Skip to Content

Mastering Sales Pipeline Management with Salesforce Sales Cloud: How to Boost Efficiency and Drive Revenue

How to Create a Sales Plan: A Complete Guide (Tips + Examples)

Explore the strategic art of sales pipeline management, uncover its stages and main KPIs, and discover how Salesforce Sales Cloud revolutionises the process.

Mastering the art of sales pipeline management is paramount in the dynamic landscape of modern business. A sales pipeline is a visual representation of the sales process, using tables, numbers, and other graphical elements to track progress from the initial lead generation to the final close. It helps sales teams track their progress, identify opportunities, and make informed decisions about how to allocate their resources.

Imagine a sales team without a clear perspective on their journey from prospect to customer. Leads go cold, opportunities slip through the cracks, and revenue targets remain elusive. It’s a scenario all too familiar to those who haven’t harnessed the power of a well-defined sales pipeline. Embracing this framework isn’t just a choice; it’s the cornerstone of a thriving sales engine.

This is where Salesforce Sales Cloud emerges as a game-changer. In this comprehensive guide, we invite you to delve into sales pipeline management, demystify its stages, explore its synergy with CRM, and showcase the unparalleled capabilities of Sales Cloud with a real-life example of successful sales pipeline implementation.

What Is a Sales Pipeline?

A sales pipeline is a strategic approach to sales that visualises and tracks the stages prospects go through before becoming customers. It is a dynamic process that allows businesses to efficiently manage and nurture leads from initial contact to deal closure. A sales pipeline is also an important tool to identify opportunities and make informed decisions about allocating resources.

The sales pipeline is not a linear progression – it’s a flexible and responsive system that adapts to the unique dynamics of each business. It encapsulates the multifaceted nature of sales, accommodating various touchpoints and interactions prospects encounter along their purchasing journey.

A sales pipeline has several advantages. First, it provides sales teams with a clear overview of their progress, helping them identify opportunities and make better-informed decisions. It enables the sales team to automate tasks and streamline the sales process, freeing time for them to focus on strategic activities. A well-managed sales pipeline can also help businesses close more deals and generate more revenue.

Now that you know what a sales pipeline is and what its benefits are, how about understanding its stages?

Salesforce Sales Cloud

Scale easily with automated sales processes and workflows — all built on the #1 trusted AI CRM for sales.

What Are the Five Stages of a Sales Pipeline?

The journey through a sales pipeline typically encompasses four to five key stages: lead generation, qualification, proposal, negotiation, and closure. Each stage demands tailored strategies and attention to move prospects towards conversion.

To grasp the essence of a sales pipeline, consider the lifecycle of a lead. It starts with the first point of contact and moves through marketing efforts, events, or referrals. This initial interaction propels the lead into the pipeline, marking the beginning of a journey filled with strategic milestones.

1. Lead Generation

Lead generation is the entry point where potential customers are identified and brought into the sales funnel. Marketing efforts such as content marketing, social media campaigns, or networking events, are crucial in driving leads into the pipeline.

For example, let’s consider a software company looking to sell a new project management tool. The software company attracts leads interested in improving project management efficiency through targeted online advertising and participation in industry events.

2. Lead Qualification

Not every lead is ready for conversion. At the lead qualification stage, businesses assess the potential of a lead by gauging their interest, needs, and readiness to make a purchase. This involves qualifying leads based on criteria specific to the business.

In our example, the company employs a set of criteria, such as company size, project complexity, and budget, to qualify leads. Only leads meeting these criteria progress to the next stage.

3. Proposal

Once a lead is considered qualified, the sales team crafts a tailored proposal or presentation. This stage is pivotal, as it involves presenting solutions that align with the prospect’s needs and challenges.

The sales team from our fictional software company creates personalised demonstrations and presentations showcasing how the project management tool addresses the specific needs and challenges identified during the qualification stage.

4. Negotiation

Negotiation comes into play as both parties work towards reaching mutually beneficial terms. This stage often involves addressing concerns, refining proposals, and ensuring alignment between the product or service and the prospect’s requirements.

As discussions progress, the software company’s sales team collaborates with prospects to customise features, address concerns, and align the software’s capabilities with the unique requirements of the potential customer.

5. Closure

The ultimate goal of any sales pipeline is closure. This signifies the successful conversion of a prospect into a customer. But closure isn’t the end: it marks the beginning of a customer relationship that extends beyond the initial transaction.

Upon reaching a mutually beneficial agreement, the deal is successfully closed. The software company gains a new customer and lays the foundation for ongoing support and relationship-building.

Top Sales Resources:
Free Articles, Videos & Tips.

Is a Sales Pipeline the Same as a CRM?

It is common to encounter confusion between a sales pipeline and Customer Relationship Management (CRM), but they are different. A CRM system aids in managing and analysing customer interactions throughout the entire lifecycle, whereas a sales pipeline is a part of this process. The pipeline serves as a visual representation of the sales process, concentrating specifically on the sales stages.

Another common misconception is conflating a sales pipeline with a sales funnel. Despite being used interchangeably, it is crucial to distinguish between them. A sales funnel encompasses the entire buyer’s journey, from awareness to purchase, while a sales pipeline is focused specifically on the sales process, meticulously tracking each opportunity through its lifecycle.

Building and Managing a Sales Pipeline

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building a sales pipeline. The best option for your company will vary depending on the size and complexity of your business, as well as your specific sales goals. However, there are some general best practices that you can follow.

It all starts with setting your goals. What do you want to achieve with your sales pipeline? Once you know your goals, you can design a pipeline to help you achieve them. The next step is understanding your customer journey. What steps do your customers take as they move from being a lead to becoming a customer? 

With a comprehensive understanding of your goals and customer journey, you can map out your pipeline. Choosing the right tools is vital; they should both meet your requirements and align with your budget.

Effectively managing a sales pipeline requires a proactive approach. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep your pipeline up to date: Maintaining real-time information on leads and opportunities is essential for accurate progress assessment and identifying potential opportunities. Regular updates ensure that your pipeline remains dynamic and responsive.
  • Track your progress: When you begin building a sales pipeline, you set the main goals for your business. Now, it’s time to track your progress against those goals. This will help you identify areas where you need to improve.

Automate tasks: Automating as many tasks as possible within your pipeline will free up time so teams can focus on strategic activities. These may include refining your pipeline based on performance insights or focusing on personalised interactions with high-priority leads.

Important and Common KPIs for a Sales Pipeline 

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) play an essential role in tracking the health and effectiveness of a sales pipeline. Metrics such as conversion rates, average deal size, and sales cycle length offer valuable insights into the performance of each stage.

Some common KPIs for sales pipelines include:

  • Leads generated: The number of leads you generate.
  • Leads qualified: The number of leads that qualify as a good fit for your business.
  • Opportunities created: The number of opportunities gained from qualified leads.
  • Opportunities closed: The number of opportunities that you close.
  • Revenue generated: The amount of revenue generated from closed opportunities.

Why Consider Sales Pipeline Software? Introducing Salesforce Sales Cloud

The complexity of modern sales processes requires advanced tools for efficient management. These tools can save time, reduce costs, and offer a clear opportunity vision that powers informed decisions. Without sales pipeline software, sales teams may lose track of leads and opportunities, resulting in missed sales. Other problems are missing deadlines and losing track of forecast revenue and progress towards goals. 

Salesforce Sales Cloud is a comprehensive solution beyond conventional CRM systems, offering dedicated features for seamless sales pipeline management. It is a robust and versatile platform designed to help sales teams simplify processes and guide business growth. Let’s explore some of its standout features:

  1. Quota Forecasting Software

Sales Cloud’s advanced forecasting tools provide accurate insights into future sales, enabling businesses to set realistic quotas and make informed decisions.

  1. CRM Process Automation

Automating repetitive tasks and workflows is a key strength of Sales Cloud. By reducing manual efforts, teams can focus on high-value activities, enhancing overall productivity.

  1. Opportunity Pipeline Management

Sales Cloud Opportunity Pipeline Management ensures a visual and intuitive representation of the sales pipeline. Teams can easily track and manage opportunities, fostering collaboration and informed decision-making.

  1. ACV in Sales

Understanding Annual Contract Value (ACV) is crucial for businesses. Salesforce provides robust features for tracking and analysing ACV, enabling teams to make decisions based on trusted data.Selling can be challenging. Best practices frequently change, and it takes work to keep up. But Salesforce can help. We’ve put together the best tips and tricks for selling in today’s world. Do you want to know more? Download our “How to Sell” ebook.

How to Sell

Looking for proven formulas for selling in today’s world? Download this free guide to get an easy to follow roadmap that will take you through the fundamentals of selling

Customer Success Story: Simplifying Payments with Salesforce

GoCardless is a global payment processing company that helps businesses accept customer payments. Founded to simplify this complex process, GoCardless has experienced rapid and substantial growth, processing around $15 billion in transactions annually for renowned brands like The Guardian, Comic Relief, and DocuSign. The platform’s innovative approach integrates local bank debit schemes and foreign exchange capabilities, making it a disruptive force in the market.

To support its ambitious growth plans, GoCardless recognised the need for a more strategic approach to sales, marketing, and customer service. In 2019, the company embarked on a significant reboot, selecting Salesforce as its customer experience platform. With around half of the sales team using the platform, the company witnessed a surge in activity levels, exemplified by an impressive 80% increase in bookings during the first six months of 2020 compared to the previous year.

Salesforce Sales Cloud + Pardot + Tableau

Integrating Account Engagement (previously Pardot) into GoCardless’ arsenal has proven instrumental in enhancing lead generation, giving real-time visibility into prospect journeys, and helping create content based on prospect interactions, contributing to a significant increase in conversion rates. 

GoCardless also uses Salesforce’s analytics capabilities extensively, with personalised dashboards for each sales team member and customised reports. “With Sales Cloud, the CXO team can see our top opportunities for the current and next quarter in a single place instead of having to look at different spreadsheets. This makes it easier to spot – and address – any potential gaps”, said Simon Gilks, Director of Global Sales Operations and Enablement. 

Sales managers use Tableau CRM to a better understanding of the pipeline. “We can slice and dice opportunities in so many different ways – industry vertical, country, sales rep. We can also see what deals are about to close, which gives us a better idea of what is happening in the market”, explained Gilks. 

GoCardless’s CEO Hiroki Takeuchi says, “With Salesforce, we can simplify international recurring payments for more businesses, opening up new markets and new opportunities.” The partnership between GoCardless and Salesforce continues to be a testament to the transformative power of technology in shaping the future of payments.If you’re interested in learning more about how Salesforce Sales Cloud can help your company grow and become even more efficient, watch our Sales Cloud demo. You can also try out Sales Cloud free for 30 days to convert more leads and close more deals.

Sales Cloud Demo

Watch these demos to see how you can make your sales processes more efficient and close more deals today

Salesforce UK

Get our bi-weekly newsletter for the latest business insights.