Building a sales process in Salesforce is a foundational effort that will impact your overall ROI with the tool.

Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the appropriate stages and milestones with your unique sales process.

But there are many best practices we’ve learned over the years to ensure your sales process is effective and that your executive team is able to get the reports it needs to understand sales performance.

1) Learn the core Salesforce object architecture

Salesforce has a standard object architecture that the highest performing sales organizations take full advantage of, including Leads, Contacts, Accounts and Opportunities.

In the standard Salesforce sales process, people with an unknown fit or interest in your products or services are created as “Leads” in the Lead object. Once the Lead is qualified through BANT, the Lead is converted to a Contact related to an Account, and potentially an Opportunity.

The importance of the Salesforce Leads object is often misunderstood and overlooked when defining sales stages. The Leads object should be where sales reps are working to complete early qualification, before deals officially hit the pipeline. The Leads object is also where sales tends to have the most challenge in process variation and overall conversion rate, considering Leads come from a variety of sources, with a range of interest or fit for sales.

Businesses with Account-Based Marketing and Sales models can still leverage Leads but consideration needs to be made for data points that will map from the Lead to the Account upon conversion. This also impacts how marketing might pull dynamic lists in Pardot or other Marketing Automation Platform. Make sure any Accounts being created in the system are properly categorized as Prospect, Customer, Partner or other “Type” using the “Type” or similar field.

2. Define Lead Stages and Guided Selling Path

When thinking of Leads as a pre-qualification staging area, you can clearly define the steps your reps go through to advance or disqualify a Lead. Try to reverse engineer some of your best deals back to the first touchpoint with your company or sales rep:

  • Where did they come from?
  • What got their interest?
  • What steps did you take to qualify them?
  • Did those steps include a product demo, consultation, quote request or other meeting?
  • Did they submit an early funnel form on your website such as a free ebook download or webinar registration?

Again, every organization is unique and will have different sales stages in the pre-qualification process. But we recommend keeping it simple and thinking about clear categories of where prospects fit in a Lead funnel.

The Nuvem Lead funnel includes these core stages and simple definitions:

  1. Open: The Lead has been created but has not engaged with us via Pardot or sales.
  2. Engaged: The Lead has shown a Pardot-tracked activity in the past 90 days.
  3. MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead): The Lead has submitted a request for information via the website or reached a scoring threshold that indicates a high level of interest, using the Pardot tracking mechanism.
  4. Qualifying: Sales has picked up the Lead and is working to coordinate next steps with both the prospect and internal subject matter experts who will determine project fit. Non-inbound Leads, such as referrals directly to a sales rep, may go straight to this stage.
  5. SQL/Discovery Accepted: Sales has successfully completed initial qualification and a free discovery has been accepted by the prospect and internal project team. Sales knows the general Opportunity product focus and deal amount.
  6. Converted: Sales has converted the Lead into a Contact, Account and Opportunity, while also completing other relevant sales operations tasks to successfully coordinate project scoping.

We also highly recommend users take advantage of the Lighting user experience, which offers the Guidance for Success Path. Use this functionality to tell your sales users exactly what you expect of them at that stage, including key talking points and data inputs in order to advance the Lead.

3) Define Account Types

Once a Lead is converted to a Contact, it must be tied to an Account. An Account essentially puts an umbrella over all Contacts at that organization so those Contacts inherit attributes of the Account and are easily stored in the same place.

For most Salesforce users, there are multiple “types” of Accounts represented in Salesforce. They might be Prospect Account, Customer Accounts, Partner Accounts, competitors, media or a variety of other categories depending on what you need to store in Salesforce.

We recommend you denote different Account types using the standard “Type” field but with values customized to your business. Leads converted to Accounts should be denoted as “Prospect” accounts or other similar value.

When Prospect Accounts have a Closed Won Opportunity, it’s important to update the “Type” field with a value of “Customer” or “Active Client” so that it’s easy to create a report that simply provides a breakdown of Customer Accounts vs Non-Customer Accounts. This is also a key filter marketers often use in Pardot or other MAP to pull customer segmentation or suppression lists.

Better yet – automate the update of this value using Process Builder to ease data entry with your reps.

4) Define Opportunity Stages

Defining Opportunity stages tends to be an easier and more familiar process for sales teams than defining Lead stages. Again, the recommendation here is to reverse engineer Closed Won Opportunities and the clear steps sales used to close the deal. It might be helpful to define staging by considering probability. What signals indicate a deal is more likely to close, such as a Request for a Proposal? Framing those signal points you use for probability into steps, or stages, will help you define separation that exists between stages and entry/exit criteria. Other tips:

  • Keep stages simple and labeled concisely for reporting.
  • Use the Guidance for Success Path in Opportunities to make it clear to reps what the key entry/exit criteria is for each stage
  • Use Key Fields to enrich the data collected at each Stage in the Opportunity

5) Track Sales Activities and Define Expectations around Activities

One of the key reports sales managers should have is a report showing sales activities by sales rep in an applicable reporting timeframe, such as weekly or monthly.

It’s important to set expectations around how many activities sales should log, and the nature of those activities. This will help you understand process inconsistencies that may be impacting performance and potential training needs. Or, trends in sales performance that necessitate changes to business processes, products/services, pricing models or other factors that may influence sales. Also:

  • Try to automate the setup of tasks via Process Builder or AppExchange app when possible. For example, you might generate tasks twice annually as part of your basic account management process.
  • Use the Gmail/Outlook connector to streamline email activity logging and CTI integration with your phone system to help automate the sales activity logging processes.
  • Ensure your sales users are familiar with what’s on the Lightning Experience homepage dashboard assistant and related lists, which will keep them on task with what they need to do each day.

6) Use Campaigns to Track Sales Efforts with Similar Targets or Goals

Campaigns can be sales or marketing driven, and they offer highly customizable features, such as “Campaign Member Status.” Campaigns can combine both Leads and Contacts into one list that sales can use as a calldown list or email list. Update the Campaign Member Status based on if recipients respond to sales, if they open/click an email or perform another desired action.

Based on your attribution model, Salesforce can also pull these Campaigns into Opportunity reports as the “Primary Campaign Source” to show you how the Campaign performed to generate revenue.


Building a sales process in Salesforce will take careful consideration and defined requirements agreed upon by your Salesforce oversight, admin and sales teams. We find that organizations that work through this process with well-defined sales stages, clear sales expectations, data validations at each sales stage and strong overall adoption perform substantially better at reaching sales goals.