Sales

Single vs. Multiple Sales Pipelines: How to Determine What’s Right for Your Sales Team

Are you struggling to determine how many sales pipelines you should use? Read these expert tips to choose the best for your sales team.

Stefana Zaric Stefana Zaric on June 15, 2021 (last modified on June 8, 2021) • 12 minute read

Did you know that 75.7% of salespeople didn’t exceed their sales target last year?

Why is the case?

Well, maybe they aren’t using the right CRM. Maybe they don’t have a clear process in place for establishing qualified leads. Or maybe they don’t follow up with their leads correctly. While there are various reasons a sales team may have failed to meet or exceed their sales quota, one place that is often overlooked is their sales pipeline.

A sales pipeline is a visual snapshot of your whole sales process, and as such it helps the team understand what they need to do to close a deal.

But what if you provide multiple products or services? Or if you have different sales processes for different customers?

The solution may be to implement multiple sales pipelines.

If you are not sure whether your business needs only one or multiple sales pipelines, take a look at how experienced sales pros determine what works best for their teams.

Companies with a Single Sales Pipeline: Keeping Things Simple

Many sales teams have one specific set of stages that their qualified leads go through until they become customers – also called a sales pipeline. For such teams, a single sales pipeline has many benefits: it’s simple, it helps you to easily monitor the sales process, and pinpoint what works well and what doesn’t.

Overall, a single sales pipeline may be the ideal solution for your team if:

And what we said above matches the results of our survey too. According to our research, 66.7% of companies with one sales pipeline have a rather small sales team — from 2 to 5 people. (50%). And 33.3% of businesses we surveyed have only one person responsible for sales. Less than 17% of these companies have more than six people in their sales teams.

Companies with a Single Sales Pipeline - size of sales team

Since these respondents come from marketing, communication, and media agencies, we can assume their sales process is relatively straightforward and that they are always using a simple set of stages for their sales process.

But let’s dig into each of the aspects a bit deeper.

Your Sales Process Is Simple and the Same for Every Product

As we already mentioned, if you’re always using the same set of stages to close a sale, there’s no need to complicate things by creating separate sales pipelines.

Miranda Yan of VinPit confirms: “A single sales pipeline should be used when the sale stages and process of each product or service are the same. It is more convenient to maintain and doesn’t require multiple reports to be made with less workload.”

Local businesses may also benefit from keeping it simple with a single sales pipeline. If you don’t have branches in different countries, you should keep the sales pipeline as simple as possible, according to Thorstein Nordby of Nettly. “A single pipeline helps you to consolidate all your deals and give you a birds-eye view of how your company is performing. You don’t need to split your pipeline into “outbound” or “inbound” either. By having a single pipeline, you simply reduce the operational complexity in your business.”

Finally, when you have a single sales pipeline, it’s easier to pinpoint what’s working and what’s not. Tracking your leads is more straightforward and allows you to identify “where your prospects are in your sales funnels and also what kind of content is performing well to convert a lead into a client,” says Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers Services.

Editor’s Note: Do you want to see where your leads come from? Check out this free HubSpot Dashboard template for tracking your leads by source.

HubSpot Dashboard template

Your Sales Team Is Small

Although it’s not always the rule, a small sales team may work better with a single sales pipeline. According to our recent research, almost 67% of companies with three and more sales pipelines have sales teams with up to five employees.

However, Alex Meade of Beacons Point, Inc. says “a single sales pipeline is best for small sales teams (1-3) and simple products or services.” Meade explains that it “gives you a clear view of pipeline health in one single pipeline. You can use different deal properties (HubSpot) to identify the deal source, region, product size, type or any other information that you may want to filter instead of using multiple pipelines.”

Andre Oentoro’s piece of advice has the same point. The co-founder of MilkWhale says: “When there are only limited people in your team and when the sales process isn’t too complex. Too many sales pipelines can become confusing and cause unnecessary steps in completing a sale.”

Your Sales Process Can Lead to Conversions Fast

Some sales teams have a fast sales process that moves leads quickly through all stages. In that case, separating your sales pipelines may result in confusion and losing prospects along the way.

Take advantage of the simplicity that a single sales pipeline offers. “When you have one agenda, it can make things easier to use a single sales pipeline, as to move leads through faster and on to complete conversions,” says Carrie McKeegan of Greenback Expat Tax Services.

Focusing your effort on sales-ready leads is easier if you have a single sales pipeline, says Caroline Lee of CocoSign: “If sales executives put the same amount of time to close each deal, ask them to follow a single sales pipeline to concentrate their efforts on the best, most sales-ready, high-value leads and avoid getting distracted by anything that won’t generate revenue for your business.”

The bottom line is that usually, the best call is to start simple. You can upgrade your sales processes as your business grows and you’ve mastered managing the sales pipeline you’ve initially built.

Andrea Loubier of Mailbird says: “If you offer a service that is appealing to a wide audience, using a single sales pipeline can often make the most sense. Starting off as a new lead and moving through until the potential customer becomes an actual buyer is a process that many companies follow when they are focusing on selling a primary service to a wide range of interested prospects.”

Companies with 2 Sales Pipelines: An Upgrade

When is it advisable for sales teams to use more than one sales pipeline?

Although many small teams have a single sales pipeline, the size of your team isn’t always the decisive factor. Our survey showed that more than 66% of companies with two sales pipelines have sales teams with no more than five people. Around 33% of them have more than six employees in their sales teams.

Companies with 2 Sales Pipelines - size of sales team

So, how will you know it’s time to build a separate sales pipeline?

You may need to create an additional sales pipeline if:

You Are Offering Two Types of Products of Services

When you offer two types of products or services, your sales process for each probably won’t be the same. Take a look at what you offer and to whom. Tom Berry of Autus Consulting Ltd. says your business attributes can help you determine what kind of sales pipeline you need. “When it is a single business line/division/product/service/region are some of the attributes that can help you decide on sales pipeline management and process. On the other hand the duration of sales cycle can create the need for a fast sales pipeline versus a longer multistep structure.”

According to Sara Brennan, senior account manager at Vye, single sales pipelines have their upsides. It “offers your team a clear, uncluttered visualization of the sales process and makes goals easier to obtain by breaking down the process into trackable steps or tasks.”

But Brennan says you should also keep track of the exceptions to your sales process. If there are too many too often, it’s time to create a new sales pipeline.

“When your clients/channels differ vastly with different buying behaviors, your business has multiple divisions, or when your sales process changes depending on the product/service, multiple pipelines may be the solution. At Vye, we utilize two sales pipelines for our two revenue streams. One for new business and one for current clients. We love being able to forecast and track new opportunities as they arise with our existing clients as well as seeing our new business growth potential.” explains Brennan.

You Are Targeting Different Markets

Roman Vasilenko of Rocket labs agrees that the number of your sales pipelines depends largely on what your target market is. Vasilenko says two sales pipelines are common when you’re targeting small businesses and big companies, for instance. “Expectations across company sizes differ tremendously. It might be enough to have a 15 min call with a small company rep to get a contract signed, whereas, for the larger company, it will take a few 1-hour meetings before they even start seriously thinking about you.”

Companies with 3 and More Sales Pipelines: Identifying Multiple Paths

The more complex your offer is, the more likely you are to build multiple sales pipelines. Do you target multiple types of clients or you have products that are too different to use the same pipeline to sell them?

Say your targets are all types of businesses: small ones, medium-sized companies, and big corporations. The sales stages will certainly differ for these markets, so creating separate pipelines for each makes sense.

And your sales team doesn’t need to be huge for multiple sales pipelines to work well too.

In fact, more than 8% of companies that participated in our research have only one person in charge of sales, but they still use multiple sales pipelines. When it comes to the industry, most companies with multiple sales pipelines are marketing, communication, and media agencies – 72.73% of them.

Companies with 3 and More Sales Pipelines - number of sales team

The key question may be this: how do you know you’re ready to create a new sales pipeline? Here are some possible answers from experts.

You Have Substantially Different Clients

Has your ICP changed since you first started? You may have started receiving inquiries from specific clients who weren’t in your target group at the beginning.

Jeremy Cross of Team Building Texas says it’s one of the first signs you should create separate pipelines for each group: “When you are eventually ready to create another pipeline, the trigger should be that you have a substantially different customer type.”

Cross gives his own company as an example. “We mostly serve corporate clients. However, when we started to get more interest from non-profit groups, we created a separate pipeline to serve this group. The change creates efficiency since the conversations between the groups tend to be more consistent.”

Your Teams Put Their Efforts Together

How many sales pipelines you’re going to have depends on what your company needs. Peter Rufo of UpCity says you can create more pipelines when more of your teams are working together to generate different sales stages for different types of leads and clients.

Rufo explains: “It really depends on each company’s unique needs. As Account Executives at UpCity, we have a Forecast Pipeline of deals that we have already pitched and sent proposals. However, we also have opportunity reports from our Customer Success team that haven’t yet been given proposals, and we routinely follow up on Marketing Qualified Leads from our Demand Generation team. When the team is diverse, different departments can work together to create different sales pipelines for your organization that go beyond a traditional single sales pipeline.”

Editor’s Note: Want to track the performance of your sales and marketing pipeline? Download this free Pipeline Performance template to determine how healthy your sales and marketing funnel is.

Pipeline Performance template

As your company grows and your teams are able to identify different points at which leads come to you, separate pipelines with specific sales stages will bring you better results.

Carissa McCall of Impulse Creative says: “If you have a marketing research team identifying your ICP’s and building lists, a BDR team handling outreach of inbound and outbound leads, and an account executive team holding sales calls, you are much better off to have separate pipelines. It’ll be easier to identify conversion points and see at what point in the sales process your leads are getting stuck or being sent back to marketing for more nurture.”

You’ve Mastered Your First Sales Pipeline

How long you’ve been in business can also be a decisive factor. Creating multiple sales pipelines right away may be confusing and overwhelming for a new business. Start simply and then upgrade your sales process by adding a new sales pipeline when you’re ready.

Janice Wald of Mostly Blogging recommends: “When you’ve mastered the first pipeline, and you have income and a cushion, try for multiple sales pipelines. If your efforts to perfect pipeline 1 become a distraction, your efforts to perfect pipeline 2 will be diminished. Wait until pipeline 1 is on autopilot before trying to make a second sales pipeline.”

The bottom line is that whenever you need to segment your sales process and reports, you need to create more than one sales pipeline. “Should you need to segment by rep, area, product or vertical, this can be done via segmented reports. You can also use multiple pipelines when creating deals using different currencies, as this can be confusing when reports are being created across currencies.” says Nicole Sengers of Spitfire Inbound. Segmenting helps you analyze reports more easily and accurately, which affects your sales in the future.

Wrapping Up

There’s no universal rule you can apply to all companies. How many sales pipelines you’re going to have depends on what your products and services are and what your target market is.

A single sales pipeline works like a charm for small teams and new businesses that have yet to master their sales process. It gives them a chance to monitor the sales stages easily and pinpoint exactly what’s working and where they may be losing prospects.

But as your business grows, your target audience changes, or the range of your products or services becomes more diverse, you may want to think about creating separate sales pipelines for each.

That’ll help you close some deals faster and focus on others with more effort. It’ll also give you a chance to adapt your sales process to the needs of a specific market and unite the work of your marketing and sales teams for the best possible results.

About the author
Stefana Zaric
Stefana Zaric Stefana Zarić is a freelance writer and a teacher fluent in several languages. She has recently started her own business and educates future writers who want to build a career in marketing. When not working, Stefana loves to read books, play with her kid, and dance salsa.
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