If you're responsible for sales in a B2B business right now, chances are you're finding filling your sales pipeline a little... *ahem* tricky. In a pre-pandemic world, clear or cloudy visibility of your sales pipeline could be the difference between impressive revenue growth and an underwhelmingly "meh" fiscal year. Fast forward to today and clarity on future sales opportunities has never been more crucial.
So, assuming you’re not already using a CRM or Sales dashboard to track your deals, I've created a handy template to help you figure out the essential components and key metrics you'll need to measure when building your sales pipeline, giving you better visibility on your sales opportunities over the next few months.
What Is A Sales Pipeline?
A Sales Pipeline is a sales visualisation tool that helps you and your business track the value and progress of any deals your sales team are working on. It’s incredibly useful for prioritising current opportunities, but equally useful for benchmarking past performance and forecasting future growth.
Pipelines don’t just have to be for new business. If you run on a SAAS or Retainer model you can even create separate pipelines to track upselling opportunities or measure Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) and renewals against existing customers.
While not always visual, pipelines tend to look something like this:
Pipeline showing: Connect / Enquiry / Opp Identified > Qualification / Fit > Demo / Presentation / Scoping > Pricing / Negotiation > Contract / Proposal Sent > Closed Won or Closed Lost
Key Components Of A Healthy Sales Pipeline
1. Well defined deal stages
These are the internal or external prospect-facing steps taken to progress an opportunity towards purchasing.
2. Win/Loss criteria
At each stage there should be clear GIVE:GET actions i.e. What do I need to give the prospect to build trust, rapport or establish fit & what do I need to get from the prospect - budget, need, purchase authority, timescales - to send them to the next stage?
3. Close probability
Based on previous performance, ask yourself at each deal stage, what’s the percentage chance of this turning into a win?
How much is each deal + deal stage worth?
What are your projected revenue targets and how well does your pipeline track against them?
Who’s responsible for moving the deal forward? This could be the sales person themselves, or could be a specific stage that indicates that the ball is in the client's court.
Why Is A Sales Pipeline Essential?
Beyond forecasting, tracking deal progress and overall success, pipelines won’t just make it easier to plan ahead, they help with a whole host of day to day lead gen, Sales & Marketing activities, and planning.
Validating The Quality Of Your Marketing Leads
Unless you’re solely prospecting via cold calling or bought lists (which I hope you’re not?), there’s a good chance your digital marketing is generating the lion's share of leads that are flowing into the top of your pipeline.
By tracking or annotating the lead sources (Social Media, Events, Organic, PPC etc.) against each opportunity or deal, you’ll be able to close the loop on your marketing efforts so you can see which channels and campaigns brought you the most profitable leads.
The point of a pipeline is that there should be some clear next steps in order to close a deal. Each stage should have standard follow ups or Win/Loss criteria to keep things moving forward. Without proper sales pipeline management you might end up moving too fast and fail to build trust or even worse, lose track of deals and let valuable opportunities slip through the cracks.
Identifying Friction In Your Sales Process
By guiding your prospects through well-defined deal stages, you’ll be able to get an idea on where prospects typically stall or go cold. For example, if your prospects tend to drop off at the proposal or quoting stage, maybe you should build in an earlier stage to scope, present or pitch your proposal to increase your win probability.
Identifying Poor Fit Or Stale Opportunities
By having an idea of your average lead time in each stage, you’ll be able to gauge which leads are taking longer than usual to progress. This might be an issue around prospect fit or buy-in, in which case you might want to break things off to avoid wasting the lead's time and your own, or potentially give them some extra TLC to build more trust. Routinely sluggish progress can even suggest that you need to hire more sales staff to service the deals you have. The key thing is that you measure it in the first place!
Pulling It All Together
Trying to add insight without the data to back it up is a fool's errand. If you’ve been sporadically tracking deal progress and performance up to now it’s time to double your efforts. Track more metrics against the deals you are recording, share those reports with your marketing team and most importantly use the data to refine what it is you're already doing.
If you’re looking to put something together yourself check out the free template below that you can make your own.
If you’re looking for something more sophisticated instead, HubSpot’s free offering allows you to record deals against CRM contacts, and the sales starter licence (£33.60/mo for 2 users) will let you do the same from a deal pipeline dashboard. Find out more about HubSpot here.