If you’ve ever researched how to do something, or perhaps best practices on how to do things in Salesforce, there’s a good chance you found an array of options. When digging further, there’s even best practices based on different industries or editions, alongside a variety of different considerations.
It can all be very overwhelming! But there’s one area in Salesforce that’s very consistent. In fact, it’s been exactly the same in every single Org I’ve ever worked in: The Lead Conversion Process.
What Is the Lead Conversion Process?
The Lead Conversion process is the act of taking a Lead record and changing it into a Contact record. It’s completely unique within Salesforce. In no other instance does an old record seemingly disappear* and then you use a new record going forward. When and why a business might decide to do this may vary based on qualification criteria, business needs, industry, etc. The functionality though is always the same. In fact, the oldest video I found on YouTube is from Salesforce Support in 2017, and the process is exactly the same today as it was then.
A big reason that this process is the same everywhere is that making changes to it is not talked about often. They might not be technically difficult to achieve, but are pretty obscure. Most people don’t even know modifications to the process are possible, let alone how to implement them. So in today’s article, we’ll be covering some of the most important changes an Admin can make to help customize the Lead Conversion process for your org.
*The Lead does not actually disappear – the Lead still exists, and you can even report on it! For the purpose of this discussion, though, I’m talking about the person record that users have access to on a daily basis – If you’re really interested in learning about viewing or reporting on converted Leads, check out this article here.
Prep Work: Lead Conversion Settings
Many of the things we’ll be discussing in this post refer to the Lead Conversion Settings. You can access this section by navigating to Setup, and then Lead Settings.
1. Require Email Address upon Conversion
Having an email address for every person in Salesforce has a lot of benefits. It helps you reduce the number of duplicate records, and helps ensure that marketing, sales, and support can all reach out to a prospect or a customer when needed. Most companies require an Email address for all Leads, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll probably want to make sure there’s an Email address before you convert them to a Contact.
Like most things in Salesforce, there are several ways to accomplish the same goal. One of my favorite options for this scenario is to make the “Convert” button conditionally visible on the Lightning Page. The button can only be seen when an Email address has been populated.
Another option is to use a Validation Rule. This is great if you only require Email before conversion, and allows you to give an explicit error message. Make sure to go to Lead Settings and confirm that Require Validation for Converted Leads is checked TRUE.
2. Require Lead Source
Lead Source on a Lead is one of those fields that usually only people who report on ROI really care about. Knowing where your Leads have come from is essential to gauging how successful your marketing or sales efforts are, and where your inbound prospects are coming from.
This field should be populated at conversion, but if it’s not, you may want to require it before it gets so far down the funnel that either nobody knows where it came from (pretty bad) or teams are arguing over who generated it (even worse). If you’d like more information about Lead Source and why it’s so important, writer Lucy Mazalon has an excellent article that discusses it in detail here.
The functionality on how to do this is exactly the same as above – just substitute the Lead Source field instead of Email (or in addition to).
3. Require All Qualification Fields upon Lead Conversion
If your Sales team has ever said, “We’re only getting bad data from Marketing, these Leads are no good!” then this section is for you. Whatever your official qualification criteria may be, if it’s a field, it can be validated upon conversion. If you’ve got something like a “Qualified Date” or perhaps an “Initial Meeting Date” that is sometimes missed, this is a good time to require them. You might also have something like “Level of Interest” or “Temperature” or require information like Industry, Annual Revenue, and Employee size for segmentation.
4. Rich Text Display
Once a database gets to be even a few months old, the majority of the Leads in that database are typically low value. They’ve come from bulk imports, random form fills, ZoomInfo searches, etc. For the most part, they’re not qualified to proceed into Opportunities. But for the ones that are, having a Rich Text component is a quick and easy visual way to indicate success to your users.
This might seem unnecessary, however, I’ve found that users find features like this highly helpful when they’re trying to work through a lot of records at a quick pace.
5. Use Flow to Migrate Standard Values From the Lead to Contact
Field mapping on Leads is a place I’ve spent a lot of time as an Admin. One of the first things I noticed in this section is that it’s only available for custom fields, which is a big problem when it comes to Lead Status. This is a Standard field on the Lead, but there’s no corresponding standard field on the Contact object.
Marketing always needs to have Status on both Lead and Contacts. Everyone ends up adding a custom field for Status to the Contact as well, but you can’t map a Standard field to a Custom field upon conversion. This is where Flow saves the day. When a Lead is converted, a Flow can easily get the new Contact ID, and update the Status value to whatever it should be. For many people, it’s matching the value (or prior value) of a Lead.
6. Make Sure Your Picklist Values Match
I don’t know about other consultants, but I see this one all the time. Sometimes, people create a picklist on a Lead & Contact record for something like “Level of Interest” and in the beginning, those picklist values probably match. What happens over time, though, is that the Admins come and go, requests come in and are filled, someone forgets to document, high turnover, etc. And then voila, a user gets an error that looks like this:
The worst part here is that the user has no idea how to resolve it, and then the Admin will have to compare the two fields to find where the mismatch is. It’s not a technical challenge to resolve, but can be extremely frustrating for users, so it should be prevented. Do this by using a Global Picklist, or excellent documentation and org maintenance as an Admin.
7. Convert to an Existing Record
Users should always understand the implications of what exactly they are doing in Salesforce. And for some reason, the Lead Conversion process seems to really confuse people. One of the biggest issues is that people will just convert a Lead to a Contact, (without doing anything else) and then wonder why that Contact is not attached to the proper open Opportunity. Or they convert a Lead to a Contact that’s a duplicate.
Teaching your users how to convert Leads into an existing record will save you many headaches in the future, especially when it comes to attribution reporting.
8. Block Opportunity Creation on Lead Conversion
I know some people are going to read this and think, “Absolutely not! That’s the whole point of marketing, to generate Leads that turn in to Opportunities!” And while that’s true in most instances, it’s not always true.
There may be some business practices or lifecycles that say that Opportunities should never be created via Lead Conversion. Allowing Opportunity creation from Lead Conversion is something that the Admin can control directly in the Lead Conversion Settings.
9. Check “Don’t Create Opportunity on Lead Conversion” By Default
This goes right along with number 8. Users are often very busy, and even when they’re perfectly training, they aren’t going to follow a process 100% correctly, 100% of the time: removing opportunities for failure is part of an Admin’s job.
Setting up your users for success means setting up the most common use cases in advance. In an org where users can create Opps via Lead Conversion, but need to do so rarely, the Admin can check the “Don’t create Opportunity on Lead Conversion” by default so the user doesn’t have to remember to check it every single time.
This image shows three versions of the Lead Conversion screen. The first column shows the Opportunity section, and the “Don’t create” box is unchecked. This will generate an Opportunity most of the time, because the box is small, and users may forget to check it. The middle image shows the same checkbox, but it’s checked by default. The only way to get an Opportunity in this scenario is for the user to remember to uncheck the box.
You’ll get fewer Opportunities with this setting, but they’ll all be intentional. In the third and final column, the section for Opportunities has been completely removed, it’s not even an option for users.
10. Control Who Can Convert Leads
Not everyone should be able to do everything in Salesforce. In fact, most people should be able to do tasks pertaining to their role, and not other things. If you’re in an org where credit is given to Sales Development Reps for converting Leads, then that permission should be locked down so that only the proper team can do that.
Modifying a profile, applying a permission set, or modifying the Lightning Page are all methods that could work to ensure that only the proper team can actually convert a Lead.
Converting Leads in Salesforce is one of those things that can seem simple, because it generally just works with no interference. However, it’s also an area that can be highly customized to suit a unique set of business needs.
In addition, because there are so many options for a user on the Convert screen itself, there’s a higher chance of errors than in most other places. Given these factors, Admins should make sure their users are thoroughly trained in the Lead Conversion process, what each option accomplishes, and how to go about converting a Lead to result in exactly what they, and the business, needs.