Do you know how to set up HubSpot deal stages properly? Whether you’re new to deal stages or you’ve been using them for a while, you might be making some expensive mistakes, causing your business to bleed cash and leading to costly, misinformed business decisions.
Long story short, a poorly planned, disorganized, or unstrategic deal stage setup is a huge liability for a sales team.
This is the #1 mistake we see in our clients’ HubSpot portals, and it can create a wide range of issues, such as messy data, salespeople wasting their time, poor reports and forecasting, and more.
Thankfully, as common as these mistakes are, they’re avoidable — and reversible.
Make sure you’re getting the most out of HubSpot Deal Stages by reading these tips, so you can run your sales team like a well-oiled machine. For a deeper dive, check out the related videos included throughout.
Don’t begin deal stages too early in the sales process.
Your first deal stage should represent an action that clearly suggests a lead is interested in making a purchase, and is open to participating in your sales process.
Don’t use deal stages to identify leads who you want to take that action — only those that already have. Otherwise, your deal pipeline will likely get messy and salespeople will spend more time than necessary creating and managing deals.
An ideal first deal stage will likely represent a clear sales conversation, such as a consultation or demo, or a specific request, such as an RFP. Lifecycle stages and lead statuses are helpful tools for keeping track of leads before they’ve reached that first stage.
Don’t include too many deal stages in your pipeline(s)
Each stage should represent a clear step towards closing a sale. Most deals should progress through each stage, rarely skipping any.
There will likely be many sales activities that are not represented with a deal stage, and information such as closed-lost reasons or deals on hold should not be managed with separate deal stages.
This best practice helps to optimize your sales team’s time, and improves forecasting and data cleanliness. When in doubt, start with just a few stages and add more later if necessary.
Each stage should be factual, clear, and inspectable
Every salesperson, including future new-hires, should be able to look at your deal stage names and clearly understand what they mean. Each stage should represent an objective occurrence – they should not rely on subjectivity or opinion.
For example, “Requested Proposal” follows this best practice, whereas “Interested” does not.
You should also be able see the activity or property on the deal record that indicates why a deal is in a stage. In the example above, an email or call note saved in HubSpot should include a request for proposal.
This practice ensures that everyone in your company updates deals in a consistent manner, resulting in better reporting, forecasting, and planning.
Create clear policies for how long a deal should remain open
These policies will vary greatly between organizations, but they should include rules for how long a deal can stay open, how long it can remain in the same stage, and/or how long it can stay open with no activity from the prospective buyer before moving it to closed-lost.
Deals should represent a single instance of a sales process. Moving a deal to closed-lost doesn’t necessarily mean that a salesperson can’t open a new deal with that lead in the future or continue follow-up activities. It simply means that this particular instance of the sales process has stalled out and the lead is unlikely to buy in the near term.
This practice will keep your deal pipeline(s) clean, help salespeople remain focused on revenue-generating activities, and will improve reporting and forecasting.
Add a drop-down property for closed-lost reason
“Closed-lost reason” is an open text field by default in HubSpot. This makes it very difficult to get accurate reporting on the most common reasons for losing deals. For example, if one sales rep types in “lack of budget” and another types in “no budget” for the closed-lost reason, this will show up as two different reasons in reports, creating confusion and messy data.
Instead, change this property to a drop-down selection, with predefined options of your most common closed-lost reasons for the team to select from. This will save the sales reps time, clarify decision making, and will give you more accurate reporting.
Some popular closed-lost reasons are budget, competition, unresponsiveness, status quo (keeping things the same), and decision maker buy-in, for starters. We recommend including an “other” option and having an open text “closed lost reason details” as an open text field for your sales team to add more detail or clarify the selection of “other” if necessary. If you begin to notice a large number of closed-lost deals with “other” selected, it’s a good signal to add more options to your closed lost reasons.
Automate deal stage movement when possible
Sales reps need to focus their time on revenue-generating activities, like closing deals and filling their pipeline with new opportunities. Every moment wasted on administrative work (like checking boxes or moving deals) is time that could be spent talking to prospects.
HubSpot automation makes it easy to automate deal stage movement through the workflows tool as long as you have Sales Hub Professional or Enterprise. The most popular use cases for this are when a sales rep generates a proposal and emails it to the potential client. This can move the deal to your “proposal sent” stage. Once that proposal is signed or paid, depending on the action you are asking them to take, the deal can automatically be moved to “closed won.”
Popular quote/proposal tools that work well with these automations are HubSpot Quotes, PandaDoc, and Docusign (just to name a few).
Automating deal stage movement not only reduces your overall workload, but it also improves your consistency. It ensures you have one less thing to remember in your sales process, and you eliminate the risk that a contact isn’t neglected.
When you can’t fully automate moving the deal from one stage to the next, consider finding ways to trigger tasks for salespeople to take an action that could include evaluating whether a deal should be moved forward or closed. These could align with your policies for how long deals should stay open that we discussed above.
Make use of required fields to get necessary information from salespeople
Have you ever reviewed a deal, only to find that a salesperson has failed to include key information that you need, like a reason for closed-lost or identifying whether a deal represents new business or an upsell/cross sell? You can address this by using required fields.
HubSpot allows you to make sales reps fill in required properties to move a deal to a new stage. With a required field, a deal can’t be saved unless specified fields are completed, so you’ll never be missing essential information.
The most popular example of this is when moving a deal to closed-lost and making it mandatory for them to select a reason from the “closed-lost reason” dropdown mentioned above.
Another example would be if they have a deal stage called “demo completed” or “consultation completed.” During that call you expect your sales rep to uncover some important information like budget, time frame, and who the decision makers are. In order for them to move the deal along, those can be required properties they have to fill in.
This setting is a great way to hold your sales team accountable, and to get quick insight as a manager/owner to see if they are asking the right questions. (HubSpot Playbooks are also useful for the sales team to use during these calls).
When setting this up, proceed with caution. Too many required fields or requiring a field for information a salesperson may not have in that stage is a recipe for getting bad data. You may find that salespeople add fake responses or placeholder answers just to keep things moving. For this reason, be sure to only require the fields that are absolutely necessary to your sales process and reporting needs.
Bonus tip for Service Hub Pro or Enterprise users: add automated ticketing to handle your closed-won deals
Congratulations, you closed the deal! Your customer journey doesn’t end here – it’s actually just getting started. When a deal is closed-won, you can build a workflow to automatically create an onboarding ticket for your customer service team.
You can automatically assign your onboarding rep based on different criteria, such as company size, region, or sales rep — or rotate them to make sure they are evenly distributed amongst your team to manage everyone’s workload.
When the ticket is created you can add a series of tasks for them to perform with expected due dates, like scheduling a kick-off call within a week, or completing onboarding within 30 days.
Following this practice will save you a ton of time since you no longer have to find each new closed-won contact to hand off to onboarding. Perhaps more importantly, having this process automated keeps you organized, making sure new customers aren’t falling through the cracks.
If your team would like help setting up HubSpot to support your unique buyer’s journey(s), ask us about our HubSpot Buyer’s Journey Workshop. In these workshops, we work with you to align your deal stages, lifecycle stages, and lead statutes with your unique processes so you can always tell exactly where each current and prospective customer stands, and what your team needs to do next.
To learn more or get help, click here to book a free consultation with our team.