The Opportunity object is the most important object within Salesforce Sales Cloud – this is where your sales team manages their deals, and ultimately closes the business that is going to make your company money.
Within the Opportunity object, Salesforce Opportunity stages help users manage the sales cycle with a customer by moving them through pre-defined steps. This not only helps users manage the sales process, but also helps with pipeline visibility and accurate forecasting.
What are Salesforce Opportunity Stages?
Opportunity Stages are the various steps that a user must take to sell a product or service within your company – this is often referred to as a company’s sales process.
Whilst Salesforce has default Opportunity Stages out of the box, you will almost definitely need to customize these to ensure that the Stages in Salesforce match the actual sales processes within your company.
Below is an example of basic sales stages within Salesforce. Sales reps will move a customer through these stages trying to make a potential sale, completing various activities with each step – ultimately resulting in either a “Closed Won” or “Closed Lost” Opportunity.
Opportunity Stage Features
Whilst the Opportunity Stage field is a relatively simple concept, there is a lot going on behind the scenes that allow you to forecast and estimate the probability of success.
In this next section, we will dive into the core concepts of the opportunity stages, and why these are relevant to your implementation.
Opportunity Stages is simply a Picklist field (or dropdown) in Salesforce. The field has a finite number of values that a user can select from, and will usually move along these values in a linear fashion.
Out of the box, Salesforce has a number of default values. These can be easily edited as you wish – more to come on customizing these later.
In addition to each value having a name (such as “Prospecting”), you must also assign a Type value. This simply tells Salesforce the kind of stage you are creating. You have the option of three values:
- Open: This means that the deal is still open and actively being worked on.
- Closed Won: This means that the deal has been successfully closed, and is not being worked on anymore.
- Closed Lost: This means that the deal has been lost (unsuccessful), and is not being worked on anymore.
You will also need to associate a probability to each stage in the form of a % out of 100. The Probability associated gives you a rough idea of the likelihood of successfully closing this opportunity as “won”.
For example, opportunities at the start of the process, such as in the qualification stage, will have a very low probability of 5-15%, whilst opportunities in later stages, such as the proposal stage, will have a much higher chance of success.
These percentages can be used in forecasting tools within Salesforce, to give you a rough idea of the total value of opportunities closing in a given period.
The final characteristic of an Opportunity Stage is the forecast category. This is used within Salesforce forecasting tools to help further predict Opportunities closing.
These are essentially used to group Opportunity stages into an even smaller number of categories that relate directly to the salesperson’s confidence that an Opportunity will close.
This differs from the probability, as an Opportunity might be in an early stage, but the customer might have an extreme urgency to purchase a product very quickly – meaning that the sales rep’s confidence in the Opportunity closing will be very high.
There are five main categories to choose from:
- Pipeline: The most unlikely stage. This simply means that the customer is in the early stages, and more work is needed on the deal.
- Best Case: Moving one stage further, Best Case means that there is a good chance of this deal closing.
- Commit: Commit is the most probable stage, and essentially means the sales user is committing to close this deal.
- Closed: This simply means that the deal has already been closed won.
- Omitted: Any opportunities set to Omitted will remove them from the forecast. Opportunities that are “closed lost” will automatically be set to omitted, but an opportunity that is currently paused could also be set to omitted.
How to Create a Custom Salesforce Opportunity Stage
Creating a custom sales process within Salesforce is easy – you simply need to create the stages with their relevant characteristics filled in, and then order them correctly.
- To create a custom Opportunity Stage go to Setup > Object Manager > Opportunity Object > Fields & Relationships > Stage.
- In the “Opportunity Stages Picklist Values” section, click New.
- Add a Stage Name.
- Choose a Type from “Open”, “Closed/Won”, or “Closed/Lost”.
- Give the Stage a description (optional but best practice).
- Add a default Probability.
- Choose a Forecast Category from “Omitted”, “Pipeline”, “Best Case”, “Commit”, or “Closed”.
- Add your custom Stage to any relevant sales processes if you are using multiple record types.
Sales processes and record types are used if you would like to create multiple different sales processes within your Salesforce org. Check out the article below to read up on how these work.
Opportunity Stages Best Practices
Hopefully, after reading the above section, you feel skilled up on the typical use case of Salesforce Opportunity stages. But the most challenging part can often be deciding on the stage usage. After all, every customer and sales engagement won’t necessarily follow a linear path, however, most will go through a set of similar stages.
Deciding on these stages is often a business process decision, and will typically be decided by whoever is in charge of Sales Operations within your company. Here are a few best practices to ensure you’re on a path to success:
- Spend a good amount of time mapping out your current sales process. This gives you a chance to fully analyze the way your organization currently operates, and then map these across to Salesforce Opportunity stages.
- Each stage should have a clear name and an obvious reason for existing. In other words, there needs to be a clear point in which an opportunity enters and exits a stage.
- Try and avoid creating too many stages, this can often cause confusion, as well as make reporting very difficult.
- If your company has multiple sales processes depending on the deal type, product, or service being sold, ensure you use multiple Record Types & Sales Processes to split these out.
- Use features such as Path, Kanban & Guidance to further support and guide users.
If you’re using Sales Cloud, the Opportunity object is one of the most important objects your users will be working with. This is why it’s so important to ensure that it is implemented correctly, and sales operations are involved to ensure that the technology will support the people using it.