Salesforce is a Lot of Things…but This Ain’t One of Them

Listen, Salesforce is big. It’s powerful. It’s sophisticated. And it can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your sales team. But there’s one thing it certainly isn’t. The word is Intuitive.

Salesforce has its own unique architecture. When you open up Salesforce for the first time, you are presented with an organized-looking page, with a number of tabs, with names familiar to most salespeople. Home, Leads, Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, Reports, and a few others that might not be as familiar – Chatter, Profile, Campaigns.

Sources of Salesforce Frustration

One of the constant sources of frustration is that the untrained user lies in the way they associate some of the sales terms, and how they differ from the way treats them. Until the user is given a walk-through on how Salesforce looks at some of these objects (another term uses for these headings), most sales users will look at them from their regular sales perspective. “That’s a mistake”, says Yvette Montague, lead Trainer at SalesForce Training & Consulting. “You have to know how Salesforce intended objects like Leads, Account and Contacts to be used, and especially how they interact with one another.” What causes even more headaches for the users and the organization itself is when salespeople start entering data into these records incorrectly and you get inconsistent data, duplicates, and a generals dog’s breakfast of record-keeping”.

Let’s look at the four that most salespeople would associate with their day to day interactions, namely Leads, Accounts, Contacts and Opportunities, and how they differ from how treats them. Well, everyone would be able to tell you what a lead is, and how much salespeople welcome any kind of lead – well at least until they start speaking to them. Like everything, some leads are welcome, while others can be seen as a waste of time. But, in general, the more leads the better.

What is a Lead? treats leads in somewhat the same manner. But where salespeople may consider a lead either a person or a company, Salesforce restricts a Lead to a person only. It is akin to a business card, and not much else. Basically a lead is just someone that we think/hope/suspect may want to engage in business with us at some point. They can originate in a number of ways – referrals, cold calls, trade shows, the web, bluebirds, etc. Leads in salesforce can also be categorized, and in any way that the organization deems to fit their process. In essence, Salesforce Leads are quite comparable to the way a sales person would see them.

Salesforce Accounts & Contacts

What about Accounts.  Well, here is where things get a little different. To the typical salesperson, an Account sounds like a name reserved for an existing customer or client that is being serviced by the sales person’s firm. It is a business that we’ve already sold to and that can either be receiving ongoing service or is a potential candidate for more sales down the road.

In however, an Account is really just a qualified Lead. It is first and foremost a Company, as opposed to an individual (although Salesforce has the option to create what they call Person Accounts). Here’s the kicker though – we may never have sold anything to the company for it to be considered an Account in Salesforce. Again, it depends on how the organization wants to treat it. But the general rule of thumb with Salesforce is that once we’ve qualified the Lead, we should convert it to an Account, whether or not we’ve completed a sale.  This is one of the biggest differentiators between the world of and the world where most salespeople live.

Let’s look at Contacts. A Contact to the average salesperson is simply a person who works at a business.  Well, same in But what sometimes confuses users is that would have you enter everyone you know – colleagues, customers, vendors, partners, etc, as a Contact. And then, you would attach that contact to an Account, and classify the Account as a customer, vendor, partner, or even your own firm. The other thing to note is that you can’t have a Contact without attaching it to an Account. Contacts cannot exist independently.

The Golden Opportunity

OK, lastly, let’s look at Opportunities. The Opportunity to a salesperson is something in their funnel that they are working on. It probably has a projected dollar amount, product or service set, close date, and it requires a lot of information to be gathered over a number of visits, meetings, phone calls, emails, etc. It has different stages that generally move in roughly the same order for each one. Here’s where Salesforce is actually very nicely aligned with what a salesperson would traditionally treat as an Opportunity. In fact, we think that the Opportunity record is the single most important record in all of Salesforce. We suggest that managers really concentrate on what Opportunities each of their sales reps are working on, how they are updating the stages, that each Opportunity must have an Open Activity, and that reps are continually updating the information that they are getting from the prospect in the Additional Information field.

How Do They Work?

What IS NOT intuitive though, and is vital if a salesperson is to find of any value, is the interplay between Leads, Accounts, Contacts and Opportunities. This important consideration was addressed in a prior blog on this site ( Leads, Accounts, Contacts & Opportunities: How Does It All Work?) and should be essential knowledge to any firm that wants its salespeople to use correctly.

Nothing will equip your sales teams for getting the most out of Salesforce, however, then ensuring that they are properly trained on how to use the CRM. That’s where we come in.

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