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QuickBooks 2012 Lead Center

September 23, 2011 | By | 29 Replies More

Lead Center is a new feature in Quickbooks 2012 that allows users to manage their prospects/leads in QuickBooks before they become customers. This is another feature that Intuit is adding to add CRM-like capabilities. Is it useful? Let’s take a look.

A “Lead” is a person or business that you are in the process of selling products or services to, but who hasn’t yet become a full fledged customer. You want to be able to keep track of contact information and a list of activities that should be completed as a part of your sales process. You can do this in Outlook, you can use a CRM product (integrated with QuickBooks, or not), or you can manage this with the Lead Center in QuickBooks.

It is clear that Intuit is interested in CRM (Customer Relationship Management). They are approaching this from two directions. On the high end, they have just released a service that integrates SalesForce (a major CRM product) with QuickBooks. On the low end, we have a number of CRM-like features introduced in QuickBooks 2012, such as the Lead Center, Calendar and Global To Do List.

Note that the Lead Center does not make this a CRM product. There is so much more that goes into managing leads that a good CRM product can do for you. However, the Lead Center feature has a few advantages:

  • It is a part of QuickBooks, so you don’t have to worry about complicated integration issues.
  • It is free, as a part of your QuickBooks installation (all US versions of Pro, Premier and Enterprise)
  • It is extremely easy to convert a Lead record into a Customer record, retaining all of your associated information.

Let’s take a look at how this works.

The Lead Center can be found in your Customers menu. This is presented with the familiar “Center” organization. There is a list on the left (with filters), a bottom pane with information about associated records, and the top right pane with details of the currently selected lead.

QuickBooks Lead Center

When you add a lead you can enter some basic contact information. You can assign the lead a status of hot, warm or cold.

QuickBooks Lead

You can create multiple contacts within the lead.

Additiona Contact in Lead

In the bottom pane of the Lead Center you have multiple tabs.

To Do List is a listing of to do items associated with this lead.

QuickBooks Lead To Do

 Contacts lets you quickly see the contacts you have entered for this lead.

QuickBooks Lead Contacts

Locations shows the various locations or branch offices for this lead (created in the main lead edit screen).

QuickBooks Lead Locations

Notes shows the notes that you have entered for this lead. I haven’t been using the Notes feature in QuickBooks that much, but when I saw this I thought that it would make it more likely that I would be using Notes. However, the Notes window that opens here is much simpler than the one you find associated with other “Centers” such as the Customer Center, and as I’ll show you later there is a drawback to this.

QuickBooks Lead Notes

If you have been managing your leads in an Excel spreadsheet before now, there is a simple grid import tool available.

QuickBooks Import Leads from Excel

Converting Leads to Customers

The Lead records are in a separate table from the Customer records, which is a very important point. If you were adding your leads to your customer list before they purchased something, you were cluttering up your customer list. And, in Pro/Premier, there is a limit to the number of customers you can have. Separating the leads from the customers prevents that clutter and impact on your customer list.

If the happy day comes when a lead becomes a customer, simply click on the Convert to a Customer button. Your lead is now a customer. All of the contact information carries over. All of the To Do’s carry over. All of the Contacts carry over. Unfortunately, though, the Notes do not carry over. I think that is a big mistake, as it really makes the Notes feature in the Lead Center much less interesting to me.

Wait, did you notice that I said all of the Contacts carry over? That is something new that I just came across – the More Contacts button in the Customer Center. You can add contacts to a customer, which are different than a job. I have no idea what the impact of this is, if this is information that we can find in any place other than when in the Customer Center. I’ve not seen any mention of this in any of the literature or announcements from Intuit.

 Lead converted to Customer

It is interesting to note that the Lead record still exists in the Lead Center. You have to change the view to “All Leads” instead of “Active Leads”. You can’t change the record, it is read-only. My concern here is if there is a limit to the size of the lead table – I have no way to get rid of leads that are cluttering up this list.

Another point to make – you can create a lead that has the same name as a customer, without any warning or problem. If you try to convert that lead to a customer you get an error message, and you aren’t allowed to proceed. I would rather have a warning when I create the lead? What if we think that this is a new lead when in fact we have already been doing business with them as a customer in the past? I can’t merge all my to do’s and contacts from the new lead into an existing customer record easily. Sure, I can change the name and save it, then do a “merge” of the two customers, but that won’t merge the contacts and to do’s.

Is This Worth It?

Well, maybe, depending on your situation.

Good points

  • Simple CRM-like features for smaller businesses that are currently using Excel (or pen and paper).
  • Included in QuickBooks at no additional charge.
  • The Lead records are in a separate table, they are NOT included in the customer or names list.
  • You can convert a lead to a customer very easily.
  • Contact and address info, and to do’s, carry over.

Bad points

  • This is an extremely light feature, it isn’t really a CRM product.
  • You can’t delete converted or expired leads.
  • Notes don’t convert over to a customer.
  • Doesn’t prevent you from creating a new lead that is a duplicate of a customer.
  • No interaction with any outside product such as Microsoft Outlook.
  • The DOWNSIDE of not adding leads to your customer list is that you cannot create an Estimate for a lead. So you can’t do a lot of things for a lead until they become a customer.

This is a very light solution. If you are keeping track of leads in Excel, or on paper, this might be useful to you. However, there are many good CRM products that integrate with QuickBooks that will provide you with excellent tools and integration.

Intuit’s intent for the multiple CRM-like features are to provide the smaller company with features that can help them without having to go to a more sophisticated CRM product at an additional expense. These are all built-in, no additional cost features. If they aren’t adequate for your company, move up to (from their standpoint) Salesforce for QuickBooks (just introduced this month), or another CRM product that integrates with QuickBooks (Results CRM, Legrand CRM, or something like ACT! with a product like QBSalesData.

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Category: QuickBooks Tips/Tricks, Software Updates

About the Author ()

Charlie Russell is the founder of CCRSoftware. He's been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had a one-floppy disk drive system, loading the program from one floppy and then replacing that with the other floppy to hold the data. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise. He also is a Xero Certified Partner. Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. Charlie can be reached at [email protected] He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog Connect with Charlie at Google

Comments (29)

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  1. William Murphy says:

    This is a great feature, needs tweaking, but will be beneficial. Good to find out that the ‘leads’ are not part of the global names list so as to compete for the 14,500 limit.

    Murph

  2. Good review, thanks, Charlie.

    ACT! got there first for me, and I used to be an ACT! certified consultant, so I know it well.

    I can click through an ACT! contact to having the address mapped on Google maps, with the ability to quickly map directions from my place to the clients. That’s an app I use almost daily, so maybe someone will make an app to do that with QuickBooks?

    Also, I have ACT! setup to sync to my cell phone. I sync whatever subset of my entire database I want, and can easily change which contacts sync. That’s a feature I use weekly, thanks to Companionlink software, probably my favorite software company of all time. So maybe they’ll do something for QuickBooks too.

    Thanks again for the overview Charlie.

  3. Chris Dilley says:

    I am very interested in the Leads center idea, but I would like the ability to add an estimate to a Lead, then have the estimate carry over when the lead becomes a client. We also use ACT, so just keeping track of lead information is not necessary in QB unless I can attach an estimate that can become part of data we can analyze to see what proposals were accepted and which were rejected. As mentioned in the article, we might have several job leads for the same customer – perhaps from different contact folks within one company. Also, it would be helpful to be able to delete old leads once their data has outlived its usefulness. Thanks for the great review and opportunity to respond.

    • Thank you, Chris. If you are already using a CRM like ACT!, I don’t see that there is a real need for the Lead Center. It is really intended (at least at this time) for the situation where someone is not yet ready to move into a full CRM system.

      Some may argue that ACT! isn’t a CRM product, but it still is more complete than Lead Center.

  4. Danielle says:

    Does anybody know if there is any way to put the leads in a report?

  5. John Mahdi says:

    You mentioned that Intuit has released a link for Salesforce.com. I am aware that thry had a beta product which would not support our enterprise version, but I have not been able to find the released product. Can you proviode more information on where to find this link?

  6. Tina Wilson says:

    Does anyone know if you can import an excell spreadsheet of leads into the lead center? I have a very large leads list and it will take too much time to enter them by hand.

    • Tina, look at th etop of the lead center window (there is a screen shot at the top of the article), there is an “import multiple leads” button. It opens a grid that you can paste info into from Excel, as long as you have the right columns.

      • Hi Charlie,

        I am in the same situation as Tina. The import feature doesn’t really “import” your excel spreadsheet – you still have to enter each tab manually. I think what Tina was asking was if you are able to make upload your excel sheet. I’m sure everyone has tons of leads and entering each cell manual is not considered “importing.” Is there a way to upload an excel lead file?

        Thanks in advance for your help!

        • Rosemarie, “what you see is what you get”. Intuit hasn’t set up the Lead list in the third party programming interface so there aren’t any add-on tools that can work with importing here.

          However, if you look at the help file on this, you can enter a bulk of the items all at one time. Arrange your spreadsheet to have the columns in the same order as the “import leads” window. Copy all of the data that you want from the Excel spreadsheet, and paste into the first cell in the import leads window. It will copy all of the columns in properly. I was able to add 50 leads all with one “paste”, in a test I just ran.

  7. Greg Blanke says:

    I was just able to delete a lead from the lead center, so this must be a change associated with the R3 update. I do wish you could combine leads with existing customers or be able to produce estimates with out adding them as a customer. This app need some work.

  8. Hi Charlie,

    I am using QuickBooks at my startup and need some way to track my contacts, data, notes, as they become customers, etc. Will this feature be robust enough as I scale or should I just invest in ACT! then QBsales data? Are any of these compatible with Cardscan?

    Thanks,
    Adam

    • Adam, this isn’t a scalable feature at this time. Who knows what it will be like in the future? They might expand it, they might not.

      I can’t really make a specific recommendation for you as I don’t know anything about your business.

      There are a lot of nice things here, if you live mainly in QuickBooks, but a product like ACT! is going to provide you with many more features. One question is, though, will you actually be USING those added features? It takes time…

      QuickBooks isn’t compatible with Cardscan – but I don’t know if the other products are or not. I don’t use that product myself.

  9. Tanya says:

    I just upgraded to version 12. Is it possible to attach documents to the leads (like in purchase orders or invoices) or in anyway connect them to estimates or any other non-customer report as a running number (since the lead is not yet a customer)?

    • Tanya, as far as I can tell, you cannot attach documents to leads.

      Third party document management products won’t be able to either, as the lead information is not available through any of the QuickBooks programming interfaces.

      As far as connecting a lead to an estimate – you can’t.

      This feature is very under-developed.

  10. Ben Prochnow says:

    Hi Charlie,

    I work at manufacturing company that sells equipment to homeowners factory direct. Mail orders, phone orders, and web based. Right now we use outlook for email, and quickbooks 2011 premier and a very old DOS database for leads, serial numbers etc. I’ve been currently looking at Sage ACT as an option. It seems to fit the bill pretty good, but initial set-up seems a little harder than I’d like. The integration and features that you can change is great as well. Our database has around 300,000 leads, i think i’m right Sage Act is a much better way to go and integrates with outlook, quickbooks, goggle maps, email, marketing etc. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

  11. Charlene says:

    How does this compare to Market Sharp?

    • I’ve not worked with MarketSharp, but it seems to be a CRM kind of product with a QuickBooks web connector. I can’t comment on how well it works with QuickBooks – just saying that it has a connector doesn’t mean that it does the connection right. In any case, as I have said, the “lead center” feature is NOT a CRM product by any means.

  12. Jay Kyle says:

    All it needs are a few simple additions to make it much more useful for small businesses – items to follow a simple sales funnel.

    Top on my list is Opportunities

    Jay

  13. Lustiena says:

    I want to make a report with Information of “Lead center”.

    Do you know the name of the table with information of the “Lead Center”,
    I want to use this table with the QODBC connection.

  14. Ron Lovick says:

    Hi Charlie,
    We just get QB 2014 Pro, and wanted to know if the Lead Center has been improved or enhanced over the 2012 offering.
    thanks, Ron

  15. Ron Lovick says:

    What would be the next best CRM software type of functionality that interface with QB 2014 ?
    ACT! – Method CRM, etc.

    • “Next Best” – I wouldn’t say that, as I don’t believe that the Lead Center is very useful in any but the simplest of businesses. There are products that are very, very good.

      CRM’s are a matter of personal preference, as well as your business needs. There are quite a few, and I haven’t done a “survey” of all that are out there. Many, many factors to consider, and quite a few of those have nothing to do with QuickBooks itself.

      For integration with QuickBooks, here are three options to consider out of many available – these are all companies that I’ve looked at and I am very confident in the companies themselves:
      -If you like ACT! as a contact management system, you can use Xact to integrate it with QuickBooks. See my review of that at http://www.sleeter.com/blog/2011/05/integrating-quickbooks-with-act-and-xact/

      -If you want a very, very robust CRM that is primarily a desktop product BUT that does have mobile options, consider Results CRM (http://results-software.com/ ). Great company. I’m working on a review of this but it will be later this year.

      -Some people are very happy with Zoho CRM (https://www.zoho.com/crm/features.html ). I’ve not used it, but it has been strongly recommended to me.

      -If you want an online CRM product, I do like Method CRM (http://method.me/). I haven’t written a review yet but I hope to – they have a new release in the works and I might wait for that before I write a review. Top notch company.

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