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Predictive lead scoring among new Sales Cloud features

Einstein offers sales reps insight to smarter lead scores, but users wonder how deep the predictive capabilities of Salesforce's newest feature will go.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Pointing sales reps and managers to the right account, with the right insight and correct next steps, is what Salesforce is hoping to accomplish, as the company offers more integrations with Lightning and new AI-capable tools fueled by Einstein.

Productivity, artificial intelligence capabilities and closing gaps in the Lightning framework were outlined at a Sales Cloud roadmap session on the opening day of Dreamforce, Salesforce's largest annual conference.

Rather than rules-based lead scoring, Salesforce is implementing predictive lead scoring using capabilities from Einstein. The tool will capture static data, like company size and industry, as well as live data -- e.g., if a lead downloads a white paper or interacts with a website.

The goal is to offer sales reps tremendous insight to leads, but some customers question whether the data will lead to accurate scoring.

"The prescriptive algorithm behind Einstein is compelling," said Eric Pozil, principal consultant at Seattle-based CRM Northwest Inc. "But if it's just looking at activities and scanning the web, I'm not sure how good that is for a lead score. The question I still have is how the intelligence works to make it relevant to a customer. Maybe they're doing that, but it's just too early."

For example, Pozil said, a customer interaction could include dozens of open emails, but little advancement in the sales funnel. If the predictive lead scoring looks at dozens of emails opened as a positive sign, he said, it could assign a high lead score when, really, there has been little interaction.

"Because Salesforce has a way to do lead scoring that they think fits may not be the way a customer wants to score leads," Pozil said. "Einstein has the potential to be a useful tool, but it depends on the plumbing behind it."

Einstein has the potential to be a useful tool, but it depends on the plumbing behind it.
Eric Pozilprincipal consultant, CRM Northwest

Austin Tam, a product management director for Sales Cloud, explained to the packed conference room that taking customer activities and actions into account will provide realistic and predictive lead-scoring capabilities. The tool will also continually learn, based on the data it acquires.

"[What] we want to make the lead score is more accurate in the future, too," Tam said. "By featuring engagement in the score -- whether they download a white paper or visit a webpage -- it will all be based on real data."

Several other efficiency-based features were shown during the roadmap session, including the ability to send emails from anywhere in Salesforce, rather than having to toggle back and forth between tools.

"We're bringing more of Salesforce into email clients, so there's no need to switch back and forth," Tam said, adding that integrations with Gmail and Outlook feature this capability.

James Kinsey, director of business solutions and sales operations at StandardAero, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., approved. "That brings a lot more efficiency for sales managers, being able to manage emails in Salesforce, rather than Outlook," he said. "That eases access of information and the flow of work."

Integrating more Lightning capabilities was also on display at the Sales Cloud roadmap session, as Salesforce continues to fill gaps that have opened since the integration of its Lightning platform more than a year ago.

"There are a lot of gaps to be filled from Lightning, and we're working to close those with dynamic dashboards, report builders and other features," said Cari Aves, director of product management for Sales Cloud. "We're able to deliver functionality that we wouldn't have been able to on the classic interface, including a rich, integrated calendar and email experience."

The holes in the Lightning interface have caused some customers to delay adoption until all the bugs are fixed, including Pozil with CRM Northwest.

"They have to finish Lightning -- that's a core feature they've had for a long time now," Pozil said. "We've held off for now."

Kinsey's StandardAero is also waiting to adopt Lightning, saying the company "isn't there yet" when it comes to being ready to adopt, but Salesforce "continues to build the case."

In addition to predictive lead scoring, other features that were showcased included the ability to view quotes within Salesforce, as the SteelBrick integration continues to be implemented. The company also highlighted the ability for sales reps to view and manage contracts directly in their dashboards.

"[Contracts] had been a gap in Lightning before," Aves said. "Hopefully, it will allow users to move over to that experience."

Users can expect new features to begin rolling out in the winter and in spring 2017, according to Aves and Tam.

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