In Dynamics CRM, the Lead entity is designed for potential clients that are qualified by a salesperson prior to becoming Accounts, Contacts, and Opportunities. Once qualified, CRM creates Accounts, Contacts, or Opportunities. After the salesperson speaks with the potential client, if there is no interest, the lead is “disqualified,” which deactivates the lead record.

When used in this manner, the lead entity can be useful. However, it can cause some issues if it is not used properly.

  1. Leads are like perishable products or smelly fish at the grocery store—they should not get old. The longer a lead sits in the lead entity, the more likely it will be that data issues will arise.
  2. When a lead is “qualified,” it is deactivated and most of the data is moved to a contact and account. However, not all data is moved. For example, notes associated with the lead are not moved to the contact. You can use plugins to move the missing pieces, but it is incomplete by default.
  3. There is no sure-fire foolproof way to do duplicate detection between leads and contacts. This makes it highly likely that a lead might get created for an existing contact, duplicating the identity of the person in CRM.
  4. When you disqualify a lead in CRM, the lead record is deactivated. If that person calls back in 6 months with renewed interest, most likely the salesperson will be unaware of the old lead and not know the previous interactions with that potential client.
  5. When you qualify a lead in CRM 2013/2015, you are forced to create a contact and an opportunity. Not all CRM users want to always create an opportunity and a contact. See http://www.pedroinnecco.com/2013/10/lead-entity-2013/.

For these reasons, many companies elect to not use the lead entity for prospect management. One common alternative is to use accounts and contacts for prospects and leads. Using the “relationship type” field you can define a type of “suspect” and “prospect,” and flag prospective customers appropriately. Once this is in place, views can be configured so that leads are excluded from the customer views. The benefits of this approach:

  • Better duplicate detection
  • No loss of data when converting leads
  • Marketing lists can include both leads and customers
  • More flexibility over when opportunities and contacts get created.

So who should use leads?

Based on the points above you may think that I am anti-lead. I do see several types of deployments where leads are favorable.

  • Environments with web form integrations that get many submissions with “Santa Claus” or “Mickey Mouse.” In these cases, the lead bucket may make sense to avoid introducing invalid contact data into your contact entity.
  • Environments that import heavily from trade shows or other high-junk information sources.
  • Organizations that have an individual or people that call potential clients only for the purpose of qualifying them (thanks Donna Edwards).

One more thing: Cross Entity Process Flow

The introduction of cross entity process flow in CRM 2013 does potentially alleviate some of the potential risk of using leads. This allows a user to see the qualified lead and the opportunity in the same process flow, making it more of a unified process. However, this does not take away the issues with leads and other data not converting, it just makes it easier for users to navigate between the qualified lead and the opportunity. http://canada.hitachi-solutions.com/blog/dynamics-crm-cross-entity-business-process-flow/