RevOps / Admins

Lead to Cash: A Beginner’s Guide

By Alyssa Lefebvre

With Lead to Cash an essential part of every company’s operations, it’s important for every process and system to work seamlessly together to create the best experience – not only internally, but also externally – for prospects and customers.

If it’s easy to ‘do’ business with your company, customers will return time and time again!
In this guide we’ll cover exactly what the lead-to-cash process is and how it impacts every organization – learn how you can stop working in silos to create a streamlined process that improves both internal and external experiences!

What Is Lead to Cash?

The Lead-to-Cash process, which includes the sub-processes of Quote to Cash and Opportunity to Order, is a process that involves the complete cycle of customer acquisition, from lead generation to final payment and delivery for goods or services.

It is a critical process for any organization as it involves multiple departments and stakeholders, including sales, marketing, customer service, finance, and operations. The lead to cash process consists of the following areas:

  • Generating, Qualifying and Converting Leads
  • Creating and Closing Opportunities
  • Quotes, Proposals, and Contracts
  • Order Processing
  • Invoicing and Billing
  • Post Sales Services (Implementation)

Effective management of the Lead-to-Cash process can lead to increased efficiency, better customer experience, and increased revenue for the organization. Unfortunately though, this process is often managed in silos within an organization.

You might be wondering what silos are exactly. Silos are created when teams within a company create processes and/or use systems that don’t communicate with each other. This leads to inefficient and manual processes, which in turn result in errors and poor customer experiences.

When a single source of truth is used (like Salesforce CRM), silos are removed as Salesforce connects every team and every process, and integrates with thousands of systems to automatically get data where it needs to be.

Generating, Qualifying, and Converting Leads

Leads are an incredibly important part of every business, as leads are, in effect, the possible customers you will sell you; effectively, without leads, there is no one to sell to! It’s also important to note that leads are specific to individuals.

Some companies choose to create “prospect” accounts for their sales and business development teams – i.e. accounts they’ve identified as being the ideal customer profile (ICP) for their product or service, which are handled differently to a lead.

Lead Generation

The process starts with lead generation, where potential customers are identified through various marketing channels such as social media, email marketing, events, and advertising. Lead generation can result in both inbound leads and outbound leads:

  • Inbound Leads: These are individuals who request more information about your product or service through one of your channels, such as your website, social media, or a phone call. Some teams refer to these leads as “warm” or “hot” leads, as the prospect has shown some interest in your product or service.
  • Outbound Leads: These are individuals who are contacted on a completely “cold” basis. This means they have not shown any interest in your product or service, but they’ve been identified as a good target based on various factors (their job title, the industry they work in, etc.). A good example would be if you’re selling Salesforce Sales Cloud – it’s a good idea to target sales operations professionals or sales leaders within a company to understand if they are interested in improving their sales process and gaining visibility across their customer base.

It’s very important to track and understand a lead’s source – was it inbound or outbound? Furthermore, what did the lead respond to within those channels? Did they receive a very effective cold call which garnered a meeting with a seller, or did they click on a well-placed advertisement online?

Understanding where leads are coming from enables you to focus your efforts on the right channels, and reduce spending on those channels that aren’t effective at generating leads.

Once a lead has been generated via either inbound or outbound, the next step is to qualify them.

Lead Qualification

Lead qualification is the step where leads are evaluated based on their level of interest, budget, authority, and need. This is typically done by the sales team or business development team, as they engage with the leads and assess their suitability as customers.

A common way of qualifying a lead is to use the acronym, BANT:

  • Budget: Is there a budget defined for this project, and if not, can a budget be assigned? Without a budget, the lead is potentially not worth progressing.
  • Authority: Is there a defined authority within an organization to decide whether a product or service is needed?
  • Need: What are the challenges driving the interest of the prospect to your product or service, and crucially, what is the impact of doing nothing?
  • Timing: Is the timing right to introduce a new product or service into the business? If there are competing priorities, it may not be the right time.

By identifying the criteria to progress a lead you are setting the business up for success, as a well qualified lead has a much higher rate of buying than a poorly qualified lead. After qualifying the lead, the next step is to convert the lead.

Lead Conversion

In Salesforce specifically, once a lead has been qualified, it’s time to convert it into an Account, Contact, and Opportunity. This is the process by which you are creating the account and contact information for the lead, and creating the sales opportunity in the system to track the progress of the sale.

Once a lead has been converted, the sales process now moves from the Lead record to the Opportunity record. Leads that are not qualified can go into a ‘nurturing’ process. These are typically email campaigns through which the lead will receive regular messages about your product or service to ensure it’s top of mind should their circumstances change (i.e. they get budget, there are fewer competing priorities, etc.).

Next we’ll look at progressing the lead through an Opportunity.

Creating and Closing Opportunities

Once a lead is qualified and converted into an Account, Contact, and Opportunity, the sales process begins – now the sales team works with the prospect to understand their requirements, provide product or service information, and negotiate the terms of the sale.

Opportunities typically go through different stages such as discovery, validation, proposal, negotiation, and finally, closure. Ideally, all opportunities would be won, but of course, there are a percentage which are lost, and the percentage of lost opportunities will decrease based on certain factors, which can include:

  • Good quality leads
  • Using tried-and-tested sales methodologies such as MEDDIC
  • Regular activity with your prospects
  • Smooth internal operations

Getting the overall sales process right is extremely important in the lead-to-cash process, mainly because it increases the chances of getting to the ‘cash’ part of the process!

When an opportunity is closed-won, it’s important to ensure the seller has completed all of the necessary information required to complete the sale. This will differ between organizations, but typically includes getting information from the prospect, such as their payment process (do they need a purchase order?) and their legal entity address information for sending out the invoice.

Using a tool like Salesforce enables organizations to automate the capture of this information as much as possible. It also allows for it to be entered easily where it can’t be automated, such as via screen flows at various points throughout the opportunity lifecycle.

Although only closed-won opportunities progress in the lead-to-cash process, it’s vital to collect information about why opportunities are lost, to help improve the chances of winning in the future. Capturing a closed-lost reason is easy and Salesforce Admins should definitely consider adding this as a required field when users mark their opportunities as closed-lost. Reports can then be generated to understand the top reasons why opportunities are being lost, for the business to address them quickly.

Next we’ll look at quotes, proposals, and contracts and how they relate to the lead-to-cash process.

Quotes, Proposals, and Contracts

Quotes, proposals, and contracts all play a vital role in the lead-to-cash process, so we’ll dive deeper into these topics in this section.


Producing quotes is a very common business practice, so common in fact that most of you reading this article have probably received at least one quote in your adult life. This could be for services such as home repairs or in your work life for a product or service you want to buy.

Quotes usually contain the following information as a minimum:

  • A description of the product or service you will receive
  • Pricing information for the product or service
  • A timeframe in which the product or service will be delivered/fulfilled
  • Billing information such as name, address, and agreed payment terms

Quoting in Salesforce is made easier when using products such as Salesforce CPQ, which allows users to add compatible products, insert relevant pricing, and generate standard quote PDF documents for prospects and customers. Having a seamless quoting process is vital for every business – without it you will struggle to communicate your offering to potential customers.

Creating comprehensive quotes is crucial to the lead-to-cash process, as the quote is what details the ‘cash’ portion of the transaction – in other words, how much will the product or service cost?


You might be thinking, how are quotes and proposals different? In some organizations, the term is interchangeable, but in others, they refer to different types of documents that are produced for prospects and customers. For the purposes of this article, a proposal is describing a document that includes, not only the quote for the product or service you’re selling, but also supplemental information about the product, service, or fulfillment.

Proposals can be multiple pages, whereas a quote may be only one page, or a few pages in length, depending on how many line items are being sold. Proposals are often overlooked in organizations and this leads to each seller creating their own style of proposal – something that is not only time consuming, but could impact the amount of deals won as a poor proposal could make or break a deal.

This is why it’s very important to work with the internal branding, marketing, or other relevant team to create standardized proposals for sales reps to use. This is usually best managed via a document generation tool that allows for content and templates to be created. Users can then simply generate a predefined document that pulls in their specific information such as the customer name, logo, pricing information, and more. Strong proposals will ultimately lead to more won deals, therefore more ‘cash’ in the lead-to-cash process.


Contracts are usually created as a result of a closed-won opportunity record, and can contain information like the products or services purchased, the specified term to use the product or service, the payment terms, and more.

Contracts can also contain information such as obligations you have as a service provider, and they can be sources of revenue leak within a business if you fail to meet those obligations. In the lead-to-cash process, it’s vital to have a very strong understanding of every agreement you have with your customers, to ensure you’re always fulfilling your obligations, limiting any exposure you might have within your business.

Order Processing

Once the sale is closed, the order processing begins. The customer’s order is documented and passed on to the relevant departments (e.g. finance and operations).

The fulfillment stage involves delivering the product or service to the customer as per the agreed terms. This may involve the logistics of shipping, manufacturing, or providing services.

Monitoring these processes is crucial in the lead-to-cash process, as if orders are not processed and fulfilled as per the customer’s expectations, customers may not pay their invoice, or they may request a partial refund or additional discount – all leading to a reduced amount of revenue for the business.

Using a tool like Salesforce can help alleviate challenges around opportunity closure and order fulfillment. All of the required information is on a single platform, which reduces the risk of manual errors when transferring data between systems, increases the visibility as to where the order is in the process, and ultimately creates a good customer experience.

Think back to any time you have ordered something online, particularly an expensive item – you probably checked your order status a number of times to see when it was processed, shipped, and out for delivery. This creates trust between the customer and your organization as you are delivering on your obligations.

Invoicing and Billing

After the product or service has been delivered, an invoice is generated and sent to the customer. The customer makes the payment through various payment channels such as credit card, wire transfer, or online payment. Then, once the payment has been collected, the invoice can be marked as paid and the revenue can be recognized.

Invoicing on time and receiving payment within the agreed payment terms is very important for ensuring a good level of cash flow within an organization. Cash is usually needed to run the day-to-day operations of a company such as paying salaries, buying new tools, and sponsoring events, so it’s vital that an organization has a good handle on their invoicing processes.

Revenue recognition is the process by which the company can recognize revenue against what they have delivered. This is covered in more detail in A Complete Overview of Salesforce Billing.

Post Sales Services

The final stage of the lead-to-cash process is post-sales service, where the customer receives ongoing support from the organization, including customer service, technical support, and after-sales service. Although this stage may not actually generate revenue, it’s a very important part of the customer experience. Customers who experience poor after-sales service are not likely to return, whether that means they cancel their subscription or they simply don’t buy from you again.

It’s a well known fact that it’s easier to sell to existing customers than to acquire new ones, and because of this, a positive after-sales experience is paramount to a successful lead-to-cash process.

Impact on Your Business

As the lead-to-cash process is such a critical process in a business, getting it wrong can have a big impact on the entire organization.

Positive Customer Experience

A seamless lead-to-cash experience is essential for a positive customer experience with a company. If any part of the lead-to-cash process breaks down, a prospect may never turn into a customer and an existing customer may churn – neither of which are positive outcomes for any business.

By investing in the process and ensuring everything from the moment a prospect enquires about your product to realizing the revenue from their purchase is done to the highest caliber, you will acquire and retain more customers than organizations with a disjointed process.

Better Forecasting

Having a seamless lead-to-cash process also allows for better forecasting across the entire business. Forecasting is not just something that happens for revenue bookings; there are multiple types of forecasts that an organization should track across the business. Using a tool like Salesforce which offers Collaborative Forecasting, standard reports and dashboards, as well as CRM Analytics powered by Tableau, can substantially increase the accuracy of your forecasts across the business, as all of your data is in a single system.

Aside from revenue booking forecasting which is usually done based on open opportunities, the finance team will likely forecast the amount of billings due to occur in a given time period. They will also forecast how much cash flow a business will have within a given time period.

Just because a customer is sent an invoice, doesn’t mean they will pay the invoice in a timely manner. Finance teams often have to chase customers for payment, because businesses usually try to hold on to their cash for as long as possible.

Being able to accurately forecast cash flow depends on knowing information such as average payment terms across a set of invoices that are out for payment at any one time, and having a good quote-to-cash process gives users this insight.

Seamless Day-to-Day Operations

Having a well implemented lead-to-cash process ensures seamless day-to-day operations at any organization. Many organizations operate in silos, which usually means departments don’t speak to each other, and when something out of the ordinary occurs, no one knows how to solve it.

Imagine the following scenario:

  • A sales rep sells software to a prospect. The prospect is excited to use the new tool as it will significantly improve their day-to-day work life.
  • The prospect is issued the licenses by sales operations before their invoice is sent out, as per company policy, which gives the prospect seven days to pay the invoice in full before the licenses are canceled due to non-payment.
  • The prospect is aware of this and is ready to make payment as soon as the invoice arrives, but it never does.
  • Now the prospect has to contact the sales rep who sold them the licenses, but the sales rep doesn’t know who to contact because they don’t usually speak to finance, and the issues go on and on.

You can see how complicated this process can become if things aren’t connected and automated as much as possible. An alternate scenario could look like this:

  • A sales rep sells software to a prospect. The prospect is excited to use the new tool as it will significantly improve their day-to-day work life.
  • The prospect is issued the licenses by sales operations before their invoice is sent out, as per company policy, which gives the prospect seven days to pay the invoice in full before the licenses are canceled due to non-payment.
  • The invoice is generated and sent automatically by the system once the sales operations user marks the order as fulfilled, removing finance from the process completely and allowing them to focus on other tasks.
  • The prospect receives the invoice, pays the total in full, and the finance team is then able to recognize the revenue and the customer enjoys the use of the licenses until renewal the following year.

Having seamless day-to-day operations creates a positive work environment for employees and a positive experience for customers.


In summary, the lead-to-cash process touches multiple aspects of every organization and is arguably the most important process to get right. It is also one of the most complex processes, which means that getting the process right can be tricky.

Investing in a platform that can handle the lead-to-cash process is essential to bring transparency and visibility across every business function. With a well thought out lead-to-cash process, your organization can thrive and do what it does best – serve your customers!

The Author

Alyssa Lefebvre

Head of Salesforce at Aareon Group & 7x certified Salesforce professional, passionate about Sales Cloud, RevOps & CPQ.

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