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.

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 Contact Roles Orient Your Team

The Salesforce.com Opportunity record keeps the details of a deal together. This should be customized to capture all the details for closing a sale. This can include:

  • Information about the deal
  • Files supporting the sale
  • Pipeline and probability information
  • Activities with people

One of the important parts to keep your team coordinated is understanding who is involved in the deal. These are known as Contact Roles. These are the people involved in making the Opportunity happen. This orients your team to who the people are for success. Here are some of the roles to consider within the context of an Opportunity.

  • Decision Maker: The person who has the final say
  • Influencer: A person who informs the decision maker on your value
  • Technical Buyer: This is typically someone evaluating your product or service from the technical aspect
  • User: This is an end user of your product or service. Their opinion is relevant for the Decision Maker to examine productivity gains.
  • Economic Buyer: This person is looking for the ROI
  • Referrer: This is a role which brought the Opportunity and referred the customer. You can look at their Contact record and see all of the referrals they had made by the associate Opportunities.
  • Partner: This is any partner that is part of fulfilling the expectations of the deal that may be used. An attorney, designer or third-party that will service the Opportunity should be labeled as such.
  • Vendor: This can be a supplier of a standard product or service to the Opportunity.
  • Project Manager: This is a post-sales role of the person that may be interfacing with your team.

The roles which will be relevant to your process will be specific to what is involved in how your business works. Think these through and capture them. Ensure your team captures each role and then associates the respective Contacts to the Opportunity record. This will provide a complete picture of who is involved.

With the respective data relationships, each Contact record in turn will reflect the Opportunities that they are a part of as well to provide context for how Contacts relate to deals. It’s an important area I work through with Salesforce consulting clients.

What are some Contact Roles relevant in your world?

4 Salesforce Process Creation Tips

 

Your business is nothing more than a process.  After all, that is what a business is.  It is a sequence of repeatable, and sometimes custom steps which create a predictable result, either a product or service. Process is what we all use, but often times, it is difficult to capture and create the systems that make our processes work with ease.

The beauty of Salesforce.com is the ability to support how your business runs.  The steps involved for making a sale, creating attention, delivering value or supporting your customers can be created in a highly customized fashion.  No two Salesforce.com systems are alike out of the thousands of users because of the ability to customize around your specific way of doing business.

As you are working on creating process within Salesforce.com, here are four tips to help you make Salesforce.com work:

  1. Segment your business.  Break down your processes into discrete areas.  It can be daunting trying to tackle your entire process.  The smaller you can break down your internal processes, the more manageable it will be.  Ensure the process you focus on is complete in it steps and fulfillment to deliver a result.
  2. Think Tasks And Communications.  There are two outcomes for each step of a process – a task and a communication to a partner, customer or team member.  Ensure your steps capture both aspects and that you can set up Salesforce.com to support the desired outcome.
  3. Identify Automation Opportunities.  Certain steps can become repetitive and tedious.  Think how automation via triggers or custom programming might be able to accelerate the mundane processing your users would encounter.  Automation may mean an automatic task, contingent data fields populated or a triggered custom email.
  4. Develop Key Metrics.  To see if a process is working, you need to be able to monitor it in real-time.  Use custom dashboards and reports that will give you this feed-back to see the effectiveness and also allow for refinement of the process steps.  It is critical for achieving perfection in the process through iteration.

Salesforce.com does not run your business perfectly.  It is merely a tool which requires intelligent and deliberate customization to support the business processes you discover are successful.  Be sure to think like a designer and perfect like a refiner.  Use these tips to drive your organization or get some help setting up your business process.

What are some processes you would like to automate?

Salesforce Apps: Conga Composer Document Automation

Conga Composer integrated with Salesforce.com opens up an entire opportunity for document automation and productivity increases.  It is one of our favorite AppExchange apps we use in our Salesforce consulting for its extensibility of field information across data objects in Salesforce.com.

Much of the customization in Salesforce.com is focused on inputting information.  Fields are created and a process is developed for capturing information.  Managing your sales team or service process is then done by Dashboards and Reports for real-time feedback.

Within your business process, you may have documents that have to be assembled as an output of your field capture information.  Conga Composer works with your Professional or Enterprise Edition to quickly design and output custom documents.  A button can be embedded in your different data objects – Contacts, Accounts, Leads, Opportunities or custom records.  Push the button and a script runs to merge Salesforce.com data with your document template of choice.  Multiple buttons can be created for each document type.

Here is how to make document automation of your Salesforce.com business processes:

  1. Identify repeatable document outputs.  You may be producing a letter of intent, invoice, contract or business proposal.  There is typically a template you work from.  Instead of filling in the blanks, make these templates in Conga Composer.
  2. Design and layout.  Design a template in Word, Excel, PowerPoint or PDf format.  Format your text and ensure the graphics reflect your branding and imaging.
  3. Program your documents.  Your system fields need to be mapped into your document.  Capture these and ensure that they are inserted correctly with the right formatting, spacing and layout.
  4. Implement a button.  Each document needs to have a button or link to trigger the automation.  Ensure your team is aware of this new functionality.  As part of the script, record any document creation and distribution via email, fax or mail within your records as an Activity History.
  5. Increase speed.  Everything can be refined.  Look for fewer steps and drive the process of document assembly and automation faster by cutting out steps and data collection.

The opportunity to cut out cycles in creating your corporate documents increases adoption and enthusiasm for Salesforce.com.  Furthermore, work gets done and is accounted for inside records.  Management can see what has happened and what was sent out.  Manual steps are eliminated and consistency is much higher. It’s a process that can be set up within your own Salesforce.com system.

How could document automation help your team with Salesforce.com?  Feel free to comment below.

Salesforce Lead Segmentation For Marketing Campaigns

Salesforce.com helps you to manage the sales funnel.  As a buyer engages your sales process, they are captured as a Lead.  this information could come from web forms or from your sales team.  Most of your Leads will not be ready to convert to an Opportunity.  This is to be expected and a strategy should be developed for the majority of your leads that are not ready to move forward in your sales process.

If there is not a process for nurturing unready Leads, then you may miss opportunities to engage when the timing is right.  Here is how you can manage your Salesforce.com Leads more effectively:

  • Segment By Ratings.  Lead Rating is a native field.  Customize this to have meaning from the generic “Hot,” “Warm,” and “Cold”.  The readiness of your Lead may be by time (i.e., 60 days, 90 days, etc.) or fit (i.e., Needs Product, Cannot Use, etc.).  This segmentation will be valuable for various marketing buckets.
  • Prepare filtered marketing campaign lists.  This entails creating Campaigns in Salesforce.com for segmentation as well as filtered lists.
  • Integrate a marketing automation system.  This is a system which will sync based on your segmentation.  Triggered email communications over a period of time can be used to nurture Leads and monitor their activities.
  • Send timely and personal communications.  Based on your segmentation criteria, develop regular email marketing that speaks to the concerns and interests of the prospect.  Some may need to be slowly educated.  Others may need to see continual success before they jump.
  • Monitor responsiveness.  If your Leads are engaged with opening emails, visiting your site and consuming your digital content, then create a follow-up task list in Salesforce.com to take appropriate action.

With this kind of strategy to augment your tactical sales process, your team can work with Leads based on nurturing and marketing activities that prepare buyers for the sales conversation.

How can this help your sales process?  Feel free to comment below.

Want help around lead segmentation, get Salesforce consulting advice.

Salesforce Customer Portals

With Salesforce.com, your team is managing information about your customers securely.  You collaborate on the information internally to facilitate sales, marketing and service to your customer base.  The information has great value, yet it relies heavily on you and your team to capture and input details about customer interactions.

Salesforce.com can be extended to be interactive with your customers via a secure customer portal.  This allows for your customers to manage information about themselves via a login and view of shared Salesforce.com information.

Managing Cases

The standard customer portal allows for Case record management via a self-service portal.  When this is set up within your Professional or Salesforce.com Enterprise Edition, users can login to a portal site hosted on your site.  They can create new Case records or manage existing records to see progress and resolution on their issues.  This is valuable for keeping a place that your customer can see historical and current issues with your company.  It provides great value to the business relationship.

Custom Portals

If you want to create more self-service for your customers, then a custom built portal would be required.  Other data objects and fields, either standard or custom, can be shared out.

Depending on your business processes, you may want to share out invoice and accounting information with a customer.  Or you may have project information that is being managed in Salesforce.com that you want to status a customer on and allow for self-service.  They can view current status or input comments to the current project information.

There are many possibilities.  The value-add depends on what is important in your business relationship with your customers and how it might also help increase productivity for your team.

There are likely opportunities which make sense for creating a portal for your customer with the rich information resident in your Salesforce.com system.  Look for the return-on-productivity or return-on-investment to design a customer portal.  Feel free to me on Salesforce Consulting if you would like help.

How would a customer portal be valuable for your business?

3 Salesforce Project Management And Collaboration Tips

It is not uncommon for organizations to customize Salesforce.com for managing projects with their respective customers.  It seems these days that this is an increasingly frequent use case beyond the traditional requirements of using Salesforce for the sales process.  The ability to mold Salesforce.com to your business processes makes it attractive for enabling how your team gets things done both before and after the sale.

In our Salesforce consulting work, we often build requirements via a roadmap and implement custom project management that works for how a specific client does business.  The process often includes the design of a new custom data object which supports the workflow for a project management process.  Once this is set up, a team can now operate from one real-time system.

Here are 3 tips to help your project management process work inside Salesforce.com:

  1. Establish clear data relationships.  Your project management may be a continuation of an existing Opportunity record or it may be a new data object altogether.  The other relationships such as billable time, job costs and relationships need to be customized and related in a way that makes sense to the flow of how you manage projects.  Ensure it is easy to add new information and access how information is viewed to gain a quick grasp of projects.
  2. Ensure task sequencing.  Salesforce.com is a task-based system.  Each person on your team needs to set new tasks for themselves and others.  Once tasks are completed, they need to be closed as part of the activity history.  This keeps a record for yourselves and your customers on what has been done.  The litmus test is that any person should be able to open a project record and know what has been done and what is remaining.
  3. Use reporting for real-time management.  Your reports and dashboards should be set up to manage across all of your projects.  This will give you greater capacity for more projects as you can prioritize workload and monitor how projects are progressing.  Furthermore, your reports can be used to status customers on how their specific project is doing in weekly meetings that help them understand progress, budget and work quality.

With strong leadership and a well-designed system, your system is able to help your team collaborate effectively with greater productivity.  Everyone should be on the same page and moving in the same direction.

There are many other best practices, but focus on these items to further create effective systems in your business and customer experience.

How are you doing project management and what has been your experience with your systems? Feel free to comment below.

Salesforce And Change Management

Salesforce.com has the power to run much of your business operations.  It can be continually customized, integrated and programmed to automate steps in your various business processes.

As long as your requirements are clear and feasible, the work of customizing your system can be accomplished in a relatively straight forward manner.  Aligning your organization to using Salesforce.com becomes the harder challenge as many companies realize.  It is the art of change management.

Change Management

Salesforce.com is a team system.  The information that is captured and accessible for work to get done becomes useful in the context of a process.  Getting software or machines to execute process is easy.  Those can be programmed.  People have habits, agendas, biases and emotion.  If you are seeking to get your team to operate on the same page to increase sales, customer loyalty or brand awareness, these require daily execution and consistent decisions.

When we deal with change management in our Salesforce.com consulting, we adhere to some time-tested practices:

  • Identify a strong internal champion.  This is a person who has influence and can clarify vision across the organization.  It is critical to have someone that is persistent, charismatic and process-oriented.
  • Build a roadmap.  Your Salesforce.com roadmap should inform your company what the blueprint for success looks like.  It needs to take into account what the customer experience should be like, how your people work, the various systems required to get the job done and a vision for the future.
  • Create a parking lot.  This is an area where future requirements can be easily captured.  The most important part of using Salesforce.com is starting.  Getting your team to use the system and minimizing the number of features increases adoption success.  Your team needs a place to park their other nice-to-have, but not essential, requirements.
  • Deliver timely training.  Training your team is ongoing.  One session is not going to get it done.  People need to absorb knowledge, try it out and then own it themselves.  These cycles should be short and repetitive to motivate your team towards the goal of working your processes.
  • Lead with metrics.  What gets measured gets done.  Use real-time reporting to measure specific areas of your business processes.  At the beginning, it may be more about effort than results to reinforce behaviors.  When you are comfortable with metrics that are being consistently achieved, then move on to a bigger goal to frame the work getting done.  Create strong rewards and incentives which help your team focus on what is important.
  • Make culture happen.  New team members will likely be a part of your business story.  They will adopt your process and systems because of your culture.  It is positive peer pressure which helps everyone know what the standards for success are.  Be intentional and lead in this area to create strong momentum.

Change is difficult because it is work for each individual.  The work can be wearisome.  However, with strong leadership and management around the goals you have for your organization, Salesforce success is achievable. If you need help get Salesforce consulting. The help in the process will pay large dividends.

How can you use these practices to help your organization achieve higher levels of Salesforce success?

4 Salesforce Lead Rating Process Tips

Managing inbound leads in Salesforce.com requires a system and process for qualifying prospects.  If you are engaged in team selling, then coordinating data within the Lead record will become a priority.  The goal of a Lead is to be converted into an Opportunity which is tracked as a viable part of the sales pipeline and forecasting.

There may be a person or a team which manages Leads before they become Opportunities.  It could be separate from Account Managers or senior sales team members that work with qualified prospects towards a business deal.  Within your process, be sure to have a clear flow to how Leads are tracked and followed.

Here are 4 Salesforce.com process tips from we have used as Salesforce.com consultants to increase lead flow:

  1. Create meaningful ratings.  The native picklist values are “Hot, Warm and Cold.”  These are likely derivative values and can be easily misconstrued.  A good practice is to work with your team to understand how a Lead moves through their buying decisions.  Find out what the stages that have meaning to your organization are.  Ratings like “Ready,” “Education,” and “Nurtured” are more descript.  Your team has a common language.  Capture it and customize your Salesforce.com system to reflect what is natural and cultural.
  2. Monitor Dashboard information.  If you have a large number of leads over time, ensure you are using a set of Dashboard Reports to monitor the distribution and performance of your team.  This will help you to effectively manage your process and people towards higher levels of success through continual optimization.
  3. Integrate marketing automation.  Marketing automation nurtures your Leads and works with your Salesforce.com system.  Integrate a system which can help to drive your Lead Ratings or provide activity information of your buyers that are happening online.  The information can then be used to update the Lead Ratings or a Lead Score.
  4. Create triggers.  If you are on Salesforce.com Enterprise Edition then you can use Triggers and Workflows to create intelligence from this field to automate next tasks or email communications.  Thus, if a Lead is rated as ready by you or automation built into your Salesforce.com system, you can create a task for a specific salesperson on your team for immediate follow-up.  Timing is critical in our fast-moving economy.  Thus, this would help you engage with speed and precision for a competitive advantage when your Leads are attentive.

Salesforce.com Lead Ratings should be carefully used for a thorough qualification process.  With careful strategy, design and execution, this is a valuable metric within your Lead process for converting more Leads.

What are some ways you are qualifying leads in Salesforce.com?