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Best practices for lead management in Microsoft CRM

In this expert tip, read advice from Richard Smith on lead management in Microsoft CRM.

I understand the concept of leads and why they are used in Microsoft CRM. However, why would a user convert a lead...

to only one of the three options: opportunity, contact and account?

I thought the logical process would be lead > opportunity > account but I can't see a way to convert a successful opportunity into an account. Once I have closed an opportunity that is won, it doesn't give me the option to turn it into an account. Is the best practice to convert leads into all three options at once?

At the heart of Microsoft CRM lead management is a customer – or potential customer – be that an account, contact, or both. Every interaction that can be recorded in CRM – e.g. activities, sales opportunities, cases, or campaigns – has to be associated with either an account or contact.

A lead in Microsoft CRM is best understood as an account, contact, and opportunity in an embryonic stage. It contains data that would traditionally be captured in either an account, contact, or opportunity record. By segmenting out unqualified "leads," however, Dynamics CRM provides a tool for managing large lists of suspects, and ensures that only qualified prospects are migrated into the account and contact lists. This makes CRM data far more manageable over time.

On a side note, Dynamics CRM can be used by both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations. For example, most B2C organizations sell to individuals and not companies (accounts), so the leads can be qualified into a contact and opportunity. Likewise, B2B customers can qualify a lead into an account, contact, and opportunity. There is even the ability to link the newly qualified records to an existing account or contact, for example where the lead is from a contact in a different division of an existing customer or qualified prospect.

All this being said, as for lead management, you would create either the contact or account, along with the opportunity, when you qualify the lead. Accounts are not "customers" in this sense, but companies with whom you work. Most customers use the "relationship type" field to categorize the relationship with the account (e.g. prospect, customer, vendor, partner, etc.) You could also have Dynamics CRM automatically update the relationship type field on the account when an opportunity is closed and marked as "won," which is a common business rule for our customers.

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