Sales stages are the 'buckets' that leads fall into as they move through the sales process. Every single lead you receive goes through the same basic set of stages, or milestones on their way to either being won or lost.
If a lead fails to advance to the next stage, the sale is either stalled or dead.
Nailing your stages is critical because your workflows will be directly tied to them. See an illustration below.
For more information on why sales process design matters check out the webinar, "Designing A Killer Sales Process".
Best Practices For Stages
Regardless of what industry you're in, or what your sales process looks like, there are some universal best practices for build sales stages.
Rule 1: Avoid Redundant Stages
In theory, a "stage" can represent just about anything and we see people create "stages" out of all kinds of events, anything from sending and email (Stage name = 'Reached Out') to hearing back from the prospect (Stage name = 'Heard Back').
In practice, a smaller number of highly relevant stages is best. A good litmus test is, "Are there a UNIQUE set of actions that need to happen for this stage?". If the answer is yes, it's probably a good stage, if the answer is no, it's probably a redundant stage.
Stage = New - The new stage contains the follow up actions necessary to make initial contact with the lead.
Stage = Reached out - While important, this not a good stage because the follow up actions here would be identical to the stage 'New'. Rather than creating a redundant stage to track that the lead was reach out to, you can view calls and emails made to this lead from the main leads list.
Stage = Made Contact - This works as a stage because after making initial contact, a unique set of follow up steps are required to schedule a meeting. For example, no matter if it takes 1 or 5 calls to make initial contact with the lead, once you get through, you should then plan on making X number of additional follow up attempts to move the sale forward by scheduling a meeting.
Rule 2: Avoid Mislabeling Leads
The most common issues are as follows:
Marking leads that need to be nurtured as lost
Leads should only be marked lost when the lead provided a definitive NO. Anything shy of that, including being non-responsive, means the lead should be placed in a nurturing stage, not a lost stage.
Misunderstanding active vs passive nurturing
The nurturing stage is for leads that aren't ready to buy in the short term. Active nurturing is for leads you want to keep making the effort to follow up with via phone. Passive nurturing is the lowest stage of engagement and is meant for leads that will only be followed up with via email campaigns. Once a lead in either stage responds positively, they should be updated to an active sales stage such as 'Meeting Scheduled'.
Mark non-responsive leads as lost or invalid
Leads that you were unable to reach should never be marked as lost and should only be marked as invalid in the event that both their phone AND email were obviously invalid (busy signal, email bounce back). Otherwise, they should be placed in a nurturing stage. There are many reasons a lead may be non-contactable in the short term and that doesn't mean the lead should be trashed.
Rule 3: Add Detail To Closed Stages
All stages fall into two buckets:
Open - Active, Nurturing
Closed - Won, Lost, Invalid
Leads in an open stage are still being pursued, leads in a closed stage have had a definitive outcome. It's important to be as clear as possible on what the conclusion was.
For leads that were won, you can track where the lead came from via your lead sources so you don't need to worry about adding additional information via stages. Leads that we're marked as lost and invalid should always have a specific reason why. This allows you to:
Track why you're losing deals
Create workflows for relevant lost stages (e.g. Hired Competitor)
Track the what percent of your leads are duplicates, or have bogus contact info.
Example Closed Stages
Lost - Hired Competitor
Lost - Decided Not To Buy
Lost - Kept Existing Vendor
Lost - Other Invalid Bad phone AND email
Invalid - Duplicate
Invalid - Vendor
Invalid - Outside service area
Rule 4: Customize Stages To Your Business
While this is somewhat obvious, it's worth mentioning that you should update generic stage names to reflect your business when possible. This will make it easier for agents to understand what's going on and get up to speed when first using LeadSimple.