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Salesforce Fundamentals

Newfangled has been talking a lot recently about Lead Development Ecosystems, which consist of a conversion-focused website, a marketing automation tool, and a customer relationship management tool. I want to focus on the third part of the ecosystem: the CRM. We recommend Salesforce to our clients; it’s the most widely adopted CRM on the market, and it integrates with just about anything you can think of.

Often, our clients purchase a Salesforce license but never manage to get their CRM implementation off the ground. Salesforce is an enterprise-level tool, with the ability to scale for massive implementations. It’s chock-full of functionality. But never fear: you don’t need to understand everything Salesforce can do in order to use it successfully.

The trick to making a basic Salesforce implementation work is in figuring out what you should really be paying attention to, and what you can ignore.

This blog post will introduce you to the five main data “objects” you need to know inside and out. (In Salesforce, your data is stored in different tables, which they call “objects.” Each object will have relationships and associations with other objects.) There are a few other parts of Salesforce that you’ll need to learn about in order to make your implementation work for you, but if you can first understand these objects, and the relationships between them, you’ll be well on your way to using Salesforce successfully.

Let’s start with a question. Your CRM is your sales hub. It can do more, but mostly, the point of your CRM is to facilitate and track the sales process. So the first thing we need to ask ourselves is: What is sales concerned with tracking?

Normally it boils down to these four things:

1. Sales prospects, currently being nurtured
2. Customers, both potential and current
3. Potential sales opportunities
4. How marketing efforts influence sales

Agree so far? That’s a pretty manageable number of things we need to keep track of. The next question that follows is: How do those four areas map to the Salesforce data model? That should tell us a lot about what we really need to pay attention to in Salesforce.

1. Sales prospects = Leads

A Lead is a person who has had some interaction with you, but is not yet ready to buy. The Lead record contains some information about that person, and the company they work for.

Think of the Lead object as a giant bucket of business cards you’ve collected. Anyone who comes to your site and submits a form will be added to Salesforce as a Lead. They could be a job seeker, a competitor, your mom, OR someone who may be in desperate need of your services but either doesn’t know it yet, or isn’t yet ready to buy from you. Anyone you encounter who is both new and not ready to buy should be tossed in this bucket.

For example, Leads may be:

  • Anyone who has filled out a form on your site
  • Contacts from a purchased list
  • Speaking engagement attendees

If you’re a Salesforce user, it’s likely that the lead object is the one you will interact with the least. Newfangled has almost 20,000 leads in its database, but only about 500 potential and actual customers.

Once a person is in the Lead bucket, it’s the job of lead nurturing, marketing automation, and lead scoring to help you filter out the good leads from the bad, so you can start business engagements with those prospects in the “good” pile. Salesforce can help with this filtering in some specific ways (for example, workflow rules), but the filtering is largely managed by outside systems.

While those outside systems are doing their thing, Salesforce continues to collect information. During a prospect’s time as a lead in Salesforce, that person’s record is updated as they continue their engagement with you, your site, and your marketing efforts, so that once that prospect is ready to buy, you have all of that information at your disposal during the sales process.

2. Potential and actual customers = Accounts (and Contacts)
3. Potential sales opportunities = Opportunities

Accounts are companies that you have a business relationship with; either your current customers, or companies that you are currently trying to win business from. Contacts are specific people who work at those companies. Opportunities are the sales deals with those companies that you’ve either closed or are currently working on. Contacts and Opportunities are always associated with an Account.

Salesforce also supports Account hierarchy, so you can nest multiple “child” Accounts under one “parent” Account. This functionality comes in handy if, say, you’re working with a company with multiple locations, and selling to each location individually. The company’s headquarters would be the parent Account, and each different location would be a child Account of that parent. Contacts would be associated with their specific location’s Account.

You can also create Partner relationships if you have companies you collaborate with. A Partner must exist as an Account. You can add a Partner to Accounts and to individual Opportunities, and you can designate the role they play, including — if you have multiple Partners — whether they are the Primary Partner. If you add a Partner to an Opportunity, it will also be associated with the Opportunity’s Account. For example, at Newfangled we use Partners to designate agency-client relationships.

Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities are completely separate from Leads. So the next question we need to ask is: What happens when someone who exists as a Lead in your Salesforce database is ready to enter into the sales process and no longer deserves to be called a Lead?

Say John Smith has been in your Salesforce Lead database for a year. He’s been reading your newsletter, attending webinars, and he even saw you speak at a conference. But it wasn’t until today, when he requested a web meeting, that he deserved to be plucked out of the Lead bucket and considered a potential customer.

To represent this in Salesforce, I would locate John Doe’s Lead record and “Convert” him, using the “Convert” button at the top of the Lead record detail page. The Lead record becomes a Contact record, and all the information you collected about that person when they were a Lead is retained on the Contact record.

At the time of conversion, you are required to associate that Contact with an Account. You can attach it to an existing Account or create a new one. You also have the option to create an associated Opportunity. If you create an Opportunity, that Contact will be associated with the Opportunity as a Contact Role.

A Contact Role defines the part that a Contact plays in a specific account or opportunity. For example, John might be the decision maker for one Opportunity, but Mike might be the decision maker for a separate Opportunity on the same Account. And their CEO might be the decision maker on the Account as a whole.

Two important notes on conversion, before we continue:

While creating an Opportunity at the time of conversion is optional, I would recommend only converting a Lead if you have an Opportunity you can begin tracking (that is, unless you are converting a Lead because they should be associated with an existing Account or Opportunity). You have to determine, within the context of your sales process, when it makes sense to convert. Perhaps it’s once the Lead has shown any interest at all in buying, or perhaps you want to wait until you’ve scheduled your first sales meeting, or done thorough vetting. The conversion process is really more about converting a Lead to an Opportunity, even if that’s not exactly what’s happening as far as the individual Salesforce records are concerned.

If you set up custom fields on your Lead object, you want to make sure that you also set up the same field on either the Contact, Account, or Opportunity object. You also have to make sure to manually set up mapping so that the data in the custom fields on the Lead record will carry over during conversion. To set up mapping, navigate to Your Name > Setup > App Setup > Customize > Leads > Fields > Lead Custom Fields and Relationships > Map Lead Fields.

4. How marketing efforts influence sales = Campaigns

Campaigns are Salesforce’s way of keeping track of your company’s marketing efforts. Campaigns should be used to track higher-level marketing touch-points and engagements. For example, your newsletter sign-up call to action would be a Campaign, but the e-blasts you send each month to your newsletter mailing list would NOT be Campaigns.

The following would be considered Salesforce Campaigns:

  • Every CTA or form on your site
  • Product purchase
  • Speaking engagement
  • Purchased list

Campaigns have associated Campaign Members: a collection of Leads and Contacts. When you convert a Lead to a Contact, that person’s campaign memberships are retained.

You are ultimately tracking your marketing efforts in Salesforce so you can see how specific marketing touchpoints influence your sales opportunities. The way to do that is through the Campaign Influence feature, which allows you to note which Campaigns influenced a specific sales deal.

When you add a Contact Role to an Opportunity, all of that Contact’s campaign memberships are listed under the Campaign Influence related list on the Opportunity. You can also designate any Campaign as influential by using the “Add to Campaign” button on the Opportunity detail page. From the Campaign Influence list, you have the ability to designate any influential Campaign as the Primary Campaign Source.

The Primary Campaign Source field allows you to designate the most influential Campaign for that opportunity. Setting a Primary Campaign Source will attribute 100% of the revenue from that Opportunity to the designated Campaign.

Unfortunately, there is not a way to divide the revenue amount between multiple Campaigns, but you can keep track of other Campaigns that may have had an impact on that Opportunity by using Campaign Influence.

Primary Campaign Source can be set both manually and automatically. If you convert a Lead to a Contact, and create a new Opportunity upon conversion, Primary Campaign Source will automatically be set as the latest Campaign that Contact is a member of.

What are the next steps?

Now that you understand the main Salesforce objects and their relationships, the next step is to start customizing these objects to align with your sales process. Are there fields on your website forms that don’t have a corresponding field in Salesforce? If so, add a custom field! Take a look at the ‘Stage’ field on the Opportunity object. Do those picklist values correspond to how you talk about your sales process? If they don’t, change ‘em! Pages cluttered with too many fields that you don’t use? Remove them from the page layout!

And of course, you need to start populating Salesforce with your data!

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re starting out in Salesforce for the first time. But remember, it’s all about figuring out what to pay attention to, and then paying a LOT of attention to those things. The functionality you don’t quite understand, or maybe don’t need yet, isn’t going anywhere.

Good luck!

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