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Lead Management, Inside Sales

Building a High-Quality Sales Pipeline (From Contact to Close)

Written By:

Stephanie Lanik;  Strategic Marketing Coordinator
Every business needs a healthy sales pipeline. Aside from developing effective sales techniques, a pipeline is the most critical system a business will ever develop and maintain. It will help streamline your entire organization and the processes within. Not to mention, it provides your sales team with valuable insight into where potential customers are throughout the buying cycle.

No two businesses are the same, and neither are all sales pipelines.

When it comes to building a sales pipeline, no two are the same. They are customized to fully leverage the knowledge your team has regarding the way your customers buy your product. Meaning, you’ll need to construct a highly-adaptable, yet, scalable pipeline based on your processes and your customers’ needs. Naturally, these two pieces together make for a seamless, effective, and highly-profitable pipeline.

Yes, building a sales pipeline takes a lot of work, but it’s not rocket science. Anyone can do it. Here are a few basic procedures to follow to ensure that your pipeline is properly built and optimized for success.

Let’s get down to covering the basics.

What’s a Sales Pipeline?

A sales pipeline is the steps you take to turn a potential customer into a paying customer. It’s essentially a visualization of your whole sales process. Sales pipelines show you where in the sales funnel all your deals are and which deals need attention. More specifically, it shows where deals are stalling and which sales activities are bringing in the most revenue.

To put more broadly, a sales pipeline for your business will:

  • Predict revenue
  • Track your leads
  • Simplify sales
  • Add a layer of accountability
  • Define your marketing strategy

Remember...

[Sales pipeline and sales funnel are NOT the same! It’s imperative that you don’t confuse the two. So to help clear up any confusion, here’s an example of how they are different and how they work together.]

What’s the Difference?

Sales Funnel

Simply put, a sales funnel describes the customer journey. It consists of stages your leads move through as they go from learning about your company to becoming a customer.

Sales Pipeline

A sales pipeline describes every step of the sales process that your sales team takes while qualifying leads and closing deals.

What Are the Stages of a Pipeline?

As we mentioned earlier, pipeline stages will differ between companies (and even between products). But here are some of the most common pipeline stages you should incorporate to build a killer sales pipeline:

Stage 1:  Prospecting

The first step of every sales process consists of lead generation or prospecting. This stage is all about finding prospective buyers who you believe would be interested in your product or service. Then, reaching out and attract them, establishing a connection with them, and nurturing them systematically—until initial contact.

Stage 2:  Qualification

This stage is all about finding prospects who are worth pursuing based on their likelihood of making a purchase. Here’s where marketing and sales need to work together to clearly define what classifies an MQL and SQL.

Stage 3:  Consideration

Your prospect is aware of your solutions, and they have officially been qualified by your sales team at this stage. In this step, you should demonstrate your product or service to your prospect and highlight its features and benefits. (Ex. Product pitch, Schedule meeting, discovery call, demo.)

Stage 4:  Deciding/Negotiating

Proposals are sent out. But despite how compelling your offer is, arriving at a two-way agreement may require some negotiations. This stage implies that both parties (the lead and sales rep) engage in open communication to reach a common ground. Your team needs to be prepping its closing strategy.

Stage 5:  Closing

If the customer ends up buying the product or service offering, it is closed-won. However, the only time a deal enters this stage is when a contract or the deal has a signature.

Stage 6:  Retention

Last but not least, once your prospect becomes your customer, make sure they stay happy. Did you know that 80% of your future profits will come from just 20% of your existing customers? Loyal customers are more likely to purchase future products, upgrades, or premium services.
Now, let’s move on to building you a high-quality pipeline that adapts to your business and works for your customers.

7 Essential Steps Towards Building a Sales Pipeline

1. Preparatory Phase

A robust sales process starts will before setting up the actual pipeline. Effective selling needs to have a solid foundation and in the preparatory phase, you need to do the following:
E

Know the product:

Have a clear understanding of the pros, cons, benefits, and potential problems that may attract or scare your prospect. This is essential for all salespeople who want to be able to respond to queries in a confident manner.
E

Define buyer personas:

You’ve got to know your target audience—the people who have a need for your services or products. Having a firm grasp on your ideal target audience and segmenting them into specific buyer personas is crucial. It’s a great way to make the approach of your sales rep more flexible and, therefore, more effective. Furthermore, it helps move prospects to the appropriate stage, which will result in better conversions.
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Perfect the product pitch:

Your sales pitch should be crafted to meet the needs of your customers. Make sure to highlight how your companies product or service would be an ideal match for the customer.

2. Decide Where You’re Going to Build Your Pipeline

A sales pipeline can be built in a spreadsheet or a dedicated sales CRM. However, CRMs are more efficient if you’ve got more than one salesperson handling more than 10 deals at a time. They allow teams to manage deals collectively and easily move them from one stage of a pipeline to another. All-in-all, using a CRM is the best choice for maximum efficiency (and faster conversions).

>> Need more reasons to look into a CRM? Check out our blog, “5 Ways to Use CRM to Optimize Digital Marketing.

3. Determine Pipeline Stages

Using the essential pipeline stages we discussed above, it’s time to add and create your own steps. Taking a closer look at your existing sales process is the best way to set up the sales stages. Consider adding the activities your team does the most and the ones that have the most impact on your sales. Just remember that your sales pipeline stages should align with your sales process.

ProTip:

It is important to think of the sales pipeline from the customer’s point of view. Your product only exists because of the customer, so the best sales pipelines match the buyer journey your customers go through.
Once you’ve outlined the stages in your sales pipeline, it’s time to start mapping up the data. Here is where a good CRM comes in handy. For more details on mapping out your sales pipeline, check out our “5 Steps to Mapping Sales Success” blog.

4. Calculate Your Ideal Pipeline Size

Now that your pipeline is starting to take shape, it’s time to calculate the pipeline size for your business. In other words: how many opportunities do you need in your pipeline in order to hit your sales targets?

Thankfully, there’s no magic number. However, if you make your goals too high, your targets will be difficult to hit. But too small, and you’ll end up leaving leads (and money) on the table. So, a good place to start is knowing how many deals you win on average. Then, calculate the number of leads required for you to reach those sales goals. From there, you’ll have a clear view of how many leads should enter the top of your pipeline per month.

5. Discover Triggers

Timing is everything when it comes to building a sales pipeline. If you aren’t able to advance potential customers to the next stage—when they’re ready—you may lose contact with them. So, when you are building pipeline stages, identify actions (or triggers) that suggest they are ready to move forward. This way you can trigger your follow-ups based on actions the lead takes.

For instance, like when they:

  • Sign up for your mailing list
  • Request a demo for your product
  • Complete a trial period
  • Download an ebook (or other material)
Ultimately, your goal is to find those triggers and employ them in your pipeline.

6. Develop Relevant Messaging & Content for Each Stage

Once you’ve obtained your audience’s attention, it’s time to entertain. Every stage of your sales pipeline will require appropriate, well-tailored content. Your customers must see that you can offer something of value to them throughout the entire buyer’s journey. Doing so will help pique interest, create needs, and most importantly, build trust.

Key Note: At this stage content is king!

[Our customized and engaging approach can give your company the results you’ve been looking for. Contact us today to learn more about what we have to offer.]

7. Constantly Update Your Pipeline

There’s always room for improvement. That’s why we believe you should review the stages in your pipeline on a period basis. If you need to, backtrack and take a look at your pipeline from your customer’s perspective. Reflect on the buyer persona and visualize the steps your customers take leading up to the purchase decision. From here, you should make the necessary updates needed to keep your pipeline flowing seamlessly.

Keeping track of what’s happening and making the necessary adjustments are two basic details of healthy pipeline management.

Ready to Build a Seamless Sales Pipeline That Converts Leads to Customers?

A well-designed and effective sales pipeline can ensure the growth of your business and a successful return on investments. At Techtonic Sales, we can guarantee just that! We’re positive that our comprehensive and fully integrated process can be valuable for any business—small or big, online, or offline.

We will take your sales pipeline to the next level!

To learn more about how we can dramatically scale and improve all aspects of your go-to-market strategy, contact us today.

[Contact us directly at (612) 455-7100 or toll-free at (888) 326-6118]

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