Are you struggling to generate the sales you need for your business to succeed? With our comprehensive guide on how to build sales, you’ll learn everything you need to know to start seeing the results you want.

A sales team must fully understand the sales process they are following in an effort to make sales to customers.

A failure to grasp the steps a sales team takes will limit the effectiveness sales reps see from their efforts.

Let’s examine the specific steps that the sales and marketing team must comprehend to provide the best possible customer experience to new and existing customers.

First, we need to define a highly important term – the sales pipeline.

What Is a Sales Pipeline?

A sales pipeline describes the process that a prospective customer travels through and how sales reps will interact with them.

The sales pipeline is an effective analogy for this process because we can think of the customers like drops of water flowing along a pipe. They are continuously moving forward to the end goal of a sale.

We will consider another analogy later called the sales funnel. Before we do, let’s look at the individual sales pipeline stages and see how sales reps support customers toward closed deals.

What Can Sales Reps and the Sales Team Do to Make the Sales Pipeline Effective?

The sales pipeline concept is a way to express how customers came into contact with your sales organization and what led up to a purchasing decision.

A sales rep will be heavily involved in this sales process at every step. To make their sales efforts most effective, they should understand this endlessly repeating sales cycle and how they support it.

A sales manager may choose to define this sales process and memorialize it with a sales flowchart that reminds the sales team about the path they are using.

Take a look at the entire sales process broken down into discrete steps below and how a sales rep is involved.

Remember that one business may emphasize different parts of this sales process based on their industry or products. However, the basic concepts will remain the same.

Lead Generation

The first step to build a sales pipeline involves looking for potential customers. This phase of the sales process is often called the prospecting stage because sales reps are searching for prospective buyers.

Generating leads, or prospects, may involve several tasks. A sales rep could make cold, or unsolicited, phone calls to individuals and businesses.

Industry events, like trade shows, may showcase business offerings and give the marketing team a chance to directly impact consumers.

Or print and digital media could be used to attempt to generate interest in your business products.

Making this foundation of the sales pipeline a success requires a deep understanding of the target market and finding the methods most likely to appeal to it.

The end result will be buyer personas that represent the ideal customer for a company’s products and services.

Lead Qualification

After the initial upfront work of finding ideal customers, a sales team works to produce qualified leads.

Qualifying leads means that the potential customer has been identified as a good fit and is one step closer to a purchasing decision.

The qualifying part of the sales process also means that the customer:

  • Has the budget to purchase
  • Has the authority to purchase
  • Wants to purchase

High-performing sales teams may be dealing with several customers at this stage of the sales process. Some clients may move further along the sales pipeline while others will stall at this step.

A sales team should be tracking potential customers to see which ones are prime candidates for moving on to the next stage.


The next step after finding a qualified lead is to speak with the potential customer. Account executives may be assigned to make specific and meaningful inquiries about what a customer’s needs are so that direct selling can take place.

It is still possible that a prospective buyer may fizzle at this point. Consumers may be comparing options from several competing companies. Business customers often make information-gathering calls to discuss services with no intent to buy.

To have the best chance at sales enablement, sales teams will make themselves available to prospects.

Keeping the lines of communication open through email, social media, or by other means is crucial for the sales process to move forward along the sales pipeline.

Even if a prospect ultimately decides not to make a purchase, sales professionals will record the interactions and accompanying customer data to the sales teams’ customer relationship management (CRM) software for further follow-up.


The next step in the sales pipeline is the proposal. This is where an offer to purchase is extended.

Interestingly, a business may have several sales pipelines running concurrently that all lead to this stage.

For example, all of these items are sales pipelines leading to a proposal:

  • Providing formal contracts with detailed pricing to business customers or responding to their requests for proposal (RFP) process
  • Sending reminder emails to online shoppers who leave items in their shopping cart
  • Delivering a newsletter with content that a person says meets their interests

The end goal of the proposal stage is to convert leads into new customers. Having many potential clients at this stage helps to ensure future revenue with more deals coming down the sales pipeline.

Sale and Beyond

The sale is the pinnacle of the sales process. Closing deals is a goal of the average sales rep but it is not the end of the sales process for the whole sales team.

An account executive may pass the customer along to customer success reps. They assist the buyer and ensure that their experience with the business and the products purchased is a positive one.

Another goal is to generate more sales and increase the average order value through cross-selling or upselling other products and services.

Ultimately, the sales team may be able to begin the sales cycle anew with a customer and help them re-enter the sales pipeline for future purchases.

Building a Sales Pipeline

Building a sales pipeline is key to long-term growth. A sales rep’s sales activity in lead generation, identifying decision-makers, cultivating interest, and converting leads into sales is how they will measure success.

Maintaining a growth trajectory involves knowing the number of prospects in each stage of the sales process and what is coming down the sales pipeline.

The representative’s sales activity will be improved if they take the time to view the sales process from the buyer’s perspective.

It will also be easier to carry out sales training with new sales professionals that join the sales team if there is a clearly documented sales process in place for the sales team.

What is a Sales Funnel and How Can Sales Professionals Help Customers Down It?

A sales funnel is somewhat similar to a sales pipeline. However, the sales funnel describes the buyer’s journey through the buying process.

  • The buyer’s journey begins with an initial interest in a product or service but little intent to buy.
  • Next, the customer realizes they will probably benefit from the product but they are investigating the market and are not ready to buy.
  • Finally, as the customer enters the bottom of the funnel they are ready to purchase.

A high-performing sales team that understands the sales funnel and from what channel the customer enters will increase sales efficiency.

What is a Sales Methodology?

A sales methodology explains the approach that a sales rep will use at each step of the sales process. This may change at different times in the sales cycle or be continuous throughout.

There are several popular sales methodologies that a sales rep can draw from. For example, the challenger sales methodology is an effective approach where the seller seeks to teach the prospect.

Sales reps learn about a target audience and their needs and then tailor their selling techniques to what most fits the client’s needs.

The seller will continuously challenge preconceptions the potential buyer expresses during the process.

In value selling methodology, sales professionals seek to highlight the value of the product to the customer, not just pitch products.

A sales organization will likely choose the methodology based on its business model and other unique factors.


Building a sales pipeline that works for the business industry and customer base is a worthwhile endeavor.

The sales pipeline describes everything a sales team does from lead generation through the customer’s purchase in helping the potential client along the path.

While the activity of the sales team members will vary according to their specific roles, everyone contributes to the completion of more deals and, therefore, more revenue.

Help your business achieve more customers and a better sales future by giving attention to your current sales process.

Learn the individual steps that sales reps can take to assist customers down the sales funnel to the end goal.