Salesforce Lead Status Best Practices

Lead Status in Salesforce may seem straightforward or intuitive at first glance—but it’s not that simple. It’s one of those seemingly unimportant corners of Salesforce administration that can quickly get you in a lot of trouble if you do it wrong. 

Spoiler alert: Most companies do it wrong.

In the effort to track every relevant piece of information, it’s all too easy to wind up with a hodge podge of ambiguous or inconsistent statuses. And when your statuses don’t make sense, you can’t rely on them to make good decisions.

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What is a Lead Status in Salesforce? 

Lead Status is a standard field on the Salesforce Lead object. It comes with Sales Cloud straight out of the box. As its name implies, Lead Status is used to tag each lead with a status.

But what exactly is a “status”?

This is where things get a little hairy. As with any field in Salesforce, it means whatever you decide it means. Companies can use this field in many different ways. 

Why is lead status important?

There’s a huge opportunity cost to a sales rep failing to follow up on a lead. 

Back when I was working in sales, my boss once noticed that I’d failed to follow up with a lead. He marched over to my desk and told me to toss my new MacBook in the trash. When I said I didn’t understand, he informed me that not following up with a lead is more expensive than a new MacBook—so why not throw out our laptops, too?

Suppose, for example, your average deal size is $50k. If even one highly qualified lead falls through the cracks because you don’t use (or can’t trust) your lead statuses, you’re going to pay a steep price for it.

Marketing teams also spend significant time, money, and effort to deliver leads to sales teams. All of those resources will go to waste if the leads they bring in aren’t handled properly across the rest of the funnel.

Needless to say, not having a way to understand which leads have been addressed and which haven’t is enough to induce crippling anxiety.

What does failing to follow-up with a lead and a new MacBook in the trash have in common?

Where do people go wrong with lead status?

Many companies commit a Salesforce cardinal sin—using one field to communicate two or more concepts. It’s all too common to see sprawling lists of confusing lead statuses:

  • New
  • Open
  • Reopen
  • Working
  • In touch
  • Selling
  • Opportunity created
  • Qualified
  • Unqualified
  • Unqualified—too small
  • Unqualified—ghosted
  • Unqualified—competitor
  • Not qualified
  • Follow up 30 days
  • Follow up 60 days

What do these even mean?

It’s a guarantee the sales team doesn’t know, or they all use different definitions.

Some of these values communicate where a prospect is in the lead funnel (i.e. you haven’t talked yet, you’re talking now, you talked but they’re unqualified). Other values tell you what to do next. So which information are your reps supposed to track: Where a lead is in the funnel, what to do next, or all of the above? It’s simply not clear.

It’s also common to find a list of statuses that are aligned with best practices but haven’t been consistently updated. In a system where multiple statuses aren’t automated, reps have to manually update leads multiple times in order to keep the field trustworthy. But that’s hard to enforce or monitor. You end up with holes in your data, and holes in your reports.

Related Post: Salesforce Consultant: roles, responsibilities, and job description to help you hire the best one

What are best practices for managing lead status in Salesforce?

Here are some best practices to follow for managing Lead Status values in Salesforce:

Use the Lead Status field to communicate only one thing

Lead Status should tell you what is happening between the assigned rep and the prospect. Here are the Salesforce lead status options Iceberg likes to use:

  • New. Nothing has happened yet
  • Attempting to Contact. Outreach efforts are being made
  • Contacted. We’re talking but haven’t determined if they’re qualified
  • Qualified. The prospect has been qualified
  • Unqualified. The prospect has been disqualified

Use a separate field to explain why a prospect is unqualified

At Iceberg we like to call this field Unqualified Reason. Some common values are:

  • Unresponsive. The prospect didn’t respond to outreach efforts
  • Too Small. The prospect doesn’t have the resources to be a fit
  • Wrong Use Case. Our product isn’t the right solution for the prospect

Automate status updates as much as possible

Automations are where a sales engagement tool can be helpful. SalesLoft, for example, can move prospects to each of these stages based on what’s happening:

  • New. Use New as the default value for all new or reengaged leads.
  • Attempting to Contact. Automatically set the Attempting to Contact status when a prospect receives an email, gets a call, is added to a cadence, etc.
  • Contacted. Automatically set the Contacted status when a prospect responds to an email, or a rep selects a call disposition that indicates a conversation happened on a call.
  • Qualified. Automatically set the Qualified status when a lead is converted.
  • Unqualified. It’s often complicated (though not impossible) to automate lead disqualification. This is the one case where it might make sense to stick with manual updates.

Here’s a mind map of a Lead Status flow Iceberg likes to share with clients:

Diagram of lead status flow
Leads that are owned by sale reps should never remain in new status for long.


Build the right reports to track progress toward your goals


The last step is to build out your reporting. This part is easy if you’ve done a good job of setting up (or cleaning up) your statuses

If Lead Status = New, then no follow up action has been taken. The assigned rep should follow up ASAP

  • Create a lead report that shows all leads owned by reps you manage where Lead Status = Open
  • Summarize the data by Lead Owner
  • Add a bar chart to the report, or add it to a dashboard

If you want to get fancy, create a date or date/timestamp field that records the last time a lead moved stages (Last Status Change). Then create a formula field (Status Age) that calculates how long the lead has been in its current status

  • Build a lead report where Lead Status = New and Status Age > X. In this case, X is the service-level agreement (SLA) you have with the sales team responsible for following up on the leads
  • Build another report showing all leads where Lead Status = Attempting to Contact or Contacted and Status Age > X. In this case, X is the amount of time you’ve deemed too long. At Iceberg we like to use 30 days. Any leads here either haven’t been properly dispositioned by a rep, or indicate a broken automation
  • For example, if the number of leads sitting in Attempting to Contact status for more than 30 days rises steeply, it may mean the automation that moves them to Contacted is broken


Lacking reliable lead statuses?


 If you’re struggling with untrustworthy lead statuses, Iceberg can help. Our expert team can clean up your Salesforce instance and get you the reliable lead status data you need. Don’t let another qualified lead slip through the cracks.


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