Published in


An introduction to sales pipelines

What is a sales pipeline and how to optimise one

What is a sales pipeline?

When a sales team prospects leads and accompanies them through the sales cycle, a prospect’s likelihood to become a customer will evolve based on their interactions, the fit and their own readiness to buy. A sales pipeline sorts a business’ potential customers’ into stages based on their stage in the journey so that a sales team can allocate the tight type and amount of efforts to an opportunity based on their stage in the sales pipeline. A sales pipeline is also used by sales teams to measure the total number of deals and determine if a sufficient number of new leads is being created to reach sales targets. Sales pipelines collect data which can be used to identify and improve inefficiencies in the sales process.

What are the sales pipeline stages?

The different stages of a sales pipeline will vary based on the market and the nature of the solution. For example, SaaS might have a stage dedicated to a demo and another to a trial whereas some more established B2B sales teams might not offer trials. Regardless of the nature of the market or solution, the goal of the initial stages is to qualify opportunities. Qualifying prospects means determining if they are a good fit for your solution, have the budget and the ability to make a decision within a reasonable time frame. Marketing teams will often generate marketing qualified leads for the sales team which is why it is important the two teams are aligned so that the qualification by the sales team is mainly focused on budget and identifying the right decision makers.

What is the difference between a pipeline in sales and a pipeline in marketing?

The marketing team’s function is to create a market for the sales team. This means creating demand for the organisation’s solution by sharing promotional information about benefits and ROI. This promotional material can include case studies, videos, adverts and any type of content which can collect “interested” prospects. A marketing funnel pipeline will therefore have stages based on the intent of the prospect. For example, a prospect registering for a demo is more qualified than a prospect registering for a webinar. Marketing teams will then nurture the higher funnel prospects with more content and hand over the qualified prospects to the sales teams. A marketing pipeline therefore needs to be aligned with the sales pipeline in order to ensure a smooth transition between the two which will in turn increase sales.

Choosing a sales pipeline template

A sales pipeline template can help structure your sales efforts and collect valuable data to identify and optimise inefficiencies. There are a number of sales pipeline templates which can be downloaded online but the key thing is to choose a simple template to start with. Overly complicating a sales pipeline will create friction in the sales process and prevent you from understanding if the stages are the right steps. The following pipeline is an example 4 stage template:

  1. Qualified: a salesperson has qualified the lead through a conversation.
  2. Negotiation: the potential customer has had multiple conversations with the salesperson and has identified they need the solution. The terms are then negotiated and formalised in a contract.
  3. Closed: at the last stage of the pipeline, the contract is finalised and signed. The prospect has become a paying customer.

Best practices for sales pipeline management

A sales pipeline is not static and needs to be managed properly in order to successfully convert prospects into paying customers. There are number of best practices which should be followed when managing your pipeline. The first best practice is to establish sales targets and use the right metrics in order to monitor them. For example, if your sales target is to close within a certain number of deals in a period of time then you should look at the amount of time it takes the average opportunity to progress to the next stage and the percentage of opportunities which get stuck in each stage. You need to have the right metrics to understand if your pipeline is mainly constituted of lots of small opportunities or a few large ones. Having the right metrics will allow you to accurately measure your conversion rate and your team’s sales performance. Finally, it is important to make sure that you are constantly refreshing your leads and removing stale opportunities so that your metrics are not exaggerated. Opportunities which do not move can be parked in a separate pipeline to be revived at a later date.

Choosing a CRM to manage the sales pipeline

Once you have determined your sales pipeline template and understand the best practices for sales pipeline management, you can choose a CRM to manage your pipeline. A CRM is a customer relationship management tool which can be as simple as an excel spreadsheet or as sophisticated as Salesforce. A CRM essentially stores a prospect’s contact information and allows you to place leads into a sales pipelines. CRMs also offer visual representations of the pipeline which can help sales leaders make better decisions.

Choosing a contract management platform to boost your sales

CRM platforms help automate a lot of the admin work involved in sales process including the contract creation stage. Creating a contract with a CRM often involves generating a standard pdf with the deal terms which can then be sent to the prospect for electronic signature. Whilst this might seem like a time saving step for creating contracts, it will slow down your contracting efforts in the longer term. This is because the experience is not optimal for customers, especially when variations to the contracts are required, and contracts can’t easily be managed in a CRM. A more suitable approach is to use a contract management platform which can easily integrate to your CRM. A contract management platform should store and maintain contract templates which your sales team can tailor to specific customer requirements. Using a contract management platform also means that other team members such as the legal and finance teams can access contract data directly without having to interfere with the sales activities. Customers can also access their contracts from the contract management portal which allows them to easily keep track of contract events without having to sift through their contract.

About Legislate

Legislate is an early stage legal technology startup which allows large landlords, letting agents and small businesses to easily create, sign and manage contracts that are prudent and fair. Legislate’s platform is built on its patented knowledge graph which streamlines the contracting process and aggregates contract statistics to quickly unlock valuable insights. Legislate’s team marries technical and legal expertise to create a painless, smart contracting experience for its users. Legislate is backed by Parkwalk Advisors, Perivoli Innovations and angel investors.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store