What is a Sales Pipeline?

To run your business effectively, you need to know how many potential customers you've got and whether they're close to making a purchase. A sales pipeline helps you visualize how close your leads are to converting into paying customers and how much revenue you can expect to generate. With features like intelligent chatbots and lead qualification, Intercom can help your business create a reliable, automated sales pipeline that's filled with leads who are ready to convert.

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Up to 33%

Revenue increase that sales teams who follow a defined process bring in, compared to teams that don't

Up to 50%

Percentage of sales that will go to the business that responds to a lead first

Up to 36%

Increase in conversion rate for visitors who interact with Intercom bots on your website

Why do you need a sales pipeline?

Without a sales pipeline, it's difficult to understand where your leads are in the sales funnel or how close they are to converting. All you know is that, somehow, your leads go from learning about your business to making a purchase.

To run your business, you need a clearer picture of the stages between that initial discovery and a closed sale. A sales pipeline helps you understand what needs to happen to take a lead from a maybe to a yes, and you can better anticipate how many of those leads will eventually convert.

With a pipeline in place, your team can create content and messaging for each one of its stages — including spots where you might currently have a gap. Giving leads the right resources at the right place and the right time will help move them through the funnel more efficiently.

A sales pipeline also makes reporting and planning much easier. Instead of guessing how many sales you'll close this month, you can confidently report how many leads are at each stage of the pipeline and plan activities that will move them along to the next stage.

Finally, sales pipeline solutions make data-driven forecasting a breeze. By capturing and reporting on each lead's status and activity, you'll have a much better idea of how many leads are expected to close soon — and how much revenue that will bring in as a result.

The 5 sales pipeline stages

From the moment they visit your website, your leads generally go through 5 stages to become a paying customer:

  • Qualification

    Your sales team verifies that the lead is a good fit for your product or service. Once qualified, the lead is passed along to an account executive or another team member who will work 1-on-1 with the lead.
  • Discovery

    Your team works 1-on-1 with the lead to define their need for your product or solution and the concrete next steps your business will take to help them.
  • Evaluation

    Your team helps the lead understand why your product is the best solution for their needs. Your account executive should be identifying the key decision maker(s), other competitors being considered and what's needed to convince them to say yes.
  • Negotiation

    Your team drafts a proposal for the decision maker(s) with the expected products to be used, pricing, service provided and any other crucial details. The proposal is sent, and your sales team responds to any final questions or concerns.
  • Sale is won or lost

    At this final stage, the lead makes their decision, and the sale is either won or lost. Regardless of the outcome, it’s important to capture why a particular decision was made to provide valuable feedback to the product and the rest of the go-to-market team.

4 steps to improve your sales pipeline management

To better visualize and interact with your leads, take these 4 steps:

  • Decide what your ideal sales pipeline looks like

    Do your leads need to interact with a member of your sales team or view a demo within the first few minutes of arriving on your site? How long does it take them to be ready for a proposal? Map out each stage of your ideal pipeline from start to finish.
  • Calculate your magic numbers

    You'll need to start with a certain number of leads in the beginning of your pipeline to meet your sales goals each quarter. If you know how many deals you win on average and how many leads drop off at each stage, you can calculate the number of leads and wins you need in the early stages of your pipeline to reach your goals.
  • Build stage-to-stage momentum

    There should be smooth momentum from one stage of the pipeline to the next. There are variables that keep each deal moving — you may need to send a written proposal, identify the decision maker(s) or help your lead get their budget approved. Set objectives or reminders to keep these activities on track so your momentum isn't lost.
  • Create a routine to fill the pipeline

    Finally, improve your sales pipeline management by creating repeatable routines that will keep bringing in new leads. This might mean starting each day with phone calls to referrals, or it might look like adding a live chat option to your website that automatically routes leads to the right sales team member.

Why you should use Intercom to grow your sales pipeline

Growing your sales pipeline takes a combination of strategy, tactics, and software. Here's how Intercom can help:

  • Capture your invisible pipeline

    Use our Visitor Auto Messages to proactively prompt conversations with your “invisible” leads – the people visiting your site who are never going to fill out a form.
  • Qualify leads automatically

    Grow your sales pipeline 24/7 with intelligent Custom Bots that can respond to questions and match leads with members of your team. Immediately move qualified leads down the pipeline by offering demos, or further nurture prospects by offering newsletter sign-up, a webinar or a link to your blog.
  • Ensure product adoption from trials

    With our wide range of messaging options, you need only one solution to communicate with prospects throughout their buying journey. After users sign up for a free trial, use our onboarding campaigns, in-app messages and live chat to maximize conversions to paid plans.
  • Understand the impact on your sales pipeline

    Measure your ROI more effectively by viewing new opportunities, your leads' location in the sales pipeline, and any deals won by live chat and Intercom's other lifecycle marketing features.

"Custom Bots helps us build a personalized experience for our prospects that is tailored to deliver the best resources for the stage of the buying journey they are in. Bots enable us to increase user engagement, accelerate our lead efficiency and create a more consistent customer experience from when a visitor first comes to our site all the way to when they are a customer who needs support."

Gabi Goldberg

Marketing Manager at Snapt