One quote I remember that my boss told me once when I was working as a sales representative in one organization. He said, "You can reach the closure of any deal only if you have proper knowledge about the sales process."
I was not so curious at that time, but now I understand the importance of knowing the sales process. So, before jumping into the sales pipeline and the advantages, let me first give you a brief understanding of the 'Sales Process.'
What comes to your mind when someone asks you this question?
Is it a process that helps you build new customers?
If you are of this thought, then yes. You are on the right track.
The sales process determines whether your lead will become your customer or not. So if I need to dilute it more to make you clear, I would say a flow that starts when you generate any lead and ends when the deal is closed or when the deal is canceled.
I hope that the concept of the sales process is now clear since we now need to jump into the stages of the sales process.
The sales pipeline is a representation of how the sales process work. In general terms, the sales pipeline describes the stages in a sales process. Therefore, you can say it is a graphical representation of a sales process.
Earlier, when there was no such sales pipeline, people used to close deals.
But, still, there was no proper process because of which there was a collision between different approaches followed by various sales representatives. And to avoid that collision, there was a need to have a sales pipeline.
Now that you know what the sales pipeline is let me take you through the sales process stages.
1. Qualification – When you generate any lead, any sales representative must judge whether it is a prospective one or not. Calls and emails are important ways to do so.
2. Meeting – Once you know that a lead is a prospective one, it's time for you to meet personally or any means to understand your customer's further in-depth requirements and decide whether your prospect will go into the next stage of the sales flow.
3. Proposal – Once you know the lower-comings and limits of your prospect and at the same time also knowing the budget of your prospect, it's time for a proposal.
4. Close the deal – This is the final stage that decides whether your prospect will be your customer or not.
Talking about the sales pipeline, various tools incorporate the whole sales pipeline to help sales representatives follow a proper sales flow to close the deal—tools like CRM, MS-Excel, etc., in maintaining an appropriate flow of sales.
Talking about Excel, earlier also when there was no sales pipeline, excel was used. But there were no proper stages which balance the whole sales flow. Manual work is the same today, also in using Excel, but steps have reduced the load of the sales representative to differentiate between the stages.
For example, when there are more than 50 leads, you don't have a sales pipeline or deal pipeline. A sales representative may faint just by keeping in mind who all were in which stage. Thus, one of the most significant advantages of having a sales pipeline is that it reduced the mental work of a sales representative.
Let me tell you something about CRM since we are talking about sales pipeline since CRM's have correctly taught the whole process. CRM's have incorporated the sales process so that sales representatives need to do some drag and drops to fulfill their sales targets. In doing so, the significant problem that many CRM's faces are user experience. Tools need to be very efficient as well as user-friendly. Better the user experience, the more its use is.
Here I would like to conclude my discussion about the sales process and pipeline with just a single liner.
"Sales flow is what a sales pipeline show…."