Getting Salesforce Tasks Done Consistently

Unable to complete tasks Salesforce
Does your team struggle with finishing tasks?

Salesforce is supposed to keep everyone on the same page, service your customers with higher quality and win more business. At least that is the dream.

However, the software and success are two different things altogether. At the end of the day, CRM is largely a human system. It helps to coordinate information between people – salespeople, managers and service professionals. But it still needs people to drive the next steps. Each Opportunity, Case or Contact needs a task to get action captured and executed.

Those tasks need to be thought through and then assigned to yourself or others on your team. Ideally, there is a system and flow to the work.

But in the grind of a work day, it can be an overwhelming backlog for many organizations. This is especially for teams that have downsized and are asking remaining team members to take on more of a load. The number of tasks will build up and can become unwieldy.

The ideal situation for your entire team using Salesforce.com is that all tasks are captured and completed every day. There are no overdue tasks and people can methodically move through their daily execution of tasks with logged call and activity information.

If this is not happening, then there needs to be management and process introduced to help align everyone. Go too long and morale and commitment can wane.

If you find that you and your team are not getting daily tasks completed try some of these strategies to improve your processes:

  • Have reasonable follow-up tasks. Calling a prospect every day would be ridiculous. Space the follow-up calls or emails at least a week out.
  • Define when a deal is dead. Train your team to use a criteria on an Opportunity or Lead Status to be concrete. Perhaps 3 non-responses (or three strikes and you’re out) means the Opportunity is Closed/Lost or the Lead Status is Lost. This prevents the task pipeline from getting clogged.
  • Train your team on acceptable hand-offs. When a task is delegated to another Salesforce.com user, ensure there is active imperative language that is clear in the subject of the task. This allows for a smooth handoff and a person doesn’t have to think. Furthermore, train your team to use description information to support the task.
  • Move the due dates forward. If there is not a response for a task such as no response from a call, then move the due date forward a few days.
  • Make the goal zero tasks by day’s end. Help your team develop the habit of getting to zero tasks each day. This will allow them to define success around execution and help you understand how activities are related to results as a manager.

Success in Salesforce.com comes down to a vigilance on new processes and habits. There’s not a way around it. If you are dealing with people, it is always a management job.

However, Salesforce.com does lend itself to accountability and clean processes if you drive towards action and focus on specific metrics that will matter. Don’t try and tackle every metric at once. One habit at a time can help you develop your culture.

Working with organizations on process in Salesforce over the years reveals this as a common issue, but it can be solved with leadership and best practices.

The Sloppy Salesforce System To Avoid

overly complex system
Is your system overly complex for your work?

You may have experienced the thrill of seeing how Salesforce.com could be customized without software development. Realizing that you could set up fields within customer records and add sales information that was important for managing and closing deals was exciting.

There was a large amount of information that could be gathered by your team to analyze and make predictions from.

Furthermore, other people could easily collaborate by looking up a record and finding out what a customer’s location, past communications and dog’s name is. It’s all right there in the Salesforce record.

But, you show up one day and you find that you can’t find the dog’s name, much less information that can be helpful for getting some follow up work done. That’s because the information is not there.

When you examine what happened, you find that your team stopped consistently entering information.

This is not an uncommon problem across the thousands of organizations using Salesforce.com. They bought the software but success was a whole other challenge.

They got in their own way and overdesigned their system.

Users and Usability

There’s a magic tipping point with Salesforce.com. As you are starting out, users find it helpful to find contact information. But as management wants more information and are attracted to the reporting and analysis capabilities of Salesforce.com, it becomes enticing to get as much information as possible.

This is where slop starts to get introduced. The users are the ones to input information into the system and management wants to get as much as they can.

When there is too much information or the layouts and flow of the Salesforce.com system become difficult to navigate or use, then users typically give up.

They do what is easiest to get their job done and may bypass all of the expectations set forth in a highly customized Salesforce system.

It’s slop and a user doesn’t want to wade through such rigor when they have deadlines and metrics on their own head.

Avoiding the Slop

If you want to avoid this demoralizing state of affairs, it takes both self-constraint and focus on specific goals. After all, software is meant to be a slave, not a master to us. It is there to help.

There needs to be a key architect of the requests and requirements from different users and managers within the system. They have to make judgment calls and trade-offs for requests from different parties while keeping a larger goal in mind.

If the goal is to make more sales, then overburdening users with multiple related data objects or endless record fields will impede this goal.

Thus, the leadership role that the Salesforce architect has should be both advisory and implementing. The dialogue between stakeholders and the architect is healthy, but having someone who can make the systemic judgment calls based on business realities is critical to avoid slop.

You want your users completely bought in and excited about using the system you set up.

You want everyone to be clear about process and steps for the customer experience.

You want real-time reporting that helps you make management decisions.

These are all trade-offs that have to be carefully managed. If you have to err, err on the side of simplicity and allow demand from stakeholders to build up. It will keep your system much cleaner and easier to use.

Otherwise, having an unusable system may even warrant an expensive and wasteful overhaul just to get to a place where working in Salesforce makes sense again.

Why Salesforce Is Not For Dummies

When something doesn’t work, it is easy to blame the software. We see it all the time. Salesforce.com is a system which is highly customizable and can power an entire business, with limitations of course. However, it depends on talented people that can navigate the system, execute process and think. To elaborate:

  • Navigate the system. If you cannot make your way around a computer very well, then you will likely struggle. It is software and software does not work for you. At best, it provides a framework that allows you to move, click, enter data and get things done.
  • Execute process. Salesforce.com is only as good as the process your team prescribes. If you lack process, then it is a glorified database. You can input data, but there might not be forward movement in the way you execute and collaborate with your team or the customer.
  • Think. You can’t stop thinking just because you have powerful software. You have to think deeply about what you are trying to do and how you are doing things. How many fields you have, what those fields are, what data objects should be created and how the data relates all have to work in a cohesive and sensible way. When you design or use the system, it requires thinking systemically about the trade-offs and effects on your overall team.

There are many companies failing at using Salesforce.com. However, there are also many, many companies successful using the software. It is why dummies may blame, but they have a weak argument because:

  • There are millions of users succeeding
  • There are thousands of organizations succeeding
  • There are thousands of third-party developers that have invested money and time to plug into Salesforce.com
  • Hand the tool to a semi-intelligent twenty year old and they get it

You can always have a better designed system. That is much of the consulting work I do on Salesforce. However, if you are not determined to be smart, then the struggles in the system will come from something outside of Salesforce.com’s control. They built software for smart people. Thus, choose to step up and become a power user or persist in the vanity of being a dummy. We hope you would choose intelligence. It helps everyone win.

Salesforce Doesn’t Have To Start Perfect

Salesforce.com is capable of a great many things to automate and drive your business processes. The misconception is that you have to have your business in order and visualized completely before starting. Such thinking may have been true of custom built software that was expensive to change.

However, the case is often true that your sales and business processes are continually evolving. Organizations gain clarity from feedback and iteration. It is hard to describe what you want without seeing something in action.

In my work with our Salesforce consulting clients, we encourage a smaller framework with the least amount of features. This enables a team to get off the ground using the system quickly and getting results. Inevitably, there are new requests.

With a Salesforce champion intact, requests can be collected and a decision process for what the team can benefit from is assessed in a collaborative fashion. A list of requirements starts to develop that makes more sense to everyone as each person lives with conveniences or inconveniences of various features and customizations.

Here is the mindset which tends to serve successful organizations starting or growing with Salesforce:

  • Openness. Everyone is open to changing. They know that they will decide on new ways of doing things as they use the system.
  • Focus. All feedback comes through a central leader who can facilitate and broker the merits of requests. This helps to drive towards effective decisions.
  • Process. Everyone is thinking about the steps to serve a customer or get things done. The steps constitute the process. They are looking for efficiency.
  • Care. Salesforce is an opportunity to do things better with execution and timing. They care about the customer and think about ways to make their experience world-class.

Your team does not have to start perfectly. However, perfection is achieved over time by having a focus towards perfection. It is what allows organizations to continue to grow and mold the tool to how they want to serve their markets.

How is your team doing with its processes?

3 Important Ingredients For Salesforce Adoption

Our Salesforce.com consulting work with teams continually reveals more challenge in the adoption of a well-designed system than in the actual customization of the system.  Aligning people who have become accustomed to their way of doing things with disparate tools or ad hoc methods requires a focus on the art of change management.  Here are three pieces to the puzzle for success which must be part of your adoption strategy.

Identify A Strong Internal Champion

By nature, insiders have more vested in the outcomes of a new system than outsiders.  Furthermore, there are numerous cultural issues which every organization has.  Culture is the glue which allows for getting things done in a complex environment.  It is a great asset.

You must have a strong champion that aligns with the organization and knows how to influence for change.  Furthermore, the champion is the one that must master Salesforce.com with the processes built into the organization’s implementation.  They have to be technical and business minded to overcome objections and communicate benefits.  Their guidance becomes important for how fast and how much to change during the course of training, support and requirements gathering.

Develop A Mantra Which Sticks

Mantras are powerful shorthand for focusing action.  A mantra sticks in the minds of people.  Instructions and authoritarian policies on the other hand create resistance and do not connect emotionally.

Our mantra with users is, “If it’s not in Salesforce.com, it did not happen!”  Salesforce.com is not a magic bullet in and of itself to solve business process issues.  It is the culture and habits of the team using Salesforce.com.  Thus, capturing every task, communication and field item creates the inherent value to the organization.  Without commitment to the system, it becomes nothing more than a glorified database.    Ensure your organization has a mantra which can be stated between people at meetings and at the water cooler easily.  It helps drive enthusiasm and adoption.

Create A Support Outlet

There should be a framework for how a business process is executed in the Salesforce.com implementation and customization.  However, there are always specific scenarios that need answers quickly and precisely for users.  Forward momentum needs to be maintained and a great way to do this is to provide a responsive support process.  This can be done with FAQ’s via a wiki, Salesforce.com Case management, or a variety of integrated tools which help to build a knowledge base.

Over time, facilitate knowledge sharing by pointing users continually to this resource and have them self-moderate.  This helps the organization to own the system they are vested in.

Salesforce.com Adoption Is A Challenging Road

We are creatures of habit.  If a person is determined not to change, there is little any person can do to thwart such a strong position of resistance.  Users want to have easier ways of doing things.  A well-designed system should provide the context for work to get done faster and more productively.  The adoption phase should focus on helping with the emotional resistance to change.  Strong leadership, a focused mantra and responsive support are three ingredients to drive success.

If you would like to learn more about what I am talking about, check out how I consult with organizations on Salesforce.com.

Feel free to comment on areas you have seen in change management and how you have seen these in action below.

 

How We Integrate Google Apps With Salesforce

Google Apps and Salesforce.com are two of the leading cloud computing software vendors in the world. We have partnered with both and customize these systems around the processes of specific businesses based on their requirements. As we advise our clients on technology, process and systems, we always want to keep in mind the questions about cloud computing and what these systems mean to an organization. The following will help you understand our approach and how Google Apps and Salesforce.com are strategic for your team.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing may be a techie term for some, but it has had widespread conversation and adoption. In a nutshell, it is software that runs on the web. You don’t have to install anything. Open your web browser (Google Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer) and you just login to your system. For an organization, you are working within an environment with your team, specifically.

The advantages are:

  • You don’t have to maintain an IT person
  • You don’t have to upgrade
  • You don’t have to maintain uptime
  • You can focus on getting things done
  • Someone else manages the functionality and feature enhancements

As an advisor to your organization, we focus on strategies that help you grow your business. Cloud computing is strategic because:

  • It gets you out of the IT business and reduces overhead costs – people, hardware and software.
  • When you hire people, there is no installation. You can turn them on instantly.
  • When you fire people, you own the data. You can turn them off instantly.
  • You can hire people that live and work anywhere around the world.
  • You can collaborate in real-time with people in one secure system.
  • The system is secure. Your team has to have a login
  • You pay a subscription. This helps cash flow. It’s a service like your cell phone bill.

As an overall strategy, you want to control everything, but own nothing. The headaches are outsourced, the expenses are amortized. The old model was that you had to build such heavy duty software yourself. Now you can use it as a service and let someone else spend cycles figuring out how to innovate and improve. The world moves so fast today and software obsolesces quickly. It’s a good strategy to use cloud computing as a service for your business goals.

Google Apps And Collaboration

We have a lot of content about how to use Google Apps specifically in our blog. We partner with Google to implement, consult and support our customers on this remarkable platform. There are millions of businesses using Google Apps from single consultants to Fortune 500 firms. In the old days, getting another person set up on email often meant downloading Outlook, hooking it into an onsite server or using a VPN connection. It all took time and infrastructure.

Google Apps changed this. You can do many things to grow your business now that are easy:

  • Hire a person halfway across the world and have them running in less than five minutes
  • Share out key sales and marketing collateral quickly and easily
  • Collaborate on documents in real-time
  • Use online documents instead of having to buy Microsoft Office for everyone
  • Have a ready knowledge base to share out with new team members
  • Chat in real-time with anyone from any device – computer, tablet or mobile – anywhere

Your team is connected. The software is continually being improved and  you are using it to manage your business from anywhere, anytime. There is a simple annual user license fee of $50 per user per year which you order here. There is a massive amount of storage, so you can save everything.

We train and show you how to use the system strategically to grow your business and drive business processes. Furthermore, there are many other integrations, strategies and uses that can be extended as you continue to use the system to help you serve your customers better, drive speed in your company or make more money.

Salesforce.com Process Design

Salesforce.com is a system that can be customized specifically for your business. Though there are millions of users, everyone’s system is different. There are different fields, communication templates and records. The system can be programmed with logic and triggers based on rules that are defined.

Our team at AscendWorks works with clients to define the requirements, bring clarity to business processes and implement them elegantly in Salesforce.com.

Salesforce.com is a platform as well. It integrates with thousands of other applications. Thus, you can extend its use over time as you continually refine how you do business.

For your team, you have an effective way to manage what is happening in real-time. Everyone has access to customer, deal or custom records. As information is captured, you can see your sales pipelines, project work or inbound leads. Your team members can also execute from one common framework.

We help you to use Salesforce.com to increase productivity, make more money or support new business processes. It becomes a critical asset to your business as your team relies on each other and the information in the database records.

Integrating Google Apps And Salesforce.com

Not everyone integrates both Google Apps and Salesforce.com. We have various ways to bring the two together that help you align your team and grow your business. Your processes will be designed largely in Salesforce.com. Your knowledge and productivity happen in Google Apps.

Some of the ways the two systems can serve your organization are:

  • Sharing Google Docs within a Salesforce.com Opportunity record
  • Having a central FAQ section that is searchable and accessible
  • Logging inbound and outbound emails in customer records
  • Making appointment scheduling easier
  • Supporting customers with ready knowledge

Your team members have a login for their Google Apps and Salesforce.com systems. They can be working around the world, at a cafe or in your office. Regardless, your business is running in real-time on the web. Your challenge becomes making it clear and easy for how you want to create the customer experience and get things done efficiently.

We hope the explanation helps to orient you and envision the possibilities for using these two powerful systems. The costs are subscription based – $50/user/year for Google Apps and Salesforce
Pricing is here.

You can also learn more about how I consult with clients on Salesforce.

Feel free to post any questions in the comments below. We want to help educate and enlighten. Thanks.

Help, My People Are Not Using Salesforce

Salesforce.com can do many things. However, it cannot make people follow process or execute. It is fundamentally a database of information. It can be programmed to trigger logical actions and communications. But it still needs full engagement by your management and your sales team to work inside your business.

If you are finding challenges in user adoption, then focusing on aligning your team around how to use your system and what is expected needs to be an intense focus. Otherwise, your system will have little value to drive forward predictable results.

In our work with organizations that are seeking user alignment with management direction, here are some areas to focus on that can help you achieve higher levels of success:

  • Leadership. Who is the primary leader of your sales, marketing or operations initiative? What is it they want to see? Does your team respect and follow this person? This is the champion and their leadership is critical. Success will rise and fall based on the direction and vision they set. If there is clarity and determination with authority, your chances of success are very high. Anything less can easily create ambiguity and misalignment on your team.
  • Key metrics. What gets measured gets done. It is important to be specific about what constitutes successful metrics. Create reports and dashboards that capture this information in real-time. Make it visible to the rest of the team. In the early days, focusing your lens on activities will drive user behavior. Later, move the key metrics to an emphasis on results as you see behaviors aligning.
  • Culture. There is a way your team works and responds to change. Change management is an art form that needs to be handled delicately and professionally. As you are bringing in change, use culture to reinforce new expectations. Mantras, personal recognition and rewards are great ways to influence culture and behaviors.
  • Great Design. If you overengineer your Salesforce.com system, then users will become frustrated. Make every screen, every data object and every field relevant, simple and easy to use. Think like Apple. Focus on great design to make it a delight to use your system rather than a chore. More is not always better.

There are many other tools and methods which you can apply. Adoption of Salesforce.com is a management issue which can be achieved with careful thought and leadership.

What are the challenges you are seeing with Salesforce in your organization?

Want some help making Salesforce work? Learn how I work with teams for Salesforce success.

4 Salesforce Alignment Review Tips

As the year ends, it is a natural time to review how your mission-critical business systems are working to enable your processes.Salesforce.com typically runs crucial business processes for you and as your team is focused on end of year metrics such as closing business, driving leads or increasing customer loyalty, you can review your system and further refine it for management effectiveness. Here are a few things you might want to consider to help align your team for increased success:

  1. Dashboards and reports. Looking over the past year, eliminate reports and dashboards that are no longer relevant. Ask yourself what metrics have come to matter and customize your system to produce these metrics in real-time. Set your dashboards to capture what you have found to matter. What gets measured gets done, so measure correctly with your increased experience and knowledge.
  2. User performance. Recognize the users that have used your Salesforce.com system the way you envisioned. Completed tasks, closed Opportunities and Lead nurturing are examples of ideal behaviors in Salesforce.com. Present an award and communicate the reasons for your recognition. Your team will come to understand what you value and why. Get concrete to help reinforce what you have been looking for.
  3. Pipeline management. Review the current Opportunities in your pipeline as well as how the data and relationships are captured. Assign tasks to each Opportunity owner to clean up the records or leave comments in Salesforce Chatter to recognize great behavior. Get your pipeline in order to start the next sales cycle with accurate projections and create a review process to ensure your pipeline continues to be true.
  4. Marketing Automation. Focus on building a complete lead record with their digital activities captured in your Lead records in addition to your sales team’s tactical engagement. This will transition your organization to understand how buying is done via the buyer’s process in addition to your sales process. Marketing automation adds far more activity history and open tasks which drives automation in the selling process. It pushes your organization into a modern process for engaging buyers.

The beauty of Salesforce.com is that it is a continual journey of refinement. There is not perfect data. There is continual improvement upon process, culture and data capture. Use the natural business cycles available to you to ensure your system continues to get more robust, drive user adoption and is relevant for management of your business.

These are Salesforce strategies I work with organizations on.

How can these points help you increase Salesforce success?

Salesforce Chatter For Real-Time Collaboration

Salesforce.com implemented and marketed Chatter as the world turned social. Modeled after the popular intranet app, Yammer, it has the advantage of being centered around your organization’s activities in Salesforce.com. Those activities provide a real-time stream of what is happening across your team with respective data records. It opens up the experience so you don’t have to go searching. Activities are delivered to you as an integrated data set. Without Chatter, you have less transparency and a feel for the pulse of your business activities.

Our Salesforce consulting clients that make use of Chatter often have questions on strategy and use of the system. Here are a few best practices to integrate this powerful tool into your business processes:

  • Bypass email. The problem with email is that it is a private record located in distributed inboxes. Recording ecord communications on Salesforce.com records extends the context of your communications and houses the information in context within Salesforce.com.
  • Share files. Upload files and share them within Chatter as a way of managing project and sales information in context. The collaboration goes beyond mere sending and stores your files with distribution within Salesforce.com records.
  • Status streaming.  To help your team understand what others are doing helps to create context and focus. Managers can understand where the work distribution and focus are. Progress can be tracked in real-time with people and data records.
  • Team building. Use Chatter to help your team get familiar with each other’s talents and focus. This facilitates problem solving and collective approaches to servicing your customers in Salesforce.com. Encourage updates frequently and technical details to promote knowledge sharing.

Chatter is a powerful private social networking tool focused on promoting collaboration in context. Context is what is different from other tools on the market. The focus on a customer, project or deal keeps communications, progress and actions in one place for everyone to understand what is happening. Extra cycles of soliciting information is replaced with a push approach from the continual activity streams.

How is Chatter relevant to your work?

Learn more about how I like to help organizations with Salesforce.com here.

Salesforce And Google Docs

Storing data files in a Salesforce.com record makes it convenient for users to see relevant information related to Opportunities, Accounts, Cases or Contacts. This is also true for any custom data objects such as project records or job costing.

Within the Salesforce.com setup, there are integrations with Google Apps. File storage in Salesforce.com has limits. These should be monitored within your storage usage metrics. More storage can be purchased as needed when your limits are exceeded.

A good practice for driving further collaboration in the cloud is to adopt the Google Apps integration provided in Salesforce.com. Within your respective data objects, simply add the unique url of an existing Google Doc or create a new Google Doc, Spreadsheet, Presentation or file. This provides an associated link which your organizational users can access based on your document permissions. Document permissions are set within the respective Google Doc.

Here are some types of documents to consider associating with your Salesforce.com records:

  • Sales Contracts. Associate these with Opportunity records for tracking deals and proposals as well as accounting.
  • Invoices. You can store billing and payment information and associate these to Account records for tracking payments.
  • Resumes. If you are tracking potential hires, you can associate their resume, cover letters and any sample work inside their Contact records.
  • Graphical files. If you are working on projects with customers in Salesforce.com, upload their graphics as a pdf or native document and attach these as part of their project record.
  • Scorecards. If you have a business relationship where you want to track a customized metric for performance, associate the Google Spreadsheet to the Contact or Account record for easy accessibility for you and your team.

Teach your team the process of associating Google Docs and extend collaboration between these two powerful cloud computing platforms. The control, collaboration and accessibility will help your productivity as an organization as you move between data and files.

How can Google Docs serve your team?

Want a Salesforce strategy for your team, click here.