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I’m very passionate about Sales Force Automation (SFA) and I’m also a big fan of the Microsoft CRM Leads functionality. Recently I’ve noticed some misunderstandings (both inside and outside Microsoft) surrounding this core SFA feature. Hopefully this post will dispel some of the mystery surround this cool feature.
The CRM Lead entity is a transactional style entity which contains individual, organizational and sales pipeline information. One of the advantages of combining these three types of record into a single entity is: de-normalization (ie. All the table is together in one ‘flat’ table – like a single Excel sheet). The advantages of this approach are simple: It’s super easy to import an excel spreadsheet of leads into CRM and sales process efficiency.
The Import advantage is obvious: take a sheet of leads from an event/survey/promotion etc and upload into CRM. It’s critical that ordinary users can conduct this import without worrying about complex data relationships (eg. Accounts/Contacts/Opportunities). If you have to send your leads to a data analyst to upload then you run the serious risk of lead ‘aging’. CRM’s lead upload functionality is essentially ‘idiot proof’ and I highly recommend to CRM administrators to open it up to their sales staff or at least their sales managers.
The process efficiency advantage is more interesting in my opinion. By keeping the lead entity extremely simple it is much easier for sales qualification teams (eg. Telesales) to work these records. By not having to worry about full scale Contact, Account and Opportunity records you can quickly sort through the leads to find those which have real potential. In most sales cycles the most drastic ‘drop off’ occurs during lead qualification. This is an area where CRM Customizers need to avoid the temptation to overcomplicate things. The easier it is for leads to be created, uploaded and worked the more likely it is for sales people to participate in the leads process.
The leads entity does contain Personally Identifiable Information (names, emails etc). Many companies are becoming increasingly concerned about the management of such sensitive data (from big data warehouses to Access databases stored on desktops). Consider making lead data anonymous after your qualification process is complete (ie. After the lead has been converted or closed). Over on my personal blog I’ve posted a sample CRM Workflow Rule to manage such a process: http://www.philiprichardson.org/blog/post.aspx?id=30
- Philip Richardson