Why You’re Not Maximizing Your Salesforce ROI

Many companies have invested heavily in Salesforce for their sales teams. Thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands, or even millions are spent by companies annually on Salesforce licenses. The average annual cost per rep varies greatly, but $1000/year is not an unreasonable figure. And that’s just for the license fees. This doesn’t include all of the time and investment on designing and maintaining the system, training sales leaders and sales teams, the Salesforce Admin’s salary, and then all of the time and energy coaching, pleading and begging that goes into getting sales reps to use it.

Have you ever stopped to think – well, we’ve invested in this glorious tool – and trust me, glorious it absolutely is – but for some reason we’re just not getting the results that we were hoping for. (Not that we’re 100% certain what ‘exactly’ those results were meant to be). And while the reasons for implementing Salesforce are varied and likely different for every organization, for sales teams at least, ultimately, there is surely one commonality – to increase sales. But is that actually happening? And if it is, is it happening to the degree that you had hoped for, or had counted on.

Have you sat back and pondered, what exactly is the ROI of all that time and money spent on Salesforce? Is that one Salesforce license per rep paying for itself? Is it at least $1000 more sales/year. More than $1,000? 3 x more? 5 x more? The company’s projected target per rep? The maximum amount (whatever that is)?

Well, the answer for most companies is – “Maybe.” “Probably.” “Sort of.” “Not sure.” “Who knows?” And of course, “Not even remotely.” Or maybe even worse – “Well, with all the aggravation and headaches and sales people reverting back to Excel spreadsheets, we’ve probably become less productive as a result.” Yikes.

So why is this?

Well, we’ve studied this exact issue for years, and what we’ve learned are that there are four primary reasons for these outcomes. Sure, there are others, but that’s largely just noise. And it’s not just one or two of the four that clients experience. No, in fact, with pretty much all of our clients, all four reasons were in play, typically to varying degrees for each one, but nonetheless, no one client had mastered any of the four. Interestingly, only one has to do with technology. The others depend on people.


Challenge #1: Lack of a Formal Change Management Plan

Change Management is defined as the application of a structured process and set of tools designed to lead the people side of change to a achieve a desired outcome. It’s an essential element for any new implementation project and is designed both to manage our employee’s natural resistance to change and to capture people dependent ROI.

An effective Change Management plan should ultimately do three things for your organization. It should;

  • Increase the Speed of Adoption – How quickly are the sales users getting up and running on Salesforce and the new processes?
  • Increase the ultimate utilization – How many sales users (or your total population) are demonstrating “buy-in” and using Salesforce?
  • Increase efficiency – How well are sales users performing compared to the level expected in the design of the change?

When your company first implemented Salesforce, it’s almost certain that, whether you leveraged an external consulting partner or used internal resources, you had a Project Team and Plan to manage the technical side of change. But a lot of firms overlook the Change Management component, or people side of change. Without a formal Change Management strategy in place, it doesn’t matter how well Salesforce was designed. If people don’t change how they do their job, then you can’t ultimately achieve what you set out to do in the beginning.

Safeforce ROI equation

Challenge #2: You’re Not Tracking the Right KPIs

Often, when we go to work with a new client either using Salesforce, or about to use Salesforce, they are, rightly, focused on creating reports in Salesforce to replace their current reporting, be it another system, Excel, or post-it notes. We’ve seen reams of reports inside newly configured Salesforce applications – with most, if not all of them, reporting on outcomes. Reports on the number of deals closed, dollars sold, units sold, units projected to be sold, etc. These are all lagging indicators.

Well, guess what. Outcomes cannot be managed. Only activities can.

Think about a common scenario. Your child brings home their report card. But this time it comes with a bunch of D’s. You’re not pleased of course, and you want to ensure that it never happens again. So what are you going to do? Well, you can’t do anything about the current report card – the Outcome. And it’s likely that your child knew very well that A’s are good and D’s are not, and that mom and dad wouldn’t be too thrilled with the latter. Hence expectations were set. But did your child actually DO the things that would lead to A’s and B’s or do more of the things that lead to D’s? So the goal moving forward is to break down the quantifiable ‘activities’ that we as parents know lead to better grades. Simple things, like more time each night on homework, more chapters read, earlier bedtime, less TV, movies or gaming, etc. And we can create a game plan to more of the good, and less of the bad, and we can track it with our student every week. Seems natural, doesn’t it? So why don’t we do this for our sales teams?

The same premise should apply for our sales teams. Now, first and foremost, there’s nothing wrong with measuring and reporting on outcomes. In fact, it’s essential for all businesses. But we must also focus our attention on sales activities that drive results – the leading indicators. Far too often, sales leadership tells sales people what they want – the outcomes – without giving sales people the guidance on how they should do it – the sales activities – and measuring that. And guess what else – Salesforce is tailor-made for measuring and reporting on leading indicators – sales activities. But in order to truly drive the right behaviors, we have to know what those behaviors (activities) are and how many are required daily, weekly and monthly.


Challenge #3: Lack of Management Coaching

This one is actually a subset of Change Management, but it is so critical to maximizing Salesforce ROI that we list it here as a separate category. Truly managing people requires that time be invested in coaching them to enhance their skills. And one of those skills will be to use Salesforce effectively. Yes, you may have invested in Salesforce Training already. But, just like with any other training program, if the only practice your sales team got was at the one-day, half-day, or two-hour Intro to Salesforce session, then, sorry to say it, but that’s simply not enough.

How to maximize Salesforce ROI

Salesforce is wonderful technology, and it is many things. But intuitive to use? Unfortunately, that is not one of those things. (No, it’s not like an iPhone!) So, besides a formal training session, your frontline managers must be equipped with the tools and strategies to coach their teams towards a better, more effective application of Salesforce. This of course means that they first need to be experts in Salesforce themselves. We’ve sadly seen many instances where the sales teams were better users of the tool than the leaders.

This is the world our managers must live in. They are employees first and must prepare themselves for change, then must turn around and lead their sales teams through that same change.

What are the desired outcomes of an effective coaching plan implemented by your sales managers as your organization goes through a change? Well, here’s what we would expect to see;

  • They help to build awareness of how a change impacts a given salesperson and the ‘WIIFM’ (What’s In It For Me);
  • They create desire through personal interactions with salespeople and the effective management of the natural resistance to change;
  • They develop knowledge for both themselves and others through on-the-job training and mentoring;
  • They foster ability by creating the right environment for employees to develop new skills and behaviors;
  • They reinforce the change through private recognition and rewards.


Challenge #4: Salesforce is poorly aligned for the Sales Users

As mentioned, one of the key reasons for not realizing your potential Salesforce ROI is based on the technology of Salesforce itself, specifically, how it has been configured. Or, in your case quite possibly, not configured. And it happens far too often. We’ve actually worked with many companies that have spent six and even seven figures on a Salesforce implementation. And some aspects of the system may be designed to work extremely well. But sadly, for the sales team, their requirements were given the short shrift.

We’ve seen flaws from not having the actual sales process – if one has been defined at all – be properly represented in the Opportunity Stages, one Opportunity Record Type for multiple types of Opportunities, not using some of the native tools like Sales Path, not tracking the right activities, or making tracking too cumbersome, and far too little attention given to the mobile experience – probably the most important element. We’ve seen systems so over-engineered that the salesperson needs to jump through so many hurdles just to log a call or close a deal, we don’t blame them for not wanting to use it. We wouldn’t either quite frankly.

An example of Salesforce ROI

We often wonder, did the person or team designing your Salesforce ever spend a day in the field with a salesperson? Did they ever go out and meet with your customers? Did they ever sit in the sales rep’s car after the call and see how they might use their iPhone to record key details from the client or prospect meeting. Did they ever sit in on the sales manager’s weekly team pipeline review meeting, or their one-on-one coaching calls with the sales reps? Did they take the time to truly understand how the selling side of the business works and how the sales team managed the sales process prior to Salesforce. Did they see what was working and what wasn’t. Did they present a design plan that showed you how Salesforce would reduce the sales rep’s administrative work, and allow them to find client and Opportunity details and files more easily. Because if the answer to some or all of these is a ‘no’, then you should be asking yourself, what exactly did they design for you? And why would we expect our sales teams to use it?

Remember the old saying from the great movie Field of Dreams? “If you build it, they will come.” Well, not if you don’t build it very well, they won’t.

Making the system as straightforward and easy as possible for salespeople so that they can spend time and effort selling, not using Salesforce, should be the goal.



So, there you have it. The four main drivers for why your organization is not realizing as much ROI from Salesforce as you should. And as we stated upfront, all four are key. A well-designed Salesforce system, even one configured optimally for salespeople, is not effective if you haven’t implemented a Change Management plan, track the right leading indicators, and prepare your managers to become effective coaches.

Now that you recognize some of these traits in your organization, your next question is very likely to be – “well, what can we do it”. Well, the answer is, lots of things. But, and we always caution our clients – there’s no magic bullet to maximizing Salesforce ROI. No – it’s a large amount of effort, and not just from us. The entire organization from the top down, needs to be committed to making it happen. And not just lip service either. Real, actionable and quantifiable behaviors. But if you’re willing to trust that investing time to improve on each of these four areas is worth it to your firm, then let’s have a discussion.