Sales Pipelines: A Comprehensive Guide for Architects

October 1, 2023

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

Does this sound familiar?

Your desk is a mountain of project sketches, client emails, and sticky notes with half-baked ideas. You're juggling projects, but leads are slipping through the cracks. You forget to follow up on a proposal, and a hot prospect goes cold. The chaos is real. And it’s not sustainable.

You’re not alone. I’ve noticed most firm leaders feel the same way. Going with the flow does not work. It’s ineffective and costly.

Whether your firm is 1 person or 1,000 people, there’s a better way.

It transforms chaos into calm, confusion into clarity, and opportunities into victories.

Enter the opportunity (or sales) pipeline. It's a clear, structured path from first contact to signed contract (or maybe I should say “agreement”). And it happens after you’ve identified an opportunity in your lead pipeline. No more guesswork. No more dropped prospects. Just a smooth, organized, and reliable flow that keeps opportunities moving forward.

What’s included in an opportunity pipeline?

Pipelines help you stay organized, forecast future needs, and ultimately win more work with high-quality clients. In general, pipelines include each opportunity’s:

  • Stage

    • Description: Indicates where a deal is in the sales process.

    • Stages can be qualification, proposal, negotiation, closed won, or closed lost. I dive deeper into them below.

  • Priority

    • Description: Shows the importance or urgency of a deal - high, medium, or low. Generally defined by how well an opportunity aligns with your firm’s ICP.

    • For example, high priority deals require more immediate attention and resources.

  • Probability

    • Description: The likelihood that a deal will close successfully.

    • For example, a deal in the negotiation stage will have a higher probability of closing compared to one in the qualification stage. This helps to forecast revenues and project capacity.

  • Start date

    • Description: The day when the deal entered the pipeline.

    • Knowing the start date helps track the deal’s progress and duration in the pipeline, which helps you better plan for future work.

  • Responsible party

    • Description: The person or team in charge of managing and moving the deal through the pipeline.

    • Assigning a responsible party ensures accountability and focus on the deal. (If no one is responsible, the work won’t get done.)

  • Associated fee

    • Description: The potential revenue from the deal.

    • Understanding the associated fee helps in resource allocation and forecasting revenue.

  • Next steps

    • Description: Actions required to move the deal to the next stage in the pipeline.

    • For example, a deal in the proposal stage requires awaiting client feedback or making adjustments to the proposal.

How do architects manage opportunity stages?

Each firm may have different stages that they use for organizing their opportunity pipeline depending on their market. However, unless a firm has a unique use case, these are 5 common stages:

01 // Qualification

  • Parameters:

    • Initial contact has been made and a project exists.

    • The project seems like a good fit but may need further evaluation.

    • The client has the budget and intention to proceed.

  • Example Situation:

    • An architecture firm is contacted by a potential client looking to design a new residential building. The firm assesses the project details and determines that it aligns with their expertise and capacity.

  • Next Steps:

    • Discovery meeting or call to understand client’s challenges, goals, and expectations.

    • Prepare for the proposal stage by gathering relevant information and preliminary ideas.

02 // Proposal or Pitch

  • Parameters:

    • Detailed discussion about the project has been conducted.

    • The firm understands the client's needs and has formulated a preliminary approach.

  • Example Situation:

    • After the initial meeting, the firm prepares and presents a proposal outlining their approach based on the client’s vision, timeline, and estimated costs for the project.

  • Next Steps:

    • Present the proposal to the client

    • Understand the client’s decision-making process.

    • Identify any competing proposals.

    • Be prepared to make adjustments to the proposal based on the client’s feedback.

    • Move to negotiation upon client’s interest.

03 // Negotiation

  • Parameters:

    • The client is interested in proceeding with the proposal.

    • Discussions regarding contract terms, final pricing, and adjustments to the project plan.

  • Example Situation:

    • The client is interested but requests changes in the design and a reduction in cost. The firm and the client engage in discussions to finalize the details.

  • Next Steps:

    • Finalize the contract with agreed terms.

    • Prepare the team and resources for the project commencement.

    • Move to closed won upon agreement.

04 // Closed Won

  • Parameters:

    • Agreement on all terms and conditions.

    • Contract is signed.

    • Project is scheduled to commence.

  • Example Situation:

    • Both parties agree on the final terms, and the client signs the contract, officially commissioning the project to the firm.

  • Next Steps:

    • Initiate the project as per the schedule.

    • Ensure smooth communication and project execution.

    • Deliver the project successfully and ensure client satisfaction.

05 // Closed Lost

  • Parameters:

    • The client decides not to proceed.

    • The firm and client could not agree on terms or the client signs with a competitor.

  • Example Situation:

    • Despite negotiations, the client and firm could not agree on certain aspects, leading the client to choose another firm for their project.

  • Next Steps:

    • Understand the reasons for the loss.

    • Gather feedback for improvement.

    • Refine the sales and proposal process for future opportunities.

What tools can architects use to manage pipelines?

At this point you’re probably thinking that this seems like a lot of work. In reality, you need to choose which tool to use, set it up one time, and then ensure that your team knows how to use it. It’s a low lift and high reward investment (which is your favorite investment, right?!).

Some pipelines can be managed within CRM tools. Others may require a separate subscription. Almost all offer a Kanban Board style to visually represent the pipeline. And, if you prefer the manual route, spreadsheets are always an option! Here’s 4 tools that I’ve used in the past (and present) to manage pipelines:

  • Pipedrive: Basic and easy-to-use with limited features.

  • Hubspot: A bit of effort to set up but very powerful and relatively intuitive. This is my personal favorite. (It also has a free option.)

  • Salesforce: Robust with endless customizations and reporting. However, it typically requires the expertise of a sales operations professional to set up and manage properly.

  • Google Sheets: If your budget is tight and you have time for some manual effort, then you can build your own pipeline using a spreadsheet.

Note: None of these are affiliate links. They're just tools I've used or continue to use.


An opportunity (or sales) pipeline will help you organize prospective projects and increase win rates.

To build an effective pipeline, address these three questions:

  1. What details will you include? I recommend stage, priority, probability, start date, responsible party, associated fee, and next steps as a baseline.

  2. How will you organize opportunity stages? I recommend qualification, proposal, negotiation, closed won, and closed loss as a baseline.

  3. What tool will you use to manage your pipeline? My personal favorite is HubSpot but there are plenty of other options to explore, as well.

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