Your sales pipeline is an essential tool for getting a bird’s eye view of your sales process. By visually tracking leads as they progress through different stages of the customer journey, the sales pipeline lets you know where your prospects, deals, and other sales data stand at any given time.
You can better prioritize leads and identify which prospects need more attention to keep deals moving forward—not to mention forecast revenue.
Let’s take a look at how to get started with your sales pipeline, strategies for maximizing your number of quality leads—and how videos can convert those leads into paying customers.
What is a sales pipeline and how does it work?
A sales pipeline gives you a visual way to track your prospects as they move through the customer journey and purchasing process. This overview of your entire sales cycle highlights completion of (or delays in) specific sales milestones, providing valuable insights about which prospects might need additional check-ins or which prospects you’re about to bring across the finish line..
Sales pipelines are often depicted as a horizontal bar or funnel that represents the buyer’s journey. Most include the six sales stages we included below, but the number of stages will vary depending on the complexity of your product:
Prospecting: Also referred to as lead generation, this stage involves gathering new leads.
Qualifying: Not every new prospect becomes a new customer, so identifying which prospects are most likely to purchase is critical. This stage also involves lead scoring, which calculates the likelihood of conversion.
Engagement or contacting: At this stage, a salesperson might cold call or email a lead—or the lead may engage with content on your website like whitepapers or product demo videos.
Building relationships: Successful salespeople put their buyers first, and many use technology like customer relationship management (CRM), sales intelligence, and virtual collaboration and demo tools to build authentic relationships. The 2022 LinkedIn State of Sales Report found that 80% of top-performing salespeople use sales technology at least once a week.
Negotiating: Once a lead is ready to buy, the seller should follow up with a proposal and be prepared to negotiate by answering questions and addressing concerns.
Closing: While closing the deal usually means you’ve made a sale, your communication with the buyer shouldn’t end here. This is especially true if the deal is on hold—your customer intends to make a purchase, but not at this particular time. Fostering relationships beyond closing or thoughtfully nurturing a slow-moving prospect can earn you repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.
Video makes a difference at every stage: According to Wyzowl, 84% of people say watching a brand’s video convinced them to buy. Find out how you can use Loom recordings in your sales process to foster relationships and close deals.
Sales pipeline vs. sales funnel
While the sales pipeline visualizes the purchase process from a seller’s point of view, the sales funnel visualizes the same process from a buyer’s point of view.
Matching stages of the pipeline to the buyer’s journey can help your sales team better understand how leads are progressing through the purchase process and where their efforts are needed most. The buyer’s journey usually includes the following:
Awareness stage: Your buyer becomes aware of a pain point or opportunity.
Consideration stage: Your buyer further considers their pain point and begins researching potential solutions based on the evaluation criteria they’ve developed.
Decision stage: Your buyer has strategically narrowed down their options and is now comparing different brands or specific solutions.
5 strategies for building a healthy sales pipeline with quality leads
Building your pipeline is a strategic task that should be completed with extreme attention to detail and tailored to your business.
There are some basic steps you can take to successfully build a healthy sales pipeline:
1. Create prospect profiles
Almost three-quarters (73%) of customers expect companies to understand their expectations and needs, so applying a generic one-size-fits-all approach to your sales efforts won’t cut it.
To begin personalizing your sales pitches and communications, create an ideal customer profile (ICP) for both your current and prospective customers. The ICP outlines information like contact names, email addresses, company name, industry, size of their company, job titles, whether they’re a decision-maker at their company, their pain points, and more.
For current prospects and customers, make sure you have the same information collected and then assign them to the pipeline stage according to their position in the purchase process.
2. Outline and share your sales process
Clear communication is key when it comes to sales. Outlining a step-by-step process for identifying prospects, qualifying them, making proposals, closing deals, and any other sales activities is critical. Your sales reps should have full access to this process and a clear understanding of how and why it works.
Additionally, sharing your sales process with other teams, like marketing, can ensure any collaboration efforts go smoothly.
3. Automate repetitive tasks
On average, sales reps only spend 28% of their week selling—that’s a shocking statistic that highlights the need for improved efficiency. One way to free your sales team from admin tasks and data entry is to use automation for follow-up reminders, lead tracking, scheduling, and even email sequences.
In some ways, your sales team can work smarter, not harder, by creating reusable assets like email templates and introduction videos. While you should be cautious to not overuse templates, when used correctly, these reusable assets can save your team valuable time.
4. Clarify your value proposition
Understanding how and where your brand adds value can help you set yourself apart from the competition. A clear value proposition highlights how your product or service can solve specific pain points and emphasize the benefits you provide.
Without a clear idea of how your business can provide invaluable services or products, your customers are likely to lose interest and begin looking elsewhere for solutions.
Pro tip: A short explainer video showcases your brand’s benefits in a compelling way and answers the most important questions your target buyer has about your product or service.
5. Nurture relationships and trust
Customer experience plays a huge role in both B2B and B2B brand loyalty, with 80% of satisfied customers indicating they’d purchase from a company again. To foster relationships built on trust and mutual understanding, your sales team should follow a few key guiding principles:
Use active listening to gather actionable feedback—and show appreciation for that feedback.
Look into customer emotion, intent, and sentiment using surveys, chat transcripts, and even brand mentions on unowned channels to better understand behavior.
Gather qualitative and quantitative data to understand what drives a customer to purchase your product and service. Qualitative data can include customer service emails and focus group notes, while quantitative data can include Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey results and metrics like customer acquisition cost and churn rate.
Personalize every touchpoint by offering truly helpful experiences through customer education and well-trained sales reps. Show empathy and respect by offering multiple contact options and including personal notes and recommendations.
Craft memorable experiences that resonate by adding thoughtful touches like personalized presentation videos, digging into data to identify which stages of your sales pipeline are prone to prospect dropouts, and aiming to delight leads and customers at every point of the buyer’s journey—even after they’ve signed the deal.
How to fix sales pipeline challenges
Challenge: Missing data
Your sales pipeline is a treasure trove of data, but if your processes, tools, or pipeline aren’t set up correctly, your data may be skewed—or worse, nonexistent.
Solution: Sales teams should start by defining and implementing consistent sales processes to keep information and data organized. CRM tools can assist with this. You can create complete prospect profiles and track all communications with leads.
It’s also important to know which metrics indicate your pipeline’s health and performance. Some key sales pipeline metrics to keep an eye on include the following:
Number of qualified leads
Average deal size
Customer acquisition cost
Reasons for deal loss
Challenge: Lost leads
Are you losing leads in the middle of the buyer’s journey? This is often referred to as pipeline leakage, and it results in missed opportunities as well as a decrease in customer loyalty.
Lost leads usually result from poor lead qualification, misalignment with buyer needs, or shallow lead nurturing efforts. Additionally, not focusing on relationship development can cause prospects to choose a competitor over you.
Solution: A recent study by Sales Insights Lab found that top-performing salespeople ask 39% more questions—and get asked 40% more questions—during discovery calls. Understanding your prospects establishes rapport in developing relationships. Salespeople should be prepared to answer questions, too, which requires a solid understanding of your product or service and how it can solve your prospect’s pain points.
Using Loom videos can help you provide visual context to answer prospect questions and show how your product or service can solve their problems. Find out how Loom videos boosted Qwilr conversion rate by up to 57% by showing prospects how easy it is to use the product.
Challenge: No new leads
Several factors can contribute to fewer new leads in your pipeline, but a lack of follow-up might be one of the easiest to fix. Virtual phone provider CallHippo found that over 30% of sales leads receive no follow-up after the first contact, while it’s been shown to take anywhere from six to eight calls to convert a lead into a customer.
Solution: Make more attempts to connect with your prospects through various channels. Inbound marketing, such as video content and social media, is shown to generate up to 54% more leads than outbound efforts like cold calling.
Using video in your blog posts, emails, and on social media can generate interest in your products or services, assist with asynchronous prospect meetings, and even allow your sales team to send follow-ups. Plus, 54% of consumers want to see more brand video content, so why not give them what they want?
Challenge: Deal bottlenecks
Do you have a large number of leads in the negotiation stage but none in your prospecting or closing stages? This pipeline imbalance can slow down your sales process and disrupt your sales forecasting efforts.
Inside your business, it’s typically caused by inefficient processes or resources, as well as improper qualification that leads to low-quality leads entering the pipeline. Outside your business, external factors like industry-specific markets and the broader economy can stall proposals and prevent potential customers from moving forward with a purchase.
Solution: Start with a thorough understanding of your target buyer and tailor your sales efforts to their needs and potential objections. If resources or sales team knowledge is lacking, take a creative approach by using inbound marketing techniques to introduce leads to your product or service.
Recording short, personalized introductions, product demos, and proposal videos can remove sales pipeline bottlenecks. Recordings gather and share team knowledge with your prospect in one cohesive format, and the asynchronous nature of videos allows your prospect to watch (and rewatch) at a time that works best for them.
Sales pipeline tools
Your sales pipeline can be as simple as a Google Sheet—or it can harmonize a handful of tools that optimize your prospecting all the way to closing. Whether you prefer a simple or complex approach, consider harnessing sales pipeline tools to improve your team’s efficiency and boost your closing rate.
Types of sales pipeline tools
Automation tools: Zapier, Make (formerly Integromat), and IFTTT are all tools that connect different software platforms and automate tasks. For example, you can create an automation that creates Pipedrive deals based on Google Forms responses.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools: A CRM stores and organizes your customer profiles and contact information as well as a record of your interactions with them. CRMs include some of the most recognizable names in sales, including Zoho, HubSpot, and Freshsales.
Sales engagement platforms: Sometimes mistakenly thought of as a CRM, a sales engagement platform utilizes the customer data collected in your CRM. Users can create personalized outreach communications, sometimes even with the help of AI and machine learning.
Prospecting tools: Sales prospecting tools help you discover new prospects, then qualify and prioritize those prospects so you know which ones are most likely to purchase. Some tools like MixMax and LinkedIn Sales Navigator allow you to engage with your prospects, while others like Crunchbase offer a wealth of data that helps you customize your prospecting efforts.
How to choose the right sales pipeline management tool
With numerous sales pipeline tools available, it can be easy to go overboard or feel overwhelmed. Too many tools in the mix can bog down efficiency and consume valuable time learning new tech. A 2022 Salesforce report found that sales teams use about 10 different tools, but 94% of sales leaders hope to consolidate their tech stack.
When selecting the right tools to manage your sales pipeline, you’ll want to consider a few key features:
User-friendly: The easier your pipeline tool is to use, the more likely your sales team is to use it. A user-friendly interface makes it easier for sales reps to analyze data, track sales efforts, and ultimately close deals.
Fits into your budget: If you’re a small business just getting started, it may make more sense to start with a simple and free Google or Excel spreadsheet. But as your business scales, you’ll want to consider more robust platforms with additional features and support, with pricing that affirms its ROI.
Includes automation: A tool that automates data entry tasks frees up time for your sales reps to focus more on prospecting, meeting with clients, and checking in with existing clients to provide a superior customer experience. Automation improves both sales rep and customer satisfaction.
Synchronizes data: If you use more than one sales pipeline tool—or if you collaborate with other teams and their tools—you’ll want to choose one that synchronizes data in real time. This ensures everyone is kept up to date with critical information and activities, and no data insights are left siloed and out of sight.
Uses AI: This feature may land more on the “nice to have” end of the spectrum, but AI can provide insights about your sales efforts and potential customers that can turn the tide in your favor. AI is also extremely efficient when it comes to crunching huge amounts of data into bite-sized chunks, such as social media activity, purchase history, and prospect preferences.
Equip your sales stack for success
An effective sales pipeline plays a significant role in the success of your sales team. When built conscientiously, the pipeline helps every department collaborate and rally around sales goals.
Your sales pipeline can highlight further opportunities to convert leads—and delight prospects and current customers alike. Video is one way to convert and delight B2B and B2C customers at all stages of the buyer’s journey. Just check out these statistics from Wyzowl’s 2023 Video Marketing Statistics report:
96% of people watched an explainer video to learn more about a product
95% of video marketers say videos increased brand awareness
90% of video marketers say videos help generate leads
If you’re not currently using video in your marketing and sales efforts, it’s easier than ever to start. From sales intros to explainer videos, start recording for free with Loom.