Salesforce Tips: 12 Tricks for Salesforce Rookies

Editor's note: This is the first installment in an ongoing series featuring tips on using Salesforce from our Salesforce Admin Phil Gilles.

I was on an pre-employment screening call for the job I have now with Doyenz, and the words “sales force” came up in a question. I, of course, said “yes, no problem,” without really knowing what I was committing to. The first few days on the job were spent going through the Salesforce.com tutorials, which were far less useful than I was hoping.

Starting out, if you don’t have experience with Salesforce but find yourself appointed to the role of administrator, do yourself a favor and sit down with the person who set it up and ask a lot of "how" and "why" questions. With a little perseverance and a clearly defined goal, Salesforce allows you to accomplish what you need, which is likely one of the reasons they are a leading customer relationship management (CRM) software.

When attempting to learn Salesforce as an administrator, my experience is that it is far better to start with a single task in mind than to try to swallow the whole thing at once. The nuances of the interface and basic usability are fairly intuitive with a little use, but custom administration and basic development are not. Even the online knowledge base and help files cannot address many of the issues I have run into.

I realized quickly why there are consultants out there who do nothing but clean up your mistakes in Salesforce – and they are well paid. In a small business with a single database user, it is simple to administrate; you know what everything means and which fields need to be filled out.

But once a business scales to the enterprise or corporate level, Salesforce is used to manage product help files, support cases, lead lists, revenue tracking, conversion rates, website and email integration, and to track ROIs. It can become a real mess. When you have multiple people in administrator roles and they all start changing things at once with little or no communication between one another, you end up with what can only be described as chaos. And that’s an understatement.

If your business relies – like so many companies do – on the reporting and metrics supplied by Salesforce.com, you have to be certain that all the information is as accurate as possible. You will need to do this retroactively in the beginning, but that monotony can be avoided in the future by careful management, well-planned workflows and established internal processes.

Here’s a checklist to ensure accuracy and success when getting started with Salesforce:

  1. Compare all of the important records to Salesforce. Make sure everything is accounted for, and that the numbers all add up.
  2. Invest in a duplication-monitoring tool to keep the database clean. Duplicates can waste the time of your sales team, and can make you seem unprofessional when your sales team cold calls existing customers or people who have already been talked to.
  3. Set up workflow rules to automate every task you can. Get creative here, there is a lot more power to this feature than you can imagine.
  4. Generate reports and save them with logical names. Seems like a no-brainer, right? The only variable you want to change in a saved report is the date range, otherwise it should be a separate report. This will save you a lot of time and prevent discrepancies by inaccurately recreating a report.
  5. Automate sending email to the sales team with report results. You’ll enable the sales reps to monitor performance of themselves and the team. This important task will increase efficiency of the sales team, and save you a ton of time.
  6. Attack Salesforce one task at a time. You will learn little tricks here and there, and then go back and revisit former tasks with that new knowledge – but be sure to maintain the one task at a time approach.
  7. Find a mentor. The Salesforce forums are active with administrators and other users who can provide you with great advice based on their own experiences. Find a few who consistently answer your tough questions and go straight to them in the future. You might be surprised at how willing they are to help you out with solving problems.
  8. Develop processes for the sales team to follow. Rest assured knowing most of the information is entered completely and accurately. Conditional validation rules work well for this.
  9. Have Salesforce email you when certain things go wrong. Workflow rules allow you to trigger an email notification based on almost anything. Email the entire company when a sale is made, email the sales director when an opportunity is lost, be notified when when a new lead is created, or when someone is owed a commission based on an event.
  10. Write your thoughts and ideas down. When things get complicated, it is difficult to keep it all straight in your head. If you are developing a process, make a visual workflow and bring all the people involved into the development process. Large white boards and multi-colored dry erase markers are my canvas and medium.
  11. Don’t be afraid to say no. If you can’t figure it out, better to step back than to do it wrong and screw it up. Some errors are much easier to make than to correct. Revisit it when you have had more time to think, or perhaps when you learn new skills and tricks the solution will be obvious.
  12. Be sure to document the processes. And do so in a way that will make teaching a new employee quick and painless. You’ll thank yourself later down the road.

Learning Salesforce can be stressful, painful, and downright miserable. But by following these 12 tips, you can save time and expedite the path to efficiently using Salesforce to manage your customer relations and leads. It gets a lot easier and when the program is automatically monitoring data due to your efforts. The efficiency of the sales team will in part reflect your hard work, especially as the team and the company grows.

Salesforce admins: do you have tips for rookies? Let us know in the comments section. 

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