One important element to understanding the InsideSales.com database is object structure. Instead of working with sheets of paper, filled out with names, addresses, and notes, you'll use various digital record "objects."
By default, InsideSales.com uses two primary record objects, Leads and Accounts. Every other data object and sub-object in some way links to one of these two primary records.
In practical terms you may hear database objects being referred to as "records." For the most part, these terms are interchangeable. Whether we're talking about a "Lead Record" or a "Lead Object," the meaning is the same—it's the data container for a "Lead" that resides within the database.
Leads and Accounts are the highest-level, general-purpose database object that houses information—company name, phone number, address, job title, company size, current status, description, and more.
Leads and Accounts are different, however, in terms of the assumed relationship users have with them. Lead records are assumed to have a relatively unestablished business relationship, if there is a relationship at all. New records added by a lead provider, a list of names bought from a company like Dun & Bradstreet or Hoovers, or a name you entered yourself from a business card you got at a trade show are classic examples "Leads."
Once a more formal business relationship is established (what that is will entirely depend on your process), a Lead is generally converted to an Account. When you convert a Lead to an Account, all of the existing Lead object information transfers with it.Once a Lead is converted to an Account, the database "unlocks" three additional secondary object types that can now be associated with the account: ***: Contacts, Deals (sometimes called "Opportunities"), and Cases.
The difference in assumed relationship between Leads and Accounts can have specific effects on your workflow. Many of the automation tools are "Lead-centric" in their approach, since building relationships with new prospects takes time and effort. Once a Lead is converted, many of the "high touch" nurturing and automation features are less important, since the relationship between the rep and the Account is assumed to be more personal and one-to-one.
Not all organizations want or use the Account object at all, instead keeping their data as Lead objects, which is perfectly acceptable. There's really no inherent advantage either way, depending on your workflow needs; the key is just to understand that Leads and Accounts are the primary objects, and every other component of the system revolves around them in some fashion.
***It is in fact possible to use Deal and Case objects before a Lead is converted into an Account, but companies that do this are a distinct minority. Contact records are only available when a Lead is converted to an Account.
Once a Lead record is converted to an Account, the system "unlocks" three additional object types that can be associated with the Account record. (You can use Deals and Cases with Lead records without converting them, but this is uncommon.)
Every secondary object should be attached to one of the two primary object types: a Lead or an Account. Logically and administratively, it makes little sense to create a secondary object without attaching it to a primary object.
Contacts, Deals, and Cases "logically" do not exist on their own without being attached to a primary record. You can create them without a parent, but they will be "orphans" in your database. You will be able to search and view them, but their purpose will be a mystery without an associated lead or account.
Contact record objects are probably the most confusing to understand, at least at first. When a record exists in the Lead database, all of the information is stored in a single record view—name of the person, their individual phone number and email, name of the company they work for, company-specific info (number of employees, industry, etc.), and so on. Once a Lead gets converted to an Account, however, the database "splits" the information up. All of the company-specific information gets put into the Account record, and the personal contact information, like the name of the person, their email address, title, etc., moves to a Contact record.
Some wonder why we built the system this way. The primary reason is that once the relationship with a Lead becomes developed enough to convert into an Account, in many cases agents are working with multiple people at the same company. They may have dealings with the VP of Sales, the controller, the front-line sales manager, and the IT director.
For business-to-business (B2B) sales organizations, splitting Accounts and Contacts into two discrete objects makes it easier to track those individual points of contact. For business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations on the other hand, the Account/Contact split is largely irrelevant; for all intents and purposes, the Account object contains the exact same information as the Contact object (for this reason, many B2C organizations do not use Account objects at all, as explained previously).
The purpose of the "Deals" secondary object, sometimes called "Opportunities," is to track revenue pipelines. They are not meant to replace a company's accounting system, inventory manager, or billing tracker (though they can potentially integrate with all three), merely to give sales managers and reps insight on how best to spend their time and energy with all of their active potential sales.
Deals have their own separate status and report metrics, separate from Account status and activity.
Case objects are designed for support and production teams to log and track detailed action items. They are ideal for logging issues with customer support, setting up long-term production plans, or other action items that require more detail than can be encompassed in a simple "to do" list. Cases are the least-used object type in the InsideSales.com system.
In addition to the two primary and three secondary object types, InsideSales.com uses a number of "sub-objects" to log and monitor user activity, and generate report metrics.
Sub-objects are just that, a sub-set of information linked to one of the primary or secondary objects, but not specific enough to merit its own record type.
The most common sub-objects are the Calendar items "Events" and "Tasks." These sub-objects can attach to any of the primary or secondary records, providing an at-a-glance view of recent activity. Users can track upcoming, in progress, or completed activities, helping them maintain consistency and accuracy in their interactions.
Other sub-objects include action logs of when a record was last edited, a list of changes to the record's owner, lists of related primary or secondary objects (related Contacts, Accounts, Deals, etc.), file attachments, and internal "sticky notes."
More than anything else, the database was constructed to create visible links between various workflow items. Nothing in the system was meant to live independently. Each primary, secondary, and sub-object provides an element of reporting, connecting users' activities to key metrics, goals, and objectives.
You may not end up using all of the objects and sub-objects in the system; in fact for training purposes we generally assume that most users only need Leads and the calendar sub-objects initially. As your company grows with the system, talk to your InsideSales.com support team to find out how you can better leverage the tools and benefits that each object provides.