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Updated Mar 08, 2024

What Is Sales Pipeline Management?

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Nicole Fallon, Contributing Writer

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Have you ever received an email urging you to buy items you left in your cart? This is a strategy businesses use to advance you through the sales pipeline.

A sales pipeline breaks down each stage of a deal into manageable steps to help teams visualize and track how close a prospect is to making a purchase. You’ll need proper oversight to make this process efficient and successful. 

Here’s everything you need to know about sales pipeline management and how to optimize yours.

What is a sales pipeline?

The sales process can be complicated, so it helps to have a visual representation of each stage. That visualization, often called a sales pipeline, helps reps and managers track their progress and ultimately close more deals. Without a clear visual presentation, sales and marketing teams may have trouble tracking their progress and knowing what the next steps are. As Debbie Qaqish, partner and chief strategy officer at The Pedowitz Group, put it, “You don’t have a business if you are not managing your pipeline.”

You can create, organize and implement a sales pipeline within a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to better track which clients and deals are in the pipeline at any given time. The stages in a sales pipeline depend on your company’s particular selling strategy and process. Regardless of the specific individual steps, your goal is to move a lead through every step of the sales pipeline and earn a new customer.

What is sales pipeline management?

Sales pipeline management involves generating, tracking and communicating with prospects to convert them into paying customers. Efficient pipeline management allows sales teams to track each deal going through the sales process and ensure they can keep new leads coming in. This is important for a growing business.

Did You Know?Did you know

Nearly three-quarters of companies with fewer than 50 new sales opportunities per month say they didn’t achieve their revenue goals, according to HubSpot Research.

There are different ways to manage a sales pipeline. In some businesses, each member of a team supervises their own deals. More collaborative or unilateral teams may have a single person who manages the pipeline while the rest of the team follows that person’s direction. The specific sales pipeline strategy you use will depend on your team’s specific goals and priorities, but there are a few best practices to follow.

First, sales teams need to track their metrics. Then, they can analyze their data to improve their sales strategies. Here are some important metrics to consider documenting:

  • New leads
  • Conversion rates
  • Average deal size
  • Length of average sales cycle
  • Win-to-loss ratio
  • Number of open sales opportunities

Sales teams should also review each stage of their sales pipeline to evaluate what’s been successful and what needs improvement. At the end of each month, analyze the closed deals and number of leads moving through the pipeline to forecast sales revenue for the month(s) ahead. Use this information to optimize any slow or broken processes so you can increase your projected sales.

FYIDid you know

Sales pipeline velocity — the rate at which leads move through your pipeline — can be an excellent indicator of how effectively you’re managing your sales process.

Benefits of managing your pipeline

If a sales team manages their pipeline effectively, they’ll have a better idea of how to quantify their high-quality leads and successfully convert them into sales.

“World-class organizations have a repeatable, predictable and scalable pipeline and pipeline process,” Qaqish told “They know with a great deal of evidence how opportunities will flow through all the stages of the sales pipeline. With this level of predictability, a company is better able to ensure the right products and resources are available to serve the customer.”

Here are three benefits of keeping a close eye on your sales pipeline.

1. You’ll monitor your progress better.

Without visualization and organization, a salesperson may not know where their prospective deals are within the pipeline. Proper sales pipeline management allows a sales team to clearly see and follow their own progress and to analyze their own pain points. Pipeline managers can step in and help when the situation calls for it.

2. You’ll nurture leads more effectively.

Building a sales pipeline in your CRM system allows teams to collect and analyze the data they gathered during the sales process. That analysis gives your team better insight into how to nurture prospective customers. The data allows your sales team to build personal relationships with clients to close a deal.

3. You’ll make accurate sales forecasts.

Because every step of the sales process is tracked and monitored — and sales metrics are collected as the process unfolds — sales pipeline management makes it easier for teams to forecast sales accurately.

Managers can see how close their team is to closing sales that are in the pipeline, make a more accurate estimate of when those sales will be completed, and understand how that affects the team’s quota. In turn, this additional data helps businesses predict revenues, create budgets and recognize new areas for growth.

“Sales pipeline management is a critical function of any business, as it captures predicted revenue flows typically from three to nine months out into the future,” Qaqish said.

Bottom LineBottom line

Accurate sales forecasts can help you plan future business investments and expenditures by giving you a better idea of how much money you’ll be bringing in during a certain time period.

Sales pipeline stages

A sales pipeline has seven phases. You should account for each phase in your tracking and management process.

1. Prospecting

Customers have to know you exist before you can make a sale. Use promotional efforts to target potential customers who fit the profile of your existing client base. Your sales team can also use content marketing and referrals to teach prospective clients more about your company.

2. Qualification

Offer e-books, whitepapers, webinars or other lead magnets to amplify a prospective client’s interest and move them through the sales pipeline. These materials allow your leads to learn more about your organization and build a relationship with your brand.

3. Meeting

Once you have a list of quality prospects, contact them to set up a meeting or send them a digital pitch. Make a personalized pitch to your potential customers detailing how your product or service will directly benefit them or their business. After the meeting, discuss clear, actionable steps with your prospects to move them forward.

4. Proposal

After you’ve made your pitch, summarize key information in a sales proposal. This should include your prospects’ pain points, your solution, pricing information and a timeline for implementation.

5. Negotiation

Often, the first proposal is not the one you and your clients agree upon. Clients may have questions or want to renegotiate some of the terms. Some prospects may want to expand or shrink the scope of the work, adjust the pricing or manage expectations. Negotiate terms that are fair for both sides. If you cannot come to an agreeable compromise, walk away.

6. Closing

Once both parties agree on a deal, sign the contract. Use a digital signing service to make the process easier. This allows both you and your customers to find the contract in one place, easily make any amendments and send a copy of the signed contract when it is ready.

7. Fulfillment

After the contract is signed, it’s time to fulfill your order or service. Your sales pipeline manager should collect the information from the sales process to redefine and improve your strategy. When the time is right, follow up with the client to upsell them on additional products and renew their contract before it expires.

How to build and optimize a sales pipeline

First, define the stages of your sales cycle by gathering insights from your team and customers. Then, use performance metrics and specific goals to establish a well-defined process for your team.

Before you implement your pipeline, discuss any thoughts and ideas with your team. You can even test the pipeline’s efficiency by using a previous sale as a trial run.

Qaqish believes businesses need to recognize that a sales pipeline isn’t just a sales activity but a priority for both sales and marketing departments to work on together.

“Given all the new technology and the change in customer behaviors, marketing is now responsible for influencing a large part of the customer’s journey,” she said. “Marketing is setting up digital conversations and responding to customers’ digital body language and requests well before sales is even involved. Customers are typically 60 percent to 70 percent through their buying journey before sales is involved. Leads that are nurtured by marketing have a much higher close rate and a higher average deal size.”

Once you define your steps and key performance indicators, start integrating your sales pipeline into your process. CRM software aids success by helping teams build and optimize their sales pipeline.

How CRMs help with sales pipeline management

CRM systems automate certain parts of the sales prospecting process. CRM software can automatically send out cold emails, create lead capture forms and post on social media. Once it collects prospective leads for you, you’ll be able to determine their potential.

CRM tools are also valuable once the sales process is complete. You can set up the software to send your team reminders to follow up, or have it send the follow-ups automatically.

After sales are made, the CRM system can collect data and measure results. It can track your win rate, your conversion rate, the length of your sales cycle and your sales pipeline velocity.

The metrics you track through your CRM software give your team data and analytics that help make your sales pipeline more efficient. Through CRM reports, you can determine which leads are strong, how to expedite the sales process, and where your team can improve.

Bottom LineBottom line

Implementing a CRM system at your workplace can improve the sales process for both employees and consumers, ultimately leading to increased revenue and improved customer loyalty.

Best CRMs for pipeline management

If you’re ready to improve your business pipeline, consider implementing one of our picks for the best CRM software.


Salesforce provides customizable CRM software that’s equipped to handle complex marketing campaigns, sales processes and customer service tasks with ease. It offers tailored workflows and automation capabilities that enhance efficiency and performance, and it’s complemented by a range of third-party integrations, add-ons and AI capabilities. This combination empowers businesses to scale operations and drive satisfaction through automated services and data-driven strategies. 

Learn more in our Salesforce CRM review.


Zoho offers an extensive suite of features for customer service teams, including contact management, team collaboration, automation and analytics. With its availability on both desktop and mobile platforms, Zoho offers easy-to-use, versatile tools — including AI-driven automation — to streamline employee processes and improve customer interactions. 

Read more in our Zoho CRM review.


Pipedrive is an intuitive system that simplifies deal closures for sales reps by improving the sales process with customization and automation. Its robust features — like an integrated email client, intelligent reminders, and chatbot and web forms that automatically capture and add client data to the database — ensure an organized and effective sales pipeline. Plus, Pipedrive equips sales teams with essential tools to handle numerous deals at once, thereby improving follow-through and increasing deal success rates.

Get an in-depth look in our Pipedrive review.

Sean Peek contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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Nicole Fallon, Contributing Writer
Nicole Fallon has written hundreds of B2B-focused articles on topics such as marketing, business technology, leadership, and HR/organizational management. In addition to covering small business trends and software reviews, Nicole runs a digital marketing agency, where she and her team create high-quality content for a wide range of B2B and B2C brands.
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