Sales pipelines. Should you only have 1 in a B2B software development company?


So you understand our scope : We are a custom software development company who have 2 primary markets

  • Mid sized companies who have ongoing internal needs for automation
  • startups/entrepurnues/industry experts, companies or individuals, who have a specific domain knowledge about their field and need a development partner to help build the next big thing.

We have 2 primary models we work with clients:

  • Fixed scope, fixed price development work broken into 2 week development sprints. We cost per X sprints at a time, changes are made through subsequent sprints.
  • Evolution model. Which is an agreed burn rate per month eg $5K or $10K and we move the client forward as best we can within the budget, continually reviewing and adjusting priorities to match their constatnly changing needs.

So given the matrix of Existing / New clients VS Fixed scope projects / Evolution model development ...

The question: What should my sales pipeline look like roughly?

I am defning our sales pipeline once more, given most of our income comes from continual resales of new projects, updates, and maintenace I am considering have 2 pipelines

  1. Inital sales pipeline. Source them > Qualify them > Proposal > Pray > sign
  2. Re-sale pipeline. Identify new item > Scope > Design > Build > Deliver > rinse and repeat.

Should you build these 2 seperately?
Try and dove tail one into the other?

Sales Software Recommendations B2B Consulting

asked Apr 18 '11 at 15:46
Robin Vessey
8,394 points
Top digital marketing agency for SEO, content marketing, and PR: Demand Roll
  • I love this question and I look forward to answering. It would be awesome Rob if you polished it to make it a little more -- shall we say -- start-up relevant? – Joseph Barisonzi 13 years ago
  • Yeah fair point, there is no "" so could we have a new tag which is "any business" related? – Robin Vessey 13 years ago

2 Answers


Congratulations on asking such a fundamental question to jumpstarting your B2B sales -- you are on the right track. Mapping clearly the steps of the sales and ongoing customer service/support/sales process is fundamental to success.

For every client (and myself) for whom I engage in this essential exercise the uniqueness of the process for distinct target markets, solution/product and customer type always emerges. Every single time we engage in the conversation about whether to "standardize" the process -- or to "customize" it to match the product/market/solution/niche. . .

In almost every single case the end decision is to have one primary pipeline. The reasons are always the same:

  • Simplicity
  • Accountability
  • Quality Standards

When you are looking at things at the level that require that level of customization usually you are looking too close, and need to step back and make the categories and steps a little broader.

There are of course exceptions. But they are usually because there are entirely different business units that are sharing a common CRM platform. In these cases we will develop a unique opportunity module customized to the particularistic variables of that specific business unit. That does not seem to the the case in your situation.

Both prospects and existing clients should open "opportunities" in your sales flow process. An "opportunity" may be associated with "new business" or "existing business." All opportunities should be associated with an account.

Basic "CRM" Steps

  1. Lead Identification
  2. Qualification

  3. Conversion to Contact
  4. Open Opportunity
  5. Open Project

The sales process to a "new business" will go through 1 and 2 and 3 before a specific opportunity is opened. Since you have already identified, qualified, and opened an existing customer as a contact/account -- the "existing business" sales opens in 4.

Steps of the Opportunity I would propose that the steps for the development the opportunity will also be same. You want the same discipline in developing specifications and cost estimating with all your projects. Qualification is always important. A clear process of approval and contract with all new work is always important. The emphasis of time on each of the steps may be different based on the quality of the information you have about the specific opportunity.

Potential steps for you might be:

  • Identify
  • Qualify
  • Scope
  • Proposal Presented
  • Negotiate

  • Close-Won
  • Close-Lost

  • Close-Defer

Obviously your interpretation of the "deliverable" for each step could be different for inside versus outside sales.

Incorporation of the "Development Sprints" model In your development sprints model you have a couple choices. I like the overall project to be the opportunity without the need to "re-contract" for every sprint. Depending on your process it might make sense to do an abbreviated opportunity development process for each development sprint or clusters thereof.

Incorporation of the "Evolution model" We love agreements like this. We make the project the overall goals with the project with the scoped amount of time/money the scope of service within a defined period and this is managed within our project management.

Quality customer service lives within the implementation of the projects that result from "won" opportunities. And the ongoing customer care and communication. It is from the context of this attention that new opportunities will emerge.

Not just with existing clients -- but those they refer to you -- which become your new business and the very best way to build your B2B pipeline.

answered Apr 19 '11 at 06:44
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
  • Awesome answer! Excellent. – Fitness Guy 13 years ago


To put this question a little differently, is new business development different from account management?

Yes, it is. Beware sweeping generalisations... But recognise that hunting and farming are different!

So should you manage these two streams differently? Well, that depends.

If you manage them as a single pipeline, you have great visibility, and you maximise your opportunity to learn. The main problem is that, as time goes on, the increasing success of your established business may tend to make you more and more averse to the kind of risks that go with new clients. This concentration effect is very evident in small to medium businesses.

If you manage them as two pipelines, you increase the likelihood that you will continue to win genuinely new business. The main problem is that you also increase the chance of taking on trouble, for instance forcing you to bring key staff in from other projects, because risks are under-estimated and forward planning is weak. This disruption effect is very evident in other small to medium businesses.

One way to make the call is to think through the kind of people you have on your team.

For me, if I know that my key people are good in a crisis, and that I can hire people in at a reasonable rate, I'll prefer the split approach. In this case, I'd rather have more business and more problems to solve.

But if I don't know that describes my team and my situation, I'll prefer the integrated approach. This increases the chance that I'll keep the bird in the hand, rather than lose it chasing after those two birds in the bush.

answered Apr 18 '11 at 20:15
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points

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