Starting Salesforce the Right Way

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The more consulting jobs I do, the more I come to realize that not all companies adopt Salesforce with a real understanding of what it takes to make the system work. There’s so much more to it than just purchasing the licenses and turning it on. There are additional costs and considerations to help make sure that your company gets the most out of your Salesforce implementation.

If you’re working at a company that’s thinking about adopting Salesforce, this post is for you. I’m going to list some of the most common (and costly) mistakes that I’ve seen companies make when implementing Salesforce for the first time. These are things that consultants like me routinely get called in to fix, and that could easily be prevented by knowing what to look out for.

Put Someone In Charge

All of my other points are going to relate back to this, so I’m going to put it first, and I’m going to put it boldly: You need a Salesforce Administrator. This is a complex and living system, and it’s one that everyone is using. I’ve seen more than a few scenarios where many users, or even a majority of users, were given administrator power in the system. These people then proceeded to make configurations and changes to solve their own local issues that had company-wide effects. What seems like the easy option of letting everybody build to suit their own needs ends up turning into a classic situation of too many cooks in the kitchen.

The solution to this is simple: Have a Salesforce Administrator. You can select someone internally. You can hire someone new to the company. If you’re a large enough company you may even want more than one. But have either a single person or a small handful of people who are responsible for managing Salesforce. Make it part of their job description. Take administrator powers away from everyone, and I mean everyone, who isn’t an Admin. (Let’s be honest, your CEO doesn’t really need the ability to create custom objects.) Have other users come to the Admin when they want changes made in the system.

While you’re at it, I highly recommend sending your Admin or Admins to training. I’m going to write a more detailed blog post about this later, but the short version is this: $4,000 for the Administrator class is a small price to pay for ensuring your CRM is being run correctly.

Having a single centralized Administrator helps every part of the system. It ensures that the design and configuration is consistent. It lets people know who to talk to when they have questions or problems. It gives the whole company the confidence and security of knowing that there’s someone out there whose job is to make Salesforce work.

Take the Time to Build Correctly

Here’s another thing that I find is commonly lacking from new Salesforce implementations. Salesforce works great out of the box, but it almost never works correctly out of the box. How could it? The way your company does business is unique to your company, and any tool you use to help you is going to need at least some customization to properly suit your needs.

Before you release Salesforce to your company, take the time to evaluate what you’re going to be doing with the system. Then take the time to build things correctly and coherently. I’ve seen far too many systems that have reached their current state by snowballing through the company, picking up this and that bit of disparate functionality along the way, until the records are flooded with fields most people don’t use and automations are so complicated they may be undoing themselves without key stakeholders even knowing it.

I understand that Salesforce isn’t a small investment for a company to make. Each Enterprise Edition license costs you $1,500/year, and you want to see a return on that. But you only get one chance at a first impression, and if your users don’t think your system is usable and trustworthy from day one, you’ll end up spending a lot of time just trying to get them back in the door. Making sure the system works right the first time is a powerful insurance against this.

Launching and Training

This last point breaks down into two parts, one of which becomes a perpetual issue. Getting Salesforce for your company is a Big Deal. Don’t be afraid to hype it a bit. Don’t just give people licenses and say “here you go.” Make an event out of it. Make sure people know that this is a change in the way things are done, and get them on board.

But really, the launch date shouldn’t be coming as a surprise to anyone. Because before you let people into your shiny new system, you need to make sure they know their way around. Inconsistent training is a serious problem for a lot of companies. Users don’t know how to use Salesforce, or what sorts of things they should be keeping track of in Salesforce, or how their supervisors will be reporting on their activities in Salesforce, and so on. Your staff is probably already pretty busy. It’s not fair to expect them to teach themselves how to use this system to its full extent, and a lack of training makes it nearly impossible to hold staff to usage standards in the system.

Training isn’t a one-time thing, either. Everyone who is ever going to use your system should be trained on it. That means every time you bring someone new on staff, there needs to be a training session for them. And as your processes and implementation change, you need to continue communicating this out to your users. And Salesforce updates with a new release every 4 months. Make sure you have a plan in place to keep your users up to speed on the system.

Help is Available

If this sounds like a lot to take on, that’s because it is. Deploying and maintaining a Salesforce implementation requires work. Not an unmanageable amount by any means, but enough that it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for. And if you want help to make sure you’re doing it the right way, there are Salesforce Consultants like us who are happy to assist.

The moral of this whole story is this: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Making sure that you get your Salesforce implementation off to the right start can mean that you don’t need more help down the road. And building it right is always going to be less work than fixing it later.

Do you need help implementing Salesforce? Have any other thoughts or suggestions for getting an implementation off to a good start? Leave us a note in the comments below, or feel free to get in touch via social media.

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