Categories Articles, Sales and Marketing

This post is adapted from our Guide to Getting the Most From Salesforce. You can download the full 60-page eBook here.

There’s an old concept in the cooking world called “mis en place.” Born in France (like so many cooking legacies), the phrase roughly translates to “put in place.” In practice, it means much more than that. Mis en place is about faithfully maintaining and arranging your equipment and ingredients. It’s about having everything you need at your fingertips, and understanding your entire cooking process before you preheat a single pan.

You can learn a lot about a chef by her mis en place. Is her work space filled with unnecessary equipment? Are any of her ingredients starting to go bad? Is her station organized to optimize her efficiency?

Indeed, many critics will tell you that the best way to predict a restaurant’s quality is not the sophistication of its chef’s palate or the wines in its cellar ‒ but by assessing the mis en place of the cooks in its kitchen.

The same is true for a sales team. Want to predict the output of a sales team? Look at the cleanliness of its Salesforce instance. Great sales teams thrive because their reps aren’t wasting time sifting through reams of unnecessary data or working the wrong opportunities. The best sales teams invest time into organizing their data so that, when it comes time to close deals, they can do just that.

But many sales leaders feel daunted by this task. Perhaps they inherited a sloppy Salesforce instance, or have tried and failed to get their reps to care more about data cleanliness. Whatever the case, it’s far too common for sales leaders to sweep dirty data under the rug.

Download the Salesforce Guide

The Importance of a Clean Salesforce Instance

In this post, we show you why Salesforce data cleanliness is so important, and why it’s not as hard as you think to achieve, especially if you follow these three steps to keep your opportunities in order.

Section 1

Section 2

Section 3

Cleaning Up Your Salesforce Data

Aligning Your Sales Process

Salesforce doesn’t know anything about your sale process. As a platform, it’s really just an empty vessel that you must tailor to your needs if you want it to work well for you. This is true throughout the sales process, but especially critical in terms of opportunity management.

If your reps are managing their open opportunities in Salesforce (which they should be), it is essential that their understanding of opportunity stages matches the rules written into your Salesforce instance. And for this to work, you must make sure that your sales process matches the way buyers actually behave.

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The image above is a representation of how you can align the seller and buyer to ensure that your reps are not simply making decisions based on their own expectations, but also factoring in the buyer’s perspective.

This process should be mapped exactly in your Salesforce instance. Every opportunity should have a hard-coded picklist with your sales process stages. Reps should update this picklist every time the potential buyer has met the pre-arranged exit criteria for each stage.

One part of this process that many sales reps ignore is the close date. Every opportunity should have a close date, which reps should update anytime pertinent information comes in.

Why You Must Monitor Close Dates

Your sales rep just talked to a potential customer for the first time. She feels great about how the call went, and is optimistic that the opportunity will be converted soon, so she fills in her estimated close date in Salesforce. Based on the date she entered, it’s clear that this opportunity will close before her manager even sees the Salesforce report.

Fast forward a month. Your sales team struggled to convert opportunities this month, and your company missed its bookings goal. The rep who filled in the optimistic close date didn’t only not close the deal, he didn’t even realize that the close date had expired. Expired close dates do not raise alerts in Salesforce, and overdue opportunities are omitted from forward-looking Salesforce reports. This means that the rep didn’t realize she hadn’t engage with this opportunity for several weeks. The once-promising opportunity slips through the cracks.

Another victim of unmonitored close dates.

The threat of opportunities falling by the wayside is very real, and very dangerous. Sales teams handling hordes of opportunities and potential clients at once makes it difficult to keep tabs on all of them. Like a harried chef trying to tend to dozens of boiling pots at once, these sales teams need serious organization to make sure that nothing gets lost in the shuffle.

When something like this occurs ‒ where the estimated close date passes without raising any alerts ‒ sales reps may forget to adequately engage with opportunities and give them the attention they need. Sales managers don’t know to ask because they simply can’t keep track of every opportunity their reps are working on. They can’t help their reps hunt overdue opportunities if they don’t realize these opportunities are overdue in the first place.

Another reason for closely monitoring close dates in Salesforce is to provide more accurate sales forecasts. If your reps are overly optimistic and have filled in a bunch of close dates for the end of this month, that might swell your pipeline and make it look healthier than it actually is. The truth is that most of these opportunities might take longer than the end of the month to close, or might not close at all. When sales managers forecast for the month using that pipeline information, they would be deceived into producing a robust sales forecast that is ultimately not true.

Inaccurate sales forecasts can drive the wrong business decisions, such as prompting a sales manager to hire unnecessary reps, purchase a surplus of raw materials, or present overly optimistic revenue projections to board members.

The problem is that most sales reps simply push the close dates on all their opportunities to the end of the month, whether that’s an accurate representation of these opportunities or not. When that happens, you end up with a report with clumps of opportunity close dates at the end of each month. That inevitably leads to a scramble at the end of the month as each rep tried to determine which opps to prioritize.

Salesforce’s issue with not sending alerts for overdue opportunities is not easily fixed, unfortunately. To prevent opportunities from slipping through the cracks, it would be better to adopt a more conservative approach to close dates from the onset. After the initial call, instruct your reps to set close dates further out than they normally would, aiming toward the end of the month, quarter, or at the end of the average sales cycle.

Making sure your reps are diligent about monitoring close dates ‒ and using them correctly ‒ is an important part of Salesforce hygiene, but it is not the only thing you should keep in mind when considering closed-opportunity best practices. You should also adopt a policy of having two fields for closed-lost opportunities.

Why You Need Two Fields For Closed Opps

It’s not enough to simply have a picklist for Closed-Lost Opportunities‒ you actually need two fields: Closed-Lost Reason and Closed-Lost Detail.

How are these two fields used? The Closed-Lost Reason picklist contains your company’s most common causes for opportunities to fall through: timing, budget, authority, competition, price, lost momentum, etc.

Closed-Lost Detail is an editable field that prompts a rep to input a more nuanced and granular explanation of why the deal didn’t close.

Why do you need both fields? A Closed-Lost Reason picklist is ideal for data standardization. Sales managers can sort all closed opportunities by lost reasons, thereby creating an easy sorting mechanism for Closed-Lost revival campaigns, objection handling training, feedback for the product team, and many other use cases.

Closed-Lost Detail, meanwhile, is necessary for more in-depth opportunity reviews and rep coaching.

For example, let’s say Opportunity X was lost due to timing. Timing is a common cause for losing opportunities, so it is important that information is stored in Closed-Lost Reason in an easily searchable and sortable format. But Closed-Lost Detail offers a more opportunity-specific and in-depth explanation for what exactly derailed the deal.

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Closed-Lost Detail, meanwhile, is necessary for more in-depth opportunity reviews and rep coaching.

For example, let’s say Opportunity X was lost due to timing. Timing is a common cause for losing opportunities, so it is important that information is stored in Closed-Lost Reason in an easily searchable and sortable format. But Closed-Lost Detail offers a more opportunity-specific and in-depth explanation for what exactly derailed the deal.

These Closed-Lost reasons can prove to be some of the most important pieces of information you collect during the sales process. It’s easy for reps to focus their energy on deal-closing activities, but it is just as important for them to keep data about Closed-Lost opportunities clean so that sales managers can optimize, analyze and modify their sales processes.

And an important part of that is effectively setting up Lost Reasons.

How to Set Up Lost Reasons

The most important part of setting up Lost Reasons in Salesforce is making it part of your ongoing sales process. Managers need to enforce data quality by making every rep record a lost reason for every opportunity.

The first step is to set up your picklist for lost reasons for your sales reps to choose from. In Salesforce:

  1. Click on “Setup” under your name.
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  1. Click on “Customize” under “App Setup,” then “Opportunities” and “Fields.” This screen gives you a chance to create “New” Opportunity Custom Fields and Relationships.
  2. Specify the field type (“Picklist”), fill in the details of what values you want in your picklist (i.e. the lost reasons that are applicable to your sales team).
  3. Add this new picklist option to the appropriate reports and your team is now well on it’s way to specifying a reason for each lost opportunity.

The next step is to coach your reps to add this small but important step to their sales process. For starters, make this a mandatory field in Salesforce. Set up the CRM so reps can’t save opportunity details or move on until a lost reason has been specified. Impress upon them the critical nature of recording a specific reason for each lost opportunity.

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Make sure to choose the right lost reasons for your picklist. “Can’t contact” and “None” are insufficient reasons that indicate laziness on the part of your sales reps in not pursuing or qualifying the opportunity well enough, or in failing to discern a specific lost reason from the contact. Encourage them to use Closed-Lost Detail to provide more specifics about what derailed the deal.

Being diligent about inputting and analyzing lost reasons is an essential part about creating a sales process built on clean and organized data. Although a busy chef may feel he is “too busy chopping vegetables to sharpen his knife” the truth is that keeping tools and processes sharp is as or more important than the actual work. The same is true for sales reps. On the phone closing deals is how most people think about sales, but the data, processes and routines that undergird sales activities are equally essential.

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Conclusion: What Really Makes a Great Sales Rep?

When you think about what makes a great sales rep, your mind probably jumps to great social skills, an assertive personality, and a great grasp of the product they’re selling. These qualities are all important, but it’s important not to exclude another essential trait: organization and a dedication to clean data.

For better or worse, Salesforce has changed the way salespeople do their jobs. It has become the storehouse for all the pertinent information and data that a sales rep needs to do her job effectively. Most importantly, this means that they get out what they put in. If you fail to put in comprehensive, clear, and organized data, you will get messy and unsatisfying results.

Like a great chef who fails to focus on the prep and organizational work at her cooking station, a sales rep who ignores Salesforce will lost deals he should have won and fail to see important trends in the deals he is winning.

If you want your sales team to be the equivalent of a restaurant with three Michelin stars, make sure your reps are diligent about maintaining a clean and complete Salesforce instance.

Mike Baker
Mike Baker is the Content Strategy Manager at InsightSquared, where he helps distribute original eBooks, articles and guides about data-driven sales and marketing. He has a BA in English and Journalism from Oberlin College.
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