10 Steps to Build a Sales Pipeline


An effective sales organization in today’s landscape depends on more than just talented reps. One of the best things you can do to make your sales skyrocket is to create an impeccable system and train your reps to follow it every time. A well-designed sales pipeline can make sales a science, save tons of time and eliminate a lot of unnecessary mistakes. Here’s how to build a well-oiled sales machine that runs itself!

Attention can help train your reps to follow your pipeline and get results faster than ever before. Our AI technology gives real-time feedback and tracks progress on a variety of metrics over time.

What is a Sales Pipeline?

Basically, a pipeline is just a way to systemize sales and create a process that can be replicated, so you don’t have to rely on virtuoso performances from your star reps. Those ae-re great too of course, but a pipeline ensures they have something to fall back on. Having a system in place creates consistency, and as we’ve discussed in other articles, consistency is the #1 factor in a sales team’s success!

Pipeline vs Funnel

So what differentiates this from a funnel? They have a lot of overlap. Your funnel tracks the different phases your buyer may go through during a sale; it is geared towards the buyer and describes their journey, while the pipeline provides the steps your salespeople need to follow throughout the process. Many pipeline steps have equivalent stages in a sales funnel.

  1. Systematic Sales Process

Your pipeline process should be as specific as possible, with every step detailed and fleshed out for your reps. The essential stages of a pipeline are as follows:

  • Identifying targets
  • First contact
  • Setting up a meeting or call
  • Making a proposal
  • Closing the deal

You can follow this basic skeleton, but get into the nitty-gritty of each of these stages and break them down into smaller and smaller steps. The less vague, the better.

  1. Gather Leads and Set targets

The preliminary stage of the pipeline should involve setting sales and profit goals and collecting as many leads as possible. Consistently generating a high number of quality leads is an essential aspect of any sales operation. Whether your lead gathering process is automated or manual, make sure this step of the pipeline runs perfectly.

You should set targets for lead generation based on your sales goals. You can run numbers, such as the minimum number of leads you need to collect on average in order to meet your yearly targets.

  1. Qualifying Leads

After collecting leads, it is very important to qualify them based on how responsive they are and how likely to buy. This enables you to focus on the most probable leads and can save you an astronomical amount of time. Make sure you have a system in place to qualify leads efficiently!

This step usually takes the form of emails or phone calls to determine if the lead responds, has a need your project can fill, and might have an adequate budget.

  1. Do your Research

The research phase of your pipeline has to be impeccable to ensure properly qualified leads and productive sales calls. Make sure the information you’re going by is accurate- mistakes are extremely common at this stage. Your data collecting systems should be on point, and lead generation forms should be accurate and informative. Your reps also have to do their own additional research before each call to make sure they are informed about the prospect.

  1. Identifying Pain Points

A good pipeline includes a process for identifying specific pain points before every call. The goal is to be as targeted as possible, and making sure your reps know as much as possible about their prospects’ needs before every call is going to have a massive impact on their success rates.

  1. Following Up Consistently

You need to ensure your reps always follow up after a lead has been qualified. Surprisingly often, glitches in the system prevent this from taking place. A prompt, speedy follow-up is key when a hot lead has been identified.

  1. Pare Down the Sales Cycle

You should always be looking for ways to shorten the sales cycle. Time is of the essence in sales, and your pipeline needs to include a process to increase speed and efficiency. You don’t want long stretches of time to go by during the steps of the pipeline- this means an increased risk of your leads turning cold!

  1. Closing the Deal

Closing is, of course, a critical part of sales. Though it is often treated more like an art, you need to make a science out of it and develop a process that your reps can replicate again and again.  This comes through training and experience, which will help your reps develop confidence in this process.

  1. Good CRM

Getting a high-quality CRM can make a significant contribution to your pipeline. It can enable you to keep track and qualify leads more effectively and track your metrics.

  1. Keep It Moving

The most important aspect of a sales pipeline is keeping it in motion. There is always a possible next step at any stage of the process, and you need to train your reps to identify the next possible move they can take and always strike while the iron is hot, never forgetting about a lead or keeping a prospect waiting. This is achieved by breaking the whole process into tiny steps and by emphasizing speed and urgency to your reps. A pipeline is only as good as its momentum.

Sales is a process, not an event. In order to find success in the long term, you need to follow a systematic sales process that outlines your strategy from start to finish and includes these 10 steps. Gather leads and set targets to get started on the right foot by setting clear objectives at the beginning of each process.

Do your research before contacting prospects so you can identify their needs or pain points more quickly. Qualify leads by following up consistently with them until they are ready to close the deal–or let go if necessary!

Attention can help train your junior reps and track how they are sticking to the pipeline steps you have in place. Give us a try!

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