Online CRM programs, like Salesforce.com, provide for the ability to manage your sales process from the lead stage through to a closed sale that is won (or one that is lost). This is an overview of the Salesforce Lead to Opportunity process. I don’t claim this is the best way for all companies to work, though it works well for many companies. This example of work flow automation I provide as only one way of how to use lead tracking software such as Salesforce.com.
Leads may come from a list you’ve purchased, or from a set of business cards you have collected at a trade show. In either case, you need to communicate with the Lead to find out if they’re interested in your product or service. Salesforce.com is a lead management and lead tracking system, which uses a lead qualification process to track where you are in determining if your lead is qualified (could be customer), or unqualified (won’t be a customer).
A sample Salesforce.com lead qualification process is:
Open- Not Contacted (the default lead tracking stage)
Working – Contacted
Closed – Not Converted
This information is tracked under the Lead Status field in the Lead object in Salesforce.com.
If a Lead is “Closed – Not Converted,” then the Lead is not a possibility to do business with within the period of time you have in mind. If the Lead is “Closed – Converted” then you’ve made the assessment that there is some interest on their part in doing business with you, so you want to start your sales process. You then “convert” the Lead.
When a Lead is “converted” it means that the Lead becomes a Contact (person), Account (company), and an Opportunity (potential sale) in the Salesforce.com system.
It is possible for a Lead to become a Contact and an Account without becoming an Opportunity, such as when they become part of your network but you don’t plan to sell to them. But for our example, if we want to make some money, a Lead becomes an Opportunity, as well as a Contact and an Account.
Salesforce acts as a contact management system and sales lead tracking system, until a contact or a lead is Converted into an Opportunity. Once a contact or lead is converted into an Opportunity, then Salesforce becomes a full sales management software solution.
Within the Opportunity object in Salesforce there is a field called Stage. This is the field in which you list your sales stages.
Sales stages should be meaningful to the people who use them and associated with some type of action. Select clear words to label each sales stage action that you and others would agree show you’ve clearly moved from one sales stage to the next one.
An example of a sales stage could be “Decision Maker Contacted,” meaning you’ve established contact with the person who has the buying authority in the company to purchase your product or service.
A sales stage in Salesforce.com consists of the name of the sales stage and the probability of closing the sale based on where you are in the sales process.
The sales automation process in Salesforce sets the probability of closing a sale, which is then used for sales forecasting. For example, if the sales stage “Decision Maker – Contacted” has a 40% probability to close and I’m working on a $100,000 Opportunity, then my sales forecast in Salesforce dashboard will show the Opportunity will generate $40,000 in revenue. As I get farther down the sales stage the probability will increase and the forecasted revenue will increase.
We recommend that a company have fewer sales stages, rather than lots of sales stages, and that each sales stage be associated with an action.
Sales are hard enough without having to remember a 15 stage sales process. Focus your energy on closing the sale not on thinking about what sales stage you’re in. Making the sales automation process less complex, yet matched with your sales process, increases user adoption.
When you close the sale and get the business the sales stage becomes “Closed – Won.” If you want to focus on the right leads, contacts, and opportunities leading to more and bigger wins, then using a sales force automation system and creating a sales force automation process that mirrors your business is essential.
The key concept when creating your sales automation process, is to go through it with real customer examples to see if your sales stages allow for enough flexibility and that the Salesforce CRM sales process is useful for everyone involved in the sales process.
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