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Are there serious flaws with managing leads in Salesforce.com?

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15th Aug 2013
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Ian Morrin believes there are common pitfalls with trying to manage leads in SFDC.

“What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. However, unlike Shakespeare’s famous line, all too often the experience of using the ‘lead’ module in Salesforce.com (SFDC) is leaving enterprise sales and marketing teams with a smell far less sweet…

SFDC terminology encourages organisations to use the categories of ‘lead’, ‘contact’,  ‘account’ and ‘opportunity’ and this is where enterprises can fall down. In our experience, a sales function doesn’t necessary define a ‘lead’ in the same way that SFDC does, and the assumption that they are one and the same can cause problems.

Here’s a list of the most common pitfalls we see from enterprises trying to manage their leads in SFDC.

Pitfall one: A lead that’s not a lead

SFDC’s definition of a lead is not the same as the sale’s team. In reality, a ‘lead’ is merely an alert that someone has performed an action: attended an event, a webinar or downloaded a case study for example.

The outcome: Users (rarely the sales team) believe they have lots of great leads; however, these are often low in quality and high in volume with the real opportunities being lost in the noise.

The outcome: A lead queue which has been generated this way (with 1000s of leads in it – good or bad) can be difficult to let go. The investment in getting it to this stage is too great to throw away and will involve admitting that the original approach was wrong.

Pitfall two: Opportunity default

The tick box indicating that a lead should become an opportunity is ticked as a default.

Outcome 1: Actions that aren’t yet a ‘lead’ becoming an ‘opportunity’ and devaluing that queue too.

Outcome 2: Perception is that a ‘lead’ can’t be converted into anything else unless its classed as an ‘opportunity’. Leads to duplication at ‘lead’ level

Pitfall three: Data duplication

Multiple routes of entry cause confusion and duplication of effort and leads. Inbound enquires and web form submissions, along with outbound activity responses, create an alert that is emailed to an account owner, triggering a call and creating a lead.

The outcome: The duplicate activities are being registered as a lead in SFDC for additional follow up, often by different individuals, creating a bloated lead queue.

The outcome: Taking out the rubbish will be necessary and it will be a manual process that takes some time. Working through a queue of 1000s of leads will be lengthy, clearing it all out and starting again might be a better option but lessons have to be learnt to avoid a repeat situation.

Pitfall four: ROI in the driver’s seat

The number of ‘leads’ is seen as an indication of success and justifies marketing budget spend rather than providing several measures through the buyer journey.

The outcome: Often the thought process is that ‘it must be done this way’ to calculate the cost of generating leads. However, what SFDC classes as a lead doesn’t usually meet the criteria the business intended in the first place, making the results unreliable.

Pitfall five: Not sales force friendly

During the setup of a new CRM system, and in particular when marketing automation tools are being deployed, a sales representative is usually brought in for final confirmation and approval of the process but all too often this occurs at the end of the process. 

The outcome: The software is to aid the sales team, bringing them in at the last minute doesn’t work well, as it needs to be set up from all user’s point of view from the outset.

If you are starting to implement customer relationship management software solution now, or you recognise these issues and are starting again, here’s our advice on the best approach and how to avoid the pitfalls.

A SaaS technology that dictates the way teams and companies operate is wrong; the process needs to be developed first with technology acting as the enabler – even if this means customising the approach. We recognise that enterprises selling to enterprises have the hardest task, so the best place to start is with creating a process that defines the ideal prospect; then use this profile to assess leads.

Then you are in a position to consider the lead queue asking, “Does it match my ideal profile of an account and contact within the account?” If so, turn it into a contact and attach it to an account so that it might be reviewed from the account level. If it doesn’t match the profile, don’t be afraid to delete the lead. You don’t need to create an opportunity at this point.

If the lead becomes a contact, understand their role in the prospect company and adapt your communication approach to reflect that. Ensure that an initial response or ‘holding response’ is sent within 24 hours of the lead being generated. Thereafter, if the account is key, focus on creating an intelligent communications plan which will include, building out a hierarchy of connections from the initial contact and compiling a contact plan applicable to the account and associated contacts.

As lessons are learnt and processes evolve, it is likely that changes will need to be made. Whilst an admin or manager that acts as a gatekeeper can reduce the ability to be agile, they can also bring benefits in consistency and data governance - balance and a common sense approach should be applied here for a win-win result.

Ian Morrin is business unit director at Clarify.

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