Anyone can pick up a camera, hit the “record” button and make a movie.
Of course, there’s a world of difference between amateur home movies and professional films. Real film-making requires an understanding of elements like cinematography, mise en scene (stage design) and acting. These components must be carefully prepared ahead of time; otherwise, the end result won’t be fit for an audience.
The same can be said of Salesforce. You can’t just push “play” without preparation. If you’re getting started with this CRM, it’s important to understand the essential concepts of leads, accounts, contacts and opportunities. Your team won’t be able to sit back and watch Salesforce at its best if these “objects” are not set up based on a thoughtful strategy.
These objects play a starring role in qualifying and converting leads to customers. Keep reading if you want to set the stage for an optimal configuration:
The basic objects framework is the same, regardless of your business size or industry. As you may know, the sales process begins with new prospects. These are interested individuals – or businesses – that may become customers.
In Salesforce, new prospects are classified as leads. Once qualified, leads can be converted to three types of objects: a contact, an account and an opportunity.
An account is any type of paying customer, whether an individual or a business.
In a B2B scenario, the representative of the business you’re servicing is a contact. An account can have multiple contacts, as your team might be communicating with multiple stakeholders at the same company.
Think of an opportunity as the deal you’re making. Opportunities can also be sequential. For instance, a design firm might complete a project for a client, then start a new, unrelated project. So, each account can have multiple opportunities.
Just as a movie is composed of cast and crew, Salesforce CRM is populated by leads, accounts, contacts and opportunities. It would be embarrassing to show up on set without knowing everyone’s name.
Let’s review a few special cases. They’re the “divas” who stand out from the rest of the cast:
In B2C scenarios, merging accounts and contacts into a single entity can be very efficient. For example, Miss A. Hepburn buys an insurance policy. Since she is both a contact and account, the insurance provider records her as a “person” object in Salesforce.
Pay-as-you-go or subscription model businesses may not use the opportunity object. This happens when customers don’t commit to pay concrete amounts at regular intervals.
Since the consumption level varies, this type of business charges customers different amounts in any given month. In such cases, there is no fixed price quote and therefore no opportunity – accounts and contact objects suffice.
When editing, directors play around with time, deciding when a scene ends and another begins.
For a business, pinpointing exactly when a new prospect should be qualified into a lead is similar. It’s simply a judgement call, but the effects are far-reaching.
One business – Talkies, Inc. – might rely on a tangible milestone such as sending a letter of intent. Once a prospect signs this letter, Talkies will consider the lead qualified and convert to an account, contact and opportunity. On the other hand, a company might decide to qualify based on more abstract criteria like positive sales calls.
Your Salesforce implementation partner should ask what your unique threshold is for qualification. This decision shouldn’t be left to chance, as we’ll explain below.
Once a movie is released, the director can’t take it back for further editing.
The same applies when you convert a prospect to a lead and the corresponding accounts, contacts and opportunities objects. If the deal falls through and the opportunity is ultimately lost, there is no way to take back the existing contact. As a result, your sales team will have to contend with current customers and lost opportunities co-mingling in the same contacts list.
To circumvent all confusion, you could opt to only list customers as accounts. This means waiting until a new customer signs a contract to create an account and contacts. In this scenario, the opportunity object wouldn’t be used at all.
Note that foregoing the opportunity object also has a cost. This powerful Salesforce tool can be used for forecasting sales. For instance, your team could assign conversion probabilities to the raw prospects pipeline to get insights into sales trends and performance. Opportunity objects also allow teams to split attribution between salespeople working the same deal.
As you can see, a lot depends on qualification and conversion, from the day-to-day experience of your sales team as well as the kinds of reporting capabilities you’ll have at your disposal.
Chances are, if you’re getting started with Salesforce, you’re not alone. A good implementation partner will ask questions about your business process during initial discovery.
The same sales process can be set up differently depending on your team’s definitions of qualification and conversion, as well as whether you’re willing to mix customers and leads. Savvy partners will help you strategize for the most efficient configuration.
Just as a director selects actors and locations before the first day of filming, the decisions you make when planning are the most impactful.