fbpx

FREE COURSE: Build your business from zero to 200k+ months

Building an Effective Sales Pipeline In 8 Stages

Building a sales pipeline can be one of the most effective ways to manage and support your sales team. If done right, it will help you to sell more, to do it with an unrivalled efficiency and it will help ensure that the correct procedure is followed with every sale.

Why is a sales pipeline beneficial?

The bottom line is that sales pipelines within our business should help grow our business and do so more easily. However many complementary benefits help the wider sales team and other business functions.

Process

If you set a process to follow the stages of your sales pipeline, you can train your team to ensure they are fully aware of all aspects of the sales process. 

This benefits the company from many viewpoints including standardisation of training and development and selling techniques. This allows you to spot team weaknesses and to address them head-on.

Systemisation

If you have a standardised process, repetitive tasks can be automated and those that can’t are refined to reduce the input level needed within the sales process. 

Systemisation could include many elements required in the sales pipeline.

  • Default or canned response emails
  • Automatic follow-ups to quotes
  • Recording of sales data to understand where the sales drop off for each rep.

Have you ever worked with a salesperson who manages their onboarding as well as they did the sale?

Systemisation ensures your wider team has the best opportunity to deliver the project or service sold. Systemisation helps ensure the right information is passed over and in the correct format.

Quality control

Many sales team members freestyle a little too often. And rarely is it done with malice or bad intentions. However, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and misunderstandings happen. Sometimes the weakest link in any process is the human element. By utilising the systems and processes that a sales pipeline offers, you can reduce errors or in the event they do happen, rectify them promptly.

Increased effectiveness

Regarding sales, so much time can be wasted completing tasks that add no value to the client. Back-and-forth emails, paperwork and approval documents can eat up hours of any work week. By using sales pipelines or creating business systems, following the process correctly should allow the sales team to focus more on the areas that help them sell and less on admin.

One huge productivity hack I shared recently was shortcut text prompts for Apple users. Within the dictionary app, set up short codes for common or regularly used sentences or words. 

Building a library of these and dispersing them to your team can save minutes on every client interaction.

Some regular shortcuts I use are:

URL = https://moveatpace.com

IYN = If you need anything else at all, please just shout. 

NP = no problem at all 

I also have default responses to quote acceptances saved within the CRM we use to speed up the sales close and onboarding process.

Reduced staffing

“Business would be easy except for customers and staff”. I’m not sure if I made this quote up or not, but I’m claiming it.

Doing the work is rarely the hardest part of business. Managing people is.

If you could do better work, at the same volume but with less of a team, how would that benefit your bottom line?

Overstaffing is a common problem for high-growth businesses and this happens not through will but from a reduced focus on efficiency in processes and often from in sales, from an undefined sales pipeline.

Stages of a Sales Pipeline

A great sales pipeline shouldn’t be difficult to create. It should directly reflect the processes and stages of a sale you need to win and onboard business.

stages of an effective sales pipeline

For service-based businesses, an effective sales pipeline might look something like this:

  • Prospecting
  • Lead qualification
  • Meeting/demo
  • Proposal
  • Negotiation/commitment
  • Closing the deal
  • Onboarding
  • Retention

Prospecting

Building a list of prospects to target is one of the most laborious tasks of any sales process. Every year you need to populate this with hundreds or thousands of new leads. 

Some leads will be inbound to you, but for many new and growing agencies, the focus must be on building a solid list of prospects to target.

How do you do this?

You could scour the internet, finding people and businesses on LinkedIn or Google. Attend industry events or exhibitions or you can buy databases with company details. But the company is only the first part of any great prospecting list. You also need to find out who the decision maker is within the business. LinkedIn is often the go-to for many sales professionals, but it never hurts to pick up the phone and ask as well.

Qualification

Qualifying a lead is a two-way conversation. It’s not just about finding out your prospect’s budget, but for a great salesperson, it’s finding out if you are the right fit and if your product/service fully supports their needs.

The qualification stage is often when you have a meeting or a sales call. This is your time to listen to the prospect and to understand their requirements. 

It is your opportunity to share information about your product/service and then relate this back to the client’s needs.

Meeting with prospects should be your chance to overcome objections before they are asked. This is something you can build upon over time, but be aware of what the key objections you receive are and directly address these face-to-face.

Finally, it is your opportunity to ask for the sale. In many service-based businesses, this might come later, but if your services and the client’s needs align, you should be in a position to send a proposal.

Proposal

Speed of response gets the sale.

In business, we would often have a quote back to the client, have it approved, and the job completed and delivered to our clients before our competitors had even responded.

We were able to do this because we built the systems and processes to do so. 

Our agreement was that we’d have a quote back within 1 working day and the follow-up completed a day later. For our print business, this was reduced to 1 hour for a quote and 12 hours (or the next business period) for the follow-up.

Technical proposals may take longer, but systemising this process to ensure a prompt response is key.

Negotiation

Negotiation is part of business, but pre-empting this is key. Allow the opportunity to negotiate on your price if you have to, but this shouldn’t be your default. Are there options to add a value-add to the project?

This way you retain full value for the primary project and allow your client to move into longer-term support without costing them money. From your business perspective, you are aiming to reduce client churn and increase client spend by showing what’s achievable with your continued service. 

Closing

For non-sales people, and even for some seasoned pros, asking for the sale is often the hardest part of the sale pipeline. But it’s necessary, not just to achieve any level of sales, but to be a high-performing team.

Asking for the sale is just that. 

“Are you happy to proceed with the quote” should be the default response when following up on your proposal.

My top tip for this stage of the sales process is to make sure you follow up when you say you will. It would amaze you the amount of people who put the work in, and get meetings scheduled and proposals sent, only to ignore the follow-up. I get it, we’re all busy, but closing business is the name of the game. And we mustn’t fall at the final step.

Onboarding

Poor onboarding is a quick way to lose clients and ruin the reputation of your business. 

  • Accounts information
  • Client assets
  • Project brief
  • Signed paperwork

Your onboarding process will be unique to your business, but it must ensure that everyone else in the business has the information they require to complete their own respective tasks.

From an accounts perspective, a sale isn’t a sale until the money is in the bank and today more than ever service-based businesses need to ensure that payment for their work is done so promptly. 

I ask for payment upfront for all of my services. Many of my clients do the same and they delay work starting until a deposit or the balance is paid.

Like everything else in an effective sales pipeline, you must have a process for each element of your onboarding. This ensures prompt action from all parties allowing you to proceed to a successful project as quickly as possible.

Retention

It’s always harder to gain a new client than to keep an existing one. But from a sales perspective, many of us get the sale and move on to the next one. 

This couldn’t be a more wrong approach. A highly effective sales team will include client retention as part of their sales pipeline. 

Whether it’s regular check-ins or a quarterly review, the client relationship should be managed by the sales team as well as the project delivery team.

By systemising this as part of the sales pipeline you can automate the task creation and reminders to prompt you and your team to reach out or to make contact at an appropriate time. 

It can also flag at-risk clients. If your client doesn’t get in touch within a defined period, a trigger will prompt a call or message in your CRM.

There are significant benefits achieved by implementing a robust sales pipeline and these results compound over time, and also with each new salesperson you bring into your team. To build the most highly effective sales team, giving them the tools they need is critical and today this is more affordable than ever.

The earlier you implement a sales pipeline, the better for your business.

For more content like this, don’t forget to check out the Move at Pace YouTube Channel

Want to grow profitably and sustainably?

Grab the Unstoppable Sales Strategy that will take your business from zero to 200k+ months and beyond.

By entering your info, you’ll get FREE access to our sales and marketing guides as well as weekly insights and advice delivered with ❤️ to your inbox.