Leads in Salesforce: And why you may be doing it wrong

Skill Level


Learning Track

Features & FunctionsLead Management

It’s common place for a consultant to be sought for help with Leads, and this always comes well after the implementation. The fact is that defining the Leads object as “a place where you put people you want to do business with”, or simply “a place to put your Leads in” is misleading, if not borderline wrong. In this session, we’re going to go over the proper definition for the Leads object in Salesforce, what its there for, and discuss how it aligns with Pardot and a Lead Nurturing Process (including Marketing Qualified Leads and Sales Qualified Leads).

We’re also going to help validate if the Leads object is right for you and your organization (you may be surprised with the answer).

In the session, key takeaways include:

  • Learn how to properly leverage the Leads object (and the Accounts/Contacts object) in Salesforce
  • Align the Salesforce objects and Pardot to a Lead Nurturing Process
  • Discover some best practices in how Pardot Prospects can be best set up to map over to Salesforce
  • Get a quick dive into MQL and SQL leads
  • Learn one simple trick for implementing MQL leads if you have not yet implemented it, and fear you may spend too much time in whiteboard sessions re-inventing the wheel to qualify your leads.

What is a lead, actually?

Most people online will say that a lead is where you put your prospects in, but this definition can be misleading. I worked with a company once that had their salespeople opening Leads to make phone calls and as soon as they’re on the call they switch immediately to a notebook and start taking notes. There was this one guy who was about to get a sale and he started taking credit card information down. 

I realized that here’s a company where all salespeople have notebooks in their desks and this is how they learn to manage it. But if you look at it, that person who purchased it was a prospect. But in reality, for that prospect to work you’d have to convert the lead, create the opportunity, go to the opportunity, add the opportunity products, then come back to the opportunity, add the payment methods and it was just chaotic. 


Leads are unknown prospects

And there’s one key word that you should take away from this, which is that leads are where you put your unknown prospects. If you’re looking at it from this perspective, then the purpose of leads is simply to understand one simple question: Is this someone that I or my company wants to do business with? If you can answer that question, then the lead is qualified and should be converted. Leads become that perfect object for you to be able to work that list and define and qualify those individuals that you want to work with or not. 


Leads in Salesforce

In Salesforce, Leads is where you have that unknown information. Once that converts you’re talking about accounts, where type equals prospect. And that’s where the nurturing begins. You may not have full knowledge of whether they’re interested in you or not, but you know you want to do business with them. Now from here, we have marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and sales qualified leads (SQLs). 

First we have leads, or marketing qualified leads, which is you saying, “I know I want to do business with this individual.” A sales qualified lead is the individual saying, “I want to consider doing business with you.” When that person shows interest to you, that’s when you have an opportunity. When that person says, “I’m interested, tell me more,” and you have active conversations going on, that’s when you have a genuine opportunity and that’s when you have a sales qualified lead.


Who should use leads?

Leads should not be used by sales. Instead, the people who should be really using Leads in Salesforce are the marketing and inside sales teams.

Leads are for people who are going to qualify and decide whether they meet the minimum criteria for it to be in a sales person’s radar. If you go by that definition once you know you want to convert your lead into a prospect account and you know you want to do business with them, you’ll never run into the problem of, “We converted this lead and now we want to bring it back because there was no opportunity or no deal.” This is one of the big things that people start struggling with, saying “I’ve converted but I can’t unconvert leads.” 

The reality of it is that you shouldn’t have to unconvert because once you know you want to do business with them, regardless of whether they’re interested or not, you never have to worry about that point ever again because unless you change your business entirely, that fact is not going to change.

Additionally, from a user adoption perspective, if you take away the Leads tab, you eliminate an extra tab for them to work on and avoid the confusion between the Contacts and Leads tab, which simplifies the sales person’s job. This way, they can be focused on outreaches and trying to get the deals instead.


How does this tie into Pardot?

In Pardot, a prospect is a prospect regardless if it’s in Leads or Contacts. One of the things to keep in mind when talking about marketing qualified leads, is that there are three big stages between lead, MQL and SQL. When you’re considering these, Pardot actually is fairly well aligned with this because you have what’s called Pardot Grade and Pardot Score.

In a marketing qualified lead in Pardot, the Pardot Grade is you being able to classify whether you want to do business with them. You’re saying, “Hey, let’s assign grades based on the criteria for these prospects that we have.” However, the Pardot Score is an indicator of a sales qualified lead because it starts telling you, “Hey, here are the interactions from the MQL.” He may not have reached out to you or told you, “I’m interested, tell me more.” But, he opened this email, he clicked on this link, he went to our website, he downloaded this PDF. 

So, the Pardot Score answers the question, “Are they interested in us and if so, how interested are they?” The Pardot Grade answers a question, “Are we interested in them?” And both of these tie together.


Is your company suitable for leads?

To answer this, you have to ask yourself two questions. The first is do you have one person that is dedicated to sales or dedicated to inside sales or dedicated to marketing? If you have a user that is doing half and half, half sales and half marketing, then it might not make sense because it’s just an extra tab, it’s extra complexity. If you’re small enough of an organization, keep it simple.

The second question to see whether it makes sense for a company to use Leads or not is, “Are you dealing with pre-qualified data?” If you’re filtering people out of your data first, then it doesn’t make sense to load it in Leads because you’ve already done the job of Leads. 

To learn more about Leads and to hear about a very simple trick for those that are looking to implement MQLs, watch the video above.

About the Author


Working with Salesforce since 2010, consulting for over 100 projects small and large, and with 14 certifications under his belt, Erick has focused a majority of his time working with managed services, focusing assisting organizations across the Eastern United States become more efficient, using Salesforce as the tool to deliver such efficiencies. To date, fullOpp has saved organizations over 70,000hrs as we continue to explain the use case for how to build a culture to continuously align Salesforce platforms with their respective people and processes. Erick hosts a YouTube channel called Salesforce Stories to connect with other experts sharing lessons learned in hoping to help others achieve better ways to #SalesforceResponsibly

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