In our 15 years of helping Small and Mid-sized customers implement CRM systems (originally Salesforce.com, and for the last 7 years, Microsoft Dynamics 365), we have heard a lot of questions. Far and away, the number one question has consistently been: “What is the difference between a Lead and a Contact?”.

RapidStart CRM 1.0 included the Dynamics 365 Lead entity. Even as a simple-to-use CRM solution, there was often still confusion about how to use Leads and Contacts together. So we decided to approach it differently with RapidStart CRM 2.0.

The Lead Need

In an enterprise CRM solution, like Microsoft Dynamics 365, the Lead is used for engaging with brand new “prospects”. It is separate from Contacts by design, as enterprise customers often have thousands of Leads, or more. Enterprise customers may also have hundreds of thousands of existing customer Contacts, or more, so separating these types of  “people” is important. But for the smaller customer, or division of a larger enterprise, who typically deal with a smaller number of people, separating Leads often feels like an unnecessary additional step and overhead. So we simplified it!

State of Contact

Obviously, it would not make sense to just make everyone a Contact record. There is still a difference in how you would engage with Contacts for existing customers, vendors, etc, and how you would engage with someone who just submitted a “Contact Us” form on your website, even with a smaller number of people than enterprise. In RapidStart CRM we have taken the Contact record and given it a dual purpose, identified by the Status. Contacts in RapidStart CRM are either an “Active” Contact, or a “Prospect” Contact. Each of these types has their own Forms and Views, and a Prospect has a Business Process for moving them though your “qualification” steps, similar to what the enterprise Lead has. Once a “Prospect” has reached the stage that you want, you simply change their status to “Active”. Let’s take a quick look at the views and forms for this:

Here is the view of your Active Contacts. By clicking on a Full Name, the form for that Contact will open.

Without going anywhere else, you can toggle the above view to display just your Prospects, and again by clicking on a Full Name, the form for that Prospect will open.

Here is the Prospect Form. While similar to the Contact form, this form also includes a “Process” as shown below. Note the Status of this Contact is “Prospect”.

Here is the normal Active Contact Form, you will see we no longer need the Process. Note the Status is “Active”. Now that this is an active Contact, we also have the Company record that was created or linked, as well as new tabs to create Opportunities, Cases and/or Projects.

Since Contacts and Prospects are in the same place, common things like First Name, Last Name, etc. never change, we have just exposed different things based on the status.

Qualification

There is another item that frequently came up in the past, that we also address with our simpler approach. In the enterprise solutions, when you Qualify a Lead, it simultaneously creates a new Contact record, and a new Company record and a new Opportunity record. This was often not the desired behavior, a common question we heard was: “How can have the system NOT automatically create an Opportunity?” Maybe you are on-boarding new vendors, or service customers, for example. In RapidStart CRM, when you change the Status of a Prospect to “Active” Contact, the only additional thing that happens is the creation of a Company record, or connection to an existing Company record if one matches. YOU decide if the next step is to create an Opportunity, or a Case, or a Project, or nothing at all at that time.

So to answer the common question?

The difference between a Lead and Contact in RapidStart CRM, is simply the Status of the Contact. This is as easy as it gets!