While there is no one-size-fits-all sales pipeline, some stages are common for any B2B sales journey. Below, we’ll provide eight stages that can be used to build out an effective CRM sales pipeline.

Each stage can be used to describe where a customer or prospect is in their sales journey and should include a corresponding deal stage in your CRM. Stages can be changed, added, or removed to create a sales journey and CRM pipeline that works best for your business.

Build a successful CRM sales pipeline with these 8 stages

1. Unqualified leads

Most new customers begin their sales journey as unqualified leads—which includes everyone that matches your buyer persona. Use lead generation techniques to help find potential customers for your business, then create a “long list” of unqualified leads to work through your CRM sales pipeline.

Methods for generating sales leads include:

  • IRL (In Real Life) Networking: In-person relationship building is an incredibly effective way to locate prospects. It may be quicker and easier to determine if someone is a potential customer by talking to them face to face. Depending on the nature of your business, in-person networking reach may be too limited.
  • Trade shows and events: One way to meet a large group of people that match your buyer persona is at industry trade shows and events. Consider being a sponsor or simply send company representatives to network.
  • Social Media: Identifying leads on social media is just as viable for B2B prospecting as it is for B2C. Platforms such as LinkedIn are centered around professional networks, and social media targeting tools help with raising awareness about your product or service before approaching a lead.
  • Content Marketing: Generating leads through content marketing (e.g., newsletters, blog posts) involves providing people with useful, relevant content that in turn prompts them to contact your business or provide their contact information in exchange for access to your content.

You should harness the power of big data and capture your large list of unqualified leads in a CRM. Keeping a record of leads that meet your buyer persona but do not pass the qualification process can help prevent your sales force from wasting time on duplicate efforts. After building a long list of potential clients, begin qualifying leads.

2. Qualified prospects

Lead qualification is the process of verifying people on your long list that are most likely to become paying customers.

A few key pieces of information about sales leads informs qualification, including:

  • Decision-making ability: Will this lead make the final purchasing decision? If not, who are the other stakeholders in the decision-making process?
  • Buying power: Does the company this lead represents generate enough revenue—or, more specifically, budget—to afford your product or service?
  • Needs analysis: How urgently does this sales lead need your product or service? Why are they interested in your product? What is the problem they expect your product or service will solve?

Gather and record this information in your CRM by researching the company in question and asking sales prospects directly via online surveys, email, phone, or in-person meetings. Use a combination of qualification methods that are appropriate for your sales process, industry, and target audience.

3. Actively selling

Once leads are qualified you’ll need a method for managing them through the rest of your sales pipeline. Use a CRM to automate follow-up frequency, track interactions, and handle scheduling while your sales force is actively selling and pitching to leads. At this stage, sales representatives should be focused on forming relationships with prospects and moving them through the sales pipeline as efficiently as possible.

Depending on your business, you may need to develop a meeting (or call/video chat) plan. Most CRM software vendors offer scheduling tools. However, make sure any platforms under consideration will work with your company’s sales process.

4. Proposal made

At this point, you’ve discussed and analyzed prospect needs, ironed out the details of your product or service terms, and then drafted and sent a formal sales proposal. This important stage in your CRM pipeline is for prospects on the brink of closing a sale. Remember to set timelines and reminders to notify sales reps about clients who have received a proposal but haven’t finalized the deal in a reasonable amount of time.

5. Terms negotiation

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” deal stage 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.

6. Sale closed

Once the deal is officially done, it can go to the all-important “closed” stage. If the deal ended in a sale, you can begin on-boarding the client. CRM software offers payment processing as well as document storage and management to help facilitate this process.

Conversely, some deals won’t end with a signed contract or a sale but are important to track nonetheless. Keeping a record of lost sales in your CRM helps with analyzing missteps to inform sales strategy and reduce the number of deals lost. Sales reps that revisit deals that failed to close in the future will be armed with valuable information and context.

7. Product Delivery

It is helpful to mark clients that are in the product delivery stage of your CRM pipeline so that sales reps can be reminded to check in with prospects throughout the delivery process. This time period is critical for forming lasting relationships with customers and boosts recurring revenue. Use your CRM to automatically remind your sales force to keep in touch with new clients throughout the product or service delivery period and offer support should any issues arise.

8. Follow-up

The traditional “sales funnel” is arguably better understood as a sales loop. Ideally, customers re-enter the cycle at different stages and continue to do business with your company. Use your CRM to schedule customer follow-ups at timed intervals, and instruct sales reps to focus on identifying opportunities for upsells, new business, and referrals.

If the sales cycle went smoothly, and your company has served as a trusted adviser throughout the process, new customers are more likely to provide contact information for others in their network or even make direct introductions.

Getting started with your CRM pipeline

If you’re ready to start creating your company’s CRM pipeline, GetApp has some resources that can help:

Note: This post was originally published on 2/6/2018 and has since been updated with new information.

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