How to Sell More With An Effective Sales Pipeline

Apr 17, 2024 - Mike Hakob

Sales are the lifeblood of businesses. If your sales pipeline is empty, you have zero prospects to close. Every startup faces this situation, and if you lack adequate capital, your business will quickly fail.

We’re going to outline key components of:

  • Sales pipeline management
  • Stages of the sales pipeline
  • How to build a sales pipeline
  • Much more

What is a Sales Pipeline?

A lead pipeline, or sales pipeline, is your business’s representation of all stages of the buying journey that the potential customer will go through. Sales leaders can leverage these visual representations in multiple strategic ways.

For example, sales teams often analyze the sales pipeline to determine the best stage to allocate more resources.

If customers aren’t impressed during the demo stage and never move to the negotiation stage of the pipeline, this may be a prime target for higher asset allocation. You may have strong prospecting and lead generation, but if you can’t move the prospect to the close, you won’t maximize revenue.

Optimizing the sales pipeline process offers many business-centric benefits.

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What are the Benefits of Perfecting Your Sales Pipeline?

Businesses rely heavily on two main functions of the sales pipeline: action and measurement. Visual representation of the pipeline is only beneficial when companies are willing to allocate resources to the stages with the greatest bottlenecks.

Sales leaders will focus on the pipeline even when there are many closings because it can never be optimized too much.

Some of the reasons to focus on your sales pipeline include but are not limited to:

Improved sales forecasting

Forecasts are the cornerstone of decision-making. If you can pinpoint areas of the sales pipeline that can be adjusted and the percentage of leads that will not go through the stage, it’s easier to predict future sales.

Why are sales predictions and forecasts crucial to businesses?

If you have accurate data, you’ll know when:

  • You need to Invest more resources in hiring key sales reps for all stages of the sales pipeline
  • Additional workers may be needed to meet demand
  • Capital expenditures will be high, and raising funds may be necessary

Forecasts help businesses make the right decisions at opportune times.

Better collaboration

Team members split the lead pipeline’s workload, helping optimize sales pipeline stages. For example, one member may work on prospecting, while another will qualify for the lead. Well-defined processes enhance collaboration and keep key members of the sales team “in the loop.”

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Greater visibility into the sales process

Metrics are a part of sales. Everyone in the sales department has learned of LTV, ROI, KPIs – and all of the other acronyms. Perfecting the sales pipeline stages offers visibility into the buying process that your team needs to maximize revenue and profits.

With these insights and the right actions, decision-makers can increase win ratios, revenue, and close rates.

Improved customer experience

Statistically, companies that focus on the customer experience see an 80% increase in revenue. Visualizing the sales pipeline in a new way and correcting friction points that customers have will improve the customer experience.

Stakeholders can initiate changes to the customer journey to improve satisfaction and experience while providing the immediate service customers demand.

Increased revenue

Ask 100 markets and sales leaders what their main goal is this year, and they’ll all tell you: increase revenue. Even when record profits hit companies like Amazon and Google, the goalposts move, and revenue expectations rise.

If you perfect the sales pipeline, revenue will rise organically.

But you’ll also need to work on your sales funnel, which is not the same as a sales pipeline.

What is the Difference Between A Sales Funnel and A Sales Pipeline?

Both your sales funnel and pipeline are part of the great sales process. Your sales funnel is the visual representation of the entire buyer’s journey, from awareness of your product or service to the purchase.

Sales pipeline stages, which we’ll cover shortly, focus on the steps sales reps must complete to push prospects to the next stage of the pipeline.

For example, the sales lead stages start with prospecting, but to move to lead generation, specific actions must take place. From the lead generation, another set of actions must be carried out to transition to qualification and a meeting or demo.

sales pipeline vs sales funnel

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What are the Stages of the Sales Pipeline?

Typical sales pipeline stages encompass seven key areas of a prospect’s progression through your sales process. You may find slight variations from one company or sector to the next, but they’ll all generally include the following roadmap:

Prospecting / Lead Generation

One survey found that 37% of marketers believe prospecting is the most challenging part of sales pipeline management. You may also find this term called “lead generation,” but they encompass the same core basics of reaching potential customers through:

  • Research
  • Ads
  • Cold calling
  • Inbound Marketing
  • Outbound marketing

Sales representatives will identify the exact target market to focus on in prospecting and pinpoint the business’s ideal customer. The goal is to use any channel possible for the prospect to enter the sales pipeline and move to the next stage of the sales pipeline: qualification.

Lead Qualification

Prospects are just that – prospects. They may or may not be your ideal customer. Sales teams will differentiate among them once inside the sales pipeline.


Multiple strategies are used in lead qualification. Sales reps will determine the lead’s budget, authority, needs and how the business can best meet them. If the prospect isn’t a good fit, they won’t progress through the sales pipeline stages.


Next in the sales pipeline stages is a meeting or demo. “Meeting” may include face-to-face, phone, virtual, or other forms of meeting the lead. The goal is to assess the prospect’s needs and potential.

Depending on the niche and industry, a trial or demo may be given.

Sales teams utilize the meeting/demo stage to demonstrate the business’ ability to solve pain points. For example, if the prospect needs to find a backup solution for their database, the sales representatives will show them the many ways their product or service helps them achieve their goals.


Depending on the business and its product, it’s common for a tailored proposal to be made. The proposal may include all of the benefits of the product, how it will be delivered, and any extras that may be included, such as training.


Sales are rarely simple, and it’s not uncommon for negotiations to take place. Multiple stipulations and demands may be made, and both parties will engage in discussions to come to some form of agreement.

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Closing the Deal

At this stage, negotiations are complete, and a commitment is made. Once a contract is signed or payment is made, the deal is closed. Sales teams celebrate at this point because the hardest part of the sales pipeline has been breached.


Sales have been made, and prospects have been converted into customers. However, you shouldn’t give up just yet. It’s more cost-effective to retain a customer than it is to close a new one. You may find multiple methods to retain a customer, such as:

  • Continual training
  • Customer service
  • New products or features
  • Gather feedback to improve the customer experience

You must have a refined onboarding process and check in on the customer to prioritize them.

The stages of the sales pipeline have metrics that can be followed and incorporated into your business to improve your revenue and win ratio. If you have a clearly defined sales pipeline and processes, you can add some of the following metrics to your monitoring systems.

Essential Sales Pipeline Metrics To Incorporate Into Your Pipeline Process

Your sales pipeline should work efficiently for you. One way to achieve this goal is to incorporate the right sales pipeline metrics into it, which will help you better visualize the company’s health and potential deals lined up.

While multiple metrics may be added, the following three are some of the most important:

  • Size of the deal: You want to focus your resources on deals with the highest potential of converting. For example, you want to have a means of sorting deals by budget and use your best closers to seal the deal. Pitches may be adapted for larger deals, which is a quick way of maximizing your revenue.
  • Closing potential: Sales team leaders will have a good indication of closing probability. You can, and should, try to close as many sales as you can. If you lack the resources, you may want to focus only on the leads in your sales pipeline with the highest chance of closing.
  • Sales Pipeline value: Every prospect in the sales pipeline should have a percentage of the pipeline value assigned to them. For example, if you have a $1 million pipeline and a client has the potential to bring in $200,000, they make up 20% of the sales pipeline. Focus on these high-value leads to improve revenue as efficiently as possible.

Metrics help you better understand your sales pipeline process and indicate certain actions you must take to reach your goals.

But you must first learn how to build a sales pipeline in the most effective way possible.

How to Build a Sales Pipeline

An effective sales pipeline should align with the buyer’s journey to create a successful sales process. Building an effective sales pipeline starts with knowing your customers.

Understand your customer

Your sales pipeline can’t be effective if you don’t know your customers. Make sure that you understand their needs and pain points so that you can determine how your product or service solves these needs. Create a buyer persona to deeply understand customer preferences and behaviors. It will help you to envision your ideal customer in tailoring your sales and marketing strategies effectively.

How do you get to know your customers?

Once you know your customers, you can start defining the stages of your sales pipeline.

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Define your sales pipeline stages

When defining your sales or lead pipeline stages, start with the initial contact and then move on to lead qualification, the proposal, negotiations and closing.

Each stage of your pipeline should be a reflection of where your customer is in the customer journey, whether it’s awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation or purchase.

It’s important to define your stages carefully because you’ll need to identify the key activities that will help move leads along to the next stage.

Identify key activities in each stage of sales pipeline

Now that you’ve defined the stages of your pipeline lead generation, you can begin identifying the key activities for each one. These activities can include nurturing the lead, or personalizing communication or offers.

The first stage of your sales pipeline should focus on generating interest. Then, as the lead moves through the pipeline, you can focus on solving their pain points.

Key activities should evolve through each stage of sales pipeline to help push leads through to the final sale.

Delegate sales activities to your team

Delegate sales activities to team members to improve efficiency and productivity. Consider each team member’s strengths and expertise when distributing responsibilities, like lead nurturing, closing, or prospecting.

By taking this approach, you ensure that every team member will excel in their role.

Define the key indicators

Your lead gen pipeline should define key indicators, too. What metrics should your sales pipeline monitor? Sales targets, closing potential, deal value, conversion rates, and sales pipeline value are just some of the many indicators you’ll want to incorporate.

How To Optimize Your Sales Pipeline

You’ve built your sales pipeline, but now it’s time to optimize it. Like any other aspect of marketing, your sales pipeline will change over time. It’s important to revisit it regularly to ensure you’re on the right track to reaching your goals.

There are several best practices you can follow to optimize your pipeline:

  • Review your stages regularly to ensure they reflect each prospect’s current status and your sales team’s efforts.
  • Have a consistent process for leads so that your sales reps can stay focused on the ones that are most likely to convert.
  • Nurture your leads to build trust, educate, and start building strong relationships.
  • Provide training and support to sales reps to help them navigate each stage of the pipeline effectively.
  • Use sales pipeline management tools and software to automate and streamline tasks. This will free up time for your sales team to focus on building relationships and closing deals.

Following these best practices will help enhance your sales team’s performance and efficiency to maximize the return on your sales and marketing investments.

Maximize Sales with Data-Driven Decision Making

If you want to maximize sales, sales reps cannot act off on gut instinct alone. They need data.

The more data you collect, the easier it will be to reach prospects and leads with the right messages and through the right channels.

In fact, according to McKinsey, 53% of fast-growing sales teams are highly effective at using analytics to drive their sales strategies.

To leverage the power of data-driven decision making, you need to know how to collect and analyze sales data.

How to collect and analyze sales data to inform decisions

Collecting and analyzing sales data will allow you to make more informed and strategic sales decisions.

There are several ways to collect sales data, many of which you’re likely already using:

  • Form Monitoring: Form tracking and monitoring identifies technical issues within forms on your website, which you might not be aware of until they impact user interactions. Common issues can include problems with CAPTCHA verification, errors in contact form fields, or other technical glitches that prevent forms from functioning smoothly. When forms have issues, it can lead to user frustration and cause them to abandon the form altogether. Here instant notifications come into play.  They enable you to track the performance of your forms in real time and address any issues immediately. A tool like FormStory is particularly useful in this context; it alerts you instantly when forms are abandoned or encounter problems, storing the filled information and preventing the loss of potential leads.
  • Web Analytics: Web analytics tools are essential for tracking user behavior across your website. They provide data on traffic sources, page views, user paths, and more, helping you understand what draws visitors to your site and what keeps them there. Google Analytics is a popular choice, offering a comprehensive suite of tools to measure and analyze website traffic and user interactions.
  • Session Analytics: Session analytics give you a deeper insight into the user experience by recording individual browsing sessions. This allows you to see how users interact with your website in real-time, which can be important for identifying usability issues. Tools like Hotjar or FullStory offer features like heatmaps and session replays, which can be invaluable for understanding user behavior and improving site performance.
  • CRM: CRM systems help manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the user lifecycle. They are vital for understanding customer needs, improving customer relationships, and driving sales growth. Salesforce and HubSpot are examples of CRM platforms that offer robust features for tracking interactions, managing leads, and automating sales processes.
  • Email marketing platform data: Email marketing platforms can provide valuable insights into how your email campaigns are performing. This includes tracking open rates, click rates, and conversion rates, which can help refine your marketing strategies and improve engagement. Platforms like Mailchimp and Constant Contact offer extensive analytics that help you monitor the effectiveness of your emails and segment your audience for targeted campaigns.

Collecting data is just one piece of the puzzle. Analysis will help you understand more about your prospects and existing customers, and you can use these insights to improve your sales pipeline.

sales data analysis to identify bottlenecks in a pipeline

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Strategies for identifying opportunities within the existing customer base

Now that you have a better understanding of your customers, you can analyze your customer data to identify opportunities to add value and solve problems.

Start by analyzing your customers’ current situation. Look for inefficiencies or gaps that you can fill. Maybe recent changes in their market or industry present an opportunity to introduce new services, strategies, or features that can help solve their problems or adapt to these changes.

You can also identify opportunities by:

Analyzing customer data to get valuable insights into their preferences, user behavior patterns, and purchasing behaviors. This data can be used to find upselingl and cross-selling opportunities.

Sending out surveys or asking for feedback. Use feedback forms and surveys to learn more about customer preferences and opinions. This data can help you learn more about their pain points and needs, allowing you to identify potential areas for improvement or upselling.

Finding opportunities within your existing customer base will allow you to maximize sales while improving customer loyalty. The more pain points you can solve and the more value you can deliver, the more likely your customers will stick around.

What is the importance of predictive analytics in sales?

Predictive analytics uses real-time data and historical data to predict future outcomes. It can help you:

  • Assess risk
  • Predict customer behavior
  • Improve operations
  • Identify potential problems that can be solved

Predictive analytics can play an integral role in maximizing sales because it can help you improve your customer targeting to ensure you’re focusing on your ideal customers. It can also help you pinpoint customers who are at the greatest risk of churning, so you can reach out to these decision-makers and prevent them from leaving.

Having a glimpse into the future will allow you to take a proactive approach to your sales strategies and your sales pipeline.


An effective sales pipeline will serve as a solid foundation for your sales strategy. If you focus heavily on the sales pipeline, create it with a purpose, optimize it, and use it to improve processes, you’ll have an easier time exceeding growth goals.

Mike Hakob

Mike Hakob is a seasoned digital marketing maven with over 15 years of mastery, and the visionary Co-Founder of FormStory. As the driving force behind Andava Digital, he has dedicated his expertise to empowering small to medium-sized businesses, crafting tailor-made websites and pioneering innovative marketing strategies. With a graduate degree in Management of Information Systems, Mike seamlessly blends the realms of technology and marketing, consistently setting new industry benchmarks and championing transformative digital narratives.