Target Practice: Account targeting in Salesforce

Scene 1

(Barry sits center stage, looking at his computer screen, an Excel spreadsheet with a list of company names, highlighted in different colors. He holds a phone to his ear.)

Barry: Scroll to the top of the sheet to the kelly green highlighted accounts. Those are the ones for you. The seafoam green are the ones I’m going to work on. The ones in orange are the ones I want you to target after the green ones. Got it?

Offstage: Uh, well, yeah.

(Lights dim center stage. Stage right lights up, and we see MJ at his desk, looking at Salesforce. An Account page. He picks up the phone.)

MJ: All of the salespeople were asked to create a target account list for you. I’ve used that Top Target checkbox in Salesforce, so you can just run a report on those and go after them. I don’t care about the order, but go to Retail companies first.

Offstage: Ok.

Scene 2

(Admin now in center stage with multiple tabs open. Each tab is selected in turn – a series of reports, each with different filter criteria)

Admin: So…which accounts are targets? How are our inside sales reps supposed to know what to do? (Removes glasses dramatically) I must assemble a team!

One of the first major projects I ran as an admin was an org cleanup. Our org was about 6 years old and was in dire need of TLC. There were unused fields, created in the heat of the moment, then forgotten. Reports sat on shelves collecting dust, filtered to specific dates that no longer held meaning, many of them duplicates. The role hierarchy was a single line.

In the middle of this project, I came across three different fields with the word “target” in them. Since there was no documentation (winning!), I sought out users that I knew had been part of the team for a long time and asked them to explain the different use cases for them.

(Admin sits across from MJ, fingers steepled intelligently, listening 100% calmly, and no one can argue that.)

MJ: Barry wanted to track target accounts associated with . But I just wanted a quick way to mark my targets, so [name redacted] added a checkbox for me to use.

Admin: That seems reasonable. Can I ask, though, why this account marked as a target hasn’t had activity for two years?

MJ: Well, I want to target them again in the future, so I didn’t want to uncheck it.

(Admin remains perfectly calm. Data maintenance is like whatever, right?)

I gathered two sales reps and the inside sales rep manager, and we sat down to review our options. There were 7. 7 options. Because there were 7 different ways of managing what we called the “pre-pipeline” in our org.

7. Seven. Like the movie. Seven.

Each outside sales rep worked differently with inside sales; they all tracked their target accounts separately. There was no way for us to report on activity or work done outside of the opportunity pipeline. *nervous laughter*

After weeks of reviewing the ideal sales cycle, we produced a series of three fields (or field enhancements) that filtered Accounts:

  1. Account Status
  2. Group Ownership
  3. Acct. Dev. Assigned (Inside Sales)

Account Status

The original field had four options, none of which matched our process. We decided to use this field in a way similar to an Opportunity stage; each status represents a step in the sales cycle.

  • Best Fit: the account meets our minimum “requirements” – the company is a good size, has enough revenue, is in a good industry, etc. Inside Sales can use this status to mine for potential new targets.
  • Active: the account is being actively pursued. If inside or outside sales is calling people there, it should be marked active.
  • Opportunity: the account currently has an open, new business opportunity
  • Implementing: the account has been won, is a new client, and is currently working with our implementation team
  • Client: the account is a current customer
  • Qualified Out: the account does not meet basic requirements/is not a good fit
  • New: the account is less than 60 days old and has not yet been researched to qualify or not

Where possible, these statuses are automated; when a new opportunity is created for a non-client account, the status is updated to “Opportunity.” When that opportunity is won, it is changed to “Implementing.”

Group Ownership

The second piece of the target puzzle for us was who was working on what. It would look foolish for inside and outside sales reps to be unwittingly calling on the same person. And who should the admin speak to for current information?

The group ownership field was barely used, and its options were out-dated. We simplified the choices and made them relevant.

  • Sales: best fit and opportunity accounts belong to (outside) sales
  • Account Development: the account is active and currently being pursued by inside sales
  • Implementation: this is a client account, but they are still implementing
  • Client Services: this is a client account that has completed implementation
  • Marketing: this account needs to be nurtured by Marketing to re-engage

This field, too, is automated where possible. Manual changes are primarily handled by inside sales; based on their activities, they will change accounts to Active/Account Development, as we call it.

Acct. Dev. Assigned

We are a small company, and our inside sales team at the time was only 2 people (now it’s a whopping 3!), so an outside sales rep could have accounts being managed by either of them. They needed a way to report on which account development rep was working on specific accounts, which is where this picklist came in.

First off, why we opted out of a lookup field: based on history, the field would likely remain unused as a lookup. It was also easier for reporting – an outside sales rep could choose from the picklist values instead of potentially misspelling a name and having a meltdown about “Salesforce not working.” Finally, when a rep left, we could clear the value of that field, removing them from the reports.

This field was also kept read-only for the outside sales reps. Rather than allow them to pick and choose who they wanted assigned to it, it’s up to the inside sales team.

Workflow and Reporting

With the new process in place, we report on Accounts similarly to Opportunities. Sales reps can see how many Best Fit accounts they have, how many Active accounts, and who is working on them.

Inside sales can look at the whole of Best Fit, drill down into their own Active accounts, and it fits nicely into our Marketo Revenue Cycle Model.

2 years later…

I would really love to say that this new system was perfect, everyone loved it and used it correctly 100% of the time. But this is the real world, and Salesforce Admins have to live in it, too. I still get questions; I still have users tell me they need a way to track the Accounts they are working on…but at least now I have one place to send them with one way of doing just that.