Salesforce Opportunity Stages: 4 Best Practices to Follow

The phenomenal rise of Salesforce is largely due to software as a service (SaaS) solution’s versatility. With this comes the need to adapt the solution according to your company’s processes. However, the current digital skills shortage for Salesforce developers, administrators, and business analysts forced some organizations to adopt the vanilla flavor during their implementation. 

While the Out of the Box (OOTB) standard configuration is great, most solution experts agree that implementation should match the company’s existing processes. To extract valuable data from your sales process, you should implement your Salesforce opportunity stages best practices – without losing the necessary context in your company’s use cases. 

Here are the salesforce opportunity stages best practices and highlighted common mistakes organizations make during their implementation. These best practices will help you get the most value out of your Salesforce reporting and forecasting features, whether it’s for a new implementation, a rebuild, or a refresh project. 

Why Implementing the Salesforce Opportunity Stages Best Practices Matters

When discussing opportunity stages in Salesforce, there are common mistakes that companies make during implementation. The OOTB stages available in Salesforce are for a generic sales process. 

These OOTB stages are:

  • Prospecting
  • Qualification
  • Needs Analysis
  • Value Proposition
  • Id. Decision Makers
  • Perception Analysis
  • Proposal or Price Quote
  • Negotiation or Review
  • Closed Won
  • Closed Lost

While these stages are necessarily broad, most organization’s sales cycles don’t use all of these stages or call them by different names. To align reporting and forecasting tasks with your sales cycles, update the opportunity stages to reflect your own pipeline. 

Apart from stage names, you’ll need to define the probabilities associated with each along with the forecast category that applies. Remember that each stage indicates a chronological step in your sales process, and when making adjustments, it should make sense to your sales team and reflect the actual process they follow every day. 

By aligning your opportunity stages with your sales process, you can:

  • Gain better visibility into your sales funnel
  • Improve your sales pipeline management
  • Measure your sales targets and forecasts accurately
  • Avoid complicating the process to make it easier for your team to keep track of opportunities

OOTB Salesforce opportunity stages, types, probabilities, and forecast categories

4 Salesforce Opportunity Stages Best Practices for Your Sales Process

To align your sales process with your Salesforce implementation, here are the four best practices to keep in mind. By implementing these best practices for opportunity stages, you can avoid confusion between your sales teams and ensure that your reporting reflects the reality of your current opportunities. 

1. Assign Times to Your Opportunity Stages

Ultimately, the opportunity object in Salesforce is a tracker for your negotiation process. Some leads that turn into opportunities may end up wallowing in purgatory without an end in sight if you include stages like “business case” in your pipeline. To avoid these dangling opportunities from your reports and dashboards, you should define each stage according to a time component. 

If it doesn’t progress past this stage in an allotted time, it’s better to close this opportunity with a lost status. Due to the biases of salespeople, implementing a predefined time limit for each stage can help you eliminate any opportunities that aren’t likely to progress from your pipeline. 

2. Ensure your Stages Reflect Accurate Probabilities

The probabilities associated with the standard OOTB opportunity stages aim to illustrate the power of accurately estimating each stage’s value for closing the deal. When you define your stages, ensure you provide accurate measurements to the probability fields. 

Remember that your sales resource can update the probability when moving between stages. If working with regular customers with established relationships with your organization, update the probability value to reflect this in the system instead of accepting the default value.

3. Add Stage Names that Mean Something

It’s common for organizations to include too many stages and lose some of the meaning behind these names. Adding a stage for contact may seem like a good idea but rarely provides the necessary context to analyze the progress in your sales funnel. 

Avoid using ambiguous names for stages that could confuse your forecasting processes. Instead, use activities within stages to track these types of events in the process. You’ll still have the necessary information in your reports without your sales team getting confused and moving between stages when it doesn’t reflect the process accurately. 

4. Use all the Tools and Features Available

Salesforce has multiple tools available, including Einstein, that assist with probability calculations. Use these tools wherever possible to improve your opportunity stage forecasting and reporting tasks. Keep your sales team informed about what each stage means, its potential value, and what information to add to help you close the deal. 

These tools are a way to validate your current stages in your Salesforce implementation and to determine if you should instead use activities, notes, and records to highlight the details about a won or lost opportunity. 

Salesforce Einstein tool for improved probability measurement based on customer profiles

Refresh Your Salesforce Implementation with Rainmaker

When done correctly, your Salesforce implementation can help you understand exactly how you are performing using every metric available. For organizations that use the OOTB Salesforce, some of the benefits available may be lost in the jargon included in the standard configuration. Rainmaker can assist with aligning your Salesforce implementation to match your company’s exact processes, to reflect your performance better, and inform your future strategies. 

To discuss our Salesforce managed services or find out more about Salesforce best practices, reach out to Rainmaker today. 

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