Defining Your Buyer and Customer Lifecycle Stages



In this blog post, discover how to better define your buyer and customer lifecycle stages to address inefficiencies and build more accurate pipeline and revenue forecasting.

By Brittany Lieu, Marketing Consultant at Heinz Marketing

What is a sales opportunity?

It’s not a lead and it’s more than just a prospect. By most definitions, an opportunity is a qualified prospect that has a high likelihood of becoming a customer. However, how or when that opportunity is created can be hard to universally define. 

To create the greatest clarity and consistency for not only your sales reps, but the marketing and customer success teams that bookend the sales process, it’s imperative to define and map every stage of a buyer’s life cycle. 

With that level of precision, your team gains a shared understanding of what an opportunity looks like, how to effectively qualify an opportunity and what needs to take place between marketing and sales to create one.

Whether your organization leans closer to or farther from the mature side, there is always room to refine your selling process. Taking on this internal improvement project, here are a few tips on how to accomplish this effectively.

Document Your Current State

Take a detailed look at how your organization currently documents and defines sales stages from lead to opportunity to post-sale. In order to find gaps and inconsistencies in the process, review your CRM to see how each stage is tracked in your system. From here, you can further your discovery process and set up interviews with team members including SDRs, Account Executives, Sales Directors and Customer Service Managers to get their input.

Gather Detailed Feedback

In gathering thoughts and ideas from those directly involved in the sales process, you can uncover opportunities for improvement. What nuanced details about the process have created hiccups in how well an opportunity is created and nurtured? Here are a few more example questions that can help reveal more about the existing state of your sales process.

Example Questions to Ask:

  • Can you walk me through the sales process for inbound and outbound leads?
  • What is your qualification criteria at each stage of the funnel?
  • What’s marketing’s role in the sales process?
  • Where is the typical hand-off between marketing and sales?
  • Are there any areas of the sales process that you’d like to see improved or changed?
  • Where in the buying journey do prospects tend to drop off?
  • What are the most common closed lost reasons?
  • How does the sales cycle differ for repeat customers?

Map Your Future State

Once you’ve gained a better understanding of how the current sales process looks and how it can be optimized, begin mapping your future state! Incorporate the feedback you’ve received whether that be consolidating steps and simplifying qualification criteria or incorporating missing steps. In building this ideal sales process, include clear definitions of each stage, what triggers need to happen to advance to the next stage, marketing’s role, sales’ role and any other technical roles involved at every stage. 

Sales stages are the backbone to how your marketing and sales teams operate daily. Once you’ve dedicated the time to address inefficiencies, you’re left with a selling process that lends itself to more accurate pipeline and revenue forecasting. 

To learn more about creating sales and marketing alignment within your sales process, check out this eBook B2B Marketing and Sales Roadmap