A complete guide to sales pipeline management

A complete guide to sales pipeline management

How to develop and measure your pipeline

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Thought sales pipeline management was just entering opportunities into CRM?
Sales pipeline management goes far beyond that. It’s about visualizing, nurturing and prioritizing leads across every stage of the sales cycle. We’ll teach you how to develop and measure a sales pipeline in a way that is simple yet effective.

Develop your sales pipeline

The first step in developing your pipeline is deciding on which sales stages have meaning for your organization and what the likely probability of close is for each stage. The number of steps needed can vary largely depending on the complexity of your sales process (you can find more details about the typical B2B buying stages here).
To ease the opportunity management process, you may decide to combine multiple stages, especially as buyers will often move back and forth between stages. The important thing is to have clearly defined stages that sales, marketing and sales management all agree on.
At a minimum your sales pipeline should include the following:
Discovery (average closing probability: 0-10%)

This is the first stage when a lead is still just that – a lead. No real conversations have been had yet.

Qualification (average closing probability 15-20%)

This stage is when the initial conversations occur, allowing reps to identify if your product is a good fit for the buyer and whether the opportunity is worth pursuing.

Evaluation (average closing probability: 40-60%)

The majority of back and forth occurs in this stage. During this stage, sales reps will focus on presenting differentiators, and buyers will narrow down to specific questions regarding how your solution will solve their needs.

Negotiation (average closing probability: 80-90%)

At this stage, you’ve submitted your proposal and the buying team has expanded to include additional departments such as Contracts or Procurement.

Close (average closing probability: 100% or 0%, depending on outcome)

One of two things happens in this stage: either you have a new customer, the contract is signed and the account can be passed off to a Services team, or the deal is lost.

discovery, qualification, evaluation, negotiation, close model
blue and white hexagon chain art

See the health of sales pipeline opportunities across sales stages Download the excel template 

Measure your pipeline health

Now that you’ve developed your pipeline, it’s time to do some calculations. Break out that dusty CRM data and put it to work to create accurate sales forecasts.
It’s important to establish a baseline for your pipeline so that you can identify when sales and marketing strategies are working and when they need adjusting. These three calculations use simple numbers to illustrate how to calculate your pipeline value.
blue and green pie chart with percentages

Number of Deals

Use your current opportunities to see how many opportunities are in each sales pipeline stage.

Discovery – 5 opportunities

Qualification – 10 opportunities

Evaluation – 8 opportunities

Negotiation – 4 opportunities

Close – 2 opportunities won

Total # of opportunities = 19

Average Deal Size

To find your average deal size, divide the value of all opportunities by the number of opportunities in your pipeline.

Discovery – 5 opportunities totaling $100,000

Qualification – 10 opportunities totaling $650,000

                Evaluation – 8 opportunities totaling $500,000

Negotiation – 4 opportunities totaling $200,000

Close – 2 opportunities won totaling $200,000

Total value $1,650,000 / 19 opportunities = $86,842 average deal size
buyers model graph
value spectrum icon

Pipeline Value

The simplest method of calculating your weighted pipeline value is to take the value of the opportunities in each stage and multiply it by the probability to close.

Discovery – 5 opportunities totaling $100,000 x 10% = $10,000

Qualification – 10 opportunities totaling $650,000 x 25% = $162,500

Evaluation – 8 opportunities totaling $500,000 * 50% = $250,000

Negotiation – 4 opportunities totaling $200,000 * 90% = $180,000

Close – 2 opportunities won totaling $200,000 *100% = $200,000

Total weighted pipeline value = $802,500

Advanced pipeline management

In-depth calculations

The three calculations above are a good starting point. However, if you want to really put data behind sales strategies, you should incorporate calculations such as average time in pipeline, lead to close rate and deal velocity. In order to get the data for those metrics, start by automatically tracking sales activities.

Opportunity prioritization

How do you ensure your sales reps spend their time focusing on the right pipeline opportunities? The quick and easy way is to use analytics-driven opportunity scoring. It enables your reps to tell in seconds which opportunities are at the top of the list for urgency, value, business fit and more.

Data visualization

Stop spending hours trying to interpret clunky and boring CRM data. Instead, bring your sales funnel to life with data visualization. Charts and graphics transform data into intuitive, in-depth pictures of sales situations so that sales teams and management can instantly understand the health of each opportunity.

Put it all together

Comprehensive sales enablement software such as Accent Accelerate offers all those advanced pipeline management tools and more. It uses real-time data tracking, algorithm-based opportunity prioritization and pipeline visualizations to streamline sales pipeline management and ensure reps are always focusing on the best opportunities.

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