Improve Sales Pipeline Management with your CRM

Best Practices | Customer

Sales pipeline management is a crucial aspect of successful sales strategies. It involves establishing, tracking and organizing the various stages of the sales process to ensure smooth and efficient conversion of prospects into customers. 

Visualizing this process through a pipeline funnel chart helps sales teams understand the progress made at each stage and identify any bottlenecks. 

It is important to note the difference between a sales funnel and a marketing funnel. While a sales funnel focuses on the actual steps in the sales process, the marketing funnel encompasses the entire customer journey. 

For example, sales funnel stages may be:

Prospecting>Qualification>Needs Analysis>Proposal>Negotiation>Close Won/Lost

A marketing funnel will include steps both before and after the sales funnel. Pre-sales funnel stages might be stages for awareness and consideration. Post sales funnel stages may include brand advocacy and referrals. 

The sales cycle refers to the amount of time it takes for a lead to become a customer; the sales pipeline for two companies can have the same exact stages, but company A can have leads progress through those stages a lot faster than company B. This means that the sales cycle for company A is shorter.

Sales pipeline management provides a clear framework for tracking and prioritizing deals, and adopting a sales pipeline funnel template can further streamline the process. By effectively managing the sales pipeline, businesses can improve sales efficiency, enhance customer relationship management, improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately drive revenue growth.

Sales Pipeline Stages

Sales pipeline stages, also known as opportunity pipeline stages, are essential for effective sales pipeline management. These stages represent the various steps that an opportunity goes through from initial contact to closing the deal. 

By categorizing prospects into different sales pipeline stages, sales teams can track their progress and allocate resources accordingly. Each stage is defined by specific actions and criteria, ensuring consistency and clarity in the sales process. Sales stages are often pre-defined within popular CRM platforms like Insightly, HubSpot or Salesforce, which provide a standardized framework for managing opportunities. Companies can use these predefined pipeline stages, or customize their own to fit their individual needs. 

Sales pipeline stage probability percentages

Gauge of lead stages

Each stage is typically associated with a percentage. This is the percent likelihood of that deal closing. The farther into the sales pipeline, the higher the percentage will be. Understanding the probability percentages associated with each sales pipeline stage helps salespeople gauge the likelihood of successfully closing a deal and prioritize their efforts accordingly. Again, popular CRMs will come with these percentages built in, but they can typically be changed both in your system settings and on an ad hoc basis by opportunity since there are nuances to every deal.

In the example above, the following percentages may be associated with each stage:

10% – Prospecting

20% – Qualification

30% – Needs Analysis

50% – Proposal

65% – Negotiation

100% – Close Won

These percentages help sales managers with forecasting. A deal of $10K is at a pipeline stage of proposal which corresponds to a 50% close rate, so the sales manager can forecast $5K for that deal. CRMs like Insightly will automatically make those calculations. With this logic across all deals that are in the pipeline, an accurate forecast can be developed. 

Sales pipeline stage activities and tasks

Your CRM may also associate Activity Sets with pipeline stages. These are groups of activities that take place within that stage. Your CRM can automatically create those activities once the pipeline stage has been changed, automating that process to ensure tasks are not overlooked. 

Sales Pipeline Management

You may ask, what is sales pipeline management? Sales pipeline management is a crucial aspect of running a successful business. It involves overseeing and optimizing the flow of deals throughout a defined and structured system.

It’s important to note that the generic term ‘pipeline management’ is most commonly associated with sales, but can be applicable in various other ways like project management, candidate recruitment, hiring and onboarding. So many of the skills you learn in sales pipeline management can translate to other industries or roles. 

Having efficient sales pipeline management skills is crucial for businesses to achieve their goals and objectives successfully. By implementing pipeline management best practices, such as using a CRM, utilizing a pipeline management process, a sales pipeline report, and a sales pipelines analysis report, companies can ensure a streamlined, repeatable, and organized approach to handling sales. Effective pipeline management not only helps track and monitor progress but also enables businesses to identify bottlenecks and areas for improvement. Therefore, understanding what pipeline management is and why it is important is essential for businesses to thrive in today’s competitive market. 

A sales manager must constantly monitor the pipeline viato ensure that the sales team is progressing deals along, to see what may be holding deals up, and to ensure he or she is producing an accurate forecast for the period. 

A sales manager will use many tools to manage the pipeline. This includes viewing the CRM, viewing CRM reports like a sales pipeline report (detailed below), having regular meetings with sales reps, and analyzing data for continuous improvement. 

Another benefit of sales pipeline management is how it can help in aligning sales and marketing efforts. As marketers gain visibility into the sales pipeline and associated reports (detailed below) they can better understand which lead types move quickly through the pipeline and close. This can feed into better intelligence when selecting target audiences for campaigns. Conversely, it can give them insight into which lead types stall and don’t close, and therefore may need additional nurture or be omitted from targeting altogether. 

What is a Sales Pipeline Report?

Reporting image with keyboard

A sales pipeline report is about managing opportunities and driving sales performance. It is a 

visual representation of the sales process. It will show a list of deals, what stage each is in, what the predicted close date is, and any additional notes that the team has provided. 

Customizing sales pipeline reports to your business is crucial. While reports will come with your CRM out of the box, it should be fairly easy with a modern CRM to modify them to fit your business (e.g. name the stages, indicate percentage chance of closing, associate activities with stages.)

This simple visualization is key in identifying bottlenecks in the sales process, identifying areas of improvement within the sales process, and therefore helping to improve efficiency

Forecasting revenue is a key function of a sales pipeline report. Based on the progression of opportunities through the pipeline, the value of each deal, and the percentage probability associated with each stage, teams can accurately predict revenue by period (e.g. month, quarter, etc.)

A sales pipeline report helps teams in prioritizing sales efforts based on the stage and value of each opportunity. For instance, a big deal in a late stage may need the attention of the CSO – or even the CEO – to pull it over the line. This will become visible with a sales pipeline report. Businesses must regularly review and update pipeline data to ensure accuracy and relevance.

A benefit of sales pipeline reports can be saved as PDF or Excel files for easy sharing with stakeholders to foster collaboration and transparency.

What is a Sales Pipeline Analysis Report?

Sales pipeline analysis is a crucial tool for businesses looking to optimize their sales process and boost revenue. With pipeline analysis, companies can gain valuable insights into their sales funnel and identify areas for improvement. By analyzing key metrics such as conversion rates, deal velocity, and win/loss ratios, organizations can better understand the efficiency and effectiveness of their sales efforts. 

Beyond a standard sales pipeline report noted above, the sales pipeline analysis report which will be available to produce directly from your CRM. A pipeline analysis report goes deeper and provides a comprehensive overview of the sales pipeline, highlighting key trends and patterns. You may use the sales pipeline report daily or even weekly, while the pipeline analysis report may be created and distributed monthly or even quarterly to have more data for an accurate assessment and to see meaningful trends over time.

Whether you’re an aspiring sales professional or a seasoned business owner, understanding both the pipeline report and the importance of a pipeline analysis report is essential for achieving sustainable growth.

Pipeline Management Process

A pipeline management process is a critical component of any business. While there are standard processes and templates to work from, you will need to develop a process that best fits your business and your goals.

To set up a process, you’ll need to think through who in your organization must be involved in and tracking of potential opportunities and leads as they progress through the pipeline. Pipeline management has a large role in maximizing revenue and achieving business goals, so people on your revenue team will likely be involved. 

A large part of your pipeline management process will start in your CRM. You’ll be establishing the sales pipeline report template (detailed above) and then viewing and analyzing those reports on certain days of the week or times of the month. Will a member of your team summarize the report for leadership and deliver it? Will that person be in sales leadership? Revenue operations? Will there be a formal meeting or communication channel for those involved to discuss the report and make decisions based on the data? 

Will the same team review a sales pipeline analysis report monthly or quarterly? And again, will there be a formal meeting or communication channel for those involved to discuss the report and make decisions based on the data? 

These details will make up your process. As with any process, it’s important to make decisions on how often the process itself will be reviewed to determine if it’s meeting the needs of the organization. Should there be more (or fewer) people involved in the pipeline management process? As the organization grows, adds new lines of business or products, how does that impact your pipeline management process? Revisiting your process will ensure that these needs are addressed. Whether you are operating in a startup, a small business, a mid sized business or an enterprise, the pipeline process is vital to growth, success, and communication. 

Your CRM and Sales Pipeline Management

By following these best practices and learning from the examples of successful companies, businesses can improve their pipeline management and achieve better sales results. Effective pipeline management leads to increased efficiency, better customer relationships, and ultimately, higher revenue.

With an understanding of sales pipeline management, you’ll gain increased visibility into the sales process, be able to identify and overcome bottlenecks and inefficiencies, and ultimately make data-driven decisions to optimize sales strategies.

Your CRM should enable your team to effectively manage your pipeline and build meaningful reports that help leaders stay aware and engaged on revenue.  If you are in the market for a new CRM, or looking to move away from a pricey, legacy CRM, it’s a great time to explore Insightly. Insightly is a modern CRM that is flexible and affordable. Its pipeline management functions will help you build and convert pipeline with effective sales pipeline and lead management functions. You can start a free trial, watch a demo-on-demand, or set a time for a personalized demo with the Insightly team to explore the specifics of the Insightly pipeline management functions.