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.

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 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 Mass Email Leads Strategy

Mass email of Salesforce.com Leads can be effective for a salesperson or marketing team to connect with Leads in your pipeline.  Depending on how your marketing funnel works and lead generation, there are strategic opportunities to take advantage of the Salesforce.com mass email leads function.

More details of how to use the mass email leads function can be found here.  Assuming you know the mechanics, here is how to drive productivity in your sales process:

  • Create a value content offering.  Your email template should be personalized with the proper merge fields.  Segment your leads based on their Lead Status and for those that are not converted and are seeking more information, send a special pdf document attached to your email template.  This will stir the pot in your lead funnel.
  • Monitor a report of mass email opens.  From your segmented mass email effort, look for those leads that are opening the email multiple times.  Prioritize the list.  These are people telling you they are interested and are engaging the content.
  • Mass email a higher value offering.  Within a day or two, identify the list of interested leads and follow up with another segmented mass email.  Invite them to something that is a natural next step such as a special webinar, download or consultation.  Ensure the value is high and worthwhile for them to raise their hand.  Ensure the email feels personal, not mass.
  • Use digital body language as call lists.  With your mass email lists, you can extend on your process.  Those leads that are interacting with your value may warrant a phone call.  Use your list as a call list for an added touchpoint in the sales cycle.

The key is to personalize your message just as you would send a personal email to someone and ensure that the value you are offering is helping, not selling.  Helping means that you are in tune with where the lead is at in the sales process and engaging accordingly.

Setting up this process using Salesforce.com Mass Email Leads function can act as a repeatable process that can be fine tuned as your salespeople gather more information from the front lines.  Save time and engage the highest priority leads. Find out how to implement this also with Salesforce consulting for your business.

How can this help your sales process?

Salesforce Success Is Continuous

Salesforce.com Success depends heavily on the approach, leadership and mindset of the team adopting the system.  Having helped organizations become successful with Salesforce.com over thousands of hours of up front and personal work, it is obvious that those who succeed have a different mindset from those who get stuck or never get started.  It starts with an understanding of the kinds of systems which exist today:

  1. Convenient Systems: These work as is out of the box.  The software vendor prescribes the workflow and features by assimilating the best practices and requirements of the masses.  The benefit is that this system is ready to go and can guide you to execute quickly.  The downside is that it is hard to change it for your specific workflow.
  2. Customized Systems: You can pay for custom development to execute your business processes specifically.  This was typical of older approaches to support businesses.  The benefit is that the system works exactly for your business.  The downside is that it is expensive and changes take longer from inherent development cycles applied.  It’s important that you can articulate your requirements precisely.
  3. Continuous Systems: This is what makes Salesforce.com the predominant choice of thousands of businesses.  The system can continually be modified and implemented.  It is inexpensive to drive change.  This is strategic in an economy where the only sure thing is change.  Your requirements can be less rigid and more iterative.

In a continuous system, it is important to implement, launch and drive feedback.  Success depends on use and iteration.  Focusing on system perfection is elusive and unrealistic.  Perfect execution, however, is achievable once a framework and rules for engagement are set up.

Your team’s success relies on a commitment to the journey of continual refinement.  Ensure there is a process for iterating and that change is not merely piecemeal.  It must be systemic in thought and design to avoid overengineering your Salesforce.com system or exasperating your team in their use of the system.

Adopt a continuous mindset and the long view. As your business is never done being refined, your mission critical software enabling your business remains art in motion.

Want to learn how to become successful realistically over time? Click here for Salesforce Consulting help.

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?