B2B Marketing Stack Basics: Salesforce 101 — Leads, Contacts, Accounts, and Opportunities

July 10, 2015 BrightFunnel

While lead lifecycle processes vary between organizations, there is usually some threshold that determines whether the lead has reached a gating stage and is passed to a sales rep. Sales can either accept a lead, and convert it (more on that in a future post), or reject a lead, in which case, they often re-enter a new nurture queue. Alternatively, a lead may be disqualified altogether, in order to prevent any future engagement (e.g. competitors or bad records).

A lot has been written about lead management and the various stages leads can pass through. Much of that discussion is beyond the scope of this post, but we recommend that you familiarize yourself with this process if you haven’t already. 

In our “B2B Marketing Stack Basics” series, we’ll review the technology building blocks of a winning marketing stack, and the ins and outs of leading technology. In our last installment, we offered an overview of CRM and MAS technologies, and how they work together. In this post, we’ll look specifically at the revenue lifecycle within Salesforce (though the general concepts are universal). In doing so, we’ll review how Sales reps typically interact with the primary Salesforce objects in the lead conversion process.

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Leads

Everything starts with the Lead object. A lead is essentially a digital business card that contains all relevant information about a prospect, and generally falls into one of two categories:

  • Acquired: Often acquired through blind activities such as list purchases, these leads live at the very top of the funnel. While basic contact information is provided, the person has had no engagement with your brand and may be unaware that they exist in your database.

  • Inbound: Marketing-generated; triggered by an action (e.g. requested demo, attended webinar) indicating some level of intent.

A lead can enter your CRM database directly via Salesforce’s web-to-lead form on your website, through a list upload, entered manually, or after it has been qualified and scored by your marketing automation software.

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Contacts

When Sales deems a lead qualified, it can be converted into a Contact. Contacts are the individuals associated with an Account. Upon lead conversion (a CRM process typically performed by Sales), a contact is created, the lead record is locked, and the converting rep can associate it with an account or opportunity. 

Because it is possible to create a new contact without ever converting a lead, we are left depending on the sales team to follow correct processes. Duplicates are very easy to create and wreak havoc on campaign histories, causing data loss when records are improperly merged. 

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    Accounts

    An Account is an organization that is someday qualified to do business with your company. Accounts are generally defined by type (e.g. prospect, partner, customer) and the account record contains all the organization’s information that is relevant to a sale (e.g. industry, employees, annual revenue etc.).

    When converting a lead in a CRM, a rep has two options:

    • Create a new account – Intended for cases when the lead’s associated account doesn’t currently exist in Salesforce.

    • Choose an existing account – Intended for cases when the lead belongs to an account record that already exists in Salesforce.

    Aside from the default account fields, you may add customizable fields to reflect your unique sales cycle, as well.

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    To learn more about how to optimize Salesforce for multi-touch revenue attribution, download our free eBook today.

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    Opportunities

    Opportunities track pending and closed deals. Opportunity creation is optional upon lead conversion and is generally created when the characteristics of the account (e.g. challenges, authority, budget) indicate that there is potential for a revenue-generating event. Opportunities can also be created independently of the lead conversion process.

    Opportunities contain a number of fields designed to help track pending deal status. As it relates to revenue attribution, the following fields are worth familiarizing yourself with:

    • Amount: The estimated total sale amount. Amount is critical to sales forecasting and a key component of accurately attributing pipeline to marketing.

    • Close Date: When the account owner expects they’ll close the opportunity. 

    • Primary Campaign Source: Name of the campaign responsible for generating the opportunity.

    • Stage: Stages often vary between different companies’ sales processes, but an example opportunity stage progression might be:

    Qualification > Evaluation > Benefit/Cost Analysis > Verbal Commitment > Closed/Won OR Closed/Lost

    The goal of any opportunity is ultimately to set the stage field to “Closed/Won,” indicative that an agreement has been reached and contract signed. 

    The opportunity record also tracks the contacts of all relevant influencers in a deal. The Contact Role field indicates the role an influencer plays in the evaluation process, and a single contact can be assigned as “Primary” within an opportunity record. 

    Unfortunately, Salesforce does not require that opportunities have associated contact records. As a result, contact role assignment is a manual process that often breaks down within organizations. Correct contact role assignment is critical to using Salesforce’s default attribution methods, and incomplete records are one of the top hurdles preventing marketers from attribution success. The reason? Opportunity records contain revenue (sales) data and contact records contain campaign (marketing) data. When contacts are not properly associated to an opportunity, it’s impossible to make direct links between marketing and revenue using Salesforce alone.

    Many organizations attempt to address this gap by mandating that their reps associate contacts in order to create opportunities. While this ensures that at least one contact exists, it does not address the issue that there are usually 4-5 influencers on every deal—and some of these players may not even be known to account exec. If the AE only associates one out of every four contact records, 75% of your touches become invisible.

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    Now that we’re on the same page with Salesforce objects and how they’re used, the next step is to dig into the role of campaigns within SFDC. In the next post of our “B2B Marketing Stack Basics” series, we’ll cover campaign management best practices within Salesforce, and offer tips to ensure that you’re well set up for proper B2B Marketing Attribution.

    To learn how to get started with multi-touch revenue attribution, download our free eBook today.

    Attribution eBook

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