6 essential sales pipeline stages you should use
The sales pipeline should be at the heart of any sales team – that has their finger on the pulse!
It provides insight into future deals, team performance and is a crucial input into creating an accurate sales forecast.
Getting the pipeline stages right can have a positive impact on the accuracy of the pipeline – meaning better sales forecasts and reporting. Read more about how to achieve better sales forecasting using a CRM and QuarterOne in our blog post.
If you get your stages wrong, this can effect your sales velocity, team moral and performance. The data in the pipeline won’t be accurate meaning any exported information that is being used in management reports could be incorrect – which isn’t good news for any business.
Creating pipeline stages
When creating your pipeline stages it’s important to make sure your pipeline is understandable cross all teams – invest some time creating meaningful stages that represent real steps in the buyers’ journey. Keeping the stages as simple as possible will help make sure they are understood and applied consistently.
Here’s a short guide on the essential and most commonly used and understood pipeline stages.
1. Prospecting / Qualification
The first stage is most essential part of any sales process. This is the very beginning, your sales team are doing research, attending trade-shows and networking events to gather as many leads as they can. Next they will be reaching out to the newly identified leads via various channels.
These leads don’t know much about your company yet and the sales team have yet to understand their needs fully or build rapport – but there’s plenty of time for that in the next stage. During this stage the new leads will also be qualified as genuine potential customers – once they are qualified, they are officially prospects.
2. Meeting Scheduled
Next comes the first big meeting with the prospect. The sales rep may already have had an initial exchange via email or on the phone but the ‘meeting scheduled’ stage means the first significant meeting is in the diary. This is the time for the sales rep to shine – to introduce their company and services in a succinct way and also understand the needs of the prospect.
It’s also a fact finding meeting, a time when the sales rep should identify any pain points, incumbents, and start to build the requirements for the deal to move forwards.
3. Quote Requested
Ok, so you now know more about the prospect and they know about you (your company). This is where nurturing the prospect becomes important – making sure regular and timely communications are made. Clever lead nurturing helps push things along, and encourages the prospect to request a quote.
Once that quote is requested, it’s all systems go to produce a great proposal for your prospect – depending on your business and product you should tailor your proposal as much as possible.
4. Proposal Sent
This is the stage where the sales rep takes a deep breath and crosses their fingers! The proposal has been sent, there is nothing more to do at this stage, other than wait. It’s normal to have to chase a prospect for feedback, most of the time a proposal from a new supplier will often get put to the bottom of the to-do pile depending on the urgency of the requirement. Once the prospect has responded with any questions we are fully in the negotiation stage.
Probably the least favourite stage for the sales team, the end is in sight but sometimes can feel like there is a mountain still to climb. There could be a lot of backwards and forwards between the prospect and the business – everyone wants to make sure they are getting a fair and good deal. Often negotiation can go on longer than desired but persevering and being patient can pay off!
6. Closed Won / Closed Lost
And, you’ve made it! It’s decision day, well done for getting your prospect to the final stage. It’s a simple yes or no that decides how this stage is closed. Then it’s time to start over again!