Key to success

Salesforce Best Practices to Ensure Success

If you’ve read my last two blogs, you should probably be asking is what it takes to actually be successful, right? If Salesforce.com is a tool but we have to have our act together in order to capitalize on it, then what are the things that you really need to make sure you have if you’re going to be successful? There are various answers to this question, and they are all just as important as the others. To answer it, here is my Salesforce best practices guide and list of what you need to know:

A Process Map

First and foremost, you’ve got to acknowledge that technology does not replace process, and if you get that concept and embrace that reality, you’ll be a large part of the way there. Second, you need to understand your intended sales process from a workflow standard. I’ve included below a visual process map as a sample, but if you can’t draw a picture of your sales process in this form then you’re going to have a really hard time being happy and getting value out of your CRM.

Sales Process Map | Salesforce Configuration & Implementation

Salesforce Object Model

You need to have a Salesforce object model for the next requirement, and by that I mean you have to understand how your sales process will be translated into database architecture. Simply defining pretty pictures doesn’t get you to the point that a database can replicate. So you’ve to understand from a technology standpoint how this stuff will actually play out when we are talking about lead conversion and lead mapping moving from a contact, to account, to opportunity. It gets pretty complex and you have to think it through, so I’m attaching an example of an object model here as well.

Salesforce Object Model | Saleforce Best Practices

Salesforce Training & Tools

You need to have training, which should include training documentation and job aids. I don’t implement Salesforce without being able to hand folks visual workflow material with step by step instructions on how to use the tool. These job aids are things they’re going to use every day that show how to perform both common and more complex activities in Salesforce, and I would actually expect to find these pinned up in their cube.

Salesforce Training & Implementation | Salesforce Best Practices

Functional Ownership

In order to be successful, the Salesforce implementation needs to be owned by somebody other than IT. In a lot of organizations I see, IT is the owner of all technology so they’re looking at it from a technology and IT management perspective rather than from a functional standpoint. However, Salesforce is a sales organization tool first and an organizational tool second. As such, Sales has to have control over what it does, and it can’t wait for six weeks to get slotted into IT’s schedule to get a couple fields modified. So, Salesforce expertise has to live within the sales organization. Typically, I’ll recommend that the Salesforce administrator be in the sales team, or I’ll actually provide that function myself on an outsource basis a lot of times for my clients.

Single Ownership

Similarly to functional ownership, it needs to have a single owner. You can’t have your Salesforce instance being built by a committee made up of marketing, finance, sales and the CEO. If you want to have multiple applications then buy multiple applications and integrate them, but you’re buying them as a Salesforce automation tool with some other functionality. You can parse out evenly subdivided pieces of the Salesforce instance and say that different departments own different sections, but it’s certainly going to work better if you have a single owner.

Realistic Goals

A high level concept of Salesforce best practices to consider is that you need to have a box drawn around what it is you want your CRM to do for you. Obviously everybody is going to have this long, comprehensive, expansive list with all these great aspirational goals, but as you’re rolling out your CRM, why not start with a couple of baseline functionalities? For example, we want it to manage tasks; we want it to be our central sales calendar; we want it to be a central repository for all our sales contact information; and we want to capture most of our opportunities within it.

Linear Growth in Usage

This leads me to the next point, which is, from a functionality standpoint, that Salesforce implementation needs to be a linear and progressive path. Every company that I’ve walked into has been frustrated because they couldn’t get accurate forecasting out of Salesforce. Well, forecasting is a high order, high complexity function that is actually the sum of a lot of other much more mundane functions like management of activity, contacts and opportunities, and those require mastery, discipline, consistency and compliance over time. So, you really have to think about rolling out Salesforce as a series of mini, functional logs.

When I come in, the first thing I typically want to do is get my arms around account and contact information, making sure that it’s being entered and captured on a consistent basis. Next we move to activity logging (sometimes referred to as task logging), then we move to event management, such as meetings and discoveries, and finally we’ll get into tracking individual opportunities. Once we are disciplined in those areas we can finally move into forecasting, after which we get down we might look into case management, trouble ticket resolution, etc.

It’s a progressive path, and a good CRM or Salesforce implementation should take anywhere from six to nine months to really get rolled out properly. What I see more often than not is a company hires a Salesforce consultant, spends $50, $80, or $100,000 dollars, launches it all in one shot, does one mass training for everybody, and then hopes that they all sort of understand it. Six months later they’re scratching their heads wondering why it’s not being used consistently across the board by everyone, and that’s really a big problem. However, Salesforce is a great CRM tool when used in context with a well thought through CRM strategy and understanding of what you want it to do.

I hope this Salesforce best practices guide has been helpful. If you have any questions or if there is any way I can help you, don’t hesitate to reach out and give me a ring. I’d be happy to assist.

By Townsend Wardlaw

photo credit: tricky (rick harrison) via photopin cc