Adapt Your Process to Salesforce? Or have Salesforce Adapt to you?

A common refrain long heard among many a sales organization – we don’t want to change our processes just to fit Salesforce. We should be able to do what we’ve always been doing – Salesforce should yield to us.

So, is this the right approach?

Well… yes. Sort of.

Salesforce Manages Process

Listen – here’s what Salesforce, at its core, is all about. It automates business process. Salesforce works wonders when it is adapted to meet your organization’s established business (or sales) processes. Configuring Salesforce to reflect the way your business runs is the ultimate way to get value out of this CRM tool – provided that two conditions are met.

  1. That your business process is a sound one and is demonstratably effective.
  2. That you respect the basic architecture of Salesforce and utilize standard objects as they were designed.

We’ve worked with a number of clients over the years that failed to get the maximum value out of Salesforce because they weren’t prepared to follow either Rule 1 or Rule 2. In fact, using Salesforce became a drain on their business because they didn’t take into account the fact that certain conditions must exist.

Listen – Salesforce is a great tool. But if your business process is fundamentally flawed, then no amount of proper configuration in Salesforce is going to fix that. Although it likely to help you come to that determination sooner.

An example – cold calling. Years ago, before social media and electronic marketing, cold calling was considered a necessary, if not altogether, desired, selling activity. Now, while there are still a few leaders left that would argue that cold calling is still a useful way to generate new business opportunities, most savvy sales and marketing departments have moved beyond tying up their salespeople’s time with such a high-intensity, expensive, time consuming, but low outcome approach. So, understanding the amount of effort required to conduct an activity like cold calling, and measuring its effectiveness against other marketing approaches, while using Salesforce to track the results, is one way to employ Salesforce to understand the impact of various selling activities. But if that data strongly suggests that the amount of effort and expense associated with that business process is not yielding the desired results, then it’s time to re-think how you’re conducting business. Salesforce may have uncovered the fly in the ointment, but on its own, it’s not going to be able to fix it.


Use Salesforce the Way it was Designed

Which leads us to Rule #2. Yes, it is true that you should configure Salesforce to match the way your business works, and your sales team sells – again – providing it is the best way to do things at this time. But that does mean you can just use Salesforce freely, completely the way you want to, without following any of the basic rules. Absolutely not.

As one of my esteemed colleagues put it – just because a hammer is a useful tool and you’re very comfortable using a hammer, it doesn’t mean you’d use it to take the lug nuts off of your car – even if it ultimately did the job. Just like the hammer, you need to use Salesforce in the way that it was intended, and I’ll highlight this with two very current examples taken from the field with two of our real-life clients.

Let your Sales Team Convert Leads, NOT Marketing!

Client 1 wants desperately to make Salesforce work for them but is struggling trying to get there. It’s a small sales team – 5 reps, with one National Sales Manager. There are also two ‘marketing’ support people who vet incoming Leads. They have a very strong Lead generation machine and hence the two inside people are quite busy. When the inside salespeople are able to properly qualify the Lead, the process is the to convert the Lead into an Account, Contact and Opportunity, and then turn over to the sales rep. The challenge is what they consider to be ‘qualification’.

As it turns out, even the slightest hint of interest from a prospect – say completing a form on a website – gets qualified and converted into an Opportunity. This then leads to each sales rep having a very large number of what this company considers “opportunities” even though no one has even spoken to the prospect. The sales people now have a number of “Opportunities” in Salesforce where they have no real vested interest in pursuing, as many of them aren’t really true opportunities at all.

When we spoke with the client and asked them their objectives for improving Salesforce, they mentioned that they wanted a more robust and accurate forecast, and they wanted to improve the ‘negative’ energy associated with Salesforce. Unbeknownst to them, their process of converting Leads and sending Opportunities to salespeople who had never spoken to the prospect was a major contributor to these two issues. With so many Opportunities in Salesforce, that really weren’t Opportunities at all, the pipeline, and ultimately the forecast, was largely inaccurate.  And secondly, the reps were now tasked with maintaining Opportunities that they never had a say in, meaning adjusting the close date and the amount to keep them current, when in fact, there was no sense that this prospect would ever even speak with them, let alone buy from them. Hence the reps were just bombarded by more meaningless administration and expected to answer to opportunities that they had no say in creating to begin with.

Our recommendation and solution was simple. First, we helped to determine the Lead vetting process and then decide on proper Lead statuses. We had the inside salespeople create three categories of Leads – Hot (for strong interest – move on this now), Warm (for medium interest, move on it, but don’t anticipate immediate results) and Cold (no interest at this point, save for later). The Hot and Warm Leads get immediately transferred to the reps, and the Cold Leads stay with the inside team to be nurtured with further marketing campaigns. Interestingly, these Lead Ratings are standard in Salesforce, and yet the client had removed them, when all along they would prove to be very helpful to their process.

The key here is that the Leads are transferred to the reps, and NOT Opportunities. This way the rep will be able to decide if the Lead is truly an Opportunity or not. In this instance, far less Opportunities are ever created, and the rep has a much more vested interest in keeping their Opportunities current, given they are the ones who’ve committed to them being an Opportunity in the first place. Already, the pipeline and the forecast are showing vast improvements in accuracy, and while it’s still too early to say if we’ve removed the ‘negative’ energy around Salesforce, the initial reactions from the salespeople were very positive.

In this case, they were still able to use Salesforce in a way that reflected their sales processes. But by respecting the fundamental architecture of Salesforce and leveraging it the way it was meant to be used, advanced their goals much further and faster than by trying to use it their own way.

Salesforce is NOT Dynamics. So Don’t Try and Use it that way!

Client 2 faced an altogether different sort of problem. They had decided to move away from Dynamics, the Microsoft CRM platform, and transition over to Salesforce. They were particularly interested in the Salesforce mobile app, and they just felt that the mobile solution with Salesforce gave it an edge that Dynamics just could not meet. In fact, they actually preferred some of the other features of Dynamics over Salesforce, but ultimately decided that Salesforce was the better option for the way their sales teams work.

But, apparently, they loved Dynamics a little too much. Instead of setting up Salesforce to do the things that it does best, they basically copied the Dynamics framework and mimicked it within Salesforce! To compound the issue, it was my observation (although the client disagreed) that they had not even set up Dynamics all that well. For instance, there were a ton of fields on the Account record. When I interviewed a number of the salespeople and managers as to the meaning behind many of these fields, no one could tell me what they were for, or were even aware that they were there. So now they were taking one (poorly implemented) CRM system and copying it to their brand new Salesforce system to replicate what they first system was doing. (I’m almost crying as I write this.) So now Salesforce has all these fields that no one knows what to do with. On top of that, they opted to use the Account record to track the sales pipeline and put a selling ‘status’ field on the Account while completely ignoring Opportunities. They created a custom object for a second and third location of a company (for branch offices) rather than using the native functionality of Accounts. I could go on and on, but it just hurts too much to write.

It was very sad to see this all happen. A system like Salesforce which really was ideally suited to run many of their sales processes was re-worked to do all the things a competitor’s CRM was built to do. We did have less success – so far – in helping this client get to where they should be. Perhaps, over time, when their teams become frustrated with Salesforce, like the aforementioned Client 1 did, they’ll call us back again and look to us to help them remove the ‘negative’ energy around Salesforce that I highly suspect they’ll encounter.  But to think of the extraordinary waste of time, money and productivity that they’ll go through to get to the point of realizing that Salesforce just isn’t doing what they want it to, is just sad.

“This training was excellent. Mark was a great trainer and I have made this known to my manager. I have even suggested they use him to train the business. I believe this would be very helpful to them and give them a better understanding of how the application works.”

Bridgette Lomax
Business Analyst, Blue Cross/Blue Shield

Talk to Salesforce training

Remember, Salesforce is Just a Tool

At the end of the day, Salesforce is simply a tool. A tool that is designed to take your existing business/sales processes, and embed them within its framework. Salesforce on its own won’t make salespeople sell more. Every company should have a framework for how it wants to treat Leads and Opportunities prior to setting up a CRM. It is the job of the CRM (Salesforce, or any other) to take these rules, and provide and simple and effective tool to automate it and make the data easily accessible to everyone. And Salesforce does that just about as well as anything out there.