“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.”
Shakespeare wasn’t talking CRM when he wrote this poetic prose, but customers in the sales stages in CRM act out their roles much the same way: they enter and exit when the time’s right, playing different parts depending on which stage they’re in.
“Potential” customers (prospects) don’t act the same way as “almost” customers (qualified leads) or “returning” customers (closed deals). In order to get the best performance out of all of these players, you need to properly define the sales stages in CRM.
Knowing which stages you need in your CRM pipeline is the first step to moving customers through the sales funnel. Some CRMs like Hubspot have default stages to help you get started, while others let you create your pipeline from scratch.
Here, I’ll go through the most common sales stages in CRM so that you can create a CRM pipeline that makes the most sense for your company. Because B2B and B2C companies have different sales stages, the focus here will be B2B sales.
Sales stages in CRM
While the sales funnel is a good starting point for creating sales stages in your CRM, you have to go beyond these stages to consider the steps in between that help a sales team move customers from one stage to the next.
Prospecting is like the preliminary research stage of your sales process. This is the stage where you can bucket everyone that fits your buyer persona. This will be the “long-list” of people that you’ll want to whittle down to the next stage. Because it’s at the top of the funnel– and because you can have many prospects– you might not want to explicitly make this a stage in your CRM pipeline.
While prospects come first in the sales funnel, leads should be the first official stage in your CRM pipeline. At this stage, you’ll have done some vetting and be left with a “short-list” of people that you want to contact. These will be your leads, and this stage will act as a placeholder for clients that you’re hoping to connect with.
You’ve made contact and set up an initial meeting to get a sense of whether or not the client is qualified. During this call (or meeting, depending on what your sales process looks like), you’ll discuss the needs of the client and see if whatever your company is offering can help them reach these goals. Here, it helps if your CRM has a calendar functionality or integrates and syncs with your email provider to make sure that you don’t miss any meetings.
If the initial conversation with your potential client has gone well, you can move them into the “qualified” stage of your CRM pipeline. You’ve identified good potential and are ready to move ahead and start planning the next steps in the deal, including setting up another meeting to work out the fine details. There can be more stages in your CRM pipeline here depending on how your company works, including additional meetings or presentations.
Once all of the fine details have been worked out, you can send over the proposal to the client. It’s good to have a stage for this in your CRM pipeline so that you know which clients are on the brink of closing. This is also a good stage to set timelines and reminders so that you can follow-up if you haven’t heard back within a reasonable amount of time about finalization.
Not all proposals will be accepted on the first go. Depending on how negotiable your sales contracts are, it’s important to have a “negotiation” stage among the sales stages in your CRM. This will help you and your sales team get a better sense of which deals need a bit more fine-tuning or which ones might be held up after the initial proposal has been sent.
Closed (Won or Lost)
Once the deal is officially done, it can go to the all-important “closed” stage. If the deal’s been won, the contract has been signed and you can start the client onboarding process. Some deals, however, will inevitably slip through the cracks. It’s important to keep track of those too. By keeping a record of lost deals throughout the sales stages in CRM, you can do an analysis to see possible trends as to why those deals were lost, or revisit them in the future to potentially turn them around.
Other features to look for in your CRM
Depending on which CRM you’re using, additional features can help you move clients through the sales stages in CRM and ensure that deals are running smoothly.
- Notes and tagging: Notes and tagging let you add additional info to a customer’s profile so that everyone can stay in the loop on any pertinent customer info that might affect the sale.
- Task assignment: The ability to assign tasks to different sales reps will help to keep deals on time and on track.
- Social media integration: If you’re doing your prospecting using social media, a social media integration will become an indispensable feature to help you keep track of your prospects.
- Analytics: Analytics can give you an overview of how many deals you’ve closed, how many have fallen through the cracks, and how much money you’ve made.
- Accounting integration: If you integrate with an accounting app, you can link invoices to make sure that clients have paid their dues.
Getting started with your CRM pipeline
If you’re ready to start pushing players through the pipeline and are looking for a CRM that can help: