Your B2B sales pipeline is so much more than just a status tracker. It has evolved, as have today’s buyers. “A modern B2B sales pipeline is a treasure trove of data to model and improve, providing insights that are critical to performance,” explains HubSpot’s Dan Tyre. For salespeople, their pipeline is their scorecard and identifies:
- critical conversion ratio information
- specific skills improvement opportunities
- benchmark individual performance to industry standards and against best in class
So, what can you do to ensure your B2B sales pipeline is updated and working at max efficiency? Make sure that it includes the necessary stages, which Tyre breaks down for his readers.
Stages of today’s B2B sales pipeline
Tyre writes that there are nine essential stages of today’s pipeline.
The first stage is identifying leads and lead type. Not every contact that comes your way is going to be worth pursuing; you must determine who is worth your time and a place in your B2B sales pipeline. Tyre shares the most common types that you will encounter, and here is just a sampling of his list:
- Suspect: this type of lead is in your database and has the potential to purchase; they match your ideal customer profile, but you haven’t determined if they are truly a good fit
- Prospect: someone who is in your database, has a need and will likely buy in the next year
- Prospective lead: these leads appear to be a good fit, but haven’t action on your website or other inbound channels
- Lost/ghosted leads: previous customers or opportunities that never converted to a sale and have gone cold
It’s essential that you identify the leads in your B2B sales pipeline. “Different types of leads typically have different characteristics and close at different rates based on their defining characteristics,” Tyre explains. “Successfully identifying what kind of lead you’re working with is a critical first step.”
The next vital stage is a connect call. Typically, once you’ve identified a quality lead in your B2B sales pipeline, it’s time to reach out via a 10-to-15-minute introductory call. Use this call to gather insights about the lead that will help you determine where to go next in the sales process. Seek out information rather than immediately hopping into solution-selling.
After this, your B2B sales pipeline process continues with a discovery call. This call is longer than the connect call, at least double the time, and dives much deeper. During this call, make a point to discuss the prospect’s:
- authority level
- market landscape
- sense of urgency
Uncovering these insights are necessary to keep things moving efficiently. “This information will help you understand exactly what they’re facing in their business and to determine if there is an opportunity to work together,” he writes.
Once you’ve learned the necessary information, you can move on to the next stage of your B2B sales pipeline: the opportunity stage. Now it’s finally time to discuss dollar value, and this discussion should be based on the information gathered from the previous stages. “Where the previous stages are important for tracking, the opportunity stage is where you begin forming the deal,” Tyre writes. During this stage, make sure to learn the following:
- who the prospect is currently buying from (if they have a vendor)
- three solid reasons they would buy from you
- three reasons they may choose not to buy from you
- who the economic decision maker is for this sale
With all of this information, you can then determine what the next step entails.
These stages, along with the others Tyre discusses in his article, will help you update your B2B sales pipeline for modern buyers. Having a well-defined process can help you make your sales process more efficient and effective, as he points, “A modern B2B sales pipeline is a treasure trove of data to model and improve, providing insights that are critical to performance.”