how to build a sales pipeline
  • Copied

How to Build a Sales Pipeline: A Beginners Guide

All businesses make money selling products and services. However, there is no universally accepted business model. In many firms, sales are seamless as leads come from marketing campaigns that turn potential into clients on the spot.

In contrast, a number of unstructured businesses cannot forecast revenues.

The organization’s sales pipeline helps solve these problem areas.

It’s also useful in a structured way for lead generation and sales prospects.

An excellent sales pipeline allows for better planning and forecasting for incoming business sales, if necessary. Running an enterprise entails numerous unknown and difficult problems, particularly when forecasting future profits.

Therefore you need reliable data on how many new sales you can expect. This can take the form of a sales pipeline and gives an overview of the number of prospects that are currently in the sales pipeline stage.

In this article, we will walk beginner salespeople as well as sales professionals through the following topics;

  • What is a sales pipeline?
  • What are the differences between a sales pipeline and a sales funnel?
  • What are the sales pipeline stages?
  • How to build a sales pipeline in 6 simple steps
 how to build a pipeline in sales

What Is A Sales Pipeline?

A sales funnel describes the steps you take for a customer to reach your product or service.

The sales pipeline shows how much business your salespeople are expected to close during a particular week, month, or year. Estimates like this are helpful for revenue forecasts, growth plans, and preparing for new challenges.

Doesn’t that seem obvious to you? The sooner and more accurately you have this information, the better. Building a sales pipeline can assist companies in improving their sales strategy and sales growth.

The Sales Pipeline shows opportunities that exist throughout your sales process. The sales pipeline also lists the total sales and their value. This tool helps the sales team determine the deal to pursue, what they’ll need to put their sales efforts into and how much money they’ll be earning during the upcoming year.

But the question remains, how does a sales team go about building a sales pipeline in the first place? We’ll be finding out soon, first, we will go over the difference between a sales funnel and a sales pipeline.

Sales Pipelines Vs Sales Funnel?

 how long does it take to build a sales pipeline

The sales pipeline and sales funnel have often been confused. They can sometimes be compared to two different coins of the same value and similar designs. Sales pipelines or sales funnels have discrete data structures as well as their presentation. Sales funnels focus on leads.

A sales pipeline describes all the steps a salesperson takes in preparing for the deal. The Sales funnel focuses on the steps you take in a buyer’s life cycle to become a customer.

The sales funnel represents how many prospects are converted through various stages of your pipeline, unlike the sales pipeline, which focuses on seller actions. A funnel has a wide top as prospects enter, then narrows as they are disqualified or decide not to purchase.

Sales pipelines describe how sales teams target leads and turn them into buyers. A sales channel demonstrates where a customer is going when they decide to buy something. A sales funnel consists of three phases, although the specifics are flexible for each particular case. Typical sales funnels can be used to determine how prospects exit a sales funnel to improve your sales pipeline and reduce the likelihood of conversions and lower costs.

 how to build a sales pipeline from scratch

Contrary to the sales pipeline reports, sales funnel reports are based on cohorts rather than the current value and quantity of deals that make the sales pipeline report. In other words, a funnel report reveals, for example, what percentage of your 100 leads advanced through each stage of your pipeline last quarter.

How does a sales funnel work?

For sales leaders, a sales funnel report is important because it allows them to forecast sales based on current leads and identify where deals get stuck so they can improve their processes.

When thinking about the difference between a sales pipeline and a funnel, keep this in mind: A pipeline shows what a seller does during a sales process, while a funnel measures conversion rates.

Why Are Sales Pipelines So Important To A Sales Rep?

A strong sales pipeline illustrates the company’s sales process. By identifying growth opportunities, leaks in the pipeline can be found (and fixed) more easily.

Sales reps are more likely to be productive and have a more enjoyable work day if they are provided with a clear sales pipeline. 

Leaders use sales pipelines to forecast revenue, plan for long-term growth, and take strategic decisions. 

Sales pipelines allow you to visualize where your new leads are in the sales funnel stages, such as awareness (prospecting and lead qualification), interaction (demo meetings and follow-up calls), interest (proposal and negotiation), and action (deal closing). In addition, it provides sales reps with recommendations for converting leads into customers.

The journey of a sales opportunity in your pipeline drive varies from lead to lead. There are many factors to consider, such as their interest in your products and services, their budget, their urgency to make a purchase, etc. It is possible that some leads will skip a few funnel stages of the sales pipeline. If a lead is ready to buy and already knows your product, you can move the opportunity directly to the closing stage of the sales pipeline.

What Are The Sales Pipeline Stages In The Sales Process?

A robust sales pipeline should have the following pipeline stages;

1. Lead generation

how to build a strong sales pipeline

The sales and marketing teams are usually responsible for B2B lead generation, but it is still an important part of the sales process. Having said that, sales can greatly contribute to lead generation, making it the first stage of the process.

In this stage of the sales pipeline, the sales team should do the following:

Create ideal customer profiles

Ideal customer profiles will help a new sales rep know who the ideal target customers are. Creating ICPs (ideal customer profiles) involves studying closed deals in which your company and their company gained mutual benefit. Find out if those customers have any common characteristics. By doing so, you will be able to create a clear profile of your customers. The best way to accomplish this task is to involve real-time marketing as well. 

Align with marketing in content creation

The basis of lead generation is to generate leads through content marketing. To make content more appealing to prospects, the sales and marketing teams should brainstorm together.

2. Prospecting

how to build a sales pipeline for startups

The prospecting stage of the sales pipeline involves a one-on-one meet-up where you draw potential customers who are most likely to purchase your product or service. 

However, a recent study found that half of all prospects do not meet the criteria for a qualified lead. In order to make the sales process more effective, it is essential to score leads before allowing them into the funnel.

Have your sales reps attend industry events and engage in meaningful conversations. It is important to leave a lasting impression on prospects.

Next, avoid selling to prospects right away. Prospects will look up to you if you appear as an industry expert. 

During the prospecting stage, you have to make cold calls and send cold emails. When done properly, both activities will produce results. 

3. Lead qualification

 how to build a sales develpment pipeline

Here, at the lead qualification stage of the sales pipeline, you have to make sure that the prospects match your potential customer profiles.

Your prospects should be able to afford your product or service, have the need, and have the authority to purchase it within a reasonable timeframe. In order to find out, you have to ask the right questions in an appealing way.

To qualify the prospect, learn as much as you can about their pain points, such as the other tools they use, previous solutions they have tried, and similar information.

4. Reach out

how to build a sales pipeline startups

At this stage of the sales pipeline, you have marketing qualified leads who are interested in buying your product or service. 

You have to sell your offering to them, which requires getting in touch using a phone call, an email, an in-person meeting, or a product demo. 

5. Proposal

 how to build a successful sales pipeline

You make your proposal at this proposal stage of the sales pipeline, which typically includes an overview of the prospect’s problems, your product or service as a solution, pricing details, and how long it will take to implement and train employees.

Describe the terms and conditions as well.

Be sure to customize the proposal based on the prospects’ requirements and remain customer-centric at all times. 

6. Negotiation and closing deals

 how to build a successful enterprise software sales pipeline

It is at this stage that you should negotiate with prospects a little if necessary, and then leave it up to them to make the decision. Depending on how things go, you may be able to log a win if the prospect is impressed with you and what you have to offer.

7. Retention

 how to build a perfect sales pipeline

The job is not over just because you’ve made a sale. It is important to retain current customers so that you can benefit in the long run and achieve sales targets and revenue goals without having to always source for new inbound leads.

Provide assistance to the customer during the sales onboarding process, and periodically check on them to attract more sales and more deals.

Hosting regular review meetings and getting feedback from existing customers through customer surveys would also be a good idea.

What Do You Need To Build Your Own Sales Pipeline?

There are a few things you need before building a pipeline, and they are:

1. A list of potential customers

In order to build a sales pipeline, this is the most obvious requirement. Give details about the prospects, such as their names, contact information, where they work, their job title, and how they found out about you.

2. The sales process/sales cycle of your sales team

By guiding reps through the entire sales process, the sales team knows how to convert prospects into paying clients.

When a sales rep follows the steps outlined in a good sales cycle, they can recreate success each time they work with a prospect by creating a better buying process for the customer. It is therefore beneficial to have a well-defined sales process. If that is not the case with your organization, you can always create a solid process.

3. The organization’s current and future revenue targets

It is essential to be prepared with your organization’s revenue goals in order to create a pipeline that will help you close the maximum number of deals. You can predict your revenue at this stage of the sale process as well.

Calculate the number of deals necessary based on the target to be achieved. 

Your leads are one step away from
becoming customer!

4. A discussion with your marketing team

The entire sales and marketing team will use the same sales pipeline, so everyone must be involved in the decision-making process. As a result, you will also be able to see what you have considered implementing from a different perspective and have a basis for measuring team performance. 

How To Build a Sales Pipeline For Your Sales Team In 6 Steps

Step 1: Know your audience

Do you know who your audience is? Your business may target a large audience, but they all share certain characteristics. 

For example, going beyond standard demographics – thirty-year-old tech workers making between 80 and 90K annually – is important. 

Discover how you can help your audience and what challenges they face. 

When you understand what motivates them to take each step, you can create effective sales pipeline stages that is easier to complete. 

There’s a problem – many companies assume they know who their audience is. However, they do not rely on data but rather on gut instinct. 

Very bad for business. 

To find the data you need to scale, here are a few places to look;

  • Your CRM: What are the main points of your most profitable current customers? 
  • Google Analytics: Enable the Demographics and Interests report and use that data to understand who visits your website. 
  • Customer service agents: What are the most recurring problems? What do customers struggle with? What solutions are they looking for? What are the most frequently asked questions? Customer service agents talk to customers every day and can provide insights you won’t find anywhere else. 
  • Customer surveys: Perform an annual survey to ask customers who they are and what their pain points are. This can help improve sales and marketing efforts and provide information for product development. 
  • Social media insights: A social media savvy sales rep takes advantage of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and most other social platforms to gather useful data on audience insights, including interests, and demographics.
 build a sales pipeline

Knowing the answers to these questions will make it easier for you to find your audience, address their pains effectively, and position your brand in a unique way.

Step 2: Create buyer personas

A buyer persona should not be confused with a customer profile. Unlike the latter which focuses on a business that could need your product, buyer personas contain personal details of a typical member of your target audience. Even if your business targets other businesses, you’d need to reach out to certain people from those businesses in order to start a business conversation.

 sales pipeline stages

Buyer personas may seem unnecessary to some sales reps. 

However, they are important. What does the data you collected during the research stage actually mean? Is it going to affect your sales pipeline in any way? 

If you don’t have a buyer persona, you’re forced to use spreadsheets when you’re researching your audience – which isn’t very helpful when choosing a landing page design or creating a blog post. 

You can create personas that represent your customers’ needs based on what they want from your product. As an example, imagine you’re targeting a portion of your audience that consists of working mothers who are in their thirties and want to make decisions quickly but also feel in control. Also, check out B2B sales, SaaS sales, and tech sales.

 sales pipeline process

The buyer persona you choose might be Cynthia, a 28-year-old mother of two who works in marketing at a mall in Atlanta.

Cynthia can then be guided through a detailed sales journey. How does she find out about your product or service? Does she find out about it on Facebook, LinkedIn, or at conferences?  

Is there any information she needs to make a purchase decision? What other sources will she consult before making a purchase? Is she the final decision maker? What type of content is she likely to consume? 

The answers to these questions will guide each step of your sales pipeline.

Step 3: Source for sales qualified leads

It is clear to you who your audience is. It is your job as a salesperson to understand what drives them, and you have a buyer persona to serve as a litmus test. 

The generation of leads is now in full swing. It’s important to keep your industry and audience in mind when driving leads. 

It might make sense to target your audience via LinkedIn, for example, if they spend a lot of time researching on the platform. 

You can also drive leads by: 

  • Downloadable guides, ebooks, templates, and worksheets can be used as lead magnets to attract prospective customers.
  • Share your expertise on popular industry sites by guest posting. You will gain your prospects’ trust and they will be more likely to follow up with your solution. 
  • B2B lead generation with social media might seem odd – but Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have a huge reach. Even B2B companies can benefit from giveaways and webinars because they can generate quality leads. 
  • How can you solve a problem your audience faces using a free tool (or a limited free plan)? For instance, MailChimp offers a free limited plan for its email and CRM tools. It is possible for customers to try the software before they purchase it. 
  • Are there visitors to your website who don’t leave their contact information? Businesses can track anonymous site visitors with website tracking tools. 

Step 4: Entertain your leads

This is the time to engage your leads in the sales pipeline through interesting content. Remember what they say about the content being king. 

You can create video tutorials, reviews, guides, blog posts, case studies, infographics, and anything else you think your customers will find useful. To reach a broader audience, you must regularly produce useful, engaging content and promote it on social media, etc. 

By now, from your research, you should already know what type of content will work the best for your business and industry.

Now produce that content, start sharing, and don’t forget to use A/B testing to determine what content and format your audience responds best to.

sales pipeline guide

Step 5: Convert 

As a result of your audience’s education and interest, your product or service is of sufficient interest to them. There is just one last push they need to make to get where they want to go.

Your hard work has been done, but now is not the time to lose the sale. The following tips will help you reap the rewards of your hard work:

  • You should keep your sales page simple by removing any clutter that might distract your customers. A maximum of three key features should be included. 
  • Make sure your sales department demonstrates that they are paying attention to what prospects need with a personalized video. 
  • Consider offering two CTAs: One for customers who are ready to check out (Buy now/Subscribe/Choose a plan) and one for those who are still unsure (Learn more/Start a trial/Sign up for free/Claim a discount) to help them decide. 
  • Convert customers easily, maintain transparency in pricing, and don’t require a 25-page questionnaire. Make it easy for them to hand over their hard-earned cash.  

Final Thoughts

The development of a sales pipeline stage is the best method of tracking sales success or failure in your sales campaign.

By evaluating opportunity progress throughout the sales pipeline, you can determine the average time spent on sales to improve sales efficiency. The ability to predict future revenues can also be improved if you detect resources and skills shortages. Once you have built the sales pipeline, filling this pipeline with qualified leads will be essential. If a potential sale has surpassed a certain threshold, it increases the chances of conversion.

How do businesses create leads – whether via paid or non-paid campaigns or simply by letting customers know you exist?

The typical way to create a good customer profile is through identifying and targeting prospective consumers through various advertising channels. Lead qualifications help to build sales pipelines quickly and efficiently. An opportunity is identified to a prospective customer and records are generated to begin a successful business relationship. Check out some sales related guides, sales productivity, sales analysis report, and churn rate.