
- Performance Management
- Predictive Sales
- Web Personalization
- Marketing automation
- Team Collaboration.
Prices start at €14 per month with annual billing by choosing the plan Standard. The most requested solution is the plan Enterprise, available for $40 per month with annual billing. You can test the service with a free 15-day trial.