July 28, 2011, 4:27 PM — As I've written previously, CRM systems are inherently the most political of Enterprise systems. Users' bonuses and even their career paths may be riding on the data values in the CRM system. Small errors in the data can mean big problems if leads are getting lost or sales reps can't see relevant information about their customers and prospects.
But this isn't just an issue of data quality: even the semantics can get pretty political. What does it mean to be a qualified lead? What are the entry criteria for an opportunity stage? What's the meaning of the "amount" field? You wouldn't believe some of the hair-splitting arguments we've listened to.
In playing umpire in these arguments, we have to be sensitive to the specifics of our clients' organizational, business processes, and sales channel needs. But here are some general rules that apply to nearly any B2B marketing & sales company:
• The opportunity object is almost always the exclusive domain of sales, sales support, or operations. The areas of endless debate are the sales stages, forecast category, probability, and close date. While other groups (particularly accounting/finance and marketing) can have opinions and requirements of the data, the sales organization gets to make all the decisions about the meaning and quality standards about this record.
There are some exceptions and amendments to this rule. In large organization, the opportunity may be opened by an "account development" or "inside sales" group that is not part of the field sales organization. In these cases, the conditions under which an opportunity is opened -- and therefore the meaning of at least one of the opportunity stages -- will be defined jointly by the sales and account development teams. In other large organizations, the final closing of an opportunity is done by an order operations, finance, or distribution/fulfillment function. In these cases, the sales rep moves the deal into a "signed" opportunity stage, but the "closed won" or "fulfilled" stage definition is under the control of other departments.
Finally, for organizations leveraging ecommerce, the ecommerce team will have their own sales stages and different interpretations for the opportunity data. This is the reason for the "sales process" feature in your CRM system, if it has one.
• The Account object, on the other hand, really can't be owned exclusively by anyone -- even though everyone thinks they do. In most CRM systems, the account is near the top of the object model, so the creation, updating, merging, or deletion of accounts can have surprising effects. Consequently, the definition and semantics of the account record may include input from the partner organization, customer support, operations, marketing, and of course sales.