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How To Map And Plan Your Sales Pipeline

James Crowder | 8 December 2020


The size of a marketing budget depends on a marketer’s ability to generate good quality leads – leads that’ll convert to customers. As well as supplying a steady stream of leads to the sales team, cost per lead needs to be kept as low as possible to guarantee positive ROI. Mapping and planning your sales pipeline can go a long way in making the above a reality. It is also an important step in creating a well-oiled lead-generating mechanism that’ll safeguard your marketing budget into the future. Let’s take a look at how you go about mapping your sales pipeline and how this will help you turn website visitors into leads, and then delighted customers.


A sales pipeline defines the steps a lead takes to become a customer and the activities required to move them along the pipeline

First, let’s draw the distinction between the sales funnel and the sales pipeline. The sales funnel describes where a buyer is in the sales journey – are they in the awareness, evaluation or decision-making phase? A sales pipeline takes this further. It identifies the steps a lead takes to become a customer and defines the tactics that are needed to move leads along this process. Managing your sales pipeline can increase revenue growth by 28%, so it’s well worth getting your team together and doing so.


When marketing and sales departments unite, it’s easier to generate and convert leads

Pipeline management runs at its best when the sales and marketing teams work together, not against each other. After all, a sales pipeline involves both marketing and sales activities, so it makes sense that both departments play on the same side – especially as aligned sales and marketing teams help boost profits.


Once you’ve identified each stage in the pipeline, set goals for each one

Get both teams together to identify each action a potential customer needs to take, from initial contact, right up until close and beyond. Agree on which actions are marketing’s domain and which are the sales team’s responsibility. Next, set goals for each step in the pipeline. For example, the number of leads required to generate qualified leads; how many qualified leads required to meet sales targets; how many sales needed to grow the business.


Here’s a rough idea of what a sales pipeline should look like, although you’ll need to tweak the exact stages depending on your industry and customers:


With data-based prospect profiling, marketing can identify leads that are more likely to become customers

Marketing is responsible for lead generation and the first point of contact a lead has with your brand. At this stage, the lead probably won’t be aware of how your business can help them, or that they need the solution you can offer them. Using data-based prospect profiling, you can determine whether or not your business can add value to a lead, and if they are worth pursuing. Once leads have been identified, marketing can get to work coaxing them down the sales funnel until they’re a marketing qualified lead (MQL).


Sales and marketing need to agree on the point at which an MQL is passed onto sales

Both teams need to agree when an MQL is passed onto the sales team to become a sales accepted lead – someone who has fulfilled certain criteria that identify them as likely to buy. From here, the sales team continue the lead nurturing process. Converting the prospect into a sales qualified lead (SQL), i.e. a business opportunity, and then into a customer.


Even after a lead becomes a customer, they should still be treated as a lead

For many businesses, this marks the end of the sales pipeline. But great businesses see the customer phase as an opportunity to support and delight their customers. Turning them from customers into loyal brand advocates. This stage of the pipeline needs its own set of ongoing marketing and sales activities. Activities designed to cross or up-sell products to existing customers (which is less costly than hunting for new customers).


Continual analysis and monitoring of your pipeline will ensure conversion rates are maximised

To really get the most from your sales pipeline, collect and analyse data from each step to identify potential lead generation blocks that are preventing conversion rates. For example, you might notice that while plenty of leads are converting from MQL to SQL, not enough are converting from SQL to customers.

Understanding how an MQL becomes an SQL is an important part of the lead management process and can have a huge effect on conversion rates. Download our guide to find out how to make this process more efficient:


Image Credits: functionpoint