Graduate Sales Pipeline Management

15 mins

If you’re looking for sales pipeline management tips, you’ve come to the right place. Our gu...

By Pareto Team


If you’re looking for sales pipeline management tips, you’ve come to the right place. Our guide is tailored to early-career professionals who might have been in their role for a few months now, acting as a resource you can return to whenever you need to refresh your knowledge. 

By understanding the key sales funnel stages and the importance of lead qualification, we’ll explore how to optimise your sales pipeline management process—a move which can result in 28% greater revenue growth.

In this guide, we’ll help you to understand the sales pipeline and how it interacts with your skills in customer relationship-building, showing you how the different sales funnel stages are important in their own right. We’ll also discuss some lead qualification and lead generation tactics, exploring why nurturing prospects is so vital to sales success. 

Understanding Sales Pipeline Management

The process of recognising and managing all aspects of the sales process, sales pipeline management allows representatives to understand how much money their organisation is set to gain from current opportunities that have gone out to tender, alongside giving them an insight into how to leverage existing key accounts to take advantage of up-sell and cross-sell opportunities. 

As we’ll shortly see in our sub-section on sales funnel stages, sales pipeline management enables representatives to break down and understand the different moving parts of an often complex process, giving them a chance to diagnose inefficiencies or minimise the risk of stale leads and unsuccessful negotiations. 

First, though, let’s look in a bit more detail at how sales pipelines connect with customer relationship-building efforts.

Customer Relationship-Building and Sales Pipeline Management

The relationship between the customer’s journey and the sales pipeline is close. Any efforts towards sales pipeline management will be destined for failure if sales representatives cannot keep track of their interactions with prospects and do not take the time to understand their needs, without which they’re unlikely to utilise more impactful, personalised approaches to communication. 

Diversifying and personalising your approach to customer relationship-building is crucial to fostering brand loyalty. 

A study conducted by Regalix found that 70% of buyers are more likely to buy from a business again if a sales representative can recognise their requirements and communicate with them effectively, meaning that ensuring that taking your time to get clear on the requirements of each prospect can lead to long-term success.

By engaging in customer relationship-building at an early point in the sales funnel stages, you can effectively identify roadblocks that may stand between you and your ability to progress that potential customer to the next stage. 

At the same time, a well-managed sales funnel will have customer retention and an optimised customer journey at its heart, meaning that understanding the importance of customer relationship-building is vital to long-term success in sales pipeline management.

The Sales Funnel Stages: Optimising Your Approach

When considering the different sales funnel stages, it’s better to consider it a tool for tracking leads as they turn from prospects into loyal accounts. 

Each step in the funnel encompasses its own range of strategies and sub-stages, meaning that our description of each section of the sales funnel can’t be exhaustive—however, we can offer you some tips on optimising your approach to each one to realise your potential and make that all-important task of sales pipeline management easier.


The first of the sales funnel stages, prospecting, is the stage where you help customers become aware of your product or service's unique values and additional benefits. Brand awareness is crucial in today’s competitive marketplace, so you must be certain that you’re identifying prospects' needs and establishing magnets to draw them in.

These lead magnets can be something simple such as a free download on a topic related to the problem which your product or service tries to solve. Whether it’s a whitepaper, a quiz, or a podcast, a lead magnet can help you better understand what makes buyers in your ideal customer profile tick and gather crucial contact and company details to connect with them later in the sales pipeline. 

Most marketers agree that lead magnets are effective at generating additional interest in a product or service, with 50% of professionals identifying higher conversion rates when they’ve used a lead magnet. 


Lead qualification requires you to identify which prospects are going to convert into customers. By engaging with your prospects over multiple touch-points, you’ll start to build a better idea of their wants, needs, and the approach that best works with them, allowing you to move them through the sales funnel stages more efficiently. 

Optimising your approach to lead qualification requires you to begin lead scoring, a methodology which enables you to rank each prospect according to the value you believe they represent for your employer and the product or service you’re selling. The score each prospect receives then gives you a priority-ordered list to target. Lead scoring is quite straightforward: 

  • Define your ideal customer profile. What are their key characteristics, from demographic background and industry, to similar purchases? 

  • Assign points to each characteristic. When you’ve decided on the key attributes your ideal customers should possess, assign a point to each. 

  • The resultant score will allow you to see which prospects to prioritise.

Once you’ve begun to incorporate lead qualification and lead scoring into your approach to sales pipeline management, you’ll find that you can increase your efficiency and profitability by focusing on and prioritising leads that are ready to buy. We’ll go into more detail on lead qualification in our next section. Before that though, we’ve got three more sales funnel stages to look at.


Whilst all of the sales funnel stages are equally important, the proposal step is the stage where care must be taken to ensure that your pitch on your product or service not only provides your prospect with the information they need, but that you’re making it clear how it will solve their business problems in a cost-effective manner. 

Optimising this stage is often done in collaboration with your product management team, generating the free trials and demos, case studies, and testimonials that can allow you to enhance your attempts at customer relationship-building and foster trust in your ability—and your company’s suitability.

Instead of pulling the wool over prospects' eyes, the goal should always be to provide a clear and compelling proposition as to why they should make a purchase, giving them the data and resources they need to make an informed decision. 

This part of the sales funnel stages can often take some time to move through successfully. Whilst the number of touchpoints it can take to encourage a prospect to reach a decision can vary depending on product or service type, the industry, and the position of the prospect, statistics do show that around 80% of sales are made during the fifth to the twelfth touchpoint—so, don’t hesitate to play the long game and give your prospects time to think about their decision.


Once you’ve successfully proposed to a client, they’ve evaluated your product or service offering, and decided to buy, you’re almost over the finish line—but it’s important not to rest on your laurels just yet. The next sales funnel stages are crucial to ensuring a mutually beneficial result for all parties involved, so take care during the negotiation phase. 

Negotiating the conditions and terms of the sale and addressing your soon-to-be customer’s objections is crucial to customer relationship-building, ensuring that you respect and want to resolve their concerns. 

Optimising your approach to the negotiation stage means being responsive to your prospect—provide them with your attention, and make sure that you’re entering your meetings or phone calls with them well-prepared. They’re looking for personalised solutions and incentives that don’t necessarily mean the need to reduce your product's cost. 

Instead, show them the high level of bespoke customer service they’ll receive as standard from your business, and make sure you’re connecting with your organisation’s experts to give your prospect as much information as possible to resolve their issues.

If you’re interested in learning more about handling objections and negotiating with leads, see our recent guide on the topic of Handling Objections in Sales with Confidence for a deep dive into the strategies and tactics to increase your win rate. 


Almost there—closing is the last of the sales funnel stages and a crucial aspect of sales pipeline management. The process of finalising the deal and turning your prospect into a customer will vary from industry to industry, with different sectors offering incentives such as support packages or 24-hour helpline access to ensure their customers are empowered to solve issues as and when they arise. Ultimately, however, the aim is to make the process as streamlined as possible. 

When it comes to optimising the closing step, it’s important to provide prospects with clear instructions on the next steps, ensuring that a robust contract is in place which protects all parties involved in the deal. 

Alongside this, offering multiple payment options—such as enabling customers to pay in instalments as part of a retainer—will go a long way to enhancing the customer experience.

Lead Qualification and Lead Generation Tactics

As we’ve already established, the practices of lead qualification and lead nurturing are crucial aspects of sales pipeline management, allowing teams to quickly identify and give priority to prospects based on their likelihood to make a purchase. 

One feeds into the other, with your lead-generation tactics creating a pool of potential customers and lead qualification used to assess and evaluate their suitability for your product or service. Helping to improve close ratios, lead qualification is a fantastic way to ensure that you’re being as efficient and productive as possible with your sales pipeline management tasks.

Sales Pipeline Management: Maintenance and Growth

Your lead-generation tactics can always benefit from further refinement. Even if you’re a successful salesperson, generating greater numbers of prospects for the eventual qualification process is always going to be a valuable use of your time. So, how can you enhance your ability to create pools of potential customers? 

Simplify Your Forms

When you’re using one of the aforementioned downloadable strategies, make sure you’re not asking for too much information—which can be a turn-off for non-customers who may be interested in your product. 

A HubSpot study of over 40,000 of their customers found that lead generation increased by 50% when the number of fields in data capture forms was reduced from 4 to 3—so consider what information you’re capturing carefully.

Sales Intelligence Allows for Supercharged Lead-Generation Tactics

Data is power in the digital world, and as a professional working for a sales organisation, you’re likely to be sitting on a mountain of it—so put it to work. 

Utilising sales intelligence tools can provide insights into customer behaviours, growth opportunities, and broader trends in the economy and market, allowing you to make informed decisions on which leads to qualify. 

Utilising a tool such as Salesforce’s Sales Cloud product, the HubSpot Sales Hub, or 6sense allows you to easily gather and analyse data from leads and key accounts, which can be used to guide the agenda in your touchpoints and automate aspects of the prospecting section of the sales funnel stages we explored in section one of this guide. 

ABT—Always Be Testing

Lead-generation tactics should never remain static. You must ensure that you’re regularly reviewing the various approaches you employ and utilising the latest strategies to take advantage of new ways of reaching out to existing and potential customers.

Whether you’re A/B testing different forms of personalisation when you reach out to prospects, optimising landing pages and forms to capture those searching the web for products and services within your niche, or experimenting with social selling, innovative lead-generation tactics can help you to reduce the cost to acquire new prospects and empower yourself to follow up with leads more effectively. 

Lead Qualification: Separating Viable Opportunities from Dead Ends

Now, onto lead qualification. As we keep reiterating, it’s a vital part of sales pipeline management, helping you to identify and prioritise prospects with a higher intent of buying. Collaborating closely with your team is crucial to understand which leads are viable, but there are tools to help streamline this process. 

Whilst many organisations utilise the BANT framework—which analyses a prospect’s budget, authority, need, and timeline—the modern sales environment is often complex and multifaceted, with BANT being criticised for its close focus on the seller’s side of the sales relationship. Instead, you can utilise a structure such as MEDDIC to enhance your lead qualification activities. 

  • Metrics. At the forefront of the MEDDIC approach to lead qualification are the metrics and KPIs that matter to your prospect’s business, which will help them understand how your product or service will help them achieve their vision.

  • Economic Buyer. Is your contact within the business a decision-maker? If not, you should be trying to speak to someone with the power to make the purchase.

  • Decision Criteria. Your lead should have a clear understanding of how they will evaluate your product compared to the competition, enabling them to make a purchasing decision more easily.

  • Decision Process. Prospects, especially within the B2B space, are often starved for time. As a result, it’s crucial to offer them options for their decision-making process, and a timeline, which can help to mitigate the risk of stagnant leads.

  • Identify Pain. You should be consulting with potential customers, highlighting their pain points and giving them insight into how your product or service will help solve or streamline them.

  • Champion. Salespeople should always identify a champion within an organisation who can work with the representative to move the deal forward to closure, whether this is a decision-maker or someone who truly believes in your product or service.

Whether you choose to utilise the MEDDIC framework, BANT, or another alternative, by taking a structured approach to lead qualification, you can more clearly understand your customer’s pain points and discover opportunities to convert and close deals. Focusing on potential buyers that fit within your ideal customer profile will help you provide an excellent customer journey, and ultimately create brand-loyal customers who will champion your organisation. 

Sales Pipeline Management: Key Metrics to Keep Track Of 

Whilst your line managers—and business leaders—are already likely to be keeping track of key metrics, it’s important that front-line staff also understand the importance of KPIs for effective sales pipeline management. 

Having hard KPIs in mind when focusing on lead qualification and lead generation tactics, customer relationship-building, or optimising your approach to any of the other sales funnel stages can help you understand whether your sales process is working or if inefficiencies have crept in, which requires solutions.

Valuable Metrics for Sales Pipeline Management

Whilst a range of metrics are useful for analysing the sales pipeline management process, we’ll focus on three impactful data points in this guide, which will help you gain a holistic view of your performance.

Conversion Rates

Understanding conversion rates allows you to recognise and resolve any problems with your ability to guide prospects through the various sales funnel stages. A low conversion rate highlights that your sales process likely needs work. 

Measuring the conversion rate is relatively straightforward—simply divide the number of leads that have converted into customers by the number of prospects in your sales funnel stages.

Sales Velocity

Allowing you to understand how quickly prospects are moving through the pipeline, sales velocity is a key metric for gaining a comprehensive view of how effective the sales pipeline management strategy actually is, and solving any roadblocks that are arising through the process. 

Like the other entries in this guide, measuring sales velocity is easy for a sales representative to do. Multiply the total number of sales opportunities by the average size of your deals and overall win rate, then divide the resulting number by the length of time prospects spend in all sales funnel stages. For example: 

  • Part 1 of Sales Velocity Calculation. 100 deals × average deal size of £5,000 × 0.15 (for an average win rate of 15%, for instance) = £75,000.

  • Part 2 of Sales Velocity Calculation. £75,000 ÷ average of 30 days to make it through all sales funnel stages = £2500.00. 

In this example, the sales velocity would be £2500.00 of revenue generated for each day a prospect spends in the sales pipeline. This figure is crucial to understand since reducing the time a lead spends in each of the sales funnel stages means you can raise the level of revenue generated—ultimately generating more profit. 

Deal Value

Whilst deal value doesn’t really need calculating—it’s simply the value of the deals that you close—by understanding this data, you can identify whether you’re struggling to negotiate effectively and also identify high-value deals which can be prioritised through the practice of lead qualification. 

Additionally, by reporting your average deal value to your supervisors and business leaders, you can help them forecast revenue growth, enabling them to make data-driven decisions which will improve overall performance and sales pipeline management efforts.

Closing Remarks

By understanding the sales funnel stages and optimising your approach to lead qualification and lead generation tactics, you can streamline the sales pipeline management process and drive revenue growth as a sales representative. 

As we’ve seen, customer relationship-building is crucial for those seeking to achieve long-term success in a sales-focused career. Whether you’re touching base with a customer in the prospecting, qualification, proposal, negotiation, or closing stage, you should now be equipped with the knowledge you need to enhance your strategy. 

Moreover, the importance of lead generation, qualification, and key metrics in sales pipeline management can’t be overstated. By continually refining your attitude and methodology, you can achieve sustainable growth and master the intricacies of sales excellence. 

Looking to Become an Expert in Sales Pipeline Management? 

Whether you’re interested in realising the potential of your sales career or you’re looking for training and apprenticeship opportunities, Pareto’s specialist consultants are here to listen to your needs and support you. We’ve been encouraging ambitious graduates to achieve success in the sales industry for over 25 years, connecting them with the latest roles across all sectors. 

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you to drive revenue growth and make a difference today. 

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