Sales Pipeline Examples
Implementing a sales pipeline strategy allows businesses to forecast revenue by examining leads in the pipeline and determining if and when they will become closed deals. A successful sales pipeline strategy helps businesses identify actions that will generate the most revenue. But what exactly is a pipeline?
Learn more below.
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Sales pipeline examples
Tracking performance metrics and leveraging data is vital to guarantee consistent, successful lead generation. However, without a proper system in place, accessing and organizing this critical data can get messy. That’s where a sales pipeline comes into play.
Implementing a sales pipeline strategy allows businesses to forecast revenue by examining leads in the pipeline and determining if and when they will become closed deals. A successful sales pipeline strategy helps businesses identify actions that will generate the most revenue. But what exactly is a pipeline? And what tools are needed to optimize a sales pipeline strategy? Read on to discover some examples of how a sales pipeline functions and how Collective[i] helps businesses make the most out of their historical data as well as third-party data sources.
What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline documents how a prospect interacts with sellers at each stage of the sales process. The benefit to using a sales pipeline is that data is collected as prospects move through each step of the buyer’s journey, and sales teams can learn from that data. For example, they can better identify when to funnel dead-end leads out of the equation. It is important to note that not all sales pipelines are created equal — the difference lies in the technology a company uses for its sales pipeline. Simply updating an Excel spreadsheet won’t cut it in most cases.
Prospecting is time-consuming and one of the most challenging aspects of a sales representative’s job. However, using a sales pipeline enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) takes the burden off of sales professionals and assists them in making data-driven decisions instead of using guesswork to prospect leads. AI sales technology helps solve prospecting problems by providing insight into which sales processes or actions work and which ones should be eliminated.
Collective[i]’s Intelligent InsightsTM directs sales teams toward the actions that will encourage a prospect to move through the sales pipeline. The tool analyzes first- and third-party data to make informed recommendations that are customized to a company’s goals.
Sales pipeline vs. sales funnel
Now, sales pipelines are not to be confused with sales funnels or sales forecasts. Each process has an entirely different purpose. A sales pipeline is designed to track the current list of leads that a sales team is working on. As the pipeline tracks those leads, it collects data.
This data allows sales representatives to qualify each prospect’s earning potential and decide if a lead is worth pursuing or is a dead-end that should be put on hold. AI-enabled technology tracks the data in real time as the sales team works through its daily sales activities.
In comparison, the sales funnel functions as a visualization of a buyer’s journey. Primarily used in marketing, the sales funnel accounts for the stages of the buyer’s journey that a prospect goes through before committing to a deal. There are four primary sales funnel stages: awareness, interest, desire, and action.
Converting an interested party into a loyal customer requires collaboration between the marketing and sales departments. The marketing department ignites prospects’ interest and increases their desire so that the sales team can convince those prospects to take action. The sales pipeline and sales funnel function in tandem to ensure that this process runs smoothly.
Sales pipeline vs. sales forecast
As mentioned above, a sales pipeline tracks every opportunity a sales representative is currently working on. This includes new prospects and existing clients.
In contrast, a sales forecast estimates how many of the deals in the pipeline are likely to close and the revenue they are expected to bring in. The sales forecast is informed by the data collected in the sales funnel and pipeline. It shows sales teams if they are likely to meet their goals and acts as a guide, helping them decide if they should stay on the same path or pivot their efforts in another direction to meet revenue targets.
Gathering data from the sales pipeline and using it to track progress toward the sales forecast is a monumental undertaking, but AI-enabled technology simplifies it. Part of Collective[i]’s mission is to help sellers bridge the gap between the sales pipeline and forecast. Collective[i]’s Predictive PipelinesTM provides insight into the activities of the sales team, customer success team, and marketing team, making it easier for companies to align individual department objectives with the broader company goals. In addition, the Intelligent ForecastTM uses AI to deliver a daily, adaptive forecast based on a vast network of dynamic market data — not just a company’s sales pipeline — that removes human error from the sales forecasting process.
How to set up a sales pipeline
Sales processes are unique for every business. Therefore, each sales pipeline should reflect the specific goals and needs of the company. There are general guidelines to follow when generating an outline for a sales pipeline. However, it should be noted that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to setting up a sales pipeline. Here are the most critical steps a business should take when creating its sales pipeline formula.
Identify the stages of the sales pipeline.
The first step in creating a sales pipeline is to align its stages with the stages of the buyer’s journey: awareness, consideration, decision, and closing. Learn more about pipeline stages in the section below.
Quantify the number of leads that continue through each stage in the sales pipeline.
A business needs to calculate how long it takes prospects to get through each stage before committing to a sale. Identifying these standards helps sales representatives predict which opportunities will lead to a closed deal. For example, if a prospect is moving through the pipeline stages with ease, then the sales representative knows to push the decision-making process forward. Conversely, if a prospect is taking longer than average to move through any one stage, that would indicate that the prospect is disinterested.
Identify similarities between opportunities.
Discover which sales actions lead to conversion in each stage. This includes tracking sales activities and the responses a prospect has to those activities. This helps businesses understand which of their sales activities are most effective as well as recurring behaviors in their customers.
Adjust the sales process based on insights from the data it collects.
Analyzing sales pipeline data allows businesses to adjust their sales processes so that each action taken by the sales team has more impact and brings a prospect closer to closing a deal.
Build on the existing pipeline.
Businesses should avoid falling behind on prospecting and make an effort to add to their pipelines regularly. Many sales professionals tend to overfocus on selling to prospects already in the pipeline and neglect prospecting, which is a key sales activity that leads to a healthy pipeline.
What are the stages of a sales pipeline?
Sales pipeline stages represent the steps a prospect takes in a sales process before becoming a customer. Every B2B sales process is different. However, it’s possible to identify a standard set of sales pipeline stages. Here is a list of standard B2B pipeline stages.
The prospecting stage is the process of lead generation. This is where a sales team will want to grab their audience’s attention and begin to qualify possible leads.
In this stage, the salesperson is alerted that a potential lead is showing interest. An example of this would be if a potential client signs up for a monthly newsletter or has opened many marketing emails. This activity would alert the salesperson to the possible lead and encourage them to follow up.
This is the stage where the prospect begins to evaluate if they want to go through with a purchase. The salesperson in this stage must encourage the prospect, by questioning them to fully understand their requirements, share all the relevant information that a prospect needs about the product, and addressing any concern that the individual may have.
This happens after the seller completes the deal, but this does not mean the job is over. After the sale is closed, the customer success and marketing teams are now responsible for keeping the client engaged and maintaining that relationship. It’s far easier to sell to an existing client. Therefore, extra care should be taken to maintain an excellent relationship with current clients even after a sale is complete.
Why is pipeline management important?
Effectively managing and strategizing a sales pipeline is critical to generate revenue in today’s business climate. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies with a formal sales process generate more revenue. Its report states that companies with effective pipeline management had an average growth rate of 5.3, a 15% increase over companies with ineffective pipeline management. The study also found that companies that defined a formal sales process had 18% more revenue growth than companies that didn’t.
Some examples of fundamental pipeline management principles are having a clearly defined sales process, setting aside regularly scheduled time for pipeline management, and investing in training for sales managers in pipeline strategies and techniques.
What makes a good sales pipeline?
How does an organization determine if its pipeline is set to succeed? Here are some best practices for creating a winning sales pipeline strategy.
Leveraging human connection
It is imperative that B2B sales representatives make a human connection with their prospects, which allows sales representatives to effectively network and build lasting relationships with customers. Setting aside some time to think through a potential customer’s concerns and questions over the phone or in person can make all the difference when it comes to closing a deal or maintaining a relationship. AI sales tech supports business-relationship building. For example, Collective[i] ConnectorsTM helps businesses leverage their network of contacts to initiate warm introductions and to share experiences with different buying organizations and people.
It is vital for customer success, marketing, and sales teams to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of their potential clients’ business. They also need to establish trust with each prospect by operating with complete transparency regarding their motives and objectives. Choosing the appropriate activities to fit into a sales pipeline is directly related to this concept. Companies need to analyze the data and adequately evaluate what their audience values to choose the most effective approach in their sales pipelines.
Having the right technology
Businesses need their CRM and sales pipeline technology to be innovative, adaptable, and reliable. When choosing the right programs, business leaders must assess why they should implement these technologies. They must have clear objectives and a direct set of problems to solve. Otherwise, organizations might not achieve the target results they desire.
What is the best software for sales?
For the best software in sales, look no further than Collective[i]. Now more than ever, it is vital that sales and marketing teams stay connected. Collective[i]’s Intelligent WriteBackTM enables marketing and sales teams to have access to the most up-to-date critical data surrounding each prospect or existing customer in their respective pipelines. Intelligent WriteBackTM pulls information from communication channels such as email and automatically updates the CRM. This allows for greater ease in cross-department communication about customer touchpoints and lead generation.
Collective[i]’s Virtual DealRoomTM functions as a communication center where all teams can meet and discuss their individual and collective progress on each prospect.
Effective sales pipelines have smart technology such as Collective[i] behind them. Collective[i] makes it easy to prospect new opportunities and maintain existing customer relationships; it transforms the sales pipeline into a tool that arms sales teams with the insight they need to succeed in the current business climate.
To create a successful sales pipeline and strategy, businesses need a forward-thinking resource that enables their sales, marketing, and customer success teams to serve current customers better and connect with new ones. Collective[i] is the solution. Check out one of our product demos today and see for yourself.