A typical use case of Salesforce is to track Lead to Cash flow. Part of that flow is tracking Opportunities that represent a potential sale or purchase. As such, Salesforce has made the process of following a potential opportunity from start to finish very easy using Opportunity Stages.
Salesforce Opportunity Stages are an essential part of your sales process as they can help create better pipeline visibility and accurate forecasting. To help your company get the most out of Salesforce, it’s worth taking the time to customize Opportunity Stages so that the sales process accurately represents your business needs.
In this guide, we’ll cover what Opportunity Stages are, what functionality is available “out of the box” and how you can customize it to support your sales processes.
What are Salesforce Opportunity Stages?
Stage is a standard field on an Opportunity record and is a required field at all times. The Stage field has several relationships with other fields which we will dive into later in this article. Combined, these fields will drive your sales process in Salesforce.
To understand how Stages work, there are two other key concepts to understand:
Record Types allow you to provide the user with different views or versions of the same object depending on the process they are following. You may have different Record Types for different types of Sales transactions, for example, new vs. existing customers.
Sales Processes represent the Stages that the user will go through on an Opportunity for a particular Record Type.
Out of the Box Salesforce Opportunity Stages
The Salesforce platform comes with several “out of the box” Stages:
As you can see, the Stage list looks pretty long, however, when combined with a Sales Process and Record Type, the list of Stages presented to the user can be much shorter and specific to their needs.
For example, in my org, I have one Record Type called MQL to SQL, and that one Record Type is associated with one Sales Process, also called MQL to SQL.
When setting up my Sales Process, I get to choose which Stages I want the user to see when they are on that particular Record Type:
You can see on the right-hand side I only have six of the values selected for this Record Type, so when the user views it, these are the only options they can choose from:
Salesforce Opportunity Stage Dependencies
It’s important to be aware that there are several fields related to Stage:
- Stage Name – The Stage the user selects based on where they are in the sales cycle.
- Type – This field displays if the Opportunity is Open or Closed, and if Closed, whether it was Won or Lost.
- Probability – The values in Probability will be chosen by whoever runs your Sales Operations department. The Probability typically represents the chances of the deal closing otherwise known as “likelihood of winning”. Each Stage gets a default probability that helps predict pipeline and forecasting.
- Forecast Category – This field comes with a predefined picklist, similar to Stage. Forecast Category is primarily used for reporting purposes to determine if an Opportunity should be included in the forecast or omitted.
How to Create a Custom Salesforce Opportunity Stage
- 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.
What Opportunity Stages Should I Choose?
Now that you understand what Opportunity Stages are, how to customize them, and any related fields, you may be wondering what Stages you should pick?
Picking Stages or creating new Stages is 100% a business process decision and will typically be made by whoever runs Sales Operations within your company. The meaning behind these Stages will vary from company to company, depending on how and what is sold.
However, whoever designs your sales process should keep in mind the following:
- Map out your sales process first, before you make any changes in Salesforce.
- Stages should represent your sales process – it’s ok to create your own Stages instead of using native Stages.
- Stage names should be clear.
- Keep Stages to a minimum – too many Stages will cause confusion.
- Use Sales Processes and Record Types for different types of sales.
- Use features such as Path and Kanban to work Opportunities through the Stages.
- Use Guidance to clearly explain what each Stage is for and any requirements before moving to the next Stage.
As we’ve seen, a clearly defined sales process and accompanying Opportunity Stages in Salesforce are an essential part of managing your business successfully. Well designed Opportunity Stages will result in easier onboarding of new sales reps, a unified sales process, and a meaningful pipeline with accurate forecasting.
If you’d like to learn more and get some hands-on practice, check out the “Customize a Sales Path for Your Team” project on Trailhead.