I remember the first time I opened up Salesforce.com. It was early days in 2002 at E2open Inc. (NASDAQ: EOPN). I was lost. Starring at Leads, Contacts, Accounts and Opportunities, I had no idea how these ‘objects’ related to one another nor how to form them into a workflow.
Ten years later, I am finally getting the hang of Salesforce.com. Ironically, it was email integration between Salesforce and Outlook that forced me to really understand the system. Now I use Salesforce.com every single hour of every workday. I can’t imagine doing my work as a sales manager without it.
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Leads versus Contacts
To use Salesforce.com effectively, the sales team had to sit down and define how it was going to use its two primary ‘objects’: Leads and Contacts. Leads and Contacts don’t work together; they work sequentially. So the dividing line between a Lead and a Contact needs to be very carefully defined or chaos will ensue. Plus the sales team has to buy into the dividing line and define the Lead to Contact conversion rules.
Since implementing Salesforce.com, to our collective surprise, we have started using Leads more and more and Contacts less and less. We arrived at this outcome because we related Leads strictly to new deals, while Contacts were use to track existing customers and their renewals. It was easier to see what new deals were coming in using a custom Lead Summary View. By strictly excluding new deals from Contacts, we were able to clean up the Contact Summary so that it too was usable in a ‘blink’. In the beginning when we mixed new and existing customers in Contacts, the Opportunities Summary View got too complicated and unfocused and it was very hard to decipher.
Automatic Lead Creation Using Web Forms
Most of our deal flow comes from our web site or referral sites. We implemented Web Forms on our WordPress web site that automatically created Leads in Salesforce.com. We are able to tag the Web Forms from different pages and sources to see where they were coming from. This really helped marketing to track which landing pages were working and which were not. We can also see if a Lead was coming from Google Adwords or Facebook.
For every New Lead, we added descriptors in the Lead form: Product of Interest, Sales Status, Number of Seats, How Did You Hear About Us?, Salesforce Edition, IMAP Server and Trial Start Date.
On the Summary View, these descriptors let us see in a ‘blink’ what the Lead is about and its Status. We were able to create these descriptors ourselves after a training session with an outside consultant.
Knowing the Status of the Lead was very important to our Lead tracking process. We were able to use descriptors to track Lead status. The innovation was to put a number before the descriptor so the Leads could be grouped in order by their phase in the sales cycle: 1 Demo, 2 Setup; 3 Self Sign Up – Importing, 4 Self Signup – Not Importing; 5 Setup & Importing; 6 Setup & Not Importing and 7 Invoice. The remaining classifications are placeholders telling the sales rep to return to the Lead if a future state is achieved.
Our parent company, RAE Internet Inc., is the developer of Match My Email. We started developing Match My Email in 2010 because we were not happy with the SalesForce integration for Outlook and Gmail or the other vendors on the AppExchange like Cirrus Path, iHance, CureCRM, VCS Smart Email or Linkpoint 360. We even had a few sales reps using Thunderbird and GoDaddy. We wanted a fully automated tool that did all the work of syncing and logging emails to Salesforce.com, not a manual plug-in that required sales rep to take constant daily action.
By embedding a log of all emails to and from a prospect into the Lead page, we experienced a big improvement in productivity. Now the sales reps had all of their email communicates at their fingertips in Salesforce.com. They didn’t have to jump back and forth between Outlook and Salesforce.com to know what was going on with the customer in a ‘blink’. With the Email Messages log embedded in every page layout, sales reps adopted Salesforce.com faster and more thoroughly.
Email Activity Dashboard
As a sales manager, I liked the fact that I could track email activity by sales rep and see the direction of the email traffic — something that Outlook for Salesforce, Gmail for Salesforce, Cirrus Path nor the other tools on the market cannot do. By looking the ratio of sent emails to received emails, I can see how responsive a sales rep is to his or her customers.
Conversion to Contact & Account
After a Lead has become a paying customer, then we convert the Lead to a Contact with its associated Account. We do not create Opportunities at Lead conversion.
The advantage of Contacts for managing existing customers is that they rolls up into an Account and an Account can contain multiple contacts. Our experience is that after we get a new customer more people start to communicate with us about various issues: more seats, renewals, changed credit card numbers, changes in technical personnel, new Salesforce.com admins etc. The ability of an Account to roll up all the new faces at the customer into one record is useful. Combined with Match My Email, we also have the advantage that all the emails communications with all the Contacts related to an Account are shown in the Page Layout under Email Messages.
In a ‘blink’, we can see all the emails coming and going to all the counterparties at the customer and what is going with the Account.