Sales Pipeline Guide

sales pipeline

Probably the single most important tool in any salesperson’s toolkit, a sales pipeline is best understood as a visual representation of how potential deals have progressed through your sales process. In addition to providing immediate visibility into the progression of various sales, it’s useful for getting more detailed as well. 

Sales teams can use their pipeline to understand their process’s efficiency, forecast future sales metrics, identify problem areas in the process, and laser in on areas for potential improvement. 

Sales Pipeline Basics

Pipelines can be as basic or as complex as you need them to be, and they vary hugely depending on what exactly is being sold. High-ticket services will typically involve a more involved pipeline than simpler product sales processes, for example. But one thing all pipelines need to have in common is a clear, obvious progression from initial contact with the prospect all the way through to closing the deal or, in those unfortunate cases, losing it.

In the following article, we’ll be going through some of the basics of creating a solid sales pipeline template. While the pipelines themselves vary, the techniques behind building out the pipeline remain largely the same, meaning the same advice is applicable to a range of different industries, from B2B and insurance pipelines to templates for real estate or recruitment. 

At the end, we’ll even throw in several different basic pipeline templates for those areas, giving you a head start on crafting your own.

Understanding Sales Pipelines

The first step towards creating a sales pipeline template is understanding the concept on a basic level. Broadly speaking, every sales pipeline consists of several stages that every potential customer, or lead, will move through, starting with initial contact and ending up in the final sale. 

The standard stages of a sales pipeline include lead generation, lead qualification, proposal, negotiation, and closing. It’s worth noting, however, that the precise actions to be taken in each of these stages will vary depending on the company’s sales process and the complexity of the sale involved.

The best way to manage a sales pipeline is with CRM, or Customer Relations Management, software. By providing a visual overview of your pipeline and often offering features such as automated follow-up reminders and kanban-style boards, a solid CRM can take the guesswork out of your process and ensure salespeople never miss an important step that could lead to losing the deal unnecessarily. 

noCRM is one such example of CRM software. Designed to be lightweight, user-friendly, and highly customizable, it offers a powerful suite of features that sales reps from just about any industry can leverage to enhance their efficiency and drive more successful outcomes. You can learn more about noCRM here.

The Benefits of Sales Pipelines

Although their main function is to facilitate a smooth sales process from start to finish, the actual benefits of sales pipelines are deeper and more impactful to any sales organization’s operations. 

From getting granular with data to making more informed strategic decisions, here are a few of the main value-adds you can expect when you use a sales pipeline effectively


Possibly one of the most important benefits of having a solid sales pipeline template, forecasting tools are a vital part of running a well-functioning, successful sales team. By allowing managers to predict revenue based on past performance, forecasting capabilities make it easy to understand whether reps are on track to meet their quotas. 

Performance Insight

The best managers have an in-depth understanding of the sales performance of each member of their team—and there’s no better way to gain that insight than by looking at the cold, hard data. Fortunately, sales pipelines make it possible to do exactly that. By offering up a wealth of information on everything from outreach efforts to lead nurturing, it’s possible to figure out every rep’s individual strengths and weaknesses. 

They’re also useful from a more high-level perspective, providing a broader look at the overall effectiveness of the sales process being implemented and highlighting potential areas for improvement.

Resource Allocation

Not every deal needs the same amount of resources allocated at the same time. Early-stage leads, for example, aren’t always going to make it to the finish line, so there’s no reason to spend as much time and energy on those prospects compared to deals that are already in the negotiation or closing stages. 

By understanding where leads are in their pipeline, teams can allocate resources more effectively to extract as much value as possible out of every single deal, no matter how far along it is.

How to Build a Sales Pipeline

Now that we have an understanding of the basic concepts behind sales pipelines and the major benefits of implementing them, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty: actually building out a pipeline for your sales team. If it seems overwhelming, don’t worry! In reality, it can be broken down into five straightforward steps. 

1. Define Your Sales Process

There’s no point creating a sales pipeline without having a solid idea in mind of what exactly your sales process looks like. The ideation stage is where you outline the steps involved in selling your product or service. The steps themselves will vary widely depending on your industry and what it is you’re actually selling, but as a general rule, these steps should follow in a logical chain from identifying a lead to eventually closing a deal. 

Don’t feel like you have to get this absolutely perfect, though. As your team works on deals, you’ll gather data that will inevitably highlight weak points or areas for improvement. The best pipelines are the ones that get continually updated with the latest insights.

2. Identify Key Activities

Once you’ve got a solid picture of how you want your overall sales process to look, it’s time to define the key activities your team will be engaging with as they pursue their deals. Key activities are actionable tasks that move a lead from one stage to the next, such as follow-up calls, sales proposals, or one-on-one product demos. 

Depending on the stages, certain key activities will be more appropriate than others, so it’s vital to carefully think through your choices in order to truly understand what’s necessary and what isn’t.

3. Set Criteria for Each Stage

As every good sales manager knows, it’s impossible to drive successful outcomes without having specific, measurable criteria along the way. After all, how are you supposed to increase the chances of closing each deal if you don’t have a way to enhance every step along the way? 

By creating clear criteria that each lead must meet in order to progress to the next stage, you’re cutting down on the chances that unqualified leads make it too far in the pipeline and demand too many resources. This essentially ensures that you spend your time and energy as effectively as possible, while also increasing consistency and accuracy in the process of tracking the leads themselves.

4. Choose a Tool

Trying to manage a pipeline for your team without using a CRM or other sales pipelines management tool is an exercise in masochism. Far from simply making life easier, these pieces of software offer a huge range of benefits for everyone from novice reps all the way up to the team manager. While there’s a huge range of potential CRMs to choose from, it’s a good idea to keep a few core concepts in mind. 

The best tool for you should be customizable, so it can fit your specific sales process. It should also be user-friendly, reducing the potential for manual error and cutting down on training time required, and if possible should offer integrations with your other business tools for seamless syncing and data analytics. For an example of a lightweight, user-friendly CRM that offers all the customisation potential you need, check out noCRM

5. Populate Your Pipeline

Now that you’ve got your sales pipeline set up in your CRM of choice, it’s time to get down to the fun part—actually using it. The first step of using a sales pipeline is to populate it by adding leads and their current stage in the deal process. These could be anything from cold prospects you’ve just reached out to late-stage deals that are nearing the point of closure. 

As you populate your pipeline, remember to always include all relevant information, such as contact details, deal size, and expected close date. The more data you can give your CRM to work with, the better your chances of driving better outcomes and reaping the full extent of the rewards sales pipelines have to offer.

Conclusion and Free Templates

Although it can seem like a lot of work and hassle to set up, a well-defined sales pipeline is a powerful tool for any sales team. From facilitating the smooth execution of daily duties to offering high-level strategic insights, it’s the perfect way to optimize your strategy and ensure you’re getting the most out of your sales team. 

To really ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, be sure to regularly review and update your pipeline based on the data you’re gathering, leveraging as much information as you can to improve decision-making and refine key activities. 

As a way to get you started off on the right foot, we decided to put together a few basic sales pipeline templates for a number of different industries. Whether you’re in B2B services, real estate, insurance, recruitment, or a solopreneur, these pipeline templates will give you a strong start as you set about the process of crafting your ideal sales process.

Solopreneur Sales Pipeline Template

Solopreneur Sales Pipeline Template

B2B Services Sales Pipeline Template

B2B Services Sales Pipeline Template

Real Estate Sales Pipeline Template

Real Estate Sales Pipeline Template

Insurance Sales Pipeline Template

Insurance Sales Pipeline Template

Recruitment Sales Pipeline Template

Recruitment Sales Pipeline Template