A sales pipeline doesn’t just make it easy to visualize the progression from lead to customer; it also helps you anticipate the likelihood of hitting your revenue target.
And a full sales pipeline drives higher chances of conversions and revenue growth. That’s why 70% of chief sales officers are investing in (or thinking about investing in) ways to boost their sales pipelines, according to Gartner.
If you’re searching for a pipeline strategy that ensures your ADRs/SDRs have a full sales pipeline to work with, read on to learn how to get started.
What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a visual representation of a lead's journey to becoming a customer. It also includes the sales activities required to convert a lead into a customer and shows the value of each open deal and opportunity. This makes using a sales pipeline an ideal tool for predicting revenue growth.
A sales pipeline is often confused with a sales funnel. But they’re very different.
A sales funnel captures the buyer’s journey from awareness and interest to decision-making, while a sales pipeline shows the actions a sales rep must take to guide a lead to convert based on where they are in the sales process.
In a nutshell, you get an overview of each stage of the sales process, making it easy to optimize each one.
What are the stages in a sales pipeline?
Your sales process, company stage, and buyer's journey determine what your sales pipeline looks like. However, most sales pipelines will have the following:
- Prospecting: The first stage of a sales pipeline is finding prospects who need your product. Sales reps can do this manually or use a prospecting tool to automate the process.
- Lead qualification: The next step is to check if the leads from your prospecting efforts fit your ideal customer profile (ICP).
- Sales outreach: If the leads are a fit, your sales team initiates contact with them. And kickstarts a conversation about why they should be using your product.
- Follow up: This is where your reps follow up with leads who have not responded or given any feedback after they get in touch. You can pinpoint what they need to move past this stage by being perceptive of their specific pain points.
- Conversion: Leads convert once they understand the value of your product and why they need it. At the end of this stage, the lead becomes a customer or a closed-lost.
What is a pipeline strategy?
A pipeline strategy is a thoughtful plan that guides prospects through each stage your pipeline. In order to build a strategy that fills the pipeline make sure you clearly understand your sales pipeline stages and your ideal target customer.
4 ways to build a successful sales pipeline strategy
A full sales pipeline leads to more opportunities and increases your team’s win rate. But having a full pipeline doesn’t happen by chance. Here are four ways to build out a successful sales pipeline strategy to fill the pipeline and boost revenue quickly.
1. Set up a sales process
Your sales pipeline strategy needs to be built on a solid sales process. In fact, companies with a formal sales process experience 28% higher revenue growth than others, as reported by the Harvard Business Review
That being said, pipeline strategies are unique to each company. So you can’t use a generic process and expect to get results.
To start, you’ll need to have a deep understanding of your ideal customer, their motivations, and their buying behavior to build a unique sales process that guides your pipeline activities.
“A good sales pipeline is the foundation of your business,” says Krittin Kalra, founder of WriteCream. “It's not a matter of getting more leads or sales; it's a matter of getting more qualified leads and more qualified sales. If you have a good sales pipeline, you'll always have sales.”
To build a good sales pipeline, Kalra recommends creating a strategy for each lead and outlining your plan for converting leads into customers.
Kalra adds that to start chalking out your pipeline strategy, ask yourself these questions:
- How will you contact leads?
- What will you say to leads?
- How will you help your leads?
- What is the timeline for the lead to make a purchase decision?
- What actions will you take if the lead doesn’t make a decision quickly enough?
- What is your plan for a follow-up?
Your answers will help your revenue team to understand what defines a high-quality lead. They also provide clarity to sales reps about which activities to focus on and the right cadence to follow to convert leads to customers, boosting sales performance.
2. Stay on top of your sales pipeline strategy
If you operate in an industry with long sales cycles, poor pipeline management creates loopholes for deals to fall through. The risk is lower with shorter sales cycles. But it still exists.
Sales pipeline management involves:
- Keeping track of prospects as they move through different stages of the pipeline.
- Monitoring deals to completion.
- Analyzing the sales process to remove bottlenecks and shorten sales cycles.
For you and your team to maintain a healthy pipeline, “communicate regularly with your sales team and make sure they are on the same page about what they need from you and how they plan to do their job effectively,” advises Padmaja Santhanama, Partner and Growth Manager at FirstPrinciples.
Better sales pipeline management ensures you:
- Know how many deals you have in your pipeline and the status of each deal — making it easy to predict revenue and spot opportunities to accelerate the sales cycle.
- Know who is responsible for each account and ensure that accounts are properly distributed to sales reps.
- Understand what a lead needs to continue their journey by removing any barriers that arise.
3. Implement a robust lead generation strategy
“The best way to ensure that your ADRs/SDRs have a full sales pipeline is to implement a robust lead generation strategy,” says Will Yang, Head of Growth at Instrumentl.
By not having a system for generating qualified leads, you end up with an empty sales pipeline and revenue decline. However, before implementing a lead generation strategy, Yang recommends identifying your target market and creating buyer personas. “Once you know your ideal customers, you can start creating content that appeals to their needs and pain points.”
The next step is to make sure you optimize your lead generation channels. Yang says, “make sure your website is optimized for lead generation, with clear calls to action and forms that encourage visitors to provide their contact information. Then leverage paid advertising, social media, and email marketing to reach a wider audience.”
4. Track customer job changes
This sales pipeline strategy is one of the most simple and effective ways of filling the pipeline with warm leads – tracking job changes of your previous customers.
For example, if you have 10,000 customer contacts (including decision-makers, influencers, admin users, and power users):
- 2,000 of those are already at new companies, and
- 2,000 more will change their jobs in the next 12 months.
That’s a total of 4,000 leads for your sales pipeline this year. More importantly, these prospects already knew your product from their previous companies.
They are more likely to respond and buy from you again than your average leads, yielding higher conversion rates and lowering your cost per lead.
During times of uncertainty, businesses tighten their spending and are more hesitant to buy new tools. Having internal champions who have used your product to advocate during a deal could make a huge difference in whether you make the sale or not.
Your pipeline strategy drives revenue growth
A sales pipeline full of qualified leads is the dream for B2B sales teams. But it won’t happen without a sales pipeline strategy that creates a steady stream of leads for your sales reps to reach out to.
Creating a sales process will help align the team on what to do at each stage to achieve their revenue targets. And by making sure your pipeline strategy includes tracking past prospects, there’ll be more than enough qualified leads for your team to pursue.
Boost your sales pipeline with UserGems
Tracking job changes helps you fill your pipeline with warm leads. Now, it might seem impossible to track, but with sales intelligence software like UserGems, you can automate this process and personalize your outreach, providing you with a ton of warm leads to fill your pipeline gap. Schedule a demo call to see how you can get quality leads delivered to your target accounts.