12 min read

How to Scale Customer Onboarding with HubSpot Pipelines

Everything you need to know to build a robust customer onboarding process in your CRM.

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Leveling up an onboarding pipeline graphic

It’s a problem onboarding teams know well. Especially those supporting a growing customer base.

You begin with a simple customer onboarding process. Likely running a haphazard process in a myriad of spreadsheets, and Google Docs. Maybe you start tracking onboarding progress as contact properties or custom fields in your CRM.

If you’re really on top of your game, you have a defined AND documented playbook you follow for every customer.

Then … it breaks.

After months, or maybe even years of onboarding customers through your duct tapped system things start to fall through the cracks and failed onboardings seem to increase as you scale. Worse, you don’t know why. Two questions haunt you: “Where did things break? How will we successfully onboard more customers next month?”

Good news, onboarding can always be iterated on – especially if you're using a tool like Arrows collaborative action plans to manage the process.

Meaning, the key to operationalizing your onboarding process as you scale comes from diagnosing your specific pain points using data.

In this guide we’re going to walkthrough how to use HubSpot Deal Pipelines to operationalize your customer onboarding process.

If you're not sure whether deal pipelines are the right choice for your onboarding process we’ve got you covered with this post on the differences between deals, tickets, and custom objects in HubSpot.

Here’s what we’re going to cover in step-by-step detail:

  1. Why use HubSpot deal pipelines for customer onboarding
  2. Setting up your onboarding process using HubSpot deal pipelines
  3. Automating tedious onboarding tasks with HubSpot workflows
  4. Building an onboarding dashboard for HubSpot deal pipeline
  5. HubSpot deal pipelines for improved onboarding metrics

But don’t be fooled. While this guide is very HubSpot CRM specific the onboarding principles we’ll cover can be applied to many tools used by onboarding teams.

Why Use HubSpot Pipelines For Customer Onboarding

Deal pipelines in HubSpot are most commonly used to help visualize your sales process. They help your leaders better forecast revenue and identify selling roadblocks. As deals move through the different stages of your sales pipeline, you get a better understanding of which opportunities are moving towards the point of closing and which opportunities need some extra attention to get them to Closed-Won.

The other added benefit of CRM deal pipelines is the visibility they provide to the rest of your company, beyond just your sales organization. Those with access to your CRM can understand where a deal is in the sales process and keep up to date on whatever information you are capturing along the way.

The entire customer journey, however, spans well beyond the sales pipeline. Using CRM pipelines to track the onboarding phase of the customer journey is a great way to optimize that process and give the rest of your company visibility into the journey, just like we are doing for our sales cycles.

As your company scales its sales and onboarding efforts, there will inevitably be points of friction in the process - think more tools, more hand-offs between teams, more data to track, etc.

Your goal is to ensure your customers feel as few of those internal kinks while you try to iron them out as possible. The better you manage that customer journey, especially in those early lifecycle phases, the better chance you give yourself to set that customer up for long term success.

Using CRM pipelines to track your onboarding process gives you a chance to…

  1. share visibility into the process for your sales and success teams, in the tool they are already working from.
  2. reduce duplicating efforts - your sales reps have already taken notes about your customers and your onboarding teams should add to them, not repeat them in other silos.
  3. leverage your CRM’s built-in reporting to share the data your executives are looking for
  4. automate hand-offs and tasks between those stages of the journey, to reduce the risk of your customers feeling those gaps
  5. keep your customer-facing teams and data about your customers in one place

Getting customers through onboarding is critical to their adoption and activation of your product or service. Your onboarding process, much like your sales cycle, has a number of stages you are wanting your customers to complete: things like your kick-off call, trainings, account setup, rollout, etc. Whatever the stages are for your onboarding process, those become the stage names in your CRM pipeline for the onboarding phase. When a deal is Closed-Won in your sales pipeline, an “onboarding deal” is created in your onboarding pipeline.

As you and your team move customers through the specific stages of your onboarding process, you track that progress by keeping your onboarding deals updated. Now everyone on your team knows exactly where new customers are in their onboarding journey and you can identify steps in the process that need attention before your customers feel those impacts.

With the right level of plan access in HubSpot, you can create and edit deal pipelines and stages to suit your onboarding needs. Please note: only Sales Hub Starter, Professional or Enterprise accounts can create multiple pipelines. Learn more about the maximum number of pipelines you can create in your HubSpot account depending on your subscription.

Next, we’ll get into the specifics of how to setup an onboarding pipeline in your HubSpot account.

How To Set Up Your Onboarding Process Using HubSpot Deal Pipelines

By design, deal pipelines are created with sales cycles in mind. However, the ability to customize them, makes them a great canvas to build and manage your onboarding cycles as well. For more information, HubSpot’s knowledge base has details on how to set up and customize your deal pipelines and deal stages

To get started,

  1. Navigate to your main HubSpot settings ⚙️ page
  2. From the left sidebar, select Objects and then Deals
  3. From the Deals page, select the Pipelines tab and click into the “select a pipeline” menu
  1. From that menu, select Create pipeline
  2. Name your new pipeline Onboarding Pipeline

Upon creating the new pipeline, you’ll see these default sales stage names:

hubspot pipelines - default new pipeline.png

Here are the edits we’ve made to adjust the stage names to map to a generic onboarding process, you can edit your stage names to match your respective stages:

hubspot pipelines - onboarding pipelines.png

In the above example, the stage Ready for Onboarding is a holding area for customers who have completed the sales cycle and are ready for onboarding. Depending on your onboarding process and tools, this is when your OB CSM would reach out, introduce themselves, and get started with onboarding.

The stages for Getting Started, Kickoff, Account Setup, and Training are the main phases our customers go through for onboarding. Each of those phases has a set of tasks that need completing before a customer is ready for the next phase. If you have a mutual action plan you are using to onboard your customers, these stage names should correlate to those phases in your plan.

The stages for Complete and Unresponsive are also holding areas for customers based on the outcomes of onboarding. If they have completed your tasks and actions, moving that deal into the Complete stage could be set to trigger whatever events come next in your journey (like an introduction to a CSM). If a customer never started or disappeared during your onboarding process, the Unresponsive stage can indicate this customer’s propensity to churn.

Deal probabilities are used to determine the likelihood of a new deal “closing” as it moves through the stages. Feel free to leave the default percentages as is, but we do recommend using “won” for customers who complete your onboarding and “lost” for customers who are unresponsive or drop off. You can force required fields for moving customers into these stages if there is specific information you want to make sure is captured in your CRM.

Once you’ve updated your stage names and created your pipeline, you use the “board view” to get an overview of all the onboarding deals in that part of the journey. Here is an example pipeline based on the stages we set above, below you’ll find more information about the numbered call-outs:

hubspot pipelines - sample onboarding pipeline.png
  1. Use the naming convention of “Company Name - Onboarding” when you name your new deal. We’ll talk about automating this step in the workflows section.
  2. You can add filters based on different deal properties to view this pipeline in different ways.
  3. Once you’ve added filters, you can save different views of your pipeline to quickly access that view in the future.
  4. You can edit the stages, the information in the deal cards, and export your pipeline from the Board actions menu.
  5. You can add fields from the deal properties to display on the deal card, we chose CRM and Company Type to help prioritize.
  6. The monetary value of the deals is displayed to help you understand which stage your revenue is progressing through.

Each person on your team responsible for onboarding can view this pipeline from their own perspective. While your leadership team can zoom out to see the bigger picture of customers progressing through your onboarding journey.

Over time, you’ll start to understand the average time customers are spending in each stage and you can use that as a benchmark to improve upon as you optimize that journey. If customers are getting stuck longer than before, have there been changes to the product that need communicating? Or, are your directions for that task unclear?

By digging into and fixing components of the process, you can update your playbooks and plans to reflect those improvements, speeding up progress for future customers. This really means customers have a smoother experience going from sales to onboarding and so on. The more optimized these early phases of the customer lifecycle are, the greater the chance of fostering an environment where your customers can become successful.

Enable Your Customers With A Collaborative Action Plan

Operationalizing your customer onboarding process in a HubSpot deal pipeline is great for increasing visibility and smoothing the internal handoff when a new sales deal closes.

But there are 2 common challenges onboarding teams face, especially as they grow:

1. Enabling customers to maintain momentum and take the action required to achieve the outcomes they signed up for in the sales process.

2. Keeping the progress and status of customers in the onboarding process up to date.

Many teams rely on long email threads, spreadsheets, or project management tools to communicate onboarding tasks, but they quickly become overwhelming to customers and don’t connect data about what progress is being made to your CRM in a reportable way.’

Create a clear path to the outcomes customers want

One of the most effective ways to solve both of these challenges is to use a collaborative Arrows action plan with customers that is tightly integrated with your internal data and processes in HubSpot.

Arrows collaborative action plan

Mutual action plans created in Arrows become the customer-facing extension of your internal onboarding pipeline, keeping customers in the loop as to what is next.

Adding a collaborative action plan to your HubSpot deal pipeline enables you to:

  • Keep track of who is responsible for the next step in the onboarding journey - whether your team or the customer.
  • Provide a shared space for collaboration to align on the best path to success.
  • Have a standardized record of what has been done and what is left to do.
  • Enable customers to take action on the tasks that will move them from point A to point B in any phase of the journey to success.
  • Set clear expectations about when steps must be completed to hit target dates and communicate the impact of delays.
  • Manage the onboarding process without leaving your CRM or creating further data silos.
  • Enrich your HubSpot data and leverage reports, dashboards, and workflow automations to evaluate, optimize, AND scale your process.
Enable customers to take action on what’s next

The customer journey likely has many moving parts as a prospect goes from demo to closed won to onboarding and beyond.

While all of those handoffs and processes likely have internal documentation and playbooks, your customers don’t need to know the entire story happening behind the scenes.

Arrows plans are intended to keep customers focus on what is expected of them and what’s next.

Collecting information in an Arrows task

In addition to communicating clear next steps for customers, you can also drive action and ensure customers don’t lose momentum and get stuck by using task actions directly inside Arrows plans to:

  • Collect information in forms that can be synced to HubSpot properties
  • Capture file uploads and attach them to the relevant onboarding deal or ticket
  • Schedule meetings using popular tools like HubSpot Meetings, Calendly, and Chilli Piper
  • Securely request signatures via PandaDoc, DocuSign, and many others
  • Embed 1000s of 3rd party tools to keep customers engaged without opening new tabs

Keeping the actions customers need to take in the same place you are communicating the work they need to do not only improves the onboarding experience but also makes it possible to keep track of the progress every customer in your pipeline is making in real-time.

Increase visibility into customer progress

Using a collaborative action plan by itself might help you drive action with customers but a huge reason why onboarding teams love Arrows is the way it keeps their CRM records up to date without any manual work.

Being able to see the status of any onboarding directly inside HubSpot records using the CRM card shown below, timeline activity and HubSpot properties makes it easy for anyone can quickly understand where the customer is in their journey and support them being successful.

Onboarding data in the HubSpot CRM card

Automate Onboarding Tasks With Workflows In Your HubSpot Deal or Ticket Pipeline

Using automation workflows, you can automate some of the internal steps to move deals from your sales pipeline into your onboarding pipeline. This ensures accurate transfer of customer information between your teams and reduces duplicate efforts, like filling out the same information in multiple places in your CRM! For more information, check out Hubspot’s knowledge base for creating workflows and a robust overview of workflows in general.

In the case of our onboarding pipeline, here is an example of a workflow that gets triggered when a deal is set to Closed-Won in a sales pipeline in order to create a new deal recording in the onboarding pipeline. The workflow also creates a task for the account executive to introduce the onboarding CSM, update specific fields on the company record, and creates a task for the onboarding CSM to be alerted of a customer ready for onboarding all within HubSpot.

To get started,

  1. Select the Automation tab from the top of your HubSpot account and choose Workflows
  2. Press the orange Create workflow button
  3. From the Start from scratch menu, select a Deal-based workflow, and name your workflow
  4. Press the orange Next button
  5. For the Deal enrollment trigger, add the following two filters:
  6. a filter to find the prior pipeline the deal is coming from (Sales Pipeline in our example)
  7. a filter for the deal stage reaching Closed Won (or whatever the equivalent is in your sales pipeline)
  8. hit save and you’ll notice the first step in your workflow. Press the ➕ symbol to add the next steps we list in steps 6-9]
Workflow enrollment trigger for sales handoff workflow
  1. Press ➕ search for the Create task action
  2. add a title, “Handoff” in our case
  3. add a note for the AE to send the handoff email introducing the OB CSM
  4. set the Type as “Email”
  5. set the Assign Task to field to “Deal’s existing owner”
  6. set the Which owner field to “Deal owner”
  7. hit save
  8. Press ➕ search for the Create record action
  9. set the Type of record to create to “Deal”
  10. select Deal token and search for “Deal Name”
  1. select that Deal token as the Deal name
  2. set the Deal pipeline and stage field to the first stage of your onboarding pipeline we created above, “Ready for Onboarding” in our case
  3. set the Assign to field to “Specific user” if there is a OB CSM team lead or manager who is responsible for assigning accounts out for onboarding. Then set the Which owner field to that person’s name. If there is only one person doing onboarding on your team, you can set this trigger to go to them directly. You can also assign it to “no one” and just get the deals into the onboarding pipeline without automating this step.
  4. Scroll to the bottom and press the Copy a property to a deal property button to pull information from your sales deals right into your onboarding deals. Your source and target deal property should likely be the same as you select which fields you want to be transferred over to the new deal. In our example, we’ve copied over the Amount, CRM, and Notes fields from our sales deal to our onboarding deal
HubSpot workflow action to create an onboarding deal record
  1. from the Associate deal with section, select
  2. Contacts associated to the enrolled deal
  3. Companies associated to the enrolled deal
  4. press the orange Save button
  5. Press ➕ search for the Set property value action (NOTE: we are using this action to update a status field on the Company record to indicate this is now an “Active” account)
  6. set the Target property type to Company
  7. set the Property to set to whichever field you’d like to update, in our case the Account Status field
  8. set the Account Status type to whatever value you’d like to choose from that field, in our case “Active”
  9. Press ➕ search for the Create task action to notify the onboarding CSM there is a new account ready for onboarding
  10. set the Title field to “New Customer Alert”
  11. add a note for your Onboarding CSM, we are using the personalized tokens to add some extra information automatically into the task, like the customer name, deal amount, and close date.
HubSpot workflow action to create a new onboarding note

  1. set Assign Task to to “Specific user”
  2. set the Which owner to the same OB CSM team lead or manager from the above steps
  3. press the orange Save button
  4. Press the orange Review and publish button after you’ve added all of your workflow steps
  5. Determine if you want to enroll existing deals that match your workflow criteria into your new pipeline or if you want to only do new deals going forward
  6. Review all the additional settings and press the orange Turn on button to activate this workflow

Now, as deals make it through your sales pipeline, the ones that end up as Closed-Won and are ready for onboarding will automatically be moved into your onboarding pipeline for the next phase of their journey.

How To Build An Onboarding Dashboard Using HubSpot Custom Reports

Once you use a deal pipeline to manage your onboarding process, you can use HubSpot’s built-in reports to visualize the data within your process and keep track of key customer onboarding metrics.

Below, we will recommend a handful of reports that will help you track your onboarding process and demonstrate how to visualize this data using dashboard views.

Depending on your level of HubSpot access, you can choose from a number of pre-set report types or use the custom report builder to dig even deeper. For more information, take a look at HubSpot’s knowledge base for all things reports and for creating and managing your dashboards.

Example HubSpot onboarding dashboard

To get started,

  1. Select the Reports tab from the top of your HubSpot account and choose Dashboards
  2. Press the orange Create dashboard button
  3. Select a Blank Dashboard from the cards that appear, and name your dashboard
  4. Press the orange Add reports to this dashboard button, and choose From the report library
  5. From the sidebar, select Deals and locate the Deal average time spent in each stage report
  6. click the “Save report” button
  7. on the next screen, be sure to update the Deal filters to map data from your onboarding pipeline (the default will likely be set to a sales pipeline)
hubspot integrations - deal stage filter.png
  1. When selecting the pipeline above, be sure to click the Update filter button or the report will not bring in data from the correct pipeline
  2. Hit the orange Save button
  3. Update the report name to indicate it’s your onboarding report
  4. select add to existing dashboard and choose the onboarding dashboard you created in step 3 above.
hubspot integration - attach report to dashboard.png
  1. press the orange Save & add button to add the report to your dashboard
  2. a pop-up will appear asking you to view the dashboard, choose “go to your dashboard”
  3. Here is an example of the dashboard view you can expect to see at this stage, below you’ll find more information about the numbered call-outs:
hubspot integration - dashboard view.png
  1. You can click and drag the reports within your dashboard to fill the space however you’d like.
  2. You can edit the filters on each report type directly from the dashboard view if you want to splice the data in a different way.
  3. in doing so, you can update that existing report or save it as a new one.
  4. remember to update and save filters you change to update the report itself.
  5. The orange Add report button is how you can add more reports to this dashboard - we’ll recommend a few more below.
  6. Check out the other Actions available for this dashboard - you can embed external content, insert images, quickly refresh all reports, and more.

Here are a few extra reports we recommend adding to your onboarding dashboard to get started. Follow the same steps above that we used to add the average time in deal stage report (steps 4 & 5) for each of the following report recommendations:

  1. Deal report → Deals totals by stages - to give you an overview of how many accounts are in each stage of your onboarding process
  2. set your pipeline filter to map from your onboarding pipeline
  3. Deal report → Deals in sales pipeline stages by rep - to give you a sense of how many customers each onboarder is responsible for, plus which stage they are in
  4. set your pipeline filter to map from your onboarding pipeline
  5. Deal report → Deals by last modified date- to learn which customers have been sitting in your “ready for onboarding” stage based on the last modified date on that deal. These are customers you’ll want to kick off your onboarding process with
  6. set a filter for the Deal stage to be mapped to the first stage in your onboarding pipeline, the one we created as a holding area for customers to land in as part of the workflow we created.
  7. Task report → Tasks incomplete assigned to me by due date- to keep incomplete tasks associated with customers in the onboarding journey. You’ll need to use HubSpot tasks to leverage this report. Tasks are a great way to set reminders and can be automated as part of your workflows. The filters can be set to show the entire team’s tasks or each individual’s tasks, depending on who is viewing the dashboard.

Here is a view of our dashboard with the above 4 reports added and marked in the image. Keep in mind, you can adjust the size and look of the blocks to fit your own needs:

hubspot integrations - extra reports in dashboard.png

Now that you have the basics tracked and visualized, feel free to explore the report library to add additional data you are hoping to see. Sharing your dashboards and evangelizing your onboarding data is a great step to keeping the rest of your company up to speed on the value and importance of customer onboarding.

HubSpot Deal Pipelines For Improved Onboarding Metrics

We’ve covered a lot of ground.

Truth be told, there’s plenty more we haven’t touched on: Building a customer journey map, creating mutual action plans, which onboarding metrics to track, and the critical role of communication with customers during onboarding.

The list goes on and on.

So let’s focus on the main reason we’re here.

If your onboarding team knows the pain of trying to support onboarding for an ever increasing number of customers, HubSpot deal pipelines are not the only solution to operationalize and scale your customer onboarding process. But that’s not the point.

The point is to operationalize your customer onboarding process in “a” pipeline so your team has visibility into customer progress, can automate tedious onboarding tasks, and can effectively report on key onboarding metrics.

If this article has helped you think through how to better operationalize your onboarding, be sure to sign up for a free onboarding strategy session.

And remember, customer onboarding never ends. There are always new customers and new features to introduce. That means your customer onboarding process should always be a work in progress. Breakthroughs lie in understanding the bottlenecks in your pipeline and systematically iterating to remove them.

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