What is a sales pipeline?
A sales pipeline is a visual representation of your sales process that shows where your prospects are in the buying cycle, how many open deals you have, how long a particular deal stayed in each stage, and whether you have a good chance of winning a deal. It is nothing but a systematic method that one follows to navigate between multiple stages through which a sales prospect goes - from becoming a lead to becoming a customer - and a sales pipeline helps you determine where exactly your opportunities are. Besides, it also outlines the actions that you need to perform in order to convert a prospect into a customer.
Stages in a Sales Pipeline?
There are multiple stages every sales team has, including tasks such as gathering leads and qualifying them:
It is the process by which companies attract prospects into their customer database in the hope of nurturing them through a sales process and converting them into customers. They therefore make effort to generate an interest in the prospects towards their products and services. There are various sources through which you can generate leads. Some of them include trade shows, email campaigns, social media, webforms, etc.
2. Nurturing and Qualifying
Once you have generated prospects, you will need to ensure that they are the right fit for your business. Therefore, you will need to qualify them and manage them. This is a crucial step in a sales process as it helps you prioritise the promising leads and keep them at the top of your to-do list.
3. Set Meetings and define prospect's needs
Now, in order to get to know your prospects better, or in other words, understand their requirements, better, you need to set up a meeting with them. After interacting with them on several occasions, you need to tailor your proposal to address their needs. So basically, it is crucial that you articulate how your products or services can help solve their problems.
4. Negotiate and close deal
You have done your job of understanding your prospect's needs and built a solid relationship with them. While some may be ready to purchase your products or services, in the case of other prospects, you may have to address further concerns - all of which will eventually help you provide your customers with exactly what they are looking for. After these terms and conditions are finalized, you will be in a position to close the deal - either in success or otherwise.
While most companies differ in terms of their method for follow-up, and stages in the sales pipeline. the top-level stages continue to remain the same for all.
Benefits of a Sales Pipeline
1. Get a better understanding of the sales process
2. More efficient sales strategy
3. A better understanding of the position of each lead in the sales funnel
4. Less time spent in closing deals.
Manage your Sales Pipeline with Zoho CRM
Now that you have understood the concept of a sales pipeline and its stages, imagine managing the same without a central process in place. Defining the stages in the sales pipeline and tracking the progress in the sales process could be extremely challenging. With the help of a software like Zoho CRM, therefore, you can:
Define stages in a sales pipeline
It is crucial to define the stages in your sales pipeline early on in order to have a strong sales process as sales reps in your company will know in advance what is expected of them in order to take the lead forward through the sales pipeline and finally close the deal. This can be achieved by customising/adding values in stage field within the Deals module in Zoho CRM. For instance, imagine you run a magazine publication. You do not require some of the default values within the stage field, such as Value Proposition or Proposal. You can therefore customise or delete these fields to meet your requirements.
Track your deals
It is crucial to track your deals to get an idea of the entire progress of your deal and avoid any further errors and make better decisions in terms of your way forward. Also, it is crucial to keep track of all updates in order to avoid missing out on any vital information.
a) Historical analysis will help you avoid repeating mistakes that may have caused you to lose deals in the past. Therefore analysing your sales stage history in Zoho CRM is crucial as it will give you the number of potentials in each stage for a specific time period.
b) Another method of tracking your sales pipeline within Zoho CRM is by creating reports and dashboards. You will be able to track your sales trends, marketing campaigns, team performance, etc. with the help of these reports.
c) With multiple deals within your software, trying to view each of them to determine their status could prove to be quite taxing. However, within Zoho CRM, you can view your deals in a single view with the help of kanban view. It will display the data in an organised manner.
Identify priority deals to focus on
a) If you want to locate deals that are priority (for instance, deals that are closing this month), you can use advanced filters, which is a powerful search tool that can help you extract necessary information in no time. In this case, therefore, you will be able to quickly locate deals that fit your criteria (deals that are priority) and then you can immediately follow-up on them.
b) On the other hand, if you want the system to suggest deals that you need to prioritise, you can use Zia, Zoho CRM's data intelligence tool. Based on the trend, she will predict for you those deals that are most likely to be won. This will give you a better understanding of what to focus on. In fact, she will create a view - breaking up your deals into those which are likely to be won, lost, or those which could go either way. This will help you shift your focus onto those deals that require your attention.
Users with the Manage Automation permission profile can access this feature.
Sales pipeline for deals
In any sales process, a deal has to pass through several stages until it is closed or lost. To make sure that deals are not left stagnating in the same stage unnecessarily, the sales team needs to keep a close watch on their deals pipeline. Our Deals module contains different stages including qualification, value proposition, negotiation, and closed won that appear in a typical sales deal pipeline. These stages are available in a picklist field called Stage. You can add as many stages as you like to the existing pipeline to reflect your sales process accurately. Here are some of the ways a sales rep can benefit from a sales pipeline:
- Visualize and track the progress of a deal through each stage
- Take necessary actions based on the stage in the buying cycle
- Monitor how long a particular deal has stayed in a stage and take action to prevent stagnancy
The need for multiple sales pipelines for deals.
Zylker Cars is a car dealership company that has different sales processes for reselling used cars, selling new cars, and providing car servicing. Some of the basic sales stages will be similar across these three processes, but there will also be significant differences. The flow chart below shows the different deal stages for each process:
|New Cars||Used Cars||Service Requests|
|Gathering requirements||Show available models||Request analysis|
|Test drives and car selection||Test drives and car selection||Repair process (ongoing)|
|Price quote||Price quote||Quality check and test drive|
|Closed won/lost||Closed won/lost||Service request/closed|
As every process is different, putting all the deals through a single pipeline will not give a clear understanding of their progress. Therefore, Zylker Cars needs to create multiple sales pipelines to more accurately show how a deal is progressing.
Creating multiple sales pipelines
The Deal Stage field is available by default in the Deals module, with some system defined stages such as: qualification, need analysis, value proposition, etc.
- When you create a pipeline for the first time, we will create a system-defined standard pipeline and associate all the records in the Deals module with it. This is done to make sure that every deal is associated to at least one pipeline.
- The standard pipeline will be created with the stages that are present in the Stage picklist field.
- You can rename and customize this pipeline to meet your requirements. The standard pipeline will not be created if you do not have any records in the layout or if there is no Blueprint created for the Stage field.
Pipelines are layout specific and you can create multiple pipelines for each layout. For example, you have a layout for sales and are selling two categories of products, furniture and furnishings, which have different sales processes. You can create two pipelines in the Sales layout, one for each category.
Moving a deal from one pipeline to another
The Deals module has a Stage field which is used for the default pipeline. If you create multiple pipelines in a layout, you can move a record from one pipeline to another manually (within the layout). You can also use the Mass Update feature to move a batch of records at once.
Probability value of a stage
Each stage in a pipeline will be assigned a probability value. If you are using the same stage in different pipelines, the same value will be used.
When you create a new pipeline, you can create new stages and assign probability values to them, but you cannot modify the probability for the existing stages from the pipeline creation screen. You need to go to Stage Probability Mapping to change the probability for other stages.
If you set the forecast category to Pipeline, Closed, or Omitted in Stage-Probability Mapping then the deal stage will be Open, Closed Won, or Closed Lost respectively.
To create a sales pipeline
- Go to Setup > Customization > Pipelines
- Click New Pipeline.
- Enter a name and select the Layout to associate the pipeline with.
- Add the Stages to the pipeline.
The default values from the Stage field from the standard layout will be available to choose from.
- In the Stages option, click the Create New Stages link to add new stages.
- Enter the Stage Name, Probability, Forecast Type, and Forecast Category in the Create New Stage pop-up.
- Click Done.
The new stage will be added to the new master list of stage values.
- Select the Set as Default checkbox if you want this pipeline to be the default when creating a deal.
- Click Save.
Modifying the stages in the pipeline
If your sales process is modified at any point, you can add or remove stages from the pipeline. The stages that you remove from a pipeline will not be deleted from CRM, they will still be available in the stage builder.
To modify the stages
- Go to Setup > Customization > Pipelines.
- Select the Layout from the dropdown list.
- Drag and drop the values to reorder the stages.
- Click the Close icon for a stage to remove it from the pipeline.
- Click the Add Stages link in the pipeline that you want to edit.
- Click on the stages to add them to the pipeline.
All the available stages created for the selected layout will be listed here. You can add and associate new stages by clicking the Create New Stage link.
- Click Save.
How do pipeline and deal stages influence other CRM activities?
Mass updating records
When you mass update records, keep in mind that a pipeline is layout specific and the stages in it are specific to a particular pipeline. During the mass update, records will always be checked for a match in the following order: Layout > Pipeline > Stage. (You can mass update the layout, pipeline field, and stage field on records).
Mass update the Layout field
If you want to update the layout of multiple deals, you must also define the pipeline to move them to and the stage they will have.
Note that you will only need to select a pipeline if the layout has one; otherwise you can just select the desired layout and update the record.
Mass update the Pipeline field
Since a pipeline is closely linked to a layout, when you mass update the pipeline for records, CRM will check whether the records belong to the layout you want to move them to. For example, imagine that you have two layouts: Sales and Services, each of which has two pipelines. If you select some deals from the list view and move them to a pipeline that belongs to the Sales layout, then only the deals that already belong to the Sales layout will be moved. The remaining deals will be skipped because they are from a different layout.
Mass update only the Stage field
If you only want to update the Stage field, the records with the selected stage in their pipeline will be updated. The other records will be skipped. For example, if you choose the stage field to be updated to Negotiation, then only the records that have Negotiation in their pipeline will be updated, others will be skipped.
- Pipeline and Stage fields can also be updated through macros, workflow rules, Blueprints, and follow-up actions (field updates) after sending mass emails.
- If the Stage field is used as a criteria in a layout rule or validation rule, then the Stage field and its dependent fields (Pipeline and Layout) will not appear in the mass update options.
- If the Pipeline field is used as a criteria in a layout rule or validation rule, then the Pipeline field and its dependent field (Layout) will not appear in the mass update options.
Creating a blueprint based on the sales pipeline
The Stage field is often used in Blueprints. Generally, Blueprints are layout specific, but if you have created pipelines in the layout, they are pipeline specific. If you create a blueprint based on the Stage field, you will be required to select the pipeline it is associated to. All the values in the Stage field will be used in designing the blueprint.
- If you include a new stage in the blueprint, it will be automatically added to the pipeline.
- If a pipeline is deleted, any blueprints created for that pipeline will also be deleted.
- Importing data based on the sales pipeline
When importing records, the Pipeline field needs be mapped so that deals are automatically assigned to the respective pipelines.
- Importing deals for a different pipeline: If you want to import records that belong to different pipelines, you need to add a column to the import file for details of the pipeline that the record belongs to. Map this field with CRM's Pipeline field when you import.
- Importing deals for the same pipeline: Pipeline is a mandatory field, so if the import file does not have the pipeline details then all the imported deals can be assigned to one selected pipeline. You can select a pipeline in Assign Default Value.
- Layouts, pipelines, and stages are dependent on each other, so you should expect records to be skipped in the following situations:
- Layout-pipeline mismatch: While importing, you need to specify the layout the records will be imported to. If the deal's pipeline does not belong to the selected layout, the record will be skipped due to the layout-pipeline mismatch.
- Pipeline-stage mismatch: If the deal's pipeline belongs to the selected layout, the system will check the stage selected for the record. If the stage value is not part of the deal's pipeline, the record will be skipped due to the mismatch.
- In the import history, you can check the records which were skipped and the reasons why.
Deals in a Kanban view can be filtered based on the layout and pipeline.
When you migrate from another CRM, the Pipeline field will be available during field mapping. The deals will be assigned to the layout's pipeline based on this field.
If the deals that to be migrated do not have a pipeline associated with them, they will be associated with the default pipeline in the selected layout.
Deleting a sales pipeline
To delete a sales pipeline
- Go to Setup > Customization > Pipelines.
- Hover over the ellipsis and click Delete.
If there are records associated with that pipeline, you have to transfer them to another pipeline before you can delete it.
- Select the pipeline you are transferring the data to.
- Map the stages from the old pipeline to the new pipeline.
- Click Transfer and Delete.
- Deals that are already closed will be kept in the deleted pipeline and will not be transferred to a different one.
- When a layout is deleted, you can choose the layout to move the records to. If the layout the records are being transferred to has a pipeline, then you can choose the pipeline and the stage the records from the deleted layout will be transferred to.
- Closed deals from the deleted layout will be transferred to the default pipeline of the new layout.
- If a record is locked due to an approval process or review process in the Pipeline or Stage field, it will not be transferred to another pipeline when its pipeline or layout is deleted.