Optimize your Salesforce Opportunity Stages for CRM Adoption


We’ve created an Opportunity Stages Worksheet to help define stage names and criteria for your business.

Download your copy now to follow along with this post:


The right opportunity stages can make or break your ability to forecast, coach reps, and drive adoption/accuracy of the CRM.

How often do you look at your funnel in Salesforce and question the quality, forecast, and health of an opportunity?

We recently spent time analyzing opportunity stages across our customer base and learned a few things:

  1. common traits

  2. common problems

  3. general approaches

The companies we evaluated are primarily mid-market in size (20-100 reps), B2B SaaS, and all have an SDR team.

Common traits

  • 6 stages on average

  • SDRs usually own stage 1, handoff to AEs at stage 2, and qualified/accepted opps by the AE start at stage 3

  • Pipeline (what sales management and executives look at for the forecast) is usually only measured from a specific stage of the funnel, either at qualified or one stage down

Common problems

We analyzed trends in conversion rates, stage usage/stage skipping, pipeline stagnation, and loss rates by stage using FunnelCake.

The results were interesting:

  • Generic stage names like “Solution Validation” or “Evaluation” end up as catch-all buckets with high stagnation rates. When stages do not have clear entry and exit criteria, opportunities often end up sitting stagnant for long stretches and result in either the opp getting abandoned or immediately moved to closed won.

  • Reps will frequently skip stages they don’t find to be useful, even if there is a clear purpose designed for sales management to use (i.e. forecasting)

  • Bottom of the funnel stages are typically used for managing granular portions of the process: contract sent, contract negotiation, verbal approval/waiting signature. These stages are useful for forecast management, but for analysis, they aren’t very helpful. Typically these stages end up with < 6-8 hours in each stage for Closed Won deals and 100% conversion rates. Since many organizations want to keep the number of stages low, this leads to a trade-off between a more granular process in managing discovery/development of the opportunity and forecasting revenue.

Effective stages

Using FunnelCake we looked at trends across stages with high conversion rates, high stage usage, high velocity, and high win rates.

  • Process-specific naming leads to high-usage. Examples of this could be “Meeting scheduled” and “Meeting Completed” for the SDR process, or “Contract Requested” “Contract Negotiation” for bottom of funnel.

  • Organizations use “Record Types” and “Sales Process” in Salesforce to use different stages for different funnels – for example, if the organization has a sales-assisted transactional sale, an inside sales/mid-market process, and an Enterprise/ABM process. Many organizations will also use different stages to manage renewals/upsell, usually only have 3 stages. This makes rep adoption very strong but can cause challenges if you’re trying to create normalized analysis for reporting.

Example 1 – sales assisted transactions

This is a mid-market sized organization with a sales-assisted transaction and a sales cycle < 30 days.

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 12.27.44 PM.png

This is effective for organizations with a straightforward qualification process, single buyer deal, and a fast sales cycle. For more complex sales, there is not enough granularity between demo, proposal, and verbal where buying teams need to be rallied.

Example 2 – selling to mid-market accounts

This organization sells into mid-market accounts with a sales cycle ~30-90 days long.

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 12.28.18 PM.png

Example 3 – selling to enterprise accounts

This is a larger organization that sells across multiple buyers in the organization at an enterprise price point, with a sales cycle >120 days.

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 12.28.28 PM.png

Getting the right stages

Getting the right stages starts with understanding how reps are using your stages today:

  • Are reps using all of your stages or skipping some?

  • Are reps using one stage to run the majority of your sales cycle length?

  • Are reps using one certain stage as a holding pen to nurture accounts?

  • Do opportunities rapidly move through transactional stages of your process?

  • Is the entrance/exit criteria for each stage obvious to your reps and sales managers? Is that criteria defined? Is it implicit in the stage name?

Changing your stages can be done quickly with the right change management. With a system like FunnelCake, you can group your historical stages to the new equivalent, making it easy to compare how your new model is performing from a unified set of metrics.

Identify where problems exist in your opportunity stages and understand what you need to do to optimize them to get more reps using the CRM more efficiently with our new worksheet:

FunnelCake’s Opportunity Stages Worksheet

This is a great exercise to go through with your team – try it out!