- Published: Jun 6, 2023
- 5 min. read
Matthew GibbonsLead Data & Tech Writer
- Matthew is a marketing expert focusing on the SEO & martech spaces. He has written over 500 marketing guides and video scripts for the WebFX YouTube channel. When he’s not striving to put out some fresh blog posts and articles, he’s usually fueling his Tolkien obsession or working on miscellaneous creative projects.
You’re probably familiar with the idea of a sales pipeline. It’s basically the process of turning people from leads into clients, and it consists of a series of steps you walk through to make that happen. The purpose of a sales pipeline is to streamline the process of closing deals, helping your business become more efficient at driving up sales and revenue.
The question, though, is this: What steps should you include in your sales pipeline? You might not be sure what the sales pipeline stages are or how to follow them. If that’s the case, this blog post is for you. We cover the seven main stages of the sales pipeline, so keep reading to learn more.
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7 stages of the sales pipeline
The sales pipeline looks slightly different for each business. Some companies have different sales pipeline stages than others. That said, there are seven main stages that most businesses use, including:
- Lead qualification
- Initial meeting or demo
- Needs analysis and proposal
- Negotiation and commitment
- Deal close
- Follow-up and retention
Let’s go over each of those stages below.
The first stage of the pipeline is prospecting, the top-of-funnel marketing stage. During it, potential customers discover your business through ads, search results, and more. When they do, they visit your website and learn about what you sell.
To make this stage more effective, you can hone your marketing and ad targeting to focus in on a specific audience that you know is likely to buy from you. For example, if you find that most of your customers are men from Sacramento between the ages of 30 and 60, you can target your campaigns to that specific group.
2. Lead qualification
- Free demos
- Gated content
- And more!
Basically, you offer people a specific perk that they can access by doing something like providing their email address. Many people won’t be willing to take this step, so you know they weren’t the ones to focus on anyway.
But the people who do take it will then qualify as leads. Those are the people to target in the following stages.
3. Initial meeting or demo
Once you have a list of leads, you can begin targeting them more directly. The best approach is to offer to set up a meeting or product demo, so you can show them what your company has to offer and how it can help them.
For those who accept, schedule the meeting. In addition to showing off your product or service, use this time as an opportunity to evaluate each lead’s interest and engagement, so you can determine if they qualify for a proposal. If so, you can progress to the next stage of the pipeline.
4. Needs analysis and proposal
The next pipeline stage is the needs analysis and proposal. A needs analysis is exactly what it sounds like — it’s an analysis of a potential client’s needs. Basically, you assess each lead’s unique situation — goals they have, obstacles standing in the way of those goals, and opportunities you have to sell to them.
If that analysis presents a viable opportunity for a sale, you can then draw up a proposal. Meet with your leads again to deliver your final pitch, telling them exactly what product or service they should buy and how it will benefit them, along with the associated prices.
5. Negotiation and commitment
Not every business will include this pipeline stage. For those that do, it’s a stage where you haggle over the fine details with your prospective customers. Maybe they want to adjust the pricing, or maybe they want to alter the scope of the project you’ll be helping them with. Whatever it is, this is where you’d sort that out.
On the other hand, you may not leave any room for haggling — maybe the scale of your services is more or less fixed, and you don’t offer any wiggle room on your prices. In that case, it might be a simple matter of jumping straight from the proposal to the next stage of the pipeline.
6. Deal close
This is the stage where you finally reach your goal — a sale. If prospects progress to this stage, it means they’ve taken the final step to make a purchase and become a customer.
Once the sale is made, you simply need to make sure the customer gets the product or service they purchased. There’s not much more to this stage than that!
7. Follow-up and retention
It’s easy to assume that the pipeline is done once your customers make a purchase. And for some businesses, that might be true — if you offer one-time sales, like selling a washing machine, you probably don’t have to worry about client retention.
If a sale leads to a long-term relationship between you and the client, your job now is to keep that relationship going. For example, if a company hires you as a financial consultant, it’s not as simple as shipping them a product and calling it a day. You spent so much time and effort getting them as a client — you don’t want to lose them now.
To that end, make sure you continue to provide top-tier customer service. Continually assess your clients’ needs and address any changes or obstacles that might come up for them.
WebFX can help you drive new leads through your sales pipeline stages
Optimizing your sales pipeline requires a collaboration between marketing and sales. But you might not be sure what to do on the marketing side of things — or maybe you are sure, but you simply don’t have a large enough team to handle all the marketing tasks you want to do.
If that’s the case, WebFX can help. We’ve been in the marketing industry for over 25 years, and we offer top-of-the-line digital marketing services to help you drive up leads and revenue.
Matthew is a marketing expert focusing on the SEO & martech spaces. He has written over 500 marketing guides and video scripts for the WebFX YouTube channel. When he’s not striving to put out some fresh blog posts and articles, he’s usually fueling his Tolkien obsession or working on miscellaneous creative projects.
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