There’s a section in Salesforce entirely reserved to keep track of what your sales team is doing. Conveniently enough, it’s known as Activities. Unfortunately, for many teams, it is widely under-utilized. Part of this, no doubt, stems from the reason that the proper application of Salesforce Activity Management is widely misunderstood. Another reason is that many salespeople just simply can’t be bothered to log activity into a CRM, or aren’t sure which activities to log and which to omit. And yet another key reason that salespeople won’t log activities is that they fear being micromanaged from above. Interestingly this same fear is often shared at the leadership level, as they don’t want to be perceived as micromanagers. But none of these reasons, frankly, hold much water. And in fact, with a relatively short planning session and training program, Salesforce can be set up to really deliver outstanding returns in terms of how you run your sales team.
This article is all about solving for the first issue, the fact that many users of Salesforce simply don’t understand how Salesforce Activities work.
A Comprehensive Guide to Salesforce Activities
Activity Management in Salesforce Lightning is, in all honesty, surprisingly simple – once you know which activities are included, and how each of them work. First, what activities are we working with? Well, there’s exactly four. That’s it. Two of them are reserved for activities in the future, i.e. that are going to happen, and two of them are for activities in the past, i.e. they’ve already happened.
So, for the two that are going to happen, here they are;
- New Task
- New Event
For the two that have already happened;
- Log a Call
Let’s look at each in more detail.
A New Task is really a “To Do”. Something, anything, that we are going to do in the future. Relevant sales examples would be – “Follow up on first call”, “Send Proposal” or “Make renewal call”. We strongly encourage the practice of encouraging your users to write their own, short, yet descriptive sentences in the Task Subject Line as opposed to using the drop-down Subject line options.
Now, the other important characteristic of a New Task is that is defined by a date. This date is the arbitrary day that the user sets as a deadline by which they want the task to be completed. So, for example, we want to follow up with the prospect by next Wednesday, or send a proposal a week from this Monday, etc. But that’s it. And once the date arrives, if the Task is not marked as Completed, then it is tagged as overdue, and the date in the date field is then displayed in a red color. Lastly, like any record in Salesforce, a Task has an Owner. But the field it isn’t actually called “Owner”. It’s called Assigned To, and the owner or the record is called the Assignee. When you create a New Task, you, the user, are automatically the Assignee, but you can easily Assign the Task to any other individual, or group of individuals in your organization provided they have licenses. When you assign a Task to another user, they will receive an email alerting them that they have a new Task.
Finally, once a New Task is created it has a Status. The default setting is Not Started, but the other options, set by Salesforce, but completely customizable are – In Progress, Completed, Waiting on Someone Else and Deferred. Most organizations we’ve worked with seem to be just fine with Not Started and Completed, but it’s totally up to you.
Now, how do we track Tasks? Well, once they’re created, they live on the Activity Tab in one of two places – Tasks that have not yet been completed live in Upcoming & Overdue, and Tasks that have been completed live underneath in a section reserved for Past Activities, which is marked by the month and year that it was completed. Now, one very important note, and a key differentiator between Tasks and Events – Tasks will live under the Upcoming & Overdue section until the Assignee manually changes the Status to Completed. Only then will they drop into the Past Activities section with the date.
One final note. A New Task, any activity for that matter, can, and should, in fact, be related to numerous objects. For example – when a sales rep is working on an Opportunity, and creates a New Task, that Task can be related to the Opportunity, as well as the Contact, or Contacts that they are working with, and lastly the Account. The best way to accomplish this is to start on the Opportunity record and relate the Task (or other Activity) to the Contact. The activity will then automatically be related to the Account, because both Opportunities and Contacts roll up under the Account record.
So that’s it. Pretty much all you need to know for Tasks. Now that we understand how they work, the other three activities are pretty straightforward, because a lot of the same rules apply. But there are some distinctions to each. Let’s have a look.
New Events in Salesforce
Like New Tasks, New Events are forward looking activities. And while Tasks represent “To Do’s”, Events really represent scheduled meetings. They’re very similar to an Outlook Calendar meeting. In this regard, we’ve also felt that they weren’t really named all that well. When we hear the term “Event”, we’re more likely to think of something longer, like a one-day conference or a three-day trade show. And Salesforce Events can be all of that as well, but more often than not they simply represent a 1-hour meeting.
And they behave the in the exact same way as New Tasks, with two notable exceptions. Recall that a Task was associated with a Date and that specific day was the deadline we placed on ourselves, or someone else, to get that Task completed. Well, an Event has not just a date, but also a Start Time and an End Time as well. So there are three boundaries to the Event happening, not just one. And here’s something else unique to an Event. Remember that a Task would sit in the Upcoming & Overdue section until the user manually adjusted the status to Completed? Well, an Event will sit in the Upcoming & Overdue section and then will automatically drop into the Past Activities section below marked by month and year of occurrence. That means there’s nothing that the user needs to do. Simply log the New Event before it transpires, and then Salesforce takes care of the rest. Hence, a Salesforce Event will never be considered Overdue, only Upcoming.
Interestingly, when we ask our training classes when they think the exact moment is where the Event falls from Upcoming & Overdue, most answer with “at the end time?”. And this would be a totally logical response. But, not the correct one. For some quirky reason, the Event falls from the Upcoming & Overdue section to the Past Activities at the start time of the Event. So, a meeting (or Event) in Salesforce tagged as Tuesday, October 12, from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm sits in Upcoming right up until 3:00 that day, and then the second after 3:00 pm it falls into Past Activities. Weird, huh? But, still, super convenient.
Log a Call
Perhaps our favorite activity of all. Log a Call is so versatile that it can be used to capture any significant interaction between our users and our prospects or customers. Log a Call is super easy to use, provided the user understands a few basic concepts. And the very first concept is this – Log a Call, even though it is implied, does not have to mean a “phone call”. Log a Call can simply mean any interaction we’ve had. It could be an email, a completed task that we didn’t actually have logged into Salesforce previously, likewise a Salesforce Event that we didn’t have logged, a chance encounter at a Starbucks…the possibilities are endless.
Log a Call, like New Task and New Event, has a field called Subject Line. And for some inane reason, that still drives us crazy to this day, the Subject line is pre-populated by Salesforce with the word “Call”. Perhaps the worst decision that Salesforce ever made! (I jest, but not entirely.) Here’s what we implore your users to do. Override the word call and replace it with a short descriptive sentence that gives the nature of the interaction more meaning. Something like “Intro discovery call”, “Onsite meeting”, “Product demo”, “Sent proposal”, etc. By leaving it as “Call” you then set yourself up to have an Activity log in the Past Activities section that reads, Call, Call, Call, Call and so on. It’s impossible for anyone to have a decent understanding of the history of interactions with our prospects and customers without having to do more work.
After the subject line, comes a larger text field called Comments. Comments is a great place to put more detailed information about what happened on the call, or what the nature of this specific interaction was. It often doesn’t even need to be filled out if the Subject line is descriptive enough – “Left voicemail” for instance. Now, we’re often faced with the question – Comments? Or Notes & Attachments? Notes & Attachments is a Related Item on the Opportunity, Contact and Account Record. Here’s what we advise. If you can summarize the nature of your interaction in a couple of sentences, then use the Comments section of Log a Call. But if you came out of a meeting with pages and pages of notes, photos of a client’s site, files that they’ve handed over, then store these a new record under Notes & Attachments.
And that’s it. A Subject Line and Comments. And here’s an awesome trick for your users that we demonstrate in our Salesforce Training for Mobile classes. After a meeting, the sales rep can go back to their car, login to Salesforce from the phone, and from the Opportunity, select Log a Call. Then they should use the voice to text feature of the phone and talk their call notes into the Comments section. Then that’s it. They’re done. No more filling out call reports at the end of the day or week. It’s a massive time saver and significantly minimizes the administrative component of the sales role.
Emails in Salesforce
The fourth and final Salesforce Activity is Email. Plain and simple, the user can choose to send emails right out of Salesforce. There are all sorts of standard template options as well and users can create all sorts of branding to go along with their emails, and of course, when they send an email within Salesforce it gets recorded as a Past Activity. But here’s the thing. Very few users will ever use it, and who can blame them. Most salespeople will use their existing email platform, either Outlook or Gmail. And really, there’s no reason to stop them. First of all, capturing emails in Salesforce is really, in our opinion, not nearly as important as the other activities, as its unlikely that emails are one of your leading indicators. And secondly, there are various options, both free and fee based, for integrating either Outlook or Gmail with your Salesforce. And this is something that we absolutely recommend you do. Not just email, either, but your Outlook or Gmail calendar.
Think about this – your sales user really doesn’t need to anything different – continue to send emails and book meetings in Outlook, but then, with one extra click, ensure that their key emails and meetings are captured in Salesforce. Listen – the entire goal here should be to make Salesforce as easy to use for your reps as possible. And let’s face it – you’re facing an uphill battle getting to people to use Salesforce, and this is made even more challenging if you make them do extra work. The fact is, they’re unlikely to abandon Outlook for Salesforce for emails and meetings, and when you don’t really need to make them, then why would you?
And that’s all there is to it. Activity Management in Salesforce, when utilized properly, can provide so much insight into whether or not the team is performing the right activities, and if they are doing enough of them. They key, of course, is in getting your team to act accordingly and comply with recording their key activities. Not always easy. But where Salesforce Training has provided hundreds of clients with guidance on how to do it properly.