From Leads to Opportunities towards Contacts

Lead conversionA successful Customer Relationship Management (CRM) implementation depends significantly upon a strategic, process-based, approach to the various activities related to marketing and sales of goods and/or services.

This is most apparent in the arrangement of the various and distinct interactions with potential or existing clients from initial contact to the outright conclusion of the transaction.

Most CRM applications tend to divide this strategic process, no matter how prolonged, across three core stages. The stages are generally classified as:

• Leads;
• Opportunities; and
• Contacts.


A lead record is usually a collection of unstructured fragments of information about a person or business organisation which has demonstrated any degree of interest in a product or service an organisation may supply. Very often the supplying organisation would not have any past relationship history with the lead, other than basic information collated from various sales and marketing channels, including exchanged business cards, visitor information from the corporate website, miscellaneous marketing lists, exchanges across social media networks, enquiry e-mails, etc.

The ongoing collection of this diverse information is referred to as lead generation and forms part of the role of both the marketing and sales departments. Notwithstanding, companies strive to collect quality leads; quality being an assessment determined by the likelihood of the respective lead to progress towards the next stage in the typical sale process.

A lead is generally, and intentionally, terse and concise, with the minimum amount of information recorded. A lead record should, at the very least, provide just enough information to allow:

• contact with the person or organisation that has shown any degree of interest;
• a rudimentary understanding of the nature of the potential transaction; and
• a record through which to track the overall return on investment (ROI) related to lead generation.

Leads are further sub-classified as part of a process known as lead qualification, a process that discriminates between possible dead-end prospects in contrast to others that are deemed to have positive potential.

During this qualification process, the organisation decides whether to proceed with a potential sale and, in the process, gather further information about the respective lead. Other leads may be deemed to be of little or no value or worth when compared against the effort that may be necessary to convert them to sales. In such a situation an organisation may decide to abandon that lead and follow it no further.


When a lead is qualified as possessing the necessary potential to become a sale it is considered an opportunity. An opportunity can be thought of as a ‘promoted’ lead and is used to track a likely sale through the probable realisation of a transaction and the ensuing closure process.

Most organisations generally elevate a lead to the level of an opportunity after having contacted a potential customer or organisation and, in the process, gathered sufficient further information with which to determine the likelihood (generally a calculated probability) of the potential sale taking place and the worth of pursuing the potential transaction further.

A number of organisations utilise an opportunity to help them build a degree of business intelligence that not only underpins the current and prospective sales pipeline, but additionally can be utilised for future sales transactions. An opportunity would consequently show:

• estimated sales pipeline revenue and expected closure date for the potential sale;
• the specific products and/or services related to the opportunity;
• details about competitors involved on this same opportunity; and
• critical follow-up activities required to successfully realise the sale (e.g. phone calls, e-mails, appointments, etc.)

Contact or Account

A contact represents the traditional customer record within a CRM similar to that often found within a Financial Management (FMS) or Contact Management Systems (CMS). However, a CRM allows for a wider array of information to be maintained.

The CRM application maintains a record for business organisations (accounts) and the employees associated with each of these organisations (contacts). Moreover, the application records the association between contacts and accounts.

Contacts and accounts may be created at the lead qualification stage or even during the opportunity assessment process.


Leads, opportunities, contacts and accounts all form part of the overall sales process that starts from the initial notion of a potential sale and includes various interactions with potential customers until the sale is complete.

A reliable CRM could help automate the sales process so that at every stage the system will automatically create and enforce the various activities required at the respective stage and ensure a standard process across the organisation.

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