In a large organization, however, the final arbiter of "what's an account" may be accounting/finance, because they own the customer master in their systems. Even so, other organizations need to be able to create an account under certain circumstances where the company does not exist in the accounting system. For example, an e-commerce system will need to be able to create an account in order to create and execute an order -- but this may be happening at 3 AM on a Sunday morning, hours or even days before the account is officially established in the accounting system. Further, the marketing and telesales teams need to be able to create accounts as part of the lead-conversion process -- and those accounts may need to exist in the CRM for months before they appear in the accounting system. In Salesforce.com, this is handled with the record type function, but every CRM system handles this a little differently.
• The contact object has similar ambiguities, as everyone in the company needs to access and create them. Fortunately, contacts are less messy because they aren't so pivotal to the object model of most CRM systems. Almost always, the "owner" of the contact object definition can be split between sales and customer support. Unless there's a good business reason to do otherwise, the split should be even between the two organizations, with marketing having a smaller vote to act as a tie-breaker.
• Leads can be a surprisingly controversial CRM object, but there are some pretty simple rules:
Leads should be divided into at least three categories: "live ones" who've recently and explicitly asked for more information; "names" who are clearly in our target market, but haven't yet asked us for anything (or asked so long ago they're deemed as dormant); and "dead ones" who have been explicitly disqualified or have such low data quality that we can't contact them.
The live ones are almost always the property of telesales, inside sales, or account development. These leads should have the most intensive lead nurturing (vertical-marketing) campaigns and the most sensitive alerts of staleness or inaction. Unattended leads go cold surprisingly fast.
The Names should be the exclusive domain of marketing. The number of names will be at least an order of magnitude larger than the live ones, so they'll be the target for marketing automation systems and low-cost database marketing and Web tactics.
The dead ones, surprisingly, should not be deleted from the system (even though marketing and sales usually want to do so). Why? There's a lot to learn about the business process and technical failures that produced the dead ones. Marketing and business analysts are usually the best people to do forensic analysis and recommend process improvements to minimize the dead ones over time.