A pipeline is a figurative measurement of client or customer progress through a set of business-defined stages. The term is most frequently used in sales, in which a pipeline tracks a potential buyer’s progress from initial awareness to a delivered final product or service, recording all leads and potential deals.
Sales pipelines include large amounts of data that gives those involved in the sale a detailed picture of the potential customer. Buyer data includes:
- contact information
- company information, including financial position
- The prospect’s position in company, including whether they are a decision maker or have to check with others
- Any interactions with the prospective buyer
- Previous purchases
- Meeting records
How to manage leads in a pipeline
Businesses will have more success if they focus on their hot leads, putting time and effort into those who have greater buying intent.
Pipeline should focus on leads that have the finances, ability, and willingness to purchase. Businesses should know when to drop a lead: for example, if they aren’t responding to calls or emails and aren’t progressing in the pipeline.
Qualification can help businesses manage and prioritize their leads. Qualification is the process of determining which leads fit best with a business and are most likely to purchase, based on their company, position, ability to make a decision, and interactions with sales employees.
Lead nurturing, taking good care of leads, is also very important for both good customer service and appropriate lead management. This can include:
- Tracking each lead in a database and recording all interactions with them
- Creating buyer personas so that the business are prepared to serve individual customer well
- Sending leads personalized emails based on their clicks and page views
- Implementing marketing automation send leads regular and relevant content
Characteristics of a good pipeline
Good pipelines reveal the right information: helpful data that allows companies to successfully move deals along. The more accurate lead information is, for example, the more appropriately sales teams can provide leads with timely content and assistance.
For management, monitoring pipelines can reveal information about sales performance. For large companies, data analytics plays an important role in pipelines: analyzing information using advanced technology helps companies make practical, data-driven choices when interacting with leads.
Most medium and large companies should use a customer relationship management platform. CRMs track customer information through a large-scale database; many of the best, like Salesforce, employ advanced data analytics.
Also Read: CRM Software | 2021 Guide from Webopedia
Difference between pipeline and funnel
Pipeline and funnel are sometimes used interchangeably, and they’re similar concepts. However, a pipeline is generally a tool to track each step that the buyer reaches. A funnel analyzes their readiness to buy. A pipeline says, “The buyer today spoke with a technology representative about purchasing this software.” A funnel says, “This buyer is BOFU (bottom of the funnel) because they are very interested in purchasing.” Pipelines and funnels just measure slightly different aspects of the same process.
Another common business pipeline is the hiring pipeline, which tracks the number of candidates applying for a job, their stage in the hiring process, and their skills related to the open position.