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Sales pipeline management

How to gain insights into deals, sales process effectiveness, and sales team performance? Tracking sales metrics in Excel/spreadsheets is painful, and inefficient as well as time-consuming as you grow. A sales pipeline makes the job easier. If you’re to hit goals and quota, you need to manage your sales pipeline effectively.

What is a sales pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a visual representation of the opportunities in the different stages of the sales process. It is a handy tool for sales reps to keep deals moving and forecast revenue. A sales pipeline is different from a sales funnel as it focuses on deals rather than leads.

Stages of a sales pipeline

A B2B sales process has six sales pipeline stages:

  1. Generating leads: Generate leads through content marketing, paid media, and social media engagement.
  2. Qualifying leads: Identify the sales opportunity, representing a qualified lead, and record it as a step to closing deals.
  3. Initiating contact: In this stage of the sales process, you contact the potential customer to understand their needs and map them against your product.
  4. Holding a product demo: The demo is an opportunity to showcase the functionality and value of your product before decision-makers and confirm how well you’ve qualified the lead.
  5. Negotiating: SaaS contracts are negotiable. Depending on your product, you can negotiate services, warranty, pricing, and renewals.
  6. Closing the deal: You close deals to convert prospects to paying customers. If the deals don’t go through, salespeople close the accounts.

While there are templates to create and track the sales pipeline, they’re difficult to manage as your customer base grows. A CRM with sales pipeline capabilities or sales pipeline management software like Toplyne, will then become necessary.

What is sales pipeline management?

Sales pipeline management is the process of organizing and tracking the buyer’s journey to meet goals and quota. It provides a full picture of when a deal will close. By breaking down every stage of the pipeline into manageable tasks, salespeople can create workflows to stay on top of daily sales activities, remember to follow-up without fail, and prevent winnable deals from falling apart.

Steps of sales pipeline management

These activities help streamline pipeline management:

  1. Use a tool like Toplyne to build pipeline from your self-serve accounts.
  2. Place all your potential customers into different deal stages. The idea is to segment and get a clear view of opportunities by each stage.
  3. Implement sales activities for each stage. For example, cold calling or emailing in the initial stages and webinars and case studies in the next stages.
  4. Define sales cycle length depending on product complexity, customization options, and source of leads (mostly inbound vs mostly outbound).
  5. Determine the ideal pipeline size. That is, calculate the number of deals you need to close to achieve the sales targets or revenue growth for the year.
  6. Track the age of deals. Remove any stagnant deal that exceeds the amount of time it takes to convert aka the average sales cycle.  

Four best practices of sales pipeline management

These best practices of pipeline management help improve sales performance:

  • Track sales metrics such as new leads created per month, conversion rate of opportunities to closed deals, and average won deal size, among others.
  • Conduct regular pipeline reviews, which are essentially meetings between sales leaders and reps to stay updated with the status of each prospect.
  • Provide or optimize sales enablement content for every stage. This will help optimize lead nurturing and create a more effective sales process.
  • Create sales pipeline reports. A CRM or pipeline management tools can automate report generation.