How to Master Sales Pipeline Management in 2024

What is a Sales Pipeline? (Stages + Example)

A sales pipeline represents your sales process by mapping out the stages your leads are taken through, from initial contact to a closed sale. 

Each stage in the pipeline represents a crucial step in converting a lead (potential customer) into a satisfied customer. It's not just a concept; it's the backbone of your sales strategy, giving you a clear picture of where each potential deal is.

Who’s in charge of managing a sales pipeline?

Managing this pipeline is usually in the hands of the sales reps themselves as well as their managers who are responsible for forecasting their team’s number to leadership. 

In larger companies, you might also find sales operations, marketing, RevOps, and CRM admins joining the mix, all working towards the same goal: closing deals efficiently.

Now you may be wondering — is a sales pipeline the same as a sales funnel?

While often mixed up and used interchangeably, pipelines and funnels are distinct – yet related concepts.

A sales pipeline maps out the steps of your sales process, while a sales funnel charts a lead’s journey towards a purchase. 

Now that we clearly understand the difference between pipeline and funnel let's explore the seven-stage journey of a sales pipeline.

7 Common Stages of a Sales Pipeline

A typical sales pipeline includes these seven stages:

  1. Prospecting/Lead Generation: This is where you're generating leads. The critical question you ask at this stage is — who might need your product? You would accordingly target them through ads or SEO or do outbound campaigns.
  2. Lead Qualification: Time to investigate. Which of these leads are ready to hear your pitch? From a marketing standpoint, this is where MQLs become SQLs.
  3. Demo or Meeting: Demonstrate what makes your product different, what problems you solve and what value you offer.
  4. Proposal: You've piqued their interest. Now, hit them with an offer they can't refuse with pricing, discounts, annual/multiyear packages, etc.
  5. Negotiation and Commitment: A bit of give and take to seal the deal which will involve legal reviews, redlines, etc.
  6. Closed Won/Lost: Do they sign on the dotted line, or is it a closed lost deal – in which case, why did it fall through? 
  7. Post-Sale: The deal is just the beginning. Now you have to onboard the customer, ensure that they find success using your offering and think about possible upsell/cross-sell opportunities. 

Before you ask, these stages are not carved in stone! 

You may curate these stages to your specific sales process and unique industry demands. For instance, a small business might customize its pipeline stages to align with its niche market and personalized customer approach.

But exactly how do these stages come together?

Let’s take an example.

Picture a SaaS company. 

Their pipeline might start with some digital marketing magic to attract leads.

Next, they engage these leads with a free trial or a demo that's too good to ignore. 

The proposal might involve various subscription or payment options, followed by some back-and-forth on features and pricing. Once the deal is agreed upon, it's all about nurturing that relationship for renewals and upgrades while avoiding customer churn.

That said, the pipeline management process isn’t always smooth sailing.

4 Common Pipeline Management Challenges

You may come across the following pitfalls in your pipeline management journey:

1. Limited Visibility into the Sales Pipeline

A frequent hurdle in sales pipeline management is the lack of clear visibility. 

But what fogs up your pipeline?

Basic tools like spreadsheets or external ‘note-taking’ apps often obstruct pipeline transparency. 

As your pipeline data is distributed among so many tools, there’s no easy way to consolidate all your sales insights. There’s also typically no context for any changes in data, which makes it impossible for sales leaders to understand deal progression.

Tip: Take a deep dive into Excel forecasting and its limitations in our detailed guide.  

2. Loss of Leads & Stagnation

Sales teams start their cycle brimming with leads, only to find their pipeline significantly depleted as they progress. This lead loss, also known as pipeline leakage, is a critical issue where potential sales opportunities are lost or abandoned during the sales process.

The reasons for lead loss could range from:

  • Poor Lead Quality: Leads that are not well-qualified or relevant can drop out of the pipeline, causing leakage.
  • Ineffective Sales Process: A sales process that is not well-structured or is too complex can lead to lost opportunities.
  • Lack of Follow-up: Failure to follow up with leads promptly can result in missed opportunities.
  • Weak Value Proposition: If the value proposition is not compelling or clear to a potential customer, they may lose interest and go dark.
  • Poor Sales Team Performance: Inadequate training, motivation, or performance of the sales team can result in lost sales.
  • Competition: Losing out to competitors who offer better value, pricing, or service.
  • Changing Customer Needs: Failing to keep up with evolving customer needs and preferences.
  • Economic Factors: Broader economic changes or downturns can cause prospects to tighten budgets and reduce spending.

Another common offshoot of these issues is deal stagnation – where deals aren’t lost entirely but don’t move forward as expected. 

While stagnation might be better than losing a deal entirely, if they’re not progressing in your pipeline, you’re not getting closer to actualizing their revenue potential – which is a major issue. 

What’s worse is that a stagnant pipeline might further leak revenue. 


When a deal stagnates, the chances of closing it dwindle, so your reps might spend too much time and too many resources on the wrong deals.

Ironically, a stagnated deal is very likely to become a lost sales opportunity if you don’t act soon.

3. Lack of Data

Insufficient sales data can hinder sales pipeline management, leading to unreliable forecasting and inaccurate predictions of future sales performance. It can also lead to confusion about deal changes – as there’s limited data to back up how the deal has been progressing.

What are the potential reasons you don’t have enough sales data?

It could be due to:

  • Incomplete CRM data
  • Data silos, where your team stores sales data into several distributed systems and databases
  • New business or product launches with no historical records

Without enough past data, sales teams struggle to identify patterns, assess deal probabilities, generate an accurate sales forecast, and make informed decisions about resource allocation and sales strategies.

Fortunately, with the right tool, you can overcome most of these data issues.

4. Poor Communication

Communication gaps within the sales team and between Customer Success Managers (CSMs) or sales engineers can significantly impede your success. 

This lack of communication often leads to:

  • Misaligned goals and strategies
  • Ineffective cross-team collaboration
  • Contextual challenges when negotiating deals

No sales manager wants to deal with these issues. 

So here are 11 best practices for effective pipeline management to keep you ahead of the game.

11 Best Practices to Manage Your Sales Pipeline Smoothly

Here’s a walkthrough of 11 essential practices to manage your sales pipeline and make it more robust:

1. Clearly Define Your Sales Pipeline Stages

A well-defined sales pipeline is the backbone of successful sales operations. It provides a clear roadmap for moving prospects through the sales process, ensuring that no deal falls through the cracks.

How do you go about it?

First, identify the key stages in your sales cycle that align with how your prospects naturally move through the buying journey. For example, prospecting, qualification, proposal, negotiation, etc. 

Next, tailor these stages to your specific business model, ensuring they align with customer milestones and internal sales processes. 

For instance, in SaaS sales, stages might include trial sign-up, product demonstration, and subscription activation. 

By demarcating these pipeline stages, sales teams can better plan ahead, nurture leads, allocate resources efficiently, and ultimately drive revenue growth.

2. Clarify Revenue Targets

Clear revenue targets act as guiding markers, helping managers and sales reps navigate through various stages of the sales pipeline. 

They provide sales teams with direction and measurable goals to aim for.

Picture this: 

A general notion of "selling more" versus a specific target of "securing 20 new active subscribers this quarter." The latter, with its tangible goalpost, gives the team a concrete figure to work towards, fueling motivation among sales reps.

Additionally, you should continuously monitor your progress toward these targets and be ready to adjust strategies in response to market changes or internal shifts. 

For instance, consider a SaaS company that notices a surge in demand for a specific feature. In response, the management swiftly pivots their sales and marketing focus to this feature to meet and potentially surpass their revenue goal.

3. Account for Lead Sources and Journeys

Getting inside your prospects' heads is the key to sales success and maintaining a smooth pipeline. 

And an effective way to do that is to trace lead sources and map their journeys. In the process, you’ll uncover several optimization opportunities to build an efficient pipeline.

You should ideally have several pipelines in your CRM based on the lead sources. Clubbing leads from email, digital marketing and events into a single pipeline would cause serious confusion.

Here are some pointers:

  • Pinpoint lead origination channels to gauge your marketing campaign performance. Double down on your winning campaigns and channels to generate more high-quality prospects.
  • Study lead behavior and responses to identify their common pain points. Then, tailor your messaging to guide prospects through pipeline stages faster.
  • Use pipeline management tools, like Scratchpad, to highlight leads, opportunities, and accounts in Salesforce that need attention so you can capitalize on new pipeline and revenue generation.

4. Maintain a Clean Pipeline

A cluttered pipeline filled with stale or irrelevant leads hinders the smooth growth of potential opportunities. 

That’s why sales reps and managers must maintain an organized sales pipeline to keep the focus on promising deals. This can save precious time and resources, improve forecasting accuracy, and ultimately help meet your sales target numbers.

Regularly audit your pipeline to ensure leads don't stall at any sales stage and prune irrelevant leads so that your funnel flows with quality opportunities. You must also encourage your reps to spend time adding notes and updating details for each lead at every stage to avoid stagnation.

Is there an easier way to follow this pipeline management best practice?

Sure, there is! 

Tools like Scratchpad can convert this tedious task into a breeze. 

With Scratchpad, you can:

5. Implement a Robust Lead Scoring System

A solid lead-scoring system pinpoints the most promising sales prospects in your pipeline.

It involves meticulously identifying sales-ready leads by evaluating their potential value and likeliness to buy.

Note these points as you go about qualifying leads:

  • Research and define your ideal prospect to shape your qualification criteria – especially for a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL) — those ready to actively discuss a purchase.
  • Assign scores to prospect attributes based on sales-readiness. Higher scores allow proper prioritization of efforts on warmer leads.
  • Direct resources to higher probability deals for efficiency and revenue growth.

The criteria for scoring leads can vary based on the company or industry.

But in general, many sales organizations use these criteria to qualify their leads:

  • Engagement level: Higher scores if a lead has had more brand interactions like website visits and email opens.
  • Demographic information: Higher scores for leads matching your ideal customer profile.
  • Lead behavior: Actions like downloading whitepapers or attending webinars boost scores.
  • Lead source: The origin of lead (e.g., social media, referral) should also influence their score.
  • Sales-readiness: Score based on the lead's position in the buyer’s journey.

6. Be Diligent with Follow-ups

In sales, persistence moves deals forward. 

Quick follow-ups keep your leads warm and moving swiftly through the pipeline at all times.

Prompt client communication:

  • Shows commitment
  • Accelerates deal progress
  • Builds customer bonds
  • And ultimately transforms stagnant pipelines into thriving opportunity engines. 

In competitive industries like SaaS, this responsiveness can be the deciding factor that helps you close deals effectively.

Here are some handy tips for prompt client engagement:

  • Set Up a Regular Cadence: Schedule appropriate follow-up times for each lead.
  • Personalize Outreach: Craft messages tailored to individual needs. 
  • Use Multiple Channels: Email, call, text — diversify your communication.
  • Leverage marketing automation: This helps streamline lead nurturing processes.
  • Offer Value With Each Communication: Seasonal promotions, free downloadable assets, more information about your product — pick what resonates with your brand.

7. Understand and Manage Your Software Dev Resources/Inventory

To keep your pipeline flowing smoothly, you must ensure that your dev/production and sales teams are in sync. 

This ensures that your sales team is always aligned with what's deliverable and sets targets accordingly.

Here's how to do it effectively:

  • Inventory Assessment: Regularly evaluate your software features and development capabilities.
  • Resource Allocation: Strategically allocate your dev resources to prioritize features that meet market demands and customer needs.
  • Establish Clear Communication Channels: To avoid misunderstandings and delays, foster open communication between sales and development/production teams.

In essence:

Effective communication lays a solid foundation for effective demand planning — a strategic process of forecasting market needs to align your offerings with customer demands. 

8. Standardize Your Sales Process

A standardized sales process serves as an anchor to keep your team grounded and focused on their targets. 


Standardization streamlines your sales pipeline, making it more predictable and manageable.

Here’s how to set it right:

  • Adopt a consistent approach across your team. For example, use unified tools like Salesforce to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Break down your sales process into distinct, manageable stages. This helps make tracking progress and identifying bottlenecks much easier. 
  • Regularly train your team on the standardized process to maintain efficiency and adaptability.

While it's crucial to standardize, remember that this framework isn't set in stone. As customer behaviors and market trends evolve, so should your sales process. 

9. Continuously Optimize Your Sales Process

Consistent structures help start off strong, yet optimizing regularly is how your sales soar.

Here's how to keep your sales process in peak condition:

  • Analyze sales data to reveal what clinches deals, then weave those tactics throughout.
  • Trim inefficient steps and automate mundane tasks to focus on needle movers. Stay nimble and adapt to market shifts.
  • Leverage CRM data to identify trends, bottlenecks, and areas for improvement.
  • Experiment with different approaches to sales interactions and messaging to determine what resonates best with your target audience.
  • Don't be afraid to get rid of or change certain fields in your CRM that you require your reps to fill out. If it's not correlated to closing revenue, it shouldn't be required. For instance, in Salesforce, if a field like 'Customer Hobby' is rarely used and does not directly contribute to deal closure or revenue generation, it can be removed or repurposed for more relevant data.

10. Identify and Track Pipeline KPIs

Regularly tracking pipeline metrics and KPIs enhances pipeline visibility and empowers you to make decisions grounded in data, steering clear of guesswork. 

For example, let’s say a SaaS startup began tracking its lead response times and discovered they were slow. By focusing on quicker responses, they could double their lead-to-opportunity conversion rate, significantly boosting their sales pipeline efficiency.

Which metrics should you focus on? 

The answer varies depending on your business's unique nature. 

We'll delve into an essential list of metrics later.

11. Power-Up Your CRM with a Pipeline Management Tool

While CRMs like Salesforce are popular, they may not fully cater to the nuanced needs of sales pipeline management. 

For example, Salesforce has many pipeline customization features, but they are too complex for most reps, and most sales professionals often give them a pass. To make things worse, the vast amount of data in Salesforce can obscure key insights and hinder decision-making for a sales leader instead of facilitating it.

Tip: Explore the intricacies of Salesforce forecasting and its inefficiencies with insights from our comprehensive guide.

Fortunately, a dedicated sales pipeline management tool can simplify processes, offering a more focused and user-friendly approach to managing your sales pipeline.

So, what sales pipeline software should you opt for? 

Best-In-Class Pipeline Management With Scratchpad

Scratchpad is a sales performance tool built on top of Salesforce, making pipeline management fast and easy so sales reps and managers can work more deals faster.

Scratchpad streamlines sales workflows, integrates seamlessly with Salesforce, and enhances productivity by reducing the need for spreadsheets and docs, task managers, note apps, and bespoke tools for forecasting, automations, and call intelligence. 

Let’s look at the key Scratchpad features.

A. Use AI for Call Summaries and update pipeline

Imagine updating your pipeline and Salesforce without typing. Scratchpad’s AI Sales Assistant records and transcribes sales conversations, generates precise call summaries, and proactively creates suggestions for reps to autofill Salesforce based on the required fields in your methodology and sales process. This gives reps the ability to update Salesforce faster and provide even more context to deals that managers are inspecting.

B. Streamlined Workflow Integration

Scratchpad combines notes, sheets, docs, Salesforce tasks, calendars, notifications, and search into one platform. 

This simplifies your workflow, reducing the need for multiple tools and browser tabs, and streamlining your sales process.

For example, populate your CRM entries directly from your spreadsheets:

C. Advanced Grid and Kanban Views

Scratchpad provides both grid and Kanban views of your pipeline, giving you the flexibility to choose the one that works best for you. 

The grid view is great for seeing all your deals at once, while the Kanban view is ideal for visualizing deal progression.

These views provide a clear, visual representation of your sales pipeline, making it easier to track progress and manage deals effectively.

D. Easy Task Management

Scratchpad enhances sales productivity by allowing reps and managers to prioritize, schedule, arrange, and assign tasks efficiently.

This helps you keep your pipeline moving forward and ensures that no tasks fall through the cracks.

E. Workflow Tiles

Scratchpad's workflow tiles provide quick access to the most important fields and actions for each deal in your pipeline.

This means you can access and update Salesforce data in fewer clicks, making it much easier to move deals forward, update information, and stay on top of your progress. This also makes it much easier to collaborate cross-functionally with SDRs, SEs, or CSMs so everyone is on the same page and the customer journey is as smooth as possible.

F. Commands for Quick Salesforce Access

Scratchpad allows you to execute Salesforce commands from anywhere on the web — be it a spreadsheet or an external notes app.

This simplifies tasks like creating new opportunities, updating contact information, and logging activities for a sales rep.

G. Proactive Deal Gap Identification

With Scratchpad’s deal spotlight feature, you can proactively identify deals that are at risk of falling through the cracks.

This allows you to easily take action and prevent deals from slipping away.

H. Sales Forecasting

Effective sales forecasting is crucial for proper sales pipeline management. It helps track whether your pipeline and closed revenue are progressing as expected, directly impacting your future success. 

Scratchpad enhances your sales forecast process with several features:

  • Roll-Ups: Track every deal at various levels of your sales hierarchy.
  • Waterfall Analytics: Quickly understand what’s changing in your pipeline and why.
  • Trends & Daily Snapshots: Capture views of your forecast over time to track progress and make informed adjustments.

Tip: Master sales forecasting with our detailed article.

I. Additional Features to Enhance Pipeline Management

Scratchpad offers several other features that can help smoothen pipeline management, including:

  • Note templates: Create and use standardized note templates to save time and ensure consistency.
  • AI-Assisted Call Recorder & Notes: Automate your call notes and next steps.
  • Bulk updating: Update multiple deals at once with a few simple clicks.
  • Cross-object viewing and filtering: View and filter data from multiple Salesforce objects in a single view.
  • Enhanced team collaboration: Share notes, tiles, call snippets and more with your team to collaborate on deals in real time.

Seek more clarity on your sales pipeline? 

Let's address any further questions you may have.

2 Sales Pipeline FAQs

1. What Sales Pipeline KPIs Should You Track?

Here's a quick guide to the essential metrics every sales team should monitor:

  • Number of Deals in the Pipeline: The total count of active deals at any sales pipeline stage, indicating potential revenue and sales activity levels.
  • Sales Pipeline Value: The total potential revenue from all deals in the pipeline, calculated by summing the value of each deal, providing a snapshot of possible future income.
  • Sales Pipeline Coverage: The ratio of total pipeline value to your forecasted sales target number, indicating whether there are enough deals in the pipeline to meet sales goals.
  • Lead Response Time: Tracks the speed at which sales reps respond to leads, a crucial factor in improving conversion rates and customer satisfaction.
  • Average Deal Size: The average revenue expected per deal, helping to forecast revenue and understand the value of different types of deals.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): The total cost of acquiring a new customer, including marketing and sales expenses. This is crucial for understanding the profitability of sales efforts.
  • Win Rate: The percentage of total deals that result in a sale, a key indicator of sales team effectiveness and strategy success.
  • Sales Cycle Length: The average time taken to close a deal, from initial contact to final sale, highlighting the efficiency of the sales process.
  • Win Loss Ratio: The ratio of won opportunities to lost ones, offering a clear picture of a sales team's success rate in winning business opportunities. 
  • Pipeline or Sales Velocity: Measures the speed at which deals move through the sales pipeline and generate revenue, indicating the overall health and efficiency of the sales process.

2. What Is a Pipeline Review Meeting and Why Should You Conduct One?

Pipeline review meetings are regular check-ins where sales teams assess pipeline health, identify bottlenecks, and refine strategies to optimize deal flow and achieve sales goals.

These meetings, often held weekly or bi-weekly, led by a sales manager, involve a thorough analysis of the sales pipeline.  
Here’s how you can make a pipeline review meeting more fruitful:

  • Proactively outline specific topics and goals for each meeting
  • Concentrate on deals that are most crucial for meeting targets
  • Ensure all sales reps come with the latest information

Command Your Sales Pipeline for Peak Performance

A well-managed pipeline is crucial for sales success. 

By implementing the best practices we outline, you can transform your pipeline into a powerful engine of deal generation, revenue growth, and sustainable sales success.

And if the process seems a little daunting, don’t worry.

What can help you along the way is a powerful pipeline management tool like Scratchpad — with features that can simplify and streamline the process.

Try Scratchpad for free to start transforming your sales pipeline today!