Considering all the decisions you have to make in setting up a CRM, closely aligning your sales process with your stages should be at the top of your priority list. In a healthy pipeline, the two will work together to help your entire team communicate effectively. Alignment also helps sales managers efficiently oversee the sales process, pipeline and staff.
Regardless of which CRM application you use, some denotation of deal status will exist. You may just need to dig your way through the jargon to get there. For example, Hubspot CRM calls this “Deal Stage,” while Salesforce.com just calls it “Stage”. Either way, it's important not only to understanding the role of a stage, but also to make sure it's clearly defined.
Purpose of the Stage
- Internal communication: A clearly defined stage tells your sales team where a deal is in the sales process.
- Forecasting: Well-defined stages that are aligned with your sales process help a sales manager pull accurate reports from the pipeline to support forecasting decisions and ensure the team is on track to meet their goals.
- Deal management: Knowing what stage a deal is in not only helps the team track the progress, but helps the rep stay on top of next steps [download our Guide to a Healthy Pipeline to learn more].
Clearly Define Your Stages
When defining a set of stages, consider taking these additional steps to provide as much clarity as possible:
- Align to an action: Stages should be aligned with logical units of work or breaks in that work. “Contract Under Review” is a great example of a commonly used, late deal stage that signifies a rep is in the waiting period.
- Action and owner: A stage needs more than just a name. To ensure that the action at each stage is carried out, assign each stage in your sales process to a specific owner (such as the sales rep). Should terms and conditions come under review, consider assigning the stage to a member of the legal or finance team.
- Stages are NOT gates: Stages denote where a deal is sitting at the moment. By knowing where a deal is right now, you'll know the next steps to move the deal forward in the pipeline.
- Tense matters: To increase cohesion, stages should be written in the correct tense. When helping clients build their stages, we like to use “Qualified” vs. “Qualifying” to illustrate this point. “Qualified” implies that you've already gone through the steps to qualify the deal, while "qualifying” indicates that you're still in the process of asking qualifying questions.
Sales technology can help increase efficiency for your team, but it can also be a great internal tool to help your team stay aligned.
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