Peter has an extensive knowledge of the Microsoft CRM Solution and when I worked with him he managed not only to manage a complex project but deliver key functionality to the end customer

Alistair. MyCRM Group

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What do we actually mean by a lead?

I am often struck by how difficult some users have in working with the concept of a lead in Dynamics CRM. I first saw this in CRM 1.2 and am still seeing the same issues arise in 2011. Fundamentally, I think there is a divergence between sales people and marketing staff on the value of leads being entered into CRM. In this short piece I am referring to out of the box functionality.

Taken from the marketers' perspective, a lead is simple enough. It represents a show of interest from either an existing customer or a new potential customer. However, it needs to be qualified before it can enter the system via a contact, an account or an opportunity. The lead object gives us the working space to perform that qualification and build up the information needed before taking things to the next stage. Crucially a lead is a measure of how well new potential business is being identified from any given source – essential to the marketer proving their worth.

Taken from the sales persons view point, things can look a little bit different. Sales people are busy, they want well qualified leads hitting their desks and ideally, so well qualified that in reality they are an opportunity – even if at a very early stage. So, let’s say they can be a little reluctant to get into the process of qualifying every lead coming from an exhibition, a new web campaign or some other source. From experience they probably know that out of the total leads a very low quantity will be qualified through. So, sales people prefer to work at the opportunity and account stage – after all, the pipeline and closure of opportunities in the pipeline is the key measure for a sales person.

Your typical sales and marketing manager is therefore caught on a cleft stick. On one hand they want to bring in as many new leads as possible and thereby show that the marketing campaigns are working well. On the other hand they need their best sales people to be closing down their best opportunities each month and quarter. Furthermore, they do not want the core account and contact database to be cluttered with un-qualified information that serves no one any purpose.

So, what lessons can be learned? Firstly, leads are a great place to ensure only properly qualified data gets into Dynamics CRM. Secondly, qualified and disqualified leads could potentially be a target for future campaigns – better to deactivate rather than to delete (as is mostly the case in CRM). Thirdly, qualification and good profiling is essential in the lead object as it saves time later when completing the contact and account objects. Finally, there is a strong case for this profiling to be carried out by junior sales staff or marketers (no, really) as both teams can learn a lot from this activity.

Closing thought – sometimes the lead object can be overly restrictive – management need to give the configuration and processing of the lead object a lot of thought  - it could have significant impact on the future of the CRM implementation long term.

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