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12 Custom sales pipeline structure ideas worth stealing

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Author photo: Katrina Oko-Odoi

Katrina Oko-Odoi

Sr. Content Marketing Manager

If you’ve worked as a sales person or a sales leader, then chances are the old adage, “we are what we repeatedly do,” rings true. Repeatable, well-defined sales processes are super important to fostering success for a sales team.

The sales process, which is captured in your sales pipeline structure, shows you and your sales team exactly what opportunities and deals to focus on and when.

Even if you already use a CRM system, it’s important to customize the sales pipeline so that it matches your business’s unique sales journey. Because without a custom sales pipeline, it’s difficult to accurately visualize and manage sales opportunities across the entire team.

Even if your sales pipeline stages are close to the 4 common stages — (1) prospecting, (2) qualifying, (3) proposing and (4) closing — building a customized sales pipeline structure can help you conquer some of your sales team’s biggest challenges.

Why you should customize your sales pipeline structure

Whether you’re establishing sales stages for the first time or refining them after a few years, creating a custom sales pipeline structure can help you address two of the most common challenges for sales leaders:

  • Managing sales activities properly: No sales leader wants to micromanage their sales reps’ time. Without a clearly-defined sales pipeline to track opportunities, though, you can’t give your direct reports the guidance they need to focus their time and energy effectively.
  • Understanding the numbers: Knowing your pipeline value is important, sure. But it’s also important to track the movement of opportunities through the sales stages. With a repeatable process tailored to your unique business, you can track conversion rates — or how often opportunities move to the next stage. This information can help you strategically change the process and better coach your sales team.

Above all, sales stages need to be clear and comprehensive. Too many stages might be overwhelming, but with too few stages you could lose out on critical insights. Whatever the solution is, the goal is to empower your sales people with this process, not make them feel burdened by it.

12 custom sales pipelines ideas

Stepping outside the traditional “prospect-qualify-propose-close” structure can be difficult. That’s why we’ve put together twelve sales pipeline stage ideas that any sales manager can use to craft the right pipeline in their CRM system. In fact, these ideas go beyond sales to new customers, including ideas for managing renewals, investments and projects:

1. Building and construction sales stages

Taking a new construction project from concept to contract requires close control over dates, design revisions and changing prices. Your sales pipeline should reflect the most important stages to see where the red tape is slowing things down. Here’s one way to assemble a construction sales pipeline:

Initial Scope → Quote Development → Quote Delivered → Contract Signed

2. Consulting sales stages

Businesses that offer consulting services need to see how well they’re scoping projects and where proposals may be struggling during negotiations. Here’s how we recommend tracing the consulting sales process:

Initial Scope → Proposal Delivered → Negotiations → Commit

3. New investment stages

Unlike more straightforward sales transactions, investing requires due diligence. A custom sales pipeline can help track investment from researching through successful signing of a deal:

Investment Research → Initial Conversation → Offer Made → Contract Signed

4. Loan process stages

Walking consumers through the loan process can be complex, but with the right sales pipeline structure, loan managers can make better sense of what’s happening at any given moment. Here’s one way to track the process:

Consultation → Submit Application → Approval → Funds Dispersed

5. Account renewal stages

It’s much less expensive to keep a current customer than it is to close a new one. Creating a custom pipeline to track account renewals can have a big effect on the bottom line for many businesses. Oftentimes, renewals are left to the last minute or forgotten completely, leading to lost business. With a pipeline in place, you can automate the renewal reminder process to make it as smooth as possible for both parties. Try this:

Qualify → Engage → Propose → Commit

6. Real estate selling stages

Representing a seller in real estate requires a specific sales pipeline unique to this type of highly regulated transaction. Here’s one way to structure your pipeline:

Discussion → Exclusivity Signed → Listed → Offer Received

7. Real estate buying stages

On the flip side, realtors or real estate companies that are representing a buyer also need to manage this unique and complex process. Here’s our recommended pipeline structure:

Exclusivity Signed → Searching → Offer Submitted → Offer Accepted

8. Creative agency sales stages

Creative agencies are always being asked to provide quotes for projects. Having a repeatable sales process can ensure proposals don’t end up in the void and follow-ups don’t slip through the cracks. Try this structure:

Project Discovery → Scoping → Proposal → Negotiation

9. Venture capital stages

Smart venture capital investment requires a lot of research up front and sustained negotiation to land the right deal. Here’s how you might structure your VC capital pipeline:

Evaluation → Due Diligence → Legal Review → Finalization

10. New business stages

Curating new business doesn’t always end with a signed contract. Some sales leaders may want to track the early stages of new business acquisition more closely. Here’s one way to do this:

Demo Booked → Demo Held → Consideration → Verbal Commit

11. Partnerships stages

Securing partnerships or sponsorships can be critical to businesses in sectors like media and entertainment. Track the entire process with this structure:

Qualify → Discovery → Presentation → Agreement

12. Project management stages

It’s true; pipelines can be used for tracking the process after a sale is made. You can use the same approach to map out and track your client projects, providing you with oversight into your team’s activities and tasks while ensuring client work stays on track. Here’s how a project management pipeline might look:

Research → Strategy → Execution → Delivery → Reporting

Simplify your sales pipeline management with CRM

Take your sales stages to the next level with a CRM system. Manage your entire team in one place and monitor your sales pipeline and team performance in real time.

If you’re looking for a CRM tool that makes customizing your pipeline easy, look no further than Copper. Create customized pipelines with our simple drag-and-drop interface. Add as many stages, team members and activity types that you need to make it your own. Try Copper free for 14 days, no credit card needed.

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