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.

Salesforce.com Sales Team Alignment

Salespeople by nature are highly individualistic and tactical.  Implementing Salesforce.com can become difficult without buy-in from your team into a system.  After all, that is what this CRM system is about.  It is a system for selling which transcends the individual, though it ultimately benefits the individual salesperson.

What Salespeople Want

Salespeople do not want a CRM system as an end in itself.  However, they will use it if it helps them:

  • Close more deals
  • Be more productive
  • Track their progress
  • Get more sales meetings
  • Help them remember
  • Have freedom

These are the reasons your sales team will use your custom system.  Often when launching, you may experience resistance because they cannot see the connection between this software and what they want.  Managers want something different.

What Managers Want

Managers are bought in because it helps them with the things that help them do their job.  Salesforce.com helps them to:

It is a different set of interests.  Salesforce.com is the ultimate management tool with regards to the things managers want.

There is a disconnect for what appeals to managers and salespeople.  Aligning sales requires a focus and leadership around the things that salespeople care about.  Otherwise, adoption can be hindered from a lack of enthusiasm and usage.

Salesforce.com Is Only Good If…

Salesforce.com is only as good as the data that is put into it and the timing of the data.  Zig Ziglar stated, ““You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want”  In the case of getting what you want – sales adoption – help your sales team get what they want by ensuring the customization of your systems and process are clear, simple and useful.

Build the system as you go.  Avoid developing in a silo.  Salesforce.com is a platform that can be changed ongoing in real-time as your sales team uses it.

Leadership is also required.  All requirements are not necessarily good requirements.  There needs to be a guiding framework and roadmap to keep things simple in design and effective.  Mindlessly adding new fields as you go can encumber adoption as well.

The challenge is creating a system which is desirable to use and adds value to your salespeople.  Great design will do much in the way of helping managers get the information they are seeking.  They can trust Salesforce.com for making decisions and plans.

We have seen our share of sales organizations work through alignment.  If you see a lack of alignment and adoption, then focus on the usability and design of your system before driving a top-down management mandate.  It will serve you well.

How well is your sales team aligned?

 

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 Opportunity Contact Roles

Salesforce.com Opportunity records constitute the building blocks of your sales pipeline and forecasting.  Each deal past, present and future should contain all the relevant information for a first sales opportunity or an upsell opportunity.  Accounts can and should have multiple opportunities associated with it based on each and every deal your team is able to work with prospects and customers.

As the deal moves through its stages, more details are captured including:

  • Customized fields
  • Activity History
  • Open Activities
  • Documents
  • Related Objects
One of the areas which are important to help coordinate team selling is mapping the Opportunity based on Contact Roles.  These are the people in the Account as well as any relevant partners to the deal.  The Opportunity ties together the details of what makes the deal work and how to proceed to win the Opportunity as well as service the customer.
In the Contact Roles section, be sure to use this as part of your Salesforce.com strategy to manage individual Opportunities.  This requires setting up the Contact Roles in your Salesforce.com customization.  Your industry will have its own set of .  Here are some which are relevant:
  • Decision Maker
  • Influencer
  • Partner
  • Legal Counsel
  • Spouse
  • Executive Sponsor
  • Technical Resource
The types of Contact Roles will vary widely.  You can start with an initial setup and expand these as your Opportunities involve more types of people.  The key concept is to capture the types of functions involved with an Opportunity record.  This enables you to see the people that are involved.
After the jobs have been identified, be sure to select the Primary Contact within the list of Contact Roles.  This will help identify who the main person in the engagement for anyone on your team.  Each deal for an Account may have different Primary Contacts depending on what the deal is and which department or focus you are engaging.
Opportunities are focused on a goal – closing and winning a sale.  Knowing the layout of the people involved helps to orient you quickly as well as drive focus on the respective communications and actions necessary to drive the Opportunity.  Taking a quick look at the Contact Roles in an Opportunity record can help keep the relevant sales activities in your sales process top of mind as the names and relationships prompt effective next steps.
How are you using Contact Roles to help close sales?
Need help setting up your sales process? Get Salesforce consulting help.

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?

5 Salesforce.com Process Mapping Tips

Your Salesforce.com system is only as good as your business processes.  If your processes are not well-defined or controlled, then you will only have a giant database, not a system.  There will not be the thrust you were hoping for to power your various parts of your organization.

Process mapping is both strategy and planning.  It is a way to organize how your people and your customers should behave.  Then it is making Salesforce.com do the hard work of powering those described and prescribed processes.

In our Salesforce.com consulting, we work hard on process first and foremost.  Here are some of the things necessary for Salesforce success:

  1. Capture Action Steps. The specific action steps need to be identified within a process.  These become the respective tasks within Salesforce.com that get tracked for completion and setting next steps.
  2. Identify Roles.  People will come and go.  Roles will remain.  Some people play multiple roles.  Process is focused on the specific roles – who does what and when.  Salesforce.com process mapping helps your team to know what the delineations of responsibility look like when your offense is running in full force.
  3. Segment By Stages. Whether you are managing a pipeline of sales leads or a queue of support cases, there is a process these move through.  The stages which constitute progress need to be articulated.
  4. Key Metrics and Reporting. Effective management means having a dashboard of reports of the progress of your processes being executed by your team.  This gives control which is important for driving execution.  A process without measurement is just good intentions.  Active management and engagement comes from knowing what is happening in real-time.
  5. Training And Documentation. Your team is aligned when they do the steps in cadence with your process.  Your leadership via training and documentation needs to be captured and distributed.  As new feedback is attained, you must update in real-time and have ongoing resources to help your team know what to do.

The art of process mapping helps to introduce efficiencies into your business that create levels of automation and predictability.  It is what helps to brand your business and build trust with customers.

Salesforce.com can run various parts of your operations beyond sales.  The integration of your overall processes needs to be first mapped and then translated into customizations of your system to bend to your process ideals.

What does your process look like?

Salesforce.com Customer Options For Success

Being a good Salesforce.com consulting customer boils down to the military’s mantra quote of Thomas Paine:

“Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.”

For that matter, it works for any customer of any service:

Option 1:  Lead

If you know what you are doing and you understand your process and systems thoroughly, then you should lead.  It is the best role.  You can give direction and take responsibility for outcomes.

If you only want to give direction without taking responsibility, then you qualify for Option 3.

Leading is for those who have vision, can articulate a strategy and have made it clear to the entire project team for Salesforce.com implementation that success and failure will be upon your shoulders.

Option 2: Follow

Following means that you realize that someone else has the answers and is the expert.  You defer to their expertise so you can win.  It is the strategy to take when you want the expert to take responsibility and set the strategy.  You may have some of the vision, but getting to the goal is what the expert does.

As you follow, you become enlightened.  There is immense benefit.  We all need guides to places we have not been before.  If we lead when we are unqualified or for the ego trip, then relationships, the goal and the journey will be a failure.  Follow when you hire for expertise.  Hiring is not enough.

Option 3: Get The Hell Out Of The Way

If you are not qualified to lead and you don’t want to follow, then the best way to partner with a Salesforce.com consultant is to get out of the way.  Give them space to help you.  Don’t add extra cycles from trying to control when you are not qualified.

You help the goal in this case by recognizing that you detract rather than add to the goal with your meddling.

What Are You About?

Typically, a Salesforce.com customer is an excellent partner when they pick one of these options.  They are clear because they understand the nature of the partnership with their Salesforce.com consultant.  They are about the goal and nothing less.

It’s your system.  Don’t jeopardize your success by playing the wrong role as a customer or doing none of them.  If you aren’t leading, following or getting out of the way, what are you doing?

Smart Salesforce.com Lead Assignment

Inbound Salesforce.com leads are the lifeblood of your sales process.  How prospects get assigned in Salesforce.com depends on a few factors such as:

  • Your sales team roles.  Is your team divided by industry, geography or another factor altogether?
  • Volume of inbound leads. Dealing with large numbers is different than small numbers.  If your lead generation produces a lot of noise compared to what matters, then the lead assignment rules need to recognize how to create efficiency rather than wasteful time.
  • Response criteria.  What is the response time and quality controls associated with sales response?
  • Load balancing.  Is there a way to assess how to distribute a volume of prospects?
  • Prioritization.  Do certain criteria drive high priority engagements from your sales team?
  • Competitiveness. Does your team work from a performance structure rather than a delegation structure?

These are factors which will create the policies and rules for your lead assignment in Salesforce.com.  Based on the governance of your sales management, customizing or programming Salesforce.com should then be done recognizing the flow of how prospects are managed and assigned.  Furthermore, the management of key metrics around follow-up, responsiveness and lead conversion will be a feedback loop for further refining your rules.

Intelligent Lead Assignment

Once your process rules are established, create the rules with both sequencing and prioritization.  Here are 3 approaches to use depending on the sophistication of your lead management process:

  1. Lead Assignment Rules.  Within the Lead customization setup, the specific wizard will allow you to create the priorities and delegation reflective of your sales process.  Be sure to clarify whether a prospect is assigned to a specific person in a prioritization sequence or within a queue.  The advantage of using the latter is the ability for your team to work from a pooled group of Leads and assign themselves Leads based on their effort and work.  The rules can later be modified.  Use a report to monitor the load balancing and effectiveness and later modify the rules to ensure your sales team is managing leads without losing opportunities.
  2. Apex Triggers. You can create specific programmed triggers from your Lead records which will assign Leads to the right person on your team.  For example, if a field such as “Industry” contains “Manufacturing,” then you can create a trigger for assigning this to a queue or person that manages this type of industry lead.  The triggers are rules which will also initiate upon saving new or existing records in Salesforce.com.  Be sure that these are accounted for in addition to any inbound leads from web forms.
  3. Marketing Automation. If you want the highest level of adaptive record ownership, then marketing automation will be able to score a Lead based on their activities with your content.  This scoring becomes data which can feed the rulesle or Apex Triggers you have already set.
  4. Custom Programming.  Of course, with your Salesforce.com API activated, you can also custom program scripts which will drive further intelligent assignment rules if the above do not suffice for process and strategy you are seeking to implement.

In my Salesforce.com consulting work, I start with process first.  This means getting clear on the business rules, culture and goals which make sense for driving revenue.  The options for enabling this are then discussed to ensure budget, flexibility and optimization are met.

The Lead assignment process is where your sales process first engages prospective customers.  Place the proper focus and rules on this area of your business to ensure you maximize your sales opportunities.

Salesforce.com Change Management

Salesforce.com is a disruptive technology.  It is more than a functional tool that a single user relies on to get things out like an Excel spreadsheet or a Word document.  It is a business system which touches people and process.  Those two elements create great opportunity if you can align your team.  It is also the reason that success with Salesforce.com can be elusive for organizations.  They think it is about software.  It’s ultimately about change management.

Salesforce.com Leadership

Change typically comes from management in an organization.  They want a repeatable process or transparency of execution.  Salesforce.com is a real-time management tool which provides this access for management.  Users adopting a system need a different motivation.  They care about ease of use and productivity.  If a tool slows them down or they are having to do more work then there will be resistance.

In our Salesforce.com consulting work, change management relies heavily on strong leadership.  There has to be a champion that:

  • Understands the goal
  • Is committed to the goal
  • Articulates requirements clearly
  • Has authority
  • Pushes

Weak leadership will create problems.  The status quo and the associated resistance from it has a way of undermining great initiatives and intentions.

Identifying the right champion when implementing Salesforce.com is a crux point.  Be sure to assess and appoint the right champion to work with the technical team.

Process And Clarity

An effective Salesforce.com system reflects good business process.  Your business processes need to be articulated clearly and translated into technical requirements.  This is a repetitive cycle which needs to be managed with extreme clarity.

If your process for managing an inbound lead requires some kind of follow up, the fields, data objects, email templates and data relationships are all impacted from one process step.  Ensure your identified Salesforce.com champion or Salesforce.com consultant can guide the technical implementation process accordingly.

Time And Space

It is better to do a little than a lot.  Part of the art of change management is getting users to use the system as quickly as possible.  Then step back and allow them to drive further change from their adoption.  Too much change will not be retained through training.  Little bits at a time will.

We like to create a knowledge base resource which becomes an anchor for users as they learn new ways of working in Salesforce.com.  This can be updated and is accessible ongoing.  Furthermore, it becomes an asset to not only the users, but any new hires to the organization that need to come up to speed quickly.

Focus On User Success

Success builds success.  Much of Salesforce.com adoption comes from momentum.  Launching is a large milestone which is difficult to push towards.  Leadership, culture and requirements definition and implementation all play a role.  Allowing your users to have space to use Salesforce.com and then hearing new requirements helps drive ownership from management to users.

Be sure that there is a focus on users and their adoption.  Their struggles are opportunities.  Their feedback are new requirements.  Their opinions show passion.

Change and Salesforce.com are coupled.

How has your experience been with change management?

 

Three Business Considerations For Salesforce.com

Salesforce.com is one of many customer relationship management (CRM) systems on the market today.  A simple Google search will reveal the choices which abound.  It can be confusing as you are considering the technology to run your business processes.

In our Salesforce consulting work, many of our customers are seeking advice on whether to choose Salesforce.com or another CRM.  The truth is that there are several systems which will work based on clear requirements around your business process.  Typically, a Salesforce roadmap or Salesforce consulting will help clarify this issue as well.  Multiple software choices can enable the business process which comes from the roadmap.

It is easy to get into a feature comparison between systems.  However, from our work and perspective, the features are abundant.  CRM companies have to be rich in features just to be in the game today.  It is a mature market and the barrier to entry forces vendors to be competitive.

Furthermore, most companies do not utilize the full array of features.  Much like users of Microsoft Word, they use a small subset of what is available.  They use what they need to get things done.  In fact, too many features can be distracting and impede productivity, collaboration and selling.

Where technical analysis is required, we encourage this.  Let’s assume there is parity in features between today’s CRM systems.  Here are three business considerations we would offer:

  1. Salesforce.com is the leader.  The leadership position of a technology is important.  It provides a common platform which has many additional business benefits.  There is not a competitive second option to Facebook.  It is the platform where the world connects socially with friends and fans.  Likewise, Salesforce.com’s scale and user base creates commonality on the journey for business success.  The community around the technology affords a wealth of thought leadership, best practices and consultative advice.  From the user groups around the country to Dreamforce, you have extended support from the community.
  2. The ecosystem to grow with.  When you start, there will be some preliminary requirements which help to structure the system to work the way you need it.  As you and your team use Salesforce.com, there are inevitably new requirements.  You will want new functionality.  The AppExchange contains thousands of third-party applications.  Instead of the old days of custom development of software which was costly and timely, you can access what you need from a marketplace and plug and play.  This is highly strategic for growth.  Apps are available to help you automate more of your business as you use the system.
  3. The platform for development.  As you continue down the growth and adoption path, you may want to integrate with other business systems or websites.  With Salesforce.com Enterprise edition, scripts can be developed which work with the API (application programming interface) to automate your business processes.  This affords you to use Salesforce.com as a platform for integrating your entire business over time.  The opportunity to do this allows you to further leverage mission critical systems in your business to work with your CRM to support multiple processes.  Information can be shared across your business seamlessly this way.

These are some high-level reasons which can help frame your decision for a CRM system in terms of business strategy.  While you might entertain a cheaper option, the hidden costs can surface later as you seek to grow your use of the system without the inherent ecosystem and platform options that Salesforce.com has established as the leader.

We have implemented multiple CRM systems.  The technology is highly similar.  The business factors may be something which has added weight in your decision making.

What are some considerations you have for choosing a CRM system?  Feel free to comment below.