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.

Build Something: Integrate Technologies For Agility

IntegrateBuilding something from scratch used to be necessary.  When mass production and interchangeable parts took root and the industrial age was spawned, we integrated hardware.  This was an effective way to get to the goal instead of fretting about each nut, bolt and circuit.

We moved this thinking to the white collar office space and lined up paper and information to flow with efficiency.  Working in large teams with interchangeable data and information systems rewarded us with speedy production and greater levels of management and control.

The great thing about the collective work in the new economy is that fundamental technologies do not have to be built.  They merely need to be assembled.  The innovator’s job is less focused on tool making and can instead be channeled to creativity, strategy and getting things done.

Integration And Innovation

If you are seeking to bring a new product or service to market, here are some important strategies so you do not have to reinvent the proverbial wheel:

  • Make good deals.  You are wanting to bring other people’s technologies to contribute to an end goal of your design.  Be sure that the licensing, software, pricing and overall deal are not risk to what you build later. If HP has to worry about whether its print engines are going to be available for production in a year, it’s a risk.
  • Ensure continuity. Your enabling technologies should be viable ongoing without surprise.  The safe bet is to pick the winner in the category. Whether it is a chip maker, motor manufacturer or software developer, make sure there are contingencies and a plan for continuity to serve your system and customers.
  • Accommodate customization. If you can choose technologies which are open as a platform, it allows for customizations later. This can be an API or editing procedure. Getting a system to work for your goal may mean tweaking a small part. Be sure the small part is easy to access and works robustly.
  • Reinforce your brand. Your brand is what the customer experiences. Your enabling technologies should promote your brand, nothing less. Licensing, white labels and business agreements can all reinforce your brand.

Nothing will last as designed. Things change quickly and if you design your systems with change in mind, you can remain agile as new demands arise.

When I work with entrepreneurs or organizations on building systems, these are important strategies which create a robust market offering.  I hope they help you as well in building something great we can all benefit from.

What do you think?

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 AppExchange And The Power Of Platforms

Salesforce announced over a million installs of Apps from the AppExchange recently.  This is a powerful milestone reinforcing the platform which Salesforce.com has become.  To get to the goal of automating business processes, third-party applications can be tried and integrated for a more complete solution.  Business users get the same benefits of a complete ecosystem like Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market.  Different apps can help solve specific problems or introduce functionality beyond the core Salesforce.com standard offering.

In our Salesforce consulting work, the AppExchange is a vital place to help meet our client requirements.  Here is how we tend to use the AppExchange to solve problems:

  1. Requirements.  We have regular meetings or receive requests from our clients.  Listening carefully and providing constructive feedback is vital.  We transform requests into specific deliverables for our team.
  2. Research.  Our Salesforce consultants have many tried and true approaches to Salesforce.com customization.  If we can create triggers, workflows or customizations to the system, these are approached first.  However, we also create tasks for ourselves to research what is available in the AppExchange.
  3. Testing.  There are systemic issues to always manage in our client environments.  We test integrations of any third-party products in our sandbox developer environment to ensure there are not any unforeseen impacts to the system.
  4. Implementation.  When we feel comfortable with the solution, we integrate this into the live system.  There is a process with the integration based on the third-party software vendor package.  Typically additional data objects will be introduced.  We have to be mindful of limitations with Professional edition that may not be there with Enterprise Edition as well.
  5. Review And Usage.  We set up process steps, training and documentation for our clients to use with the new AppExchange product.  They take care of their billing with the vendor after they use it during a trial period.  We help them adopt new steps in their business process to use with their team live, via video and written documentation.

Over the course of time, it is not uncommon for our clients to continually build upon their Salesforce.com platform.  Multiple applications working together to drive a process or set of processes on top of Salesforce.com can automate a business and a beautiful and cohesive way.

You can also learn what apps might supercharge your own sales process.

What are some of the apps you are running on Salesforce.com?

Customization For Personalized Sales Connections

Salesforce.com has an interesting article on the impact of data and customization for the personalized marketing experience.  As buyers, we experience this from world-class online merchants and companies that work relentlessly to provide a personalized experience.  This happens when we peruse, get educated and buy.  Our online profiles are tracked and used for presenting relevant offers that are tailored to us personally.

For b2b sales which tracks engagement with your buyers in Salesforce.com, customizing your system to create a personalized experience helps your sales team be on message.  Your marketing team can use information to continually position the message and segment your database to drive in new leads or increase buyer readiness.

The data which sales collects and marketing harnesses as well as vice-versa can serve as a powerful feedback loop to drive lead conversion.  Customizing Salesforce.com should be implemented with this feedback loop in mind.  Here are some best practices for your customization which can help drive this lead generation and lead conversion process:

  1. Categorize By Product Interest.  Within your sales qualification processes, your team can capture information on product or service interest.  These picklists along with related granular information can be used in reporting with marketing to create campaigns that are automated and triggered in real-time or on a periodic basis for events and buying cycles.
  2. Segment By Authority.  Each lead and contact in Salesforce.com has a relationship in the decision making process.  Those with decision making authority versus business influence or technical influence can be segmented and delivered different marketing materials based on their agendas and interest.  A stream of technical data might be more relevant for one audience whereas ROI information and change management practices might be appropriate for senior managers.
  3. Assign lead scoring.   Whether you use a marketing automation system or assess lead readiness with salespeople, create a customized way of scoring leads for their readiness to buy.  Their activities and engagement with your content would be a key metric.  Furthermore, their timing and urgency may be another.  As marketing drives in more data to Salesforce.com allow your sales team to act respectively with the most ready leads.
As your team is able to cull through the noise and nurture leads by collecting relevant data as part of your feedback loop, your company’s personal treatment of your leads creates sales conversations.  You will know what your buyer wants and when they are ready.  Your sales team can be engaged in continually refining their approach to the conversations and providing personalized service as they court your buyers.
How are you organizing your Salesforce.com data to make personal sales connections?
Need help customizing Salesforce? Connect with us for Salesforce consulting help.

4 Salesforce Implementation Obstacles

Our Salesforce.com consulting clients vary in how they do business and with this comes implementation successes and obstacles in our many stories.  Though Salesforce.com is a system which can automate many processes, many things have to come together to make it successful in your business.

From our vantage point we have seen some obstacles to implementation that are worth noting as you are seeking to grow your business.  Consider the following:

1. Lack Of Salesforce.com Design

You can build your system field by field and keep throwing requirements together as you go along.  You may end up putting pieces on the board for the puzzle at the expense of truly building a complete picture.

Your Salesforce.com system should have an overarching strategy supported by its design.  The interdependencies of your system will reveal poor design over time.  Furthermore, as you add more complexity, you create more work for your team.  Now there are more fields that need to be filled out for every interaction.  The details should be considered for their merit and the design should reflect an integrated approach with the simplest path possible.  Good design does this.  There is such a thing as overengineering and creating a lack of adoption from a lack of motivation.

2. Loss Of Momentum

Launching Salesforce.com is a rigorous push towards a goal.  There is a lot of hard work to make it work in your organization.  When there are stop and go type of activities, then enthusiasm can wane and requirements can get lost quickly.  Momentum is critical for implementation.  Salesforce.com is as much a people and organizational management issue as it is technology which should bend to your processes.

Avoid momentum loss by being responsive to generating and delivering requirements.  Within the scope of work to make Salesforce.com work, it is important to keep accountability with everyone involved.  Anyone that does not do their part of customization, development, testing, validation and training can bottleneck the entire implementation process.

3. Fear Of Failure

Salesforce.com started a revolution.  Now instead of the old days of having to be perfect in our requirements, we can be flexible and fail quickly.  The reason is that Salesforce.com affords iteration quickly.  It is less about perfect software coding and more about clear business process thinking.  If you are unclear on your thinking, this shows up.  However, that is ok.  You can change things quickly.

It is amazing how many people are still focused on perfection.  It is costly in this age of speed.  It is better to put things into play and get feedback quickly.  You can change them in Salesforce.com to get to perfection after your plans meet reality.

A great way to do this is to launch and watch how users are working in the system within your process.  If they tend to not use features, have a different way of doing things or complain about how things work, then changing Salesforce.com with high responsiveness can bring delight, buy-in and eventual perfection.  Using Salesforce.com is the key issue.  Your users and your customers will help you shape it.  Having a talented implementation team will help you get perfect over time.

4. Complex Not Simple

Salesforce.com solves many problems.  If you presume one solution that is more complex than another, then you have embedded those options into your business.  For example, if you choose a route of custom developing a document merging system rather than using Conga Composer, then your team has to live with the results.  The choice is less than optimal.

Obstacles in a lack of sound advice or knowledge can take you down a pathway which is not only inefficient but cumbersome and a deterrent to adoption.

Simple means there is awareness of options and elegance in the design approach.  Instead of 4 fields, you opt for one that makes sense and gets to the goal.  If there are endless data trails you will never look at then the work over time of your users is for naught if there is not analysis and action behind their efforts.  Think simple.  There is likely a solution already built which integrates that can be easily plugged in or pulled if it doesn’t work.

Push Through The Obstacles

Salesforce success is not an elusive goal.  It is an obstacle which needs to be pushed through with determination, leadership and change management.  If you have weak leadership and management then the obstacles will be daunting.  However, if you are clear on the goal and collaborative then you can push through the various obstacles which inevitably come up when dealing with people, process and systems.

Think about thes 4 key obstacles and commit to leading through the changes in order to make Salesforce.com work in your organization.

What obstacles are you facing?

 

Salesforce Lead Qualification

If your sales process depends on qualifying leads, then using Lead records to manage a Lead pipeline would be strategic for ensuring a continuous pipeline.  Ensuring a management process for your Lead management will ensure that your sales team is spending their time on high probability sales.

However, if your process is not contingent on a large flow of inbound marketing prospects, then you may want to structure your Salesforce.com system to capture Opportunities immediately to work.  This would be the case for a situation where there is a long sales cycle, few prospects and a high dollar transaction.

Let’s take a look at the opposite situation: short sales cycles, many prospects and lower dollar transactions.

Salesforce.com Lead Management

If you sell something like software subscriptions, online training modules or a digital product, you can easily generate prospects from a trial offer or giving something of value first.  Your site visitors would exchange contact information for your value offering.  Ideally, you might have a marketing automation system to help further nurture and qualify the best prospects.  In conjunction with this system, the tracking of prospects would be primarily around the Lead Status picklist field in Salesforce.com.

The values in the Lead Status field should be set up much like Opportunity Stages.  You might have a sales qualification team that works with pre-qualified Leads.  Their job is as follows:

  1. Follow up on Leads that have not been contacted.
  2. Assess their buying criteria based on specific qualification criteria:
    1. Their budget
    2. Their authority
    3. Their need
    4. Their timeframe
  3. Assign the Lead Status based on the qualification criteria scorecard
  4. Set the next step:
    1. A follow-up Activity date
    2. Lead Unqualified status
    3. Convert the Lead to an Opportunity for senior sales members

Your sales process depends on clear definition of the Lead qualification criteria and management by your team.  A marketing automation system can set the Lead Status criteria and trigger Tasks for your pre-qualification team when the prospect is ready to be contacted as well.

As each of the Lead Status values are set, a report a filtered view of all Active Leads should be generated to monitor real-time information of the Lead pipeline.  This gives you effective management control of your front end sales process.

Team selling becomes much more effective with a qualification process that is managed well in Salesforce.com.  The process and strategy for driving this result pays large dividends as you segment your inbound marketing leads and focus them specifically for the ensuing sales conversation.

Having the right strategy and approach to your Salesforce system will increase your opportunities for success. Everyone’s sales process will be different and you can get help designing yours effectively with Salesforce consulting help.

How do you manage your lead qualification?

3 Salesforce Documents Collaboration Tips

Salesforce.com Documents is an integral part of the overall system which your organization can use to align your team’s processes and execution.  Security and sharing are part of the Salesforce Documents object structure.  Making this part of how you get business should consider these strategies:

  1. Organize By Folders. As you store resources for various parts of your organizations, use folders to store information.  Your support team may need different items than your sales team.  Marketing may need more graphics.  Be sure to tag each item so that your team can find items easily.  Having items which are organized but unused makes your efforts useless.  Think about how people will find what they are looking for and organize accordingly.
  2. Create Custom Email Templates. Associate your respective files with email templates that attach the documents to outbound standard communications.  This increases speed and productivity as your team is able to send items to prospects and customers such as tip sheets, marketing materials, support steps or investment reports.  As you update the respective files in the Salesforce.com Documents record, the association will be retained across your email templates.  Outbound communications from your team will always remain current this way.  Be sure to use footnotes that show the version number or updated date to help everyone know the last revision.  Mass email can be used strategically with integrated Documents attached as well to ready personalized email templates.
  3. Manage Your File Sizes. You have a limit to your file storage sizes.  If you are storing pdf files, then compress these.  This can be done even further from the original in many cases.  Manage your data storage by eliminating unused files and keeping things lean.  Your document storage limits can be seen in the Salesforce.com Setup area.  If you are managing large amounts of data in Salesforce.com, there are a few other options to manage your data usage:
    1. Attach Google Docs. Use an integrated Google Docs approach to use Google’s storage via web documents.
    2. Integrate A Cloud Document Management System. A full document management system with check-out and check-in privileges with revision controls and a data structure may be more suitable.  There are a variety on the market which we implement.  Be sure to understand the processes in your company and get the right system.
    3. Buy more Salesforce.com Storage. There is a monthly fee which you can add to increase your storage limits.

Salesforce.com Documents work as an integrated part of resources internally for your team’s knowledge sharing or externally to communicate with customers, partners and prospects.  Avoid allowing this data object from being disorganized or without its strategic potential.  Its relationship to your email templates and other data needs to be considered and managed within the context of well-designed Salesforce.com process and a Salesforce.com Roadmap. Or get Salesforce consulting help to clarify your own approach.

How are you using your Salesforce.com Documents?

Salesforce Mass Email Strategies

Salesforce.com at its basic level is a one-to-one customer focused system.  You can manage individual relationships and have direct context, history and action steps for future steps.

The tactical and personal handling of Leads, Contacts and Opportunities allow for specific handling of your sales or service process.

On a mass scale, marketing may have other systems which vary such as marketing automation, email marketing, contest marketing or analytics systems.  The vantage point in these systems are broader and focus on trends across the masses.  We typically integrate these other marketing systems to create a 360 degree view of customers.  Marketing wants to see the results of demand generation to sales.  Sales wants to see relevant information related to specific deals and prospective customers they are working with to help them close deals.

While Salesforce.com does not position itself for email marketing and marketing automation, there are customizable email templates which can foster speed and productivity in the sales cycle.  These email templates can be further leveraged to create smaller scale marketing, sales or support communications for your database using Mass Email Contacts or Mass Email Leads functions inside of the respective Contacts and Leads objects area.

Here are some ways to use this to drive demand, customer loyalty and revenue using this powerful Salesforce.com feature:

  1. Create a targeted sales event ongoing. If you have a filter on Leads and Contacts that have a criteria such as a white paper download or past webinar attendee, you can segment these people and regularly send a specific call-to-action email template that is personalized.  Move people in and out of this list.
  2. Send a value message weekly. You are in the business of solving a problem. Get involved with your customers’ problems and share success stories or advice using your solution to solve the problem.  Keep a short segmented list to send this mass email template to.
  3. Provide timely industry news. For selected contacts, keep the segmentation to use an ongoing email template which is updated to provide relevant news that helps your customers stay aware of what is happening.  Make it concise and simple.  Create links to read more so the email is not packed too densely.
  4. Provide relevant offers. Segment your Leads and Contacts and send specific mass emails by lists.  Each email can have an updated sales offer that is relevant to their Salesforce.com record criteria based on their buyer profile or interest.  Discounts or special offers can be used for limited time sales.
  5. Check in periodically. Construct your email template to have a personalized feeling with relevant Salesforce.com merge fields.  Send a short message to check in monthly or quarterly with key customers and let them know you are thinking of them.  Provide something of value.  Make it feel personal, not mass.

My Salesforce consulting customers have many different ways they connect with the Leads and Contacts.  Creating a process and system which can be executed regularly to produce results without the labor intensity of one-to-one touch approaches creates leverage for the salesperson’s productivity.

Your own strategies need to be thought through.  The timing, segmentation and personalization of the mass email mechanism in Salesforce.com can become an integral part of your sales and marketing system in this way.

What are some ways you would like to touch your customers using mass email that is personalized?

 


Salesforce In Real-Time

The point of having Salesforce.com run your business operations is to make decisions and drive actions in real-time.  A login from anywhere in the cloud enables your team to be plugged into the workflow and intelligence of your systems and processes, the backbone of a company.  Bring in any new person and they can execute your offense within Salesforce.com if your processes are controlled and align your team.

To know what is happening, your ability to be plugged into your team’s pipelines, service, or operations a click or login away.  Here is how to ensure you are operating in real-time with your team in Salesforce.com that I have learned in my Salesforce consulting work:

1. Manage By Dashboard Metrics

What you measure gets done.  If your team understands that you are monitoring data in real-time from specific metrics in your reports and dashboards then this reinforces their behaviors towards the actions you want them to focus on.  Be sure to have well-defined metrics that matter on a real-time basis.  This can be anything leads/day/person to completed tasks by person per day.  Ensure your reports and metrics account for your revenue, loyalty and marketing goals.  The right behaviors will follow.

2. Integrate Website Metrics

If your Salesforce.com API is enabled, then your website metrics need to feed Lead and Contact records to monitor behaviors.  This helps to set up your sales response appropriately.  This requires custom software development to drive the right data with the right scheduling.

3. Measure Activities

Every task needs to be assigned and every activity needs to be recorded to drive the fidelity of Salesforce.com as a reliable data source.  Each person who has a conversation or performs an action with an Account, Lead, Contact or Opportunity needs to log this.  By so doing, others on the team can count on the temperature of your relationships and act accordingly.

4. Capture Integration Activities

Any custom or standard software that integrates with your Salesforce.com system likely logs activities.  These are powerful indicators of what is happening as your Leads and Contacts interact with marketing, proposals, signed documents, or the array of other third-party AppExchange software integration options.  Ensure that your integrations are creating the real-time picture of what your customers, prospects and partners are doing with your interactions.

Better Judgment And Actions

We live in a real-time world.  If your organization is using Salesforce.com and your applications are tightly integrated, then your team should know when to act and what to decide.  This helps create an interactive experience with your customers and prospects.  Salesforce success depends on setting up your people for timeliness of information to act as well as providing a way to act in real-time.

How is your organization doing in real-time?  Feel free to comment.