Intro: It’s more important than ever to have clarity in your sales process with today’s hectic & constantly evolving business environment where key details can get lost in the shuffle. Many small and mid-size businesses that I’ve advised have sales process in Salesforce don’t have clear definitions for what qualifies a lead or opportunity to move to the next stage. I am writing this blog post to share fundamental best practices I’ve learned from consulting with 200+ businesses to streamline and enhance their sales process in Salesforce.
1: Define Clear Stages using Salesforce’s “Guidance for Success”
Problem: Definitions for Lead Status and Opportunity Stage in Salesforce are not being used with consistency between reps. To one sales development rep (SDR), the status, “Nurturing” status means that the prospect is activity engaged in the sales process. To another SDR the term “Nurturing” means the prospect is disengaged and should be placed into series of automated emails. This creates a lack of process cohesion and causes issues with Salesforce reports and dashboards.
Solution: Use “Guidance for Success,” a feature in Salesforce Lightning that allows each stage to have text below it. In “Guidance for Success”, write out clear definitions for your stages. It’s a collapsable element so it can be hidden when it’s not needed but it’s always available as a reminder of the true company-wide definition of the stage. Of course, you need to make sure you have good practices, definitions stages to begin with. But having a definition that everyone agrees on makes your sales process more consistent, reporting more accurate and ensures that pipeline forecasting from Salesforce can be trusted.
2: Define a standard to convert leads
Problem: Sales reps are converting leads differently. Similar to when there is a lack of definition with stages, lacking a clear definition with the Lead Conversion point causes many similar problems with reporting. In addition, with most sales processes, it also results in some records stuck as leads while other records are in the contact / account / opportunity objects.
Solution: Here is the way I like to explain my approach to defining a lead conversion point. Sales is like dating; if there is not interest on both sides, it’s not going to happen. When both sides agree there is a potential opportunity to do business together, that is when the lead should be converted. It doesn’t mean all the details are hashed out and it doesn’t even mean that all the decision makers are onboard. It just means that the lead has been qualified internally and has expressed interest in moving forward with the sales process.
Every business is different so the conversion point can be earlier or later in the process. The element of having some degree of qualification and agreement from the buyer and seller is key to converting the lead, that’s the main takeaway.
3: Implement Key Fields with an Exit Criteria
Problem: As a salesperson moves through the sales process, new additional data points should be tracked and different data points become relevant at that part of the sales cycle. For example, a budget might not be defined until the 5th sales conversation. However, Salesforce could lacks data validation to remind the rep to collect the data before moving on. In addition, the ‘Budget’ or ‘Amount’ field could be buried in a huge list of other fields.
Solution: First, implement Key Fields in Salesforce. Key fields are dynamically shown based off the stage. For example, in the “Nurturing” stage, you might show a field called “Follow-up Date” and a reason why they were set in the “Nurturing” stage while in the “New” Stage, you might show basics like “Name,” “Job Title” and “Lead Source.” By using the key fields, you can define fields that should be either captured or referenced at a particular stage.
Second, implement validation rules to enforce exit criteria. For example, you can’t move to the proposal stage until there is a budget defined. This is a gentle reminder for reps to enter in the data they are supposed to be inputting. Sometimes people forget and automating a reminder is a great way to ensure data gets up to date and management gets the reporting they need to make important decisions.