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How To Build A Sales Process In Salesforce (2021)

How To Build A Sales Process In Salesforce (2021)

This guide explains how to build a sales process in Salesforce.

For example, if you want to know about creating BANT, MEDDIC, NTARBO, SCOTSMAN, or any other sales methodology in Salesforce, I explain it right here.

(I also explain what each of those terms stands for).

Why Build Your Sales Process In Salesforce

Very often, it’s not only what you sell that wins the deal. Instead, it’s the way you sell it.

And the sales process describes the way you sell.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a sales process, then salespeople are left ‘to do their own thing.’ Few successful teams work this way.

Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t room for individual salesperson flair, creativity, and flexibility.

They are the reasons some salespeople consistently outperform others.

Nevertheless, the best salespeople do this within the framework of the company sales methodology. Like wild geese, they fly in formation.

Bottom line:

Sales process adoption is critical for driving sales. That’s because instead of winging it, salespeople operate in a pre-defined, best practice way relevant to your company.

Building your sales methodology in Salesforce is crucial for driving this adoption.

How To Build A Sales Process in Salesforce

Create a sales process in Salesforce by following these four steps:

  1. Define your Opportunity Stages.
  2. Create the fields that your sales process needs.
  3. Add custom features to control your sales process.
  4. Embed hints, tips, and materials that help salespeople with each stage in the sales process.

Let’s dive in.


Define your Opportunity Stages

Few companies find the standard Opportunity Stages in Salesforce match their sales process.

However, many firms find it challenging to agree on the perfect set of Opportunity Stages for their business.

If that’s true in your business, this blog post will help you; it’s the second most visited article on our website: Opportunity Stages Explained With Best Practice Recommendations.

Incidentally, if you’re wondering which article is the most popular, it’s this one: 12 Must-Have Salesforce Dashboard Charts | With Video And Examples.

Change the Opportunity Stages in Salesforce by following these steps:

  1. Go to Setup > Object Manager > Opportunity.

2. Click on Fields & Relationships > Stage.

3. Under the section “Opportunity Stages Picklist Values”, you’ll notice the option to create new stages, or edit details of already created stages.

4. Click “New”. Populate the stage details, and click save.

5. Once saved, the custom Opportunity stage will appear in your list of Opportunity stages. Click “Reorder” to adjust the position of your stage within the Sales Process.

Reorder your newly created Opportunity stage using the Reorder button

I’ve also created this short video showing how to modify the Opportunity Stages in Salesforce.


How To Change Opportunity Stages In Salesforce

However, there’s more to building a sales process in Salesforce than merely modifying the Opportunity Stages.


Create Fields That Support Your Sales Process

Next, define the fields in Salesforce that support your sales process.

There are two ways to do this.

  1. Build the fields directly on the opportunity.
  2. Create the fields in a custom object that links to the opportunity.

I’ll explain:

Sales methodology fields on the opportunity

Let’s use the BANT sales methodology as an example of sales process fields on the opportunity.

BANT stands for:


Here is an example of the BANT fields on an opportunity.

In other words, the information used in the sales methodology is directly visible on the opportunity. As you’ll see, that’s different from the custom object approach.


Sales methodology fields on a custom object

Let’s use the SCOTSMAN sales methodology to illustrate the sales process fields in a custom object.

SCOTSMAN stands for:


There are two essential differences between SCOTSMAN and BANT. First, there’s more information to collect during the sales cycle; eight fields rather than four.

Second, SCOTSMAN also uses a scoring system on each item to give an overall opportunity value.

You can use this value as a qualification stage-gate as the deal moves through the sales cycle. For example, the score must be 22 to move from Needs Analysis to Proposal; and 28 to move from Proposal to Closing.

Let me show you:

Here’s an Opportunity with a SCOTSMAN custom object:

And here are the fields on the custom object.

As you can see, there’s a lot more information to collect. Adding all this to the opportunity is going to make the page layout unwieldy. That’s why we use the custom object.

Of course, we can still roll up the overall SCOTSMAN score to the opportunity.

You can use the same approach for these other sales methodologies:

NTARBO, standing for:

MEDDIC, standing for:
Economic Buyer.
Decision Criteria.
Decision Process.
Identify Pain.

Whichever sales methodology you use, the critical point is this:

Create the fields in Salesforce that support your approach.


Add Custom Features That Control Your Sales Process

The most widely used control feature in Salesforce is the validation rule.

Validation rules insist users enter data into fields based on conditional logic.

For example, this validation rule means that salespeople must have entered information into the Budget field to move it past the Needs Analysis Stage.

In other words, this validation rule controls the stage exit criteria for Needs Analysis.

That explains why validation rules play an important role in sales process adoption. They are great for making sure critical data is gathered at each stage. That includes information needed during the fulfillment or customer onboarding process.

I recommend you don’t overdo it; too many validation rules merely frustrate users and reduce adoption.

Instead, think about the value-adding features you can use in Salesforce to enhance the sales methodology.

That’s what we’ll cover next.


Embed Useful Sales Process Features

Three ways you can use Salesforce to add value to the sales methodology are:

  • Lightning Path.
  • Field Hover tips.
  • Salesforce Page Tabs.

Lightning Path

The Path is the set of chevrons across the top of a Salesforce Lightning page.

However, you can use the Path to deliver must-know information about each opportunity stage.

Here’s an example for the Consult & Educate stage.

And here’s another example for the Remove All Risk Stage.

It’s straightforward to do this yourself. Follow these steps.

  1. Navigate to Path Settings in Lightning setup.
  2. Click New Path.
  3. Enter a Path Name (merely type one or two descriptive words), select the Object, and the field you want to use for the Path. If you are creating a Path on the opportunity, you probably need the Stage field. If you are using opportunity record types, create different paths for each record type.
  4. In the Guidance For Success box for each stage, enter the essential text that helps salespeople with this step in your sales methodology.
  5. Optionally, add selected fields to the Path. These fields will still appear in the main page layout.
  6. Click Next, then Activate your Path.

Pro Tip: Include links to other resources in your Lightning Path. For example, a link to product features and benefits in the Proposal element of the Path.

Field Hover Tips

Field Hover Tips give guidance about specific fields. They appear when the salesperson places their mouse over the hover icon next to the field.

Here’s an example, using the Budget field:

Hover Tips are super-easy to create:

  1. Go to the field in Setup.
  2. Click Edit next to the field.
  3. Enter your hover tip in the Help Text section.
  4. Click Save.

Next, let’s look at my favorite feature for adding value to the sales process in Salesforce.


Salesforce Lightning Page Tabs

You know all about Salesforce Lightning Page tabs. Typically, you use them for Details, Activities, and Related Lists.

However, you can also use these tabs to provide salespeople with detailed guidance about the sales process.

For example, our partners SBR create playbooks that super-charge customers’ sales processes.

The playbook contains vital details that give the salesperson a competitive advantage at each point in the sales lifecycle.

These include:

  • Tactical advice that gives the team a ‘slight-edge’ over competitors.
  • Advice on building essential, high-quality stakeholder relationships.
  • Qualification criteria for moving to the next stage.
  • How to overcome the typical obstacles you get at each step.
  • Links to value-adding collateral, specs, and marketing tools.

There’s a separate page of the playbook for each stage in the sales methodology. Here’s a customer example for the Engage Stage.

Of course, playbooks help existing salespeople drive opportunities. However, they also mean new hires quickly get up to speed.

So, this is how to embed that page in Salesforce: use a Lightning Page Tab. Here’s an example for the Consult & Co-create Insight stage:

Move to the next stage, and the salesperson sees a different page of the playbook.

The Sales Playbook page changing as the Opportunity Stage changes

Here’s how to embed the sales playbook in Salesforce:

  1. Upload the pages individually as Static Resources.
  2. Create a new Custom Setting called ‘Playbook Mapping’ and find the Stage Name you want the page for.
  3. For example the Stage Name ‘Approach’ maps to the URL for the ‘SBR_Playbook3’ page. Find that page in the Static Resource, and click the name, then click ‘View File’.
  4. In the address bar of the resulting PDF, copy everything after ‘/resource/’.
  5. This is the text you need to map the ‘Approach’ stage to in the Custom Setting.
  6. Once mapped, the relevant PDF document will display on any Opportunities with the corresponding stage name.

Let’s face it, you might need some help with this. If you need some assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch via our Contact Us form.

So now you have your sales methodology created in Salesforce.

What’s next?

    Use Sales Pipeline Reports and Dashboard in Salesforce

    I recommend you include essential fields about your sales methodology in pipeline reports and dashboard charts.

    In section 1 gave you links to detailed blog posts that explain how to use these reports. You should also download our free dashboard from the AppExchange. It contains the twelve most essential charts and reports for pipeline visibility.

    There are two other things you can do immediately.
    First, get a free consultation from GSP on how to create your sales process in Salesforce. We’ll give you advice and pointers that are specific to your company.

    Second, get a free web meeting with SBR to determine how a sales playbook will help drive revenue growth in your business.

    In both cases, all you have to do is complete our Contact Us form; we’ll be in touch to arrange a time with you.

    Related Blog Posts

    How To Build A Sales Process In Salesforce (2021)

    How To Build A Sales Process In Salesforce (2021)

    This guide explains how to build a sales process in Salesforce. For example, if you want to know about creating BANT, MEDDIC, NTARBO, SCOTSMAN, or any other sales methodology in Salesforce, I explain it right here. (I also explain what each of those terms stands for)....

    To Exceed Year-End Quota, Apply These Q4 Sales Strategies Now

    To Exceed Year-End Quota, Apply These Q4 Sales Strategies Now

    It's the time of year when sales teams worldwide are under pressure to get deals closed in Quarter 4 and meet year-end quotas. I have worked with many companies under their quarter and year-end pressure. Here's what I've found: Successful teams apply five year-end...

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    To Exceed Year-End Quota, Apply These Q4 Sales Strategies Now

    To Exceed Year-End Quota, Apply These Q4 Sales Strategies Now

    It’s the time of year when sales teams worldwide are under pressure to get deals closed in Quarter 4 and meet year-end quotas.

    I have worked with many companies under their quarter and year-end pressure.

    Here’s what I’ve found:

    Successful teams apply five year-end sales strategies:

    1. Sort the wheat from the chaff.
    2. Adjust direction based on whether there is enough pipeline to hit quota.
    3. Prioritize time and energy on high impact deals.
    4. Create a close plan for each high priority opportunity.
    5. Protect themselves against margin-eating discounts.

    The best bit?

    These strategies are all working well right now, during Covid-hit 2020.

    This guide explains how to implement these five end-of-year sales strategies in your company QUICKLY.

    Q4 Sales Strategies

    These Q4 sales strategies significantly increase the likelihood you will hit quota.

    Let’s dive in.

    1 – Sort the wheat from the chaff

    This strategy is the first that successful executives apply at year-end.

    They weed out deals that with the best will in the world will not close successfully in Q4. Doing this makes the other four sales strategies far quicker to implement.

    For example, let’s go back to January 2020.

    Sarah Jones is under pressure to boost the size of her sales pipeline.

    The pressure is coming from the VP of Sales. “Come on, Sarah, you’ve got lots of potential in that territory. Let’s ramp up the pipeline.”

    You can’t blame him.

    The Board is setting aggressive growth targets for the year and expects the VP of Sales to deliver.

    Sarah works through her Accounts.

    She picks a prospect with whom she had a meeting three months ago. “I reckon there’s a decent chance with this one,” she thinks.

    Sarah creates an opportunity in Salesforce.

    “It’s bound to close sometime this year,” she says to herself, hopefully.

    Naturally, Sarah doesn’t want to put herself under any undue pressure. That means she enters the Close Date as December 31, 2020.

    The pipeline has increased. Everyone is happy, for now.

    However, fast forward eleven months. Sarah is under pressure to hit her year-end quota.

    On the face of it, there’s plenty of deals in the funnel. But even Sarah, ever the optimist, knows she’s drawing a blank on many of these deals.

    Especially those forecast to close on December 31.

    In other words, the pipeline is bloated with deals that no longer (if ever) had legs. However, the most successful sales executives remove these distractions from the funnel to get real visibility of the pipeline.

    There are three ways to go about sorting the wheat from the chaff with Q4 deals in your company.


    Review Opportunity Stages and Get Real

    In Sarah’s company, here’s what the pipeline looks like by the time we reach Q4.

    There’s a surge of deals due to close in December. Ask yourself whether these are realistic opportunities.

    For example, if the sales cycle is typically three months, then are the deals in the prospecting and investigation stages of the sales pipeline realistically going to close in Q4?

    In other words, the first step is to review deals by Stage and Close Date. Remove dormant opportunities from the pipeline. And move deals that still have legs, but realistically won’t close in Q4, to a later date.

    It’s tough love, but vital.


    Review Opportunities by Created Date

    Here’s another way to assess the strength of the Q4 pipeline. Look at deals due to close in Q4, by Created Date.

    Again, if the sales cycle is three months, carefully examine deals that have been open substantially longer.

    Shake them out of the tree if they’re unlikely to close this quarter.


    Analyse Pipeline Quality Metrics

    In addition to the age, two other deal metrics provide insight on sales pipeline quality.

    • The number of Close Date month extensions.
    • The number of days since the last Stage change.
    This dashboard table highlights these quality metrics for deals due to close in Q4.

    We can see, for example, the Oxted Manufacturing opportunity has been open 237 days. The Opportunity Stage was last updated 100 days ago, and the Close Date has moved from one month to another four times.

    Do those pipeline quality metrics give you confidence the deal will close successfully in Q4? They don’t work for me.

    So that’s the first of the Q4 sales strategies: Sort the wheat from the chaff.

    Doing this will help hugely with the remaining year-end strategies.

    Of course, you want to get these pipeline quality metrics and reports quickly.

    Here’s a blog helps you. It precisely explains how to use the reports and get the pipeline quality metrics and dashboard for free:

    12 Charts That Should Be On Your Sales Dashboard.

    2 – Compare the pipeline to your sales target

    This Q4 sales strategy recommendation is critical.

    You need to know whether the real pipeline is big enough to hit your remaining year-end sales quota.


    If you have enough pipeline, you can focus on closing the deals you already have.

    However, if the funnel is not big enough to hit your target, you need to increase your pipeline AND focus on closing the deals you already have.

    That’s two very different approaches.

    Do you see why it’s essential first to weed out the dormant deals and the no-chance opportunities?

    So, you might be wondering:

    How do I know if the pipeline is big enough for me to hit the target?

    Of course, you can take the deals already won and add the full value of the pipeline.

    Often, that will give you a positive feeling. After all, the two added together will likely exceed the quota.

    Unfortunately, it’s divorced from reality. I doubt you are going to win 100% of your sales pipeline.

    A more pragmatic way is to set a realistic probability of winning each deal. Then use this to calculate the Expected Revenue of the pipeline.

    And of course, remember that in Salesforce, you do not have to accept the default probability associated with each Stage. Modify these probabilities on each opportunity, based on the likelihood of winning the deal.

    Then, determine whether you have enough pipeline to hit your Q4 target. You can do this with a Salesforce report based on Expected Revenue. Include both Closed Won and pipeline deals.
    Next, compare the total value in the report with your target. Now you know whether you have enough pipeline to hit your target.

    Of course, if you have a shortfall, it may not be easy to find new deals that will close in Q4.

    The circumstances will be different for every business.

    However, are there existing customers to whom repeat sales are possible? What about upgrades? Can you make cross-sales to customers that bought certain products?

    Only you know the answer to these questions.

    However, ideally, you don’t leave it until Q4 to measure the pipeline against your target.

    This blog post explains how to track won and pipeline deals versus your sales quotas in Salesforce:

    4 Ways To Measure Sales Versus Target In Salesforce.

    What’s next?

    3 – Prioritize high impact deals

    Focus time, resources, and energy on opportunities that make the most significant contribution to quota.

    Sounds obvious, right?

    But how do we decide which opportunities are high impact?

    Here are three questions to ask that help to identify the most critical opportunities.

    • Can we win it?
    • Is it worth winning?
    • Do we want to win it?

    You can answer the first two questions by creating a report that lists the opportunities by Stage, Amount, and Probability:

    You may also want to adapt the report to categorize the pipeline by existing customers and new logos.

    After all, new logos have more kudos. But existing customer deals are often easier to win.

    Consider also whether there are Accounts with multiple opportunities.

    In Chart 6 of the GSP Sales Dashboard, we include a table and report that shows the pipeline by Account.

    In this example, GenePoint has opportunities due to close in Q1 AND Q2 next year. Is it possible to amalgamate these deals into one more significant opportunity, with a successful close in Q4?

    You can also quickly identify the deals you and your team will focus on using a different field, “Q4 Focus”.

    What about that final question? Do we want to win it?

    The deal may be significant, but if you need to discount heavily or other onerous terms, the opportunity may not be worth winning.

    So ask yourself whether we want to win this deal in Q4. Is it better to wait until next quarter, when the commercial dynamics may be different?

    With that, let’s talk about how to close the critical opportunities.

    4 – Create a Close Plan for each opportunity

    Most successful sales executives create a Close Plan for the essential deals on which they are working.

    These plans are especially vital in Q4 when the pressure is most significant.

    However, there’s no need to overdo it.

    You can enter the Close Plan using a simple rich text field on the opportunity.

    Alternatively, enter it into the Chatter feed for each opportunity. Using Chatter makes it easier for colleagues and internal stakeholders to collaborate on the deal.
    Either way, the Close Plan defines the specific activities needed to bring the deal to a conclusion.

    Often you do this by working backward. Identify the latest date you need to get the deal inked. Sometimes, holidays and other constraints mean the realistic latest date is circa December 20.

    In other words, much earlier than December 31.

    Then, work out the timeline for all the steps that must take place. Occasionally, you’ll find it just can’t be done. If the only way you can achieve the reference site visits, contract negotiations, and other actions is by starting in the past, remove the opportunity from your Q4 priority list.

    Likewise, agree on the Go / No Go Date with your prospect.

    This date is not the day you expect the deal to close. Nor is it a commitment by the customer that she will sign the contract.

    Instead, it is the deadline by which you and the customer will aim to close the deal one way or the other.

    For example, this date might be December 15.

    We don’t know whether the outcome will be a won or lost deal. However, the Go / No Go date is the point at which you and the prospect both agree the opportunity can no longer be closed in Q4. Instead, you will revisit the deal in the New Year.

    It’s a great way of focusing everyone’s mind and gaining commitment to the Close Plan.

    In Salesforce, record these dates in a custom field. Track them through a report and the Q4 dashboard chart.

    So far, our year-end sales strategies are about identifying real deals, prioritizing effort, and achieving successful outcomes.

    The final Q4 strategy is different.

    5 – Protect against damaging discounts

    We all know that customers and prospects gain extra discounts and volume related deals in return for committing in Q4.

    That’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

    Indeed, many companies have inadvertently trained their customers to leave purchases to the end of each quarter.

    However, successful sales executives keep track of each discount and give-away rationale, especially those given in Q4.

    For example, you give a discount or preferential terms because the customer agrees to buy 10,000 units over the next twelve months. Perhaps you arrange this in a framework agreement.

    Keep a record of the rationale for the discount or special terms. That’s because, let’s say, it turns out the customer only ever orders 8,000 or 9,000 units.

    You won’t always go back and negotiate a retrospective price increase.

    However, this information is invaluable when negotiating future discounts. That’s especially true right now when the customer is putting you under pressure on a Q4 close.

    Look back over historical deals. Did the customer fulfill their side of the bargain? If not, use this information to strengthen your negotiating hand.

    The Chatter feed on each opportunity is an excellent place to record the rationale for discounts and other terms given away in return for customer commitments. That’s because the information is always right there, on the opportunity, not buried in your email box.

    That’s the fifth of the Q4 sales strategies that successful executives apply:

    They keep track of the rationale behind the agreement and make this information easy to find when under pressure.

    Our blog post, 10 Expert Tips For Improving Discount Control, has excellent advice on managing margin-busting discounts.

    Over to you

    These Q4 sales strategies are used by companies to maximize their year-end success.

    Here’s one more step you can easily take.

    Get in touch for a free consultation on implementing these strategies in your Salesforce system. Hundreds of companies have done this, and we guarantee to help you find quick-wins and benefits from Salesforce.

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    How To Fix a Broken Lead Process In Salesforce (With Free Templates)

    How To Fix a Broken Lead Process In Salesforce (With Free Templates)

    Since 2003, more than 1,700 companies have come to me, asking for help in getting more benefits from Salesforce. I’ve concluded that no topic causes as much befuddlement in Salesforce as to how to design the lead process.

    You’re guaranteed a bun fight if you ask a room full of Sales and Marketing people to agree on how and when leads should pass between the two teams.

    Whatsmore, Sales often complain that the leads they get from Marketing are rubbish. Marketing complains that Sales don’t phone the leads they do pass across.

    Nevertheless, resolving this situation and achieving a robust lead process is critical. If you don’t, valuable opportunities will get missed, meaning lost revenue. Also, there will be a shortage of meaningful lead conversion metrics and marketing KPIs that can power a continuous improvement in performance.

    So it’s worth sorting out.

    Fortunately, you’re in the right place. In this guide to the lead process in Salesforce, I’ll:

    • Describe the difference between a lead and an opportunity in Salesforce.
    • Explain the lead process that works in many companies.
    • Highlight how terms like Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) and Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) fit into a well-structured lead process.
    • Give you free lead process diagrams and templates that you can adapt to your business.
    • Point you to a free lead conversion dashboard for Salesforce.

    Let’s start.

    Difference Between A Lead And An Opportunity

    Unfortunately, the lead process often breaks down at the start because Sales and Marketing disagree on the difference between a lead and an opportunity.

    However, clarity is essential, although often that’s harder than it sounds.

    Why is there so much confusion? After all, most people agree that a lead is the first step in the sales cycle.

    Here’s why it’s a problem.


    Sales Definition Of A Lead

    To a salesperson, leads come from both existing customers and prospects.

    The lead can be an inquiry from an existing customer. Or a new prospect freshly arrived through the door.

    Either way, the sales process has started. The salesperson may or may not believe that things are advanced enough to justify creating an Opportunity in Salesforce. Nevertheless, the qualification part of the sales process has started.

    In other words, for a salesperson, leads reflect a broad range of early-stage, potential opportunities that require immediate attention.


    Marketing Definition Of A Lead

    The way a Marketing person views a lead often varies in two crucial ways.

    First, a lead is a person or business that will potentially purchase at some undetermined point. That point may be a long time from now.

    Second, for Marketing people, a lead is usually a new company or at least a new person. Often, they do not exist in the database already. Indeed, the primary role of Marketing in many businesses is to increase the overall lead database for long-term benefits.

    Traditionally, Marketing may hand the lead to Sales, but not necessarily with the expectation that a deal will immediately result. The lead is a potential customer that may engage in a future sales process.

    In contrast, to a salesperson, a lead is someone ready to enter the sales process right now.

    Unfortunately, this difference in expectations explains why Sales often complain about the quality of Leads created by marketing.

    That’s not to say Marketing doesn’t deliver sales-ready leads to salespeople. They can, and they do.

    That is, providing the lead process is right.

    Salesforce Lead Process

    Sales and Marketing often disagree on the difference between a lead and an opportunity.

    However, in Salesforce, it’s clear. The word ‘lead’ has a specific meaning. It’s a record under the Leads tab.

    The lead process describes how new leads are created, nurtured, converted, and handed-over to salespeople for opportunity management.

    Here’s how that process can work in simple terms.

    Let’s follow this through with an example.


    Lead As A New Enquiry

    Start by thinking of a Lead in Salesforce as a brand new inquiry. This inquiry is from a business and person of whom you’ve never previously heard.

    For example, let’s say you have a Web-to-Lead form set up on your web site. Web-to-Lead is an easy way to integrate Salesforce with your web site. It means anyone that fills in your Contact Us form automatically appears in Salesforce as a lead.

    The lead now exists. What’s the first thing that should happen in the lead process? Answer: check for duplicates.

    In Salesforce Classic, you had to click the Find Duplicates button to do this.

    Now, however, you can use the Duplicate Rules to identify matching records.

    For now, let’s assume you don’t find any matching leads, accounts, or contacts.

    Next, you make an outbound telephone call to the lead. As a result, one of three outcomes will determine what happens next in the lead process.

    1. The lead is a dead end.
    It turns out the person isn’t interested in any further dialogue. Perhaps it was a student only looking for research information. Or the customer is not in one of the markets you support. Either way, set the Lead Status to Closed. No further action is necessary.

    2. The lead is a definite maybe.
    The person is moderately interested in your products and services. She doesn’t want to speak to a salesperson – at least not yet. Nevertheless, you agree to send a brochure, product specification, or price list.

    So this time, set the Lead Status to Contacted. You also create a follow-up task to call the lead again in the future.

    3. The lead is a sales Opportunity.
    The lead agrees to a meeting or phone call with a salesperson. Or she requests a quote. In other words, she gives you some indication that she’s a legitimate potential customer. Let’s call this a qualified lead.

    This time you leave the Lead Status alone. Instead, click on the Convert Lead button.

    Salesforce will convert the lead into three separate records; an Account, Contact, and Opportunity.

    Here’s the process in a flow chart diagram.

    The Account represents the business or organization. The person employed by that organization is the Contact. And the Opportunity is the sales deal.

    It’s this early stage opportunity that many salespeople will regard as a Lead.

    Indeed salespeople are sometimes reluctant to create an opportunity or receive one created by Marketing.

    That’s because it tends to raise expectations about the outcome. The opportunity is visible in the sales pipeline dashboard. And from the salesperson’s perspective, the lead may – or may not – have been adequately qualified by Marketing before converting to an account, contact, and opportunity.

    All valid issues. Unfortunately, this highlights one of the common pitfalls with the lead process in many companies.

    What Happens To Converted Leads

    When you convert a lead in Salesforce, you have a choice.

    The choice is whether to create an opportunity.

    Let’s say you leave this box unchecked.

    As a result, the opportunity links back to the Salesforce campaign that generated the lead.

    Not only that.

    The Lead Source carries through from the lead to the opportunity.

    Consequently, you have potent reports and dashboard charts, providing information on campaign performance. This information includes marketing metrics and KPIs that enable powerful alignment between Sales and Marketing.

    Unfortunately, here’s what often happens instead.

    The person converting the lead sets the checkbox to True—the lead converts without an opportunity.

    Then, here’s what typically happens:

    The salesperson engages with the contact. If the salesperson identifies a legitimate deal, she creates an opportunity.

    However, here’s the problem:

    The opportunity no longer has any relationship with the campaign or Lead Source. That means there’s no way to gather marketing metrics that describe the success of campaigns or channels.

    Consequently, creating an opportunity when the lead converts should be an essential part of your lead process. There are some exceptions that I’ll explain. However, as a rule-of-thumb, if you want high-quality information that drives marketing improvement, create opportunities when leads convert.

    Nevertheless, here’s a common objection to this from Sales.

    The opportunity is not qualified. It shouldn’t show up on the pipeline report, with all the pressure to close deals successfully that entails.

    Fair point. However, to solve that problem, create a new opportunity stage. Call it prospecting, qualification, opportunity validation, or suchlike.

    When the lead converts, default the opportunity to this initial stage. Make sure everyone understands it’s acceptable for deals to fall out of the funnel from this stage. After all, if you’re not going to win the sale, it makes sense to close it out early.

    Often, companies will exclude these early-stage deals from the main pipeline report and dashboard chart. They create a separate report that focuses only on the initial-stage opportunities.

    Consequently, they have great metrics on marketing campaign performance and a clear understanding of the early-stage pipeline.


    Exceptions To The Lead Conversion Rule

    Here are the two exceptions to the rule that you should create an opportunity while converting a lead.

    First, an opportunity already exists. In other words, the account and contact are already in Salesforce, together with an opportunity. You don’t want to create a duplicate opportunity.

    Second, no opportunity exists. This situation also most commonly happens when the account and contact already exist. The person downloads an eBook, for example, as part of your ongoing lead nurturing process. However, you do not believe there’s currently a legitimate opportunity.

    In both of these cases, convert the lead into the existing account and contact records.

    Refine the Lead Process

    In our first example, we assume it’s good to phone the lead as soon as the record appears in Salesforce.

    That’s probably okay if the person completes a Contact Us form.

    However, it many cases, the person is not ready to receive a call. That’s because they are still at the pre-salesperson, information gathering stage.

    For example, if you download our eBook ‘12 Charts That Should Be On Your Salesforce Dashboard‘, you won’t get a phone call from us.

    That’s because we know people aren’t sales-ready. Instead, they are searching for advice on how to get better pipeline visibility. The eBook is one of the tools we use for getting pre-qualified leads into Salesforce.

    It works pretty well.

    Next, we use lead nurturing to build further engagement and credibility with these people.


    Lead Nurturing

    Lead nurturing means providing prospective customers with a regular stream of high-value content that educates and informs. This content raises your profile and credibility with these people and makes them more receptive to doing business with you.

    For example, after people download our 12 Charts eBook, here’s the first email in our lead nurture process.

    Example of an email used in lead nuturing process.

    As you can see, it directs people to this blog post that explains in detail how to use one of the essential 12 charts that should be on your Salesforce dashboard.

    After that, we continue to send weekly emails that always give great advice on how to get more benefits from Salesforce.


    Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)

    A Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL) is a person or company in the database that Marketing defines as sales-ready. Sales-ready means that based on behavioral and segmentation data, the person is ready to engage in a mutually beneficial dialogue with a salesperson.

    In other words, when a lead reaches the status of MQL, Marketing believes it’s appropriate to ask a salesperson to engage in the sales process. Often, a lead scoring and grading threshold identifies this critical point.

    Usually, in the lead process, when reaching the MQL status, ownership of the lead passes to a salesperson.

    You may also want to let the salesperson know by using a notification email.


    Sales Accepted Lead (SAL)

    A Sales Accepted Lead (SAL) means a salesperson formally accepts responsibility for a Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL). This acceptance means the salesperson agrees to engage with the lead and drive the sales process forward.

    You might be wondering:

    Why wouldn’t a salesperson accept responsibility for a marketing qualified lead?

    The answer is that this often happens when:

    1. The lead does not meet the agreed MQL definition.
    2. Salespeople do not trust the leads coming from marketing.
    3. Salespeople have enough on their plate with existing opportunities.

    In the first case, the salesperson rejects the lead because it does match the agreed MQL criteria. For example, the lead score velocity is not high enough, there’s no phone number on the lead record, or the lead is not in the target market or country.

    The second and third are more likely to apply when there is no definition of an MQL. Effectively, the salesperson says the marketing leads are not high enough on the priority list to warrant spending any time on them.

    With these concepts in mind, let’s look at how the end-to-end lead process works in many companies.

    Lead Process Template

    This diagram describes a lead process that incorporates the MQL and SAL concepts.

    You can download a PDF of this example lead process using the form below.

    It’s essential to agree on the end-to-end lead process across both sales and marketing. It’s also critical that you decide on the MQL definition that’s relevant in your business and put in place metrics in Salesforce to measure the process.

    Lead Process Metrics

    In many companies with a robust lead process, there’s an agreement on how quickly Sales will respond when passed an MQL.

    For example, this might be 24 or 48 working hours, excluding weekends.

    I recommend you set these metrics up in Salesforce:

    Make sure there are reports and dashboards to measure this metric. Agree with Sales on what happens if the time limit is exceeded; for example, the salesperson receives email notifications, or the lead ownership even passes to another team member.


    Lead Conversion Dashboard

    Earlier in this article, I explained how to get robust metrics and KPIs on the lead process.

    However, you might be asking:

    What’s the easiest way to get these reports and dashboard charts in my own Salesforce environment?

    The answer is to install our free Lead Conversion Metrics dashboard. You can do that by visiting the AppExchange Listing.

    The dashboard contains reports and charts that quantify leads by channel and lead source. Critically, it also includes metrics on the outcome of converted leads. It even allows you to compare win rates on opportunities that came from converted leads versus opportunities created directly on the account.

    Next Steps

    Getting the lead process right can be challenging. People in your team may have conflicting views on exactly how the process should work. Likewise, there will be differing opinions on how to define an MQL and the SAL steps.

    Your solution:

    Ask us to facilitate the lead process design workshop. We’ll help you cut through the ambiguity and implement an effective process customized to your specific business.

    Get in touch to find out more.

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    Opportunity Stages Explained With Best Practice Recommendations

    Opportunity Stages Explained With Best Practice Recommendations

    The Opportunity Stages in Salesforce should match your sales process.

    But if they don’t, you’re not alone.

    That’s especially true if you’re still using the standard opportunity stages—those out-of-the-box stages in Salesforce.

    Of course, you can change them. (If you’re not sure how to do this, I explain the steps thoroughly in the video at the end of this post).

    However, if the pre-defined stages are not what you need, the question is, what should the Salesforce opportunity stages be in your business?

    I’ve seen this provoke many heated discussions. Very often, the answer is a fudge. The outcome, usually, is far too many stages.

    Nevertheless, getting the opportunity stages to reflect your sales process accurately is essential. The benefits are higher quality funnel visibility, improved sales pipeline management, better measurement of sales targets.

    So cut through the frustration with this complete guide to opportunity stages best practice.

    Let’s start.

    Opportunity Stages Explained

    Opportunity stages describe the high-level steps within your sales process. In a CRM system, salespeople update the opportunity stage as the deal moves through the sales process.

    Realistic opportunity stages are critical because they deliver pipeline visibility through reports and dashboards. On the other hand, if your opportunity stages don’t reflect your sales process, then your pipeline reports and sales forecasts will not be reliable.

    Opportunity Stages and Probabilities

    In Salesforce, each stage links to a percentage probability.

    When a salesperson selects an opportunity stage, the deal takes on the pre-defined probability.

    However, not everyone realizes that salespeople can override the default probability.

    Sometimes, this is the right thing to do. For example, let’s say you’re selling to an existing customer with a healthy relationship. That means the chances of winning the deal are higher than average. The salesperson can adjust the probability to reflect this.

    Opportunity Stages and Forecast Categories

    The Forecast Category in Salesforce is a way of grouping opportunity stages.

    That means it’s a useful way of summarizing the pipeline. In some businesses, it helps to define the sales forecast.

    The Forecasts Tab makes extensive use of Forecast Categories.

    Unfortunately, the Forecasts Tab is a complicated way of creating forecasts and tracking sales versus quota. Many salespeople and managers find it challenging to use.

    However, it’s only one of four ways to measure sales versus target that I explain in this blog post:

    4 Ways To Track Sales Versus Target In Salesforce.

    Why Opportunity Stages Are Important

    Opportunity stages are critical to pipeline management and sales forecasting.

    To understand why let’s take an example.

    This dashboard chart shows how the stages combine with the Close Date and Amount to deliver pipeline visibility.

    For example, we can see that the pipeline contains $750K of opportunities due to close in November.

    Of this, $40K is currently at the Prospecting Stage. $50K is in the Investigation Stage. You can easily see the values for the other stages.

    You get the picture. Reliable opportunity stages mean we have excellent visibility of the pipeline. We can use the information in the chart and report to manage the funnel effectively.

    Incidentally, I’ve written other articles that explain more about using these types of charts to improve pipeline management in this blog post.
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    Opportunity Stage Best Practices

    Five best practices deliver meaningful opportunity stages in any sales team.

    1. Opportunity Stages are clear and unambiguous

    Many times I see unclear opportunity stages. Always, ambiguity is a significant mistake in this situation.


    It’s because accurate funnel visibility is impossible to achieve if salespeople are uncertain about what each opportunity stage means.

    For example, I worked recently with a client that had Opportunity Stages of Closing and Negotiation. What’s the difference?

    I didn’t know. More importantly, neither did the sales team.

    The result is that reports and dashboard charts do not deliver meaningful information on the sales pipeline.

    Best practice:

    Opportunity stages are clear, unambiguous and do not overlap. The meaning and definition of each are communicated clearly to salespeople.

    2. Opportunity Stages reflect the sales process

    Ideally, opportunity stages reflect the customer buying process. That way, the pipeline reflects where each deal is along the buying journey.

    Unfortunately, there are two problems.

    First, every customer’s buying process is different. So it’s hard to standardize.

    Second, it isn’t easy to know where we are in the customer’s buying process. With a complicated purchase and many stakeholders, even the customer may not be sure of their internal buying process.

    The result?

    Opportunity Stages need to reflect your sales process. That way, you do at least know where you stand from an internal point of view.

    Unfortunately, the standard opportunity stages that come out-of-the-box with Salesforce aren’t going to reflect many businesses’ sales process.

    That means you need to change them. The section at the end of this blog post explains how to customize the opportunity stages in Salesforce.

    Nevertheless, you might be wondering:

    What if I have more than one sales process?

    For example, in many companies, there’s a defined sales process for new customers.

    However, the sales process for renewals, repeat sales, or replacement items is probably different. Often, for example, it will be much shorter.

    Opportunity Record Types are the way to handle this.

    Create different record types for each sales process that is different. Then modify the Opportunity Stage picklist for each record type.

    In other words, only include those Opportunity Stage picklist values relevant to each record type.

    Best practice:

    Modify the default Opportunity Stages to tightly reflect the sales process(es) in your business.

    3. Avoid too many Opportunity Stages

    If you have too many opportunity stages, this is what happens:

    In other words, it’s impossible to see the wood for the trees. The result is that pipeline visibility deteriorates rather than improves.

    This situation often occurs when a business tries to get too granular in measuring the pipeline.

    Sometimes, companies with long sales cycles fall into this trap. They want more detail within each stage. If that applies to you, it’s better to create sub-stages in a separate field.

    Best practice:

    Don’t over complicate things. Stick to four or five pipeline stages for better funnel visibility.

    4. Opportunity Stages are action-oriented

    Let’s say a typical B2B sales process has a three-month lifecycle.

    Naturally, there’s significant interaction with the customer over the three months. Consequently, action-oriented opportunity stages are better than milestone-based stages.

    For example, Qualifying is better than Qualified. Discovery is better than First Meeting.

    The reason is that each opportunity stage reflects the status of the deal over a period.

    That period might be weeks or even months. The salesperson is likely to be doing many things to move the opportunity along during this period.

    Alternatively, milestone-based stages only reflect the status at a specific moment.

    Best practice:

    Create opportunity stages that represent a series of customer interactions. Avoid stages that are one-off milestones.

    5. Opportunity Stages are up to date

    As we’ve seen, it’s crucial opportunity stages accurately reflect the sales process.

    However, it’s also essential salespeople keep the opportunity stage on each deal up to date. If not, then pipeline reports and sales forecasts count for nothing.

    For example, this sales dashboard chart shows the current pipeline.

    Let’s assume we are in the last week of November, and the sales cycle in this business is three months.

    Here’s the question:

    Are those deals at Prospecting and Qualification really at the right opportunity stages?

    If they are, then I’m skeptical about whether they really will close successfully this month.

    If they’re not at the right stage, my pipeline view is inaccurate, and I can’t depend upon it.

    Best practice:

    Make sure everyone understands the importance of updating and maintaining the stage on each opportunity. Emphasize this in pipeline reviews and sales performance meetings.

    Recommended Opportunity Stages

    These are the opportunity stages used by many of our customers.
    Prospecting (or Qualifying).
    Investigating ( or Discovery).
    Customer Evaluating (or Proposal).
    Negotiating (or Closing).
    Closed Won.
    Closed Lost.

    In some cases, businesses have additional variations of Closed Lost. Qualified Out and No Purchase are examples of this.

    Let’s look at each one.

    Arrange A Call To Discuss Opportunity Stages

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    The Prospecting (or Qualifying) Opportunity Stage

    Opportunities in this stage are your potential long-term pipeline.

    Often, the customer has not yet identified a budget or committed to a timescale. The Close Date is uncertain and can be many months in the future.

    Sometimes, the customer – if asked – might not even agree that a potential deal yet exists. That’s because you are busy educating the stakeholders on how the status quo needs to change.

    The Prospecting stage’s primary outcome is deciding whether to spend more time, effort and resources working on this opportunity.

    If the answer is that it is worth it, move to the next opportunity stage. If not, remove the deal from the pipeline.

    To determine this, ask these four questions:

    • Is there an opportunity?
    • Can we win it?
    • Is it worth winning?
    • Do we want to win it?

    Questions three and four sound similar, yet they are different.

    ‘Is it worth winning?’ is an economic question. In other words, is the revenue and margin worth the cost and effort?

    ‘Do we want to win it?’ is a strategic question. There may be existing customer relationships or marketplace dynamics that give a compelling reason to attempt to win the deal.

    At this stage, you may not be able to answer these questions definitively. However, there needs to be enough information to decide whether to move to the next phase.

    Incidentally, I prefer the term Prospecting rather than Qualifying for opportunities at this stage. That’s because, as Alan Morton, CEO of SBR, says, “qualifying is a continuous activity throughout the sales lifecycle, not a one-off step early in the process.”

    Either way, many Prospecting opportunities will be removed directly from the pipeline at this stage. That’s fine. Don’t waste time with deals that don’t have legs.

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    The Investigating (or Discovery) Stage

    Use the term, Discovery, if you prefer.

    The potential for a deal exists. Salespeople take action on opportunities in this stage to determine two things.

    First, does the customer have a genuine need for the type of products and services we sell? Remember, activities during this stage may be more about creating demand for your products and services rather than merely responding to it.

    Second, how will we differentiate ourselves to win the deal at the price we want? This differentiation can be directly through the products or services we offer. Or we can differentiate ourselves through the sales process and the way we engage with the customer.

    This stage typically includes determining whether the customer has – or can obtain – an appropriate budget. The more your product or service is innovative (at least to the customer), the less likely they are to have set budget aside at the start of the financial year.

    Of course, this doesn’t mean the customer cannot find the budget. Demonstrate compelling value, and it’s often surprising how funding can materialize.

    Finally, in this stage, re-ask the four qualification questions. You should now be able to articulate the answers with more conviction and certainty.

    If not, you know what to do. Remove the deal from the pipeline.

    The Customer Evaluating (or Proposal) Stage

    In this stage, the customer decides in principle on which supplier to choose.

    This decision means you have given the customer a formal quote, proposal, or indicative pricing.

    One thing is for sure, however. The customer stakeholders are evaluating the value your company brings.

    That’s why in many companies, this opportunity stage is called Proposal Made or suchlike. That stage name is okay, but Customer Evaluating often reflects the activity both you and the prospect are doing more accurately.

    For example, during this stage, other activities might include proof of concept demos, reference visits, or delivery of a short video to demonstrate the solution.

    Negotiating (or Closing) Stage

    A common characteristic of this opportunity stage is that the salesperson and customer mutually agree on a closure plan.

    This close plan may include the steps necessary to agree on the commercial terms and sort out the legal paperwork.

    Some companies prefer Closing to Negotiating for this stage. That’s because it implies to the salesperson an expectation of price reduction or submission on other terms and conditions.

    Either way, the customer commits in principle to going ahead, providing the final steps are completed satisfactorily.

    Closed Won

    The deal has concluded successfully. The contract (where appropriate) has a signature — time for a celebration.

    After the drinks, you may want to read about how to measure opportunity conversion rates and win ratios in this blog post.

    Closed Lost

    The deal is not proceeding. Maybe, that’s because you have decided not to expend any more time and effort on the opportunity. In other words, it failed the ‘four questions’ test we looked at in the earlier stages.

    Indeed, as my friend Bud Suse likes to say, “if you’re going to lose, you might as well lose early.

    Alternatively, the customer decided the products or services from an alternative supplier offered a better solution.

    Incidentally, the Opportunity Stage Movement report is an excellent tool to identify and analyze these deals. This report tracks the ‘From’ stage for all sales set to Closed Lost. It means you understand where the funnel is leaking in your business.

    Of course, there’s another scenario. The biggest competitor for many companies that offer project-based services is ‘Did Not Proceed.’ In other words, the customer actively decided not to go ahead with the project, or it simply fizzled out.

    That brings us to a problem with the Closed Lost stage value. Salespeople don’t like using it.

    The word ‘Lost’ implies that a competitor gained the deal at our expense. And, of course, that’s not always the case. We might have ‘Qualified Out’ a deal. Or the customer made no purchasing decision at all.

    But Sales’ resistance to marking deals as Closed Lost means that many sales pipelines are over-inflated. They contain deals that are unlikely ever to be won. That’s because no-one wants to change the status to Closed Lost.

    If that’s the case, you might want to use two further opportunities stages.

    ‘Qualified Out’ means there an insufficient mutual benefit for either party to spend any more time and effort on the deal.

    ‘No Purchase’ means the customer has not committed to any supplier. Open opportunities that no longer have legs are the most significant source of over-inflated sales pipelines and forecasts. Create this opportunity stage to record the outcome of opportunities that have no realistic prospect of every proceeding.

    Other sales processes

    Not every sales deal in a company necessarily has the same sales cycle.

    The sales process for new deals might be six months, for example.

    However, the same company might sell consumables associated with the core products. These sales are transaction-based compared to the core product. On the transaction sales, therefore, we can use more milestone-based opportunity stages. ‘Quote Sent,’ for example, rather than Customer Evaluating.

    The same business might also sell support contracts, renewable every year. A different set of opportunity stages might cover these repeat sales. These stages may reflect the more linear process associated with renewing the contract.

    What about the other extreme?

    Our customers Taylor Woodrow (construction) and Siemens Energy (power generation), have sales processes that typically span several years.

    These companies have to operate within procedures and processes tightly defined by the purchaser.

    Therefore, they have both created a sub-stage field to manage this additional complexity. This sub-stage field captures the status of a deal within the overall opportunity stage. The approach is much better than spawning opportunity stages because once more than four or five pipeline stages have been created, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees in dashboard charts.

    Incidentally, too many stages are one of the 3 Common Problems with Opportunity Stages I list in this blog post.

    Pro Tip: Use Opportunity Record Types and Sales Processes to accommodate the variation on Opportunity Stages across different types of sales deals in Salesforce.

    Opportunity Stage Exit Criteria

    It’s essential to remove ambiguity in defining a transparent sales process and opportunity stages.

    One way to achieve this is to create clear exit criteria. These exit criteria define the parameters of when an opportunity can exit one stage and move to the next.

    Unfortunately, often, exit criteria focus on the sales person’s actions. They act as internal milestones. Tick off all the boxes, and then you move to the next stage.

    However, in the customer’s mind, the deal hasn’t moved on one iota.

    Instead, use what Brent Adamson (co-author of The Challenger Customer and The Challenger Sale) describes as a “customer-verified sales funnel.

    “Salespeople and their managers should use a combination of rep activities and customer ‘verifiers’ or behaviors to track the progress of a deal. This explicitly encourages reps to focus on achieving specific outcomes in the best way instead of merely executing activities in a prescribed way,” says Adamson.

    In other words, it’s all very well to create fields and even validation rules to control when an opportunity stage can be advanced.

    However, base these controls on the customer’s buying behavior, not merely the pre-defined list of activities that you expect the salesperson to fulfill.

    Opportunity Stages in Lightning

    Salesforce Lightning includes some great new features that increase the power of Opportunity Stages.

    Lightning Sales Paths for Opportunity Stages

    In Lightning, the Opportunity page layout can display the stages.

    Salespeople can click on the path arrow to move the opportunity to the next stage.
    Also, there’s an option to include a description, tips and other information for each Opportunity Stage.
    For many businesses, this is an essential tool for helping salespeople to understand the specific meaning of each stage. It also means there are explicit exit criteria and other important information directly on the opportunity.

    Kanban view of opportunity Stages

    Lightning extends the traditional List Views in Salesforce.

    The Kanban view of opportunity stages gives salespeople a dynamic display of all deals.

    Salespeople drag and drop opportunities from one stage to another. It’s a quick and easy way to update many deals and get and up-to-date pipeline.

    What Next?

    If you want meaningful visibility of the pipeline, then it’s essential to get your opportunity stages right.

    If the stages don’t reflect your sales process, or they are ambiguous, then pipeline reports are not reliable. In turn, this means you cannot conduct useful funnel reviews or create reliable sales forecasts.

    How To Change Opportunity Stages In Salesforce

    The default opportunity stages in Salesforce are:

    • Prospecting

    • Qualification

    • Needs Analysis

    • Value Proposition

    • Id. Decision Makers

    • Perception Analysis

    • Proposal/Price Quote

    • Negotiation/Review

    • Closed Won

    • Closed Lost

    Watch the video below to learn how to change these default values to stages that suit your sales process.

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    How To Plug A Leaking Sales Funnel In The Right Place

    How To Plug A Leaking Sales Funnel In The Right Place

    Everyone in sales has a leaking funnel.

    That’s the nature of the game.

    It is, after all, why the sales pipeline is typically displayed as a funnel. There are fewer deals at each successive stage in the sales process.

    If the funnel wasn’t leaking, you would win 100% of deals. (If you ARE winning 100% of deals then you have pipeline management issues such as sandbagging).

    In fact, for reasons we’ll come to, sometimes there are not enough deals leaking from the funnel.

    That’s because opportunities hang around in the sales pipeline long after they have any realistic chance of closing successfully. These opportunities over-inflate the sales pipeline and eliminate any chance of accurate revenue forecasting.

    This means two questions for every sales manager are:

    • Is the sales funnel leaking to a reasonable extent? And,
    • Is the sales funnel leaking in the right places?

    If the answer to either of these questions is ‘No’, then there’s a third question:

    • What should I do about it?

    So here’s our four step guide to plugging a leaking funnel in the right places.

    1. Measure funnel leakage.
    2. Determine where the funnel is leaking.
    3. Understand why the funnel is leaking.
    4. Decide what action to take.

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    All four steps go together. If you don’t know how much the funnel is leaking – and where – then you can’t decide how best to plug the leaks.

    1. How to measure funnel leakage

    Here’s the Leaking Funnel dashboard chart and report.

    salesforce dashboard chart based on the leaking funnel report.

    Create this chart using a Stage Movement report. The report shows the ‘From’ Opportunity Stage for all deals that have been set ‘To’ Closed Lost.

    In our case, the chart covers Opportunities where the Stage movement occurred in the last calendar quarter.

    The leaking funnel dashboard chart and report show, for example, 17 Opportunities moving to Closed Lost directly from the Prospecting Stage. In other words, 17 deals that were in Prospecting, leaked from our funnel in the last quarter.

    Early Stage funnel leakage

    All other things being equal, there’s nothing wrong with deals leaking from the funnel at early stages in the sales lifecycle.

    If the opportunity qualification process is working effectively, this is exactly what should happen.

    Deals are investigated:

    If there isn’t a win-win for supplier and customer, the opportunity is qualified-out.

    But how much early stage leakage is too much?

    Using conversion rates (win rates) is one way to gauge this. Are win rates are broadly in line with what you expect? If so, then you probably don’t have an overwhelming early-stage funnel leakage problem.

    On the other hand, if you do have an early-stage leaking funnel issue, consider the actions outlined in Section 4 of this post.

    Late Stage funnel leakage

    What about deals leaking from the funnel at late Stages in the sales cycle?

    Look the chart and report in our example above:

    Is there a problem? 11 deals in the quarter were lost directly from the Negotiation Stage.

    This is not good news. As Bud Suse says, “there’s nothing worse than coming a close second”.

    Opportunities leaking from the funnel at late stages waste time, energy and resources and drain morale.

    It looks like we have this very problem in our example.

    Read on, to see how to investigate further and decide on the right course of action.

    2. Determine where the funnel is leaking

    Knowing that we have a leaking funnel late in the sales cycle is only the starting point.

    Before we can take action, we need to analyse the problem further.

    Let’s start by looking at the same report summarized by salesperson.

    Salesforce report that shows the leaking funnel for each salesperson.

    This report shows the ‘From’ Stage for all deals that have been set to Closed Lost for each salesperson.

    It looks like all salespeople have something of a problem. They are all leaking deals at late stages in the sales process.

    Let’s reformat the report again to look at the leaking funnel problem from a different angle. For example, compare new versus existing customers:

    Leaking funnel of new customers compared to existing customers.

    So now we have a much deeper understanding of where the funnel is leaking:

    We have a real problem in losing deals to new customers, late in the sales cycle.

    We can reformat the Leaking Funnel reports in a variety of other ways to analyse further, but you get the idea. First, we measured overall funnel leakage. Then we investigated where in the sales process deals are slipping from the pipeline.

    Now we need to understand why it is happening.

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    3. Understand why the funnel is leaking

    So now, we have identified specifically where the funnel is leaking.

    However, there’s no point taking action just for the sake of it. We need to understand why deals are being lost.

    Here are some ways to do that.

    Get feed-forward from prospects

    This is the most powerful way:

    Get insight from prospects with whom you’ve lost deals. Ask them where you went wrong. Find out how you could have acted differently to win the deal.

    We prefer to call it feed-forward not feedback. That’s because you then apply the lessons going forward to future opportunities.

    Read How To Stop Salespeople complaining about Marketing Leads for a great example of insight gathered this way.

    Discuss the issue with salespeople

    Have an open conversation about why the situation is occurring.

    We’ve facilitated many of these discussions. Having an external, independent facilitator is a good way of ensuring an open, no-blame discussion.

    This approach is particularly powerful when it combines with advice and insight directly from the prospects.

    Implement a Reasons Lost field

    Many companies have this type of picklist or text field on the Opportunity. Often, a validation rule ensures information is entered whenever a deal is set to Closed Lost.

    Sometimes this yields useful information.

    However, it’s tough to get the depth of information that can truly make a difference using this method alone.

    For example, all too often ‘Price’ is the reason the deal was lost. Yet how frequently is that truly the case in your business. Instead, qualitative information is the key to making real change and a difference to future conversion rates.

    For more advice read How To Stop Closed Lost Screwing Up Your Funnel.

    4. Decide upon action to plug the leaking funnel

    Now we’re finally ready to take some action!

    Of course, the appropriate action depends upon the results of our analysis and investigation into why the funnel is leaking.

    Depending on the situation in your business, here are some actions you can take.

    Early Stage leaking funnel

    • Validate the opportunity qualification criteria and process. Check deals are not qualified-out too early.
    • Ensure timely and thorough follow-up on early-stage opportunities for new customers. Make sure they’re not ignored in favor of warm deals from existing customers.
    • Re-focus marketing and lead generation activities on target customers in the right segments.
    • Implement lead nurturing programs to ‘warm-up’ customers before contact from salespeople.
    • Implement lead scoring to identify and prioritize the early stage opportunities for follow up.
    • Implement a feedback process from Sales to Marketing or Telesales (or whoever generates the early stage opportunities in your business). This communication must explain when and why new deals are qualified-out. Use this feedback to improve lead and opportunity qualification criteria.

    Late Stage leaking funnel

    • Improve the investigation stage in your sales process. Ensure time is not wasted by salespeople chasing deals they have little chance of winning.
    • Define your ideal customer and make sure you have a framework for assessing potential deals. Bob Apollo has excellent advice on this.
    • Implement a bid / no-bid approval process. If you operate in a big ticket, RFP environment, get formal sign-off to pitching for a deal.
    • Review the process for identifying all stakeholders in the buying center. Check that key stakeholders are not being left out of the communication process early in the sale.
    • Submit contracts and legal documents for review earlier in the sales process. Get technical and legal issues on the table earlier, before everyone gets too entrenched in their position.
    • Get the right balance of focus and pressure. Are sales people chasing too many lame duck deals?
    • Check for dormant deals and evidence of sandbagging. Do some opportunities remain outside the pipeline until the salesperson is confident a deal is to be done? If so, then it’s interfering with your visibility of the funnel and conversion rate metrics.
    • Implement a lessons learned process to capture valuable information that will reduce funnel leakage in the future.

    All funnels leak.

    It’s where, when and how that the funnel is leaking that’s important.

    Use the Leaking Funnel report in your business today to find out if you have a problem. Then dig a little deeper to figure out the right action for the right type of leak.

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    When Repeat Opportunities Are Right (And When They Are Not)

    When Repeat Opportunities Are Right (And When They Are Not)

    Schedule Revenue Over Time In Salesforce

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    Not every sale results in a single, one-off invoice and payment.

    Often, they result in multiple orders and payments over time.

    However, here are two common mistakes companies make in Salesforce:

    • They do use repeat opportunities when they shouldn’t, and sometimes
    • They don’t use repeat opportunities when they should.

    The result?

    • Your sales process is more complex than necessary.
    • It’s challenging to get accurate pipeline visibility.
    • Sales metrics on the size, quality and trend in the sales pipeline become distorted.

    So, here are five examples in which you may think repeat opportunities have a role to play in Salesforce.

    In each of these commonly occurring scenarios, companies receive multiple payments over time. So, are repeat opportunities the best way to handle each situation?

    Here’s a simple way to answer this question:

    Decide whether future revenue is in jeopardy.

    If the answer is yes, then repeat opportunities are probably required.

    However, if the answer is no, then you probably don’t need repeat opportunities.

    Here’s how repeat opportunities apply – or don’t apply – to each of the situations above.

    Repeat opportunities with software as a service

    Based in Paris, Sidetrade provides predictive software to accelerate credit management and the sales-to-cash cycle.

    Sidetrade delivers its platform on a SaaS basis. Customers sign-up for a fixed-term contract for several years. Payment is on an annual basis.

    Sidetrade doesn’t need recurring or repeat opportunities each year.

    Repeat opportunities are not required because the future revenue on the existing contract is not in jeopardy. The opportunity is not in doubt. That’s because the signed customer contract is already in place.

    Therefore, instead of repeat opportunities, Sidetrade forecasts future revenue using Revenue Schedules.

    For sure, Sidetrade will aim to sell additional services or upgrades to the customer.

    However, Sidetrade handles this using additional opportunities. These are new opportunities for incremental revenue rather than repeat opportunities.

    Repeat opportunities with insurance premiums

    Based near Toronto, Aboriginal Insurance Services (AIS) sells insurance products to the Indigenous Native American communities across Canada.

    For example, the community will purchase motor insurance to cover all vehicles operated by the municipal area.

    The insurance and premium is always for one year of cover.

    AIS will aim to renew the policy with the community. However, there’s no guarantee of this renewal.

    Future revenue is in considerable jeopardy. Each year, competitors will seek to undercut AIS or offer more product benefits.

    Therefore, it’s right for AIS to create a repeat opportunity to manage the renewal. It is a separate sales process. AIS will apply crucial, proactive key account planning to optimize the chances of success.

    There is, however, no certainty of a positive outcome.

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    Repeat opportunities with service contracts

    Based in Yorkshire in northern England, MAM Software sells advanced software and hardware to support the automotive logistical supply chain in the UK and the USA.

    The company provides support contracts that cover the software and hardware. These typically run for 3 – 5 years.

    The customer pays an annual fee for support.

    However, MAM doesn’t use repeat opportunities.

    That’s because the customer is committed contractually for the duration of the support arrangement. The revenue is secured. It’s not in jeopardy.

    Instead, MAM has a single opportunity. Products with Schedules forecast future revenue. These schedules mean MAM has an accurate, forward-looking view of secured income.

    Repeat opportunities with Proof of Concepts

    Another London based customer, Modernis, provides advanced analytics and consultancy services to the insurance and reinsurance markets across the UK, USA and Europe.

    Modernis offers the analytics products in a software-as-a-service platform.

    However, the sales process often involves two distinct stages.

    First, Modernis provides chargeable proof-of-concept access to its platform. Later, once customers have experienced the value that the platform brings, Modernis sells a contract that runs for several years. This contract incorporates an annual license charge.

    To manage this, Modernis create two opportunities.

    The first opportunity represents the sales process for a chargeable proof-of-concept.

    A second opportunity is automatically created. This represents the sales process for the full contract.

    So the company uses repeat opportunities – at least of a type. The repeat opportunity is used because commitment to the full contract is not a given.

    Instead, it depends on a successful outcome to the proof of concept.

    Modernis also forecast the future revenue on the full contract using Schedules. This is because once the contract is signed, the revenue is not in jeopardy. Therefore, a repeat opportunity is not required.

    Framework agreements in Salesforce

    Gilbarco Veeder Root (GVR) is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of petrol pumps and retail equipment. Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, the company has a Salesforce deployment covering six continents.

    A GVR opportunity often relates to a large site re-fit program for one of the major petrol retail companies.

    The refit program may take the retail petrol company several years to complete. It’s likely to require a significant purchase from GVR.

    One the one hand, a long-term contract benefits both parties.

    On the other hand, the customer doesn’t want the delivery of all the petrol pumps manufactured and delivered in one go!

    Rather, they need to ‘drawdown’ the units as-and-when the refit program is ready to install them.

    So the total value of the contract is agreed upon. However, the month-on-month revenue is variable.

    GVR handles this with a single upfront opportunity.

    The company uses custom revenue schedules to predict the volume and revenue that is anticipated each month. The GVR Account Manager updates the schedules each month with the actual orders.

    This allows GVR to track the projected volume (upon which the commercial terms were agreed) with the actual volume ordered by the oil company.

    Recommended blog post: How To Manage 4 Types of Framework Agreement In Salesforce.

    Implementation points to consider with repeat opportunities:

    • Consider triggering the repeat opportunity automatically. This avoids the subsequent opportunity being forgotten about. That trigger happens when the first opportunity is won or at some other predetermined point in the process.
    • Measure the win-loss ratio for the repeat opportunity separately to the initial opportunity.
    • Consider using Products and Schedules to forecast the revenue over time. Read this blog post for more advice on how to do this.
    • Consider custom revenue schedules if you need additional flexibility. For example, if you need to record the status (not due, invoiced, paid) on individual schedules, then you will need custom revenue schedules.

    Not every sale results in a single payment or transaction. However, only use repeat opportunities when it is right to do so. And if it isn’t right, then try revenue schedules instead.

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    How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

    How To Stop ‘Closed Lost’ Screwing Up Salesforce Dashboards

    No-one likes a loser.

    Or to be thought of as a loser.

    So the term ‘Closed Lost’ is not going to be a favorite for your average salesperson.

    Yet Closed Lost is the standard Opportunity Stage picklist value for removing a deal from the pipeline. And it’s a picklist value that salespeople hate to use.

    Impact of not setting deals to Closed Lost

    But here’s the problem.

    Failing to set dead wood opportunities to Closed Lost has a number of adverse consequences:

    • Over-inflation of the sales funnel. Managers and salespeople do not have a robust view of the strength (or weakness) of the sales pipeline.
    • Incorrect sales performance reports. Effective management of the sales team depends upon having accurate information e.g. opportunity conversion rates. These reports, in turn, require unsuccessful deals to be closed out.
    • Salesforce clutter. It gets increasingly hard to see the wood from the trees in salesforce. This makes it more difficult to focus on the opportunities that have true value.
    • Lack of funnel leakage information. It becomes impossible to understand at what stage opportunities are leaking from the sales pipeline.
    • Reduced competitor information. It becomes more difficult to identify how many deals and of what type of deals that are lost to competitors.

    How to use the Closed Lost Opportunity Stage

    No self-respecting salesperson likes to set an Opportunity to Closed Lost. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t got a place on the Opportunity Stage picklist.

    Closed Lost is appropriate in the right circumstances. It’s appropriate when a deal has been lost to a competitor during a pitch, tender or other competitive situation.

    So let’s not beat about the bush. If another business has won an opportunity at our expense then the salesperson should set the deal to Closed Lost.

    But many of our clients that have high quality pipeline visibility and sales forecasting accuracy, also use two additional Opportunity Stage picklist values.

    Additional Opportunity Stage picklist values

    In addition to losing to a competitor, there are two other reasons why deals should be removed from the pipeline.

    1. The customer doesn’t make a purchase. No deal takes place – for anyone. Yet salespeople often have an anathema to using Closed Lost to describe the outcome of these opportunities.So instead of Closed Lost, many companies use an Opportunity Stage picklist value such as No Purchase to remove these deals from the sales pipeline.
    2. The opportunity is qualified-out. In fact this is a legitimate reason for ‘losing’ a deal. As Bud Suse says, coming a close second is a cardinal sin in sales. Don’t waste time, effort and resources on opportunities you are unlikely to win.So instead of Closed Lost, many companies use an Opportunity Stage picklist value such as Qualified Out to remove these deals from the sales pipeline.

    Gather additional information on Closed Lost deals

    Adding two more Opportunity Stage picklist values in addition to Closed Lost is not necessarily the end of the matter however.

    Businesses, quite rightly, often want to gather more information. They want to understand the underlying reasons why a deal was removed from the pipeline.

    One way to do this is to create a Reasons Lost picklist field. A validation rule forces salespeople to make a selection from this list.

    The problem with this approach is that sales people invariably select a value relating to Price. Which might indeed be the case. But it’s rarely the only reason. (Failure to communicate value might be the true reason!).

    There is no killer solution to this problem. However many of our customers gather information on Closed Lost deals in a qualitative format. They have a text field called Lessons Learned in which salespeople identify what could have been done better in the sales process.

    It’s not perfect. But experience shows it does provide more information in a useful format than simply selecting from a Reasons Lost picklist. Use this information to analyse sales processes, up-skill and develop salespeople, modify the pricing and discount strategy, develop new product features and create a culture of learning and sharing.

    What to do next

    The first step is to create additional Opportunity Stage picklist values to Closed Lost. Then educate salespeople and other users on the circumstances when each value is appropriate.

    Now that you have done this, here are five ways you can benefit from the removal of dead opportunities from the sales pipeline.

    • Pipeline visibility. Get a robust view of the sales pipeline. Use this blog post to learn how to do this, If You Only Create One Dashboard Chart Then Make It This One.
    • Win Rates / Opportunity Conversion Rates. Analyze variance in win rates between teams, individuals and territories. Use this blog post, Measure And Compare Opportunity Win Rates Across Sales Teams.
    • Stage Movement Analysis. Understand at what stage in the sales process your team is removing deals from the sales pipeline. Determine whether it is early or late in the sales cycle. It’s chart #5 on our list of 12 Charts That Should Be On Your Sales Dashboard.
    • Competitor Analysis. Understand the ratio between deals lost to competitors versus Qualified-out and No Purchase. Apply this information to evolve sales strategy and tactics. Present the data in an informative way using our 5 Tip Guide To Effective Salesforce Reports.
    • Improve sales morale. No-one likes a loser – so don’t force your salespeople to feel like one. Acknowledge to the team that not every deal can be won; not every customer will make a purchase; and that some deals aren’t worth pursuing in the first place.

    Closed Lost isn’t the always the only problem with the Opportunity Stage however! Read more about our sales process and opportunity stage recommendations.

    And one final step. If you haven’t done so already, sign up to our email list to be the first to receive more advice and tips on maximizing your salesforce benefits.

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