December 2, 2021

Decoding the Sales Pipeline

Written by The Apollo Team

A healthy sales pipeline is the key to hitting quota every quarter.

But sales reps may be so busy with non-selling activities and other parts of the sales process, that they may abandon pipeline building.

It is the responsibility of both sales leaders and sales professionals to fill and manage the sales pipeline.

The sales pipeline starts with a Sales Qualified Lead (SQL). But before that, there must be a good flow of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) coming from the marketing team.

However, there’s a common situation: the sales team says the leads they get from the marketing team are bad, but marketing claims that sales doesn’t follow up long enough or something worse. It’s a mess.

Studies have shown that when marketing and sales work as separate silos, they waste budget and resources, costing companies millions of dollars. On the other hand, a report found that when you successfully align sales and marketing, you generate 32% higher revenue, retain 36% more customers and achieve 38% higher win rates.

Sounds perfect, right?

The idea then is to have sales and marketing work together with common goals. 

Some companies fuse them as one team, others bring them together to work in one common space or office, others simply improve communication between them (a.k.a. smarketing).

The most important thing, however, is to focus on the customer. Both marketing and sales should work on a unified customer journey for the same buyer persona — the teams should move customers along the same experience, the same sales funnel, and even track the same KPIs.

For example, there’s no point in marketing launching a campaign to reach out to female Millennials in Florida, while sales cold calls Midwest white moms. Alignment between sales and marketing is a must.


What is a sales pipeline?

The sales pipeline is the series of steps a seller takes to move a prospect from SQL to customer. An SQL is someone who is sales-ready, actively looking to buy. 

Another way of defining the sales pipeline is: viable opportunities with qualified prospects. 

Let’s look at the stages of this process in more detail.

Sales pipeline stages

1. Sales prospecting:  identify the prospects that are the right fit for your business, people who actually need your solution, and who might become paying customers once they understand how you can solve their problems.

2. Qualification: make sure you reach out only to qualified prospects, people who match your ideal customer profile. 

3. Relationship building: contact and nurture a relationship with the prospect and understand better their needs.

4. Proposal: send a proposal to the prospect, outlining the benefits of your product, the costs and the ROI.

5 Closing: negotiate terms and reach a decision with the prospect. There are two possible results: closed-won or closed-lost.

Every sales manager or sales leader should spend time and resources on sales pipeline management. This requires:

How to build a sales pipeline

Here are three strategies sellers can use to build a strong sales pipeline.

1. Implement an omnichannel outreach

Just as you’d want to align sales and marketing, you’d want to align all your outreach channels to increase your conversion rate.

First, you must use every available channel to connect with your potential customer – calls, chat, email, SMS, social media, you name it. Then you must make the experience consistent and complementary through all those channels. 

When the messaging that a sales lead gets from your outreach is consistent and always focused on taking her through a particular journey, the chances of her becoming a customer, increase dramatically.

2. Go for multiple touch points

People would almost never buy from you the first time you reach out. It takes several follow-ups or touch points.

Research shows that you need around 8 touch points to make a B2B sale.

For example, after they’ve entered your funnel and you got your contact information, follow up through different channels. Send an email with useful information. Follow up a while later with a call or an SMS. Retarget them through social media ads or start a conversation on LinkedIn. Do whatever you have to do to get to a sales opportunity and reach your revenue goals.

3. Use outbound on inbound leads

As you can tell, these three strategies are closely related and this third one emphasizes a point I just made about following up.

Many companies rely heavily on content marketing, a type of inbound marketing, to attract leads to their site and build brand awareness.

Inbound leads are your hottest leads, no doubt about it. So why not prioritize them and use outbound (i.e. cold calling, direct messaging, etc) to ensure you get ROI from your marketing campaigns?

Don’t be afraid of combining the two approaches. While inbound will generate MQLs, your outbound efforts will convert them into SQLs, further qualifying them and moving them down the sales funnel.

Building your Sales Pipeline with is the sales intelligence and sales engagement tool that simplifies your go-to-market strategy. As such, it can help you build your sales pipeline with our easy-to-use platform and Chrome Extension.

Prospecting with Apollo

You have two great options to start your prospecting efforts with Apollo:

The Apollo Chrome extension allows you to target qualified prospects, request contact information, and automate engagement all within LinkedIn, streamlining the process of using Sales Navigator. 

Apollo’s Prospect Searcher gives you access to a database of over 220M contacts in 30M companies. 

Qualifying Prospects with Apollo

Make sure you reach out only to qualified prospects, those who match your ideal customer profile in terms of territory, company size, role or department, type of technology they use, industry or vertical.

Prospect Searcher has 60+ data attributes and advanced filters you can use to qualify your ideal prospects. One of the great features of Apollo is the ability to create a Persona. Watch the video below to learn more.

Contacting and Following up with Apollo

Apollo allows you to create and automate messaging sequences, use an international dialer for your prospecting calls and more.

Our analytics provide insights into how you can improve your conversion rates and be more successful overall.

Try Apollo today for free and see how you can boost every sales activity and grow your sales pipelines. It may become your sales pipeline software of choice!

Get started with Apollo

The Apollo Team