A sales pipeline in a modern CRM shows the sequence of steps your salespeople need to take to move a contact from a prospect to a customer. These steps are based on your own sales process.

All pipelines are custom to a company, but they all largely follow a similar core structure. A contact in the pipeline moves from stage to stage until they either fall off the pipeline or are closed and become a customer.

Modern CRMs show the sales pipeline in a visual roadmap for your sales team. At any given point in time, the pipeline makes it transparent where in the buying process a prospect is.

This allows salespeople and managers to create realistic revenue forecasts as they will be able to easily see how many opportunities are pending, what probability of closing they have, and how many of those might close in a given timeframe.

Define the stages of your sales pipeline

The stages of your sales pipeline (also called your sales cycle) will depend on multiple factors including, your business model, your sales process and your products and services.

Some businesses might have a sales pipeline for each department, some might have a pipeline for each product or service, and for some businesses just a single pipeline for the entire business is adequate.

The most common stages of a sales pipeline include:

Prospect > Connect > Qualify Lead > Present Offer > Closed Won > Generate Referral

But, it can also look like this:

Prospect > Connect > Appointment > Qualify Lead > Product Demo > Solution Design > Present Offer > Closed Won

Or this (This is our own ‘New business’ pipeline),

Prospecting > Appointment Scheduled > Needs Analysis > Qualified to Buy > Presentation Schedules > Decision Maker Bought In > Quotation Presented > Signaled Intent to Sign > Closed Won

Your pipeline needs to reflect your sales process’s unique requirements.

You need to establish a clear baseline of how many opportunities generally move from one pipeline stage to the next.

This analysis will give you a solid idea of how many opportunities you need to target in each stage to hit your revenue number.

Having a defined process enables you to see the patterns, and if you can see the patterns you can improve the process to optimise ROI on your sales efforts.

Centralised data and reporting

In addition to solidifying your sales process, a CRM will give you a central place to locate all your sales communications and metrics.

This moves us onto reporting, Analytics & Data Visualisation.