Salesforce Opportunities Part 2 – Creating a Sales Process

In this second installment on our series on Salesforce Opportunities, Shell discusses how to create a Sales Process. Using an example Sales Process, Shell discusses the required fields Stage, Probability and Forecast Category and provides some best practices on defining your Opportunity Stages. He then goes into what is considered an "Open" or "Closed" Opportunity from a reporting standpoint. Lastly, Shell covers whether using forecasting is a good fit for your sales organization.

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Transcript of video:

Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of ShellBlack Whiteboard where we help you get the most out of the Salesforce platform. I’m Shell Black, president and founder of and Salesforce MVP. We are going to continue our conversation around Opportunities. In this episode, we are going to talk about defining your sales process.

There’s a couple of places where you would define a business process in Salesforce; Case Stage, Lead status and when you work with Opportunities in defining a sales process, it’s a little different. Normally it’s just a single picklist, but with the sales process there’s actually some other fields involved. So let’s take a look.

So there’s when you are defining your picklist values for your Opportunity stage in Salesforce you happen to define a Probability percent and also a Forecast Category. So let’s talk about what a Probability percent is real quick.

The thought is if you are early in your selling process you have a lower likelihood or a lower probability that deal is going to close or that Opportunity is going to close. So the thought is if you have 10 deals in "Identified / Qualified" I have a 10% probability – I’m really saying I think there’s about a one in ten chance that this deal at this stage is going to make it all the way through the sales process. Because with sales as we know deals are going to fall out, we are going to lose deals. Customers go cold, whatever it might be.

With that you also have what’s called a Forecast Category. In forecasting is really kind of a cultural thing, not everybody has to use forecasting. In fact Salesforce doesn’t even display this field on the page layout. It’s not a required field. It is required however when you are setting up your sales process. So really quickly I’m going to run through these picklist values. "Pipeline" it’s something that’s worth tracking but we are not close to selling, we are not close to closing it yet. "Best Case" when I see a Stage like that, that basically tells me this a best case scenario that we are going to win this deal. If all the stars align, it’s not that far along in the process. It’s not close to closing but we might be able to close it in this fiscal period.

Something that’s close to the end of our sales process we have a Forecast Category of "commit" and then we have "closed" for our won stage and then "omitted" for our lost stage. All of these stages are really in an open Opportunity if you are running a report and you say let me see my open Opportunities. It’s any stage that’s not a closed won or a closed lost is considered open. Both are considered closed. Obviously one is won, one is lost.

So you will notice the Probability is getting higher the farther along we are on the sales process until we are 100% won or 0% lost. These are just some sample Stages. I have a good blog post out there and I’ll put these in our show notes of how to define a good business process in Salesforce. Couple of quick tips. Short and sweet, action oriented, non-ambiguous labels. If you are running a report and I see something like "Quote Sent," it’s very obvious where I am in sales process. I can tell real quickly when I’m in a new org and I see some of the "out-of-the-box" processes like "Needs Analysis" or "Perception Analysis." What are those? Get together as a team, define those, if you are using the "out-of-box" Stages, kind of shame on you. It’s just for example sake, get with your team definite what your process is to make a sale, how things move forward in the process and spend the time to define these.

Probability if you do set your Stage to identify your Probability will default to 10% and your Forecast Category will default to whatever you find. As you flip your Opportunity stage forward, if I flipped "Quote Sent," Probability will default on my page layout to 40%. Your sales people can always over ride it. This is just again any deal that’s in this probability we think 40% likelihood to close.

So that’s how you set up a sales process. I want to touch a couple of seconds on forecasting and whether that’s really make sense or a good fit for your organization. You do not have to use forecasting if you do not want to. Some people feel obligated because there’s some reporting around it. There’s actually a whole module in Salesforce that you can enable. My quick take on this is if you are large multi-tier sales organization you know hundreds – potentially hundreds of sales people, multi layers of sales management, forecasting might make sense for your organization.

If you are relatively flat, you’ve got a dozen or so sales people that report to a sales manager or a sales VP you can probably accomplish a lot of the same things that you want to from a reporting standpoint in a sales management standpoint by just getting your folks at updating a couple of fields in the Opportunity: Close Date, Stage, and Amount and really what I’m driving here is, what do you want to report on? Do you want a report on the Opportunity Stage or do you want a report on a Forecast Category?

If you are rolling out forecasting to your organization, you need to think about the impact to your sales people and adoption. When you are rolling out Salesforce for the time or maybe you have a lot of new hires, it’s a lot for someone who has never used Salesforce before to kind of get their head wrapped around how to use Opportunities and use the database well. I encourage you if you are going to use forecasting start with teaching them to maintain the out of the box fields Close Date, Stage, and Amount and if culturally you guys really want forecasting, layer that on afterward. Make sure you’ve got some good traction and you’ve got adoption that their database and using it well then layer on forecasting. Forecasting blows people’s minds. It’s a little complex. Again, really is it a cultural fit for your organization?

So that’s my little diatribe on forecasting, I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any feedback on how we are doing. There are a couple of ways to reach out us. You can hit me on Twitter. I’m @Shell_Black or you can e-mail me at Thanks for joining us and we will see you soon.

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