Salesforce.com is a terrible process tool; however, I’m actually a huge Salesforce advocate and have implemented upwards of 290 Salesforce instances. By working with a client, if they’re using something else like Sugar or Microsoft CRM, I often end up teasing them because Salesforce is by far what I recommend sales organizations use more than any other tool out there. So why do I say it’s a terrible tool? The short answer is, it has more to do with the fact that companies mistakenly believe that simply having a CRM tool will magically give them a process that everyone will instantly know and adopt, and that this will somehow solve all their problems. They misuse their CRM rather than actually doing a proper Salesforce implementation that will add value to their organization.
My mantra for many years has been that the purpose of technology is to support an underlying process that is agreed upon, standardized, and that we know works. The role of technology is not to replace process. However, when I walk in I find that most companies only have informal or inconsistent processes. People often say, “Well, we have no sales process,” which is not exactly true. There’s always a process, even if it may be several different ones that are poorly implemented or utilized. The problem usually exists around the informality and inconsistency of the process(es) that exist.
So where do companies really go wrong? The answer is, they get Salesforce; they turn it on; they get the trial; they dump some data in; they create a number of custom fields based on some things they think they’re going to need; and they run with it without providing training to their staff because they figure it’s intuitive and people should just be able to figure out how to use it. Essentially, they perform their own Salesforce implementation out of the box, leave it as is, and let their employees fend for themselves within its realm.
To be fair, Salesforce as an organization is partly to blame as there are only two main variants of Salesforce implementation. One is a rather large and pricey custom implementation for which Salesforce has an excellent network of partner companies to set up, and the other is the do-it-yourself “implementation.” There’s really not a lot of middle ground or published best practices on how to do this sort of thing, so when I walk into an organization that has been using Salesforce for a couple of years and they’ve been unhappy, it’s because they’ve opened the account, added a couple custom fields, and everybody just started using it however they wanted in the context of however they were already selling.
The other problem I’ve noticed is when companies get carried away by implementing various custom apps from the App Exchange. They try to use all these really high level, complex components of Salesforce, which are very valuable for those that know their way around, but they end up causing themselves more harm than good when they’re not well-versed in Salesforce.
Essentially, if you just do a “Salesforce implementation” by turning it on and using it as it natively exists, what you typically get is a decent task manager that logs and creates future tasks, a contact manager (ie. an address book), and really mediocre opportunity management. You certainly don’t get anything resembling forecasting or analytics, which is what most companies usually want to pursue a CRM for. In the end, what companies are not getting is a whole lot of meaningful data, reporting, dashboards, analytics, insight, and most importantly, predictive analyses. They’re getting a fancy user-interface on top of an excel spreadsheet, which is most likely what they were using before. The other big challenge is that this fancy interface is often burdensome because it is cluttered and busy, which makes workflow difficult for salespeople, data entry difficult for everyone, and data entry in itself inconsistent.
So what do I like about Salesforce? A lot of things. Check out my next post for what those things are…
By Townsend Wardlaw