How to Fix Your Biggest Challenges with Salesforce Configuration and Adoption


In Episode 15 of the Brainiate Show I explore How to Fix Your Biggest Challenges with Salesforce Configuration and Adoption.


Welcome to episode 15 of The Brainiate Show. Today, we are going to be talking about how to fix your biggest challenges with Salesforce configuration and adoption. Before we jump in, first let’s go ahead and define what we mean by Salesforce configuration and what do we mean by Salesforce adoption. 

Configuration is essentially the setup of Salesforce, the way it’s been customized, the fields that are on the screen, the way the page layouts are and maybe some integrations that have happened, the sharing rules, the read, write visibility that people have in Salesforce, all of that falls into the umbrella of configuration, the setup of Salesforce. 

Adoption. What do we mean by adoption? Adoption is the utilization of Salesforce by the business users, the folks who are expected to be utilizing Salesforce to manage their day to day business operations. Typically, this is sales marketing customer service to track all of the interactions that we’re having with prospects, with customers, with the deals, with the customer service issues, with marketing initiatives that we have to get the 360 degree view of the customers.

Adoption is the utilization by the business folks of the Salesforce platform in order to manage their day-to-day business interactions with prospects and customers. Believe it or not, configuration and adoption actually go hand in hand. In the perfect world, we have great configuration and we have great adoption. 

However, often we see that there is great configuration and poor adoption which by the way is relatively easy to fix and we’re going to get to that soon. Sometimes we see poor configuration and poor adoption and by the way, that is a little bit harder to fix and somewhat understandable because if Salesforce isn’t setup properly, how can we possibly expect our business folks to be using the system if it’s not setup well? 

Now by the way, it is very rare to find poor configuration and great adoption. Where do we see that? Well, we see that in scenarios, in organizations where someone is actually cracking the whip in order to enforce the utilization of Salesforce. No matter how inefficient the configuration is, no matter how not intuitive the user interface is, no matter how cluttered the screens are so that … Those are all symptoms of poor configuration. 

No matter how clunky the system is, there’s still great adoption because someone is cracking the whip, someone is on top of every person on the team who is expected to be using Salesforce to make sure that they’re actually using it on a regular basis to input all of the data that’s needed to track everything that we’re doing with prospects and customers. 

Now, let’s talk about how to fix these issues. Now, when we’re talking about configuration, first we need to identify who did that we need to draw our attention to, to address either configuration or adoption. Well, with regard to configuration, the responsibility of the configuration of Salesforce lies with anyone and everyone who has system admin permissions. 

That’s right. Everyone in your organization that has the profile of a system admin is should be held responsible for the configuration of Salesforce. We’re talking about the adoption of Salesforce, well, the responsibility of that is ultimately with whoever is paying the bill for the Salesforce licenses because guess what? Do you really want to be paying for a tool that no one is using?

If you’re responsible for paying the bill, if the budget for the Salesforce licenses that’s coming out of your pocket, well, it’s time for you to light the fire on adoption. You should be looking at adoption because if you’re not going to look at it, your boss is going to be looking at it and then your boss is going to be coming to you asking why on Earth are we paying for all these Salesforce licenses and nobody’s even using it?

Now, when we have poor adoption, everyone in the organization suffers. Believe it or not, everyone suffers when there’s poor adoption. We’re not just looking at adoption in order to justify the ROI and the Salesforce licenses. What do I mean by that? Well, when we have poor adoption, that means people are not really using Salesforce the way that they should be which means we inevitably have poor data quality. 

If I’m not really using Salesforce to update information about my prospects and customers, that means when I have in someone’s new email address or mobile number or their job title changes, I’m not necessarily running to update it in Salesforce because I don’t really give a dime or I’m not just using it so much. I’m using Outlook or Excel or Google Sheets or my piece of paper and my handy pen, my favorite lucky pen. 

That’s what I’m using. I’m using the post-it notes that are piled up on my desk. Well, then your data quality in Salesforce will suck. You’re also going to have … When you have poor adoption, you are also going to have inevitably inefficient processes and you’re going to have a waste of valuable resources. 

Meaning, your team has access to this really fantastic, incredibly powerful tool of Salesforce yet you’re not using it for the fundamental reason why you have Salesforce in the first place. Let’s talk about how we can address it, what is it that we can do. I’m not trying to paint the picture of doom and gloom. I’m basically trying to pull the veil of secrecy or mystery behind these concepts in order to show you and explain to you how we can address it. 

If you could just do one thing and one thing only in order to address the issues that I just described, I would tell you the training is your answer. What do I mean by that? Well, when it comes to configuration, remember how I said before, ultimate responsibility lies with every single person in your organization who has system admin permissions. 

Those are the people that … They need training. You need to provide training. You need to make sure that every one in your organization that has system admin permissions, they need to be trained on how to administer, how to maintain Salesforce and by the way, that includes everyone in IT, that includes everyone that has a corner office, that includes everyone whose job title starts with the word chief because regardless of how high you are in the organization, if you think that you’re entitled to system admin permissions, well then you need to get trained as a system admin. You need to know what you’re doing. 

You don’t get the keys to the Tesla unless you know how to drive. Sorry. It doesn’t work like that. Otherwise, get in the passenger seat. Now, when it comes to adoption, that’s easy, training end users and when I say training end users, it’s all end users. I couldn’t care less about the employees you have in your organization. You say, “Yeah, I already know Salesforce, I’ve been using it for years. I always …” Give me a break. 

If they are not using it, they need training and by the way, whatever they did that at their prior job, the way you guys have Salesforce setup today is not the same as what they had on their prior job. I’ll even go so far to say as in most organizations even if they got trained in the job that they have today and they got trained over a year ago, well they need training again, you know why? Because Salesforce keeps releasing new features with all of the … with each of the new releases that keep coming out. 

There are new features that are available. I’m willing to bet that aside from all of the new features that Salesforce puts out. I’m willing to bet, that your own organization has implemented new workflow, new automation changed around page layouts and fields and validation roles and integrations. Guess what? Have you trained your end users on all of these new updates? Probably not because that’s what I see at most organizations.

The end users are not provided with updates with the information to know how to use all of the stuff. All end users which means every single person that has login credentials to access Salesforce, they cannot get login credentials until they complete end user training. Now, let’s focus on … Let’s try to understand a little bit why is it that people don’t get trained.

I think it can … It basically comes down to three core reasons of why people don’t get trained whether they’re on the system admin side or end users. Reason number one, not enough time. “Hey, I’m too busy doing my day job. I don’t have time. I’d love to get trained, but I just don’t have time. I got more important things to do.” Right, those people in sales are going to say, “I’ve got more important things to do. I need to … I get paid to close deals. I don’t get paid to sit in the room and learn Salesforce.” 

Not enough time for the training. Next, second reason, not enough resources. What do I mean by that? Well, in a lot of organizations, you might actually have some people who are enthusiastically interested in getting trained on how to use Salesforce. However, there are no resources available to them. They have no idea where to turn. They have no idea who to turn to or what website to go on or where to sign up for a class on getting trained whether it’s as a system admin, a Salesforce admin or an end user. 

They simply have no idea. They turn to every one in the office next to them. “Hey, how did you get trained?” “I don’t know, Joe who sits next to me, he taught me. Who taught Joe? Well, Susan taught Joe.” Susan was trained maybe two, three years ago and there was a PowerPoint or a PDF that was distributed at some point. She has no idea where it is and even if she finds it, it’s completely outdated and irrelevant. 

There are not enough resources to provide the training that’s needed. That’s the second reason. The third reason why most people don’t get trained is ego. Let’s face it. Ego is a major reason why most people don’t get trained in Salesforce. What does this look like? Well, it looks like people who say, “Well, I’m a techie, I’m smart and the system looks easy to use so yeah, I don’t really need training.” 

Another one is, “Yeah, I’ve worked with other complicated systems before. I could figure this out.” And then you’ll have some people who say, “I have a degree in computer programming and I’ve worked with databases for the last 15, 20, 30 years, therefore, I don’t need training on Salesforce.” Well, what happens when those people don’t get trained properly? 

On the IT system admin side, what happens is those professionals who are either expected to play the role of a Salesforce admin or they’re in IT and Salesforce was thrown on their lap, they rely on their past database and technology experience. They might watch some YouTube videos. They might dabble in some Trailhead modules. They’ll go ahead and create some custom objects and custom fields and workflows and validation rules and roles, profiles, page layouts, record types when they aren’t really justified or needed and they end up creating far more complexity than is ever needed in their organization. 

Those people then often go ahead and create APIs with other external systems because, “Hey, this is cool, we can connect Salesforce to all these other tools that we have.” With the best of intentions because we want to keep the data in sync between all of the systems, but very often they’re so enthusiastic to connect two systems together that we don’t necessarily take the time to take into account things like duplicate issues. 

Well, what happens if the person was entered in one system and then gets entered in another system by someone else manually and now we have two entries, how are we going to reconcile those duplicate entries from two or more systems that are all feeding into Salesforce? Sometimes we have synchronization issues with everyone’s Outlook or Gmail because people are eager to synchronize Outlook or Gmail with their contacts account, their calendar entries and tasks. 

We don’t necessarily take into account the read write permissions of well, who has access, who has permission to edit the data that was fed from some other external system into Salesforce and then when they go ahead and they edit it in Salesforce and it gets updated back in the other external system, is that appropriate? Is that really what we want? Did anyone even think that through? 

Then what happens if someone updates a record in one system which then overwrites conflicting an actually more correct information that’s in Salesforce? I’ll give you an example of that. Suppose we have some external system, let’s say an ERP system that is pushing information into Salesforce. I am a sales rep and I’m looking at my contact in Salesforce and I see that his job title is outdated. 

He used to be director. He’s now a vice president. I go ahead and I update his job title to be vice president and it was not synced from the ERP system or I should say the last time that was synced by the ERP system, it got pushed in with the job title of director. I go ahead and I edit the record in Salesforce, I make it vice president, but the way that the synchronization the API was setup, whatever is in the ERP system is considered the controlling data that that is the system of record.

The older job title of director that’s in the ERP system now gets pushed back into Salesforce once again overwriting the more correct information that I as a sales rep just put in. You know what happens when that scenario takes place? I as the sales rep lose 100% faith in all things related to Salesforce because from my perspective, whatever I put in disappears. 

Why on Earth should I trust it? I have more faith in the post-it note that’s sitting on my desk because if I write the job title on the post-it note, it’s not going to disappear tomorrow. We need to take these things into account. Now, what is the end result when we have IT folks who don’t get trained properly? The end result on the low end of the spectrum, we have an inefficient and an impractical Salesforce configuration that will also display itself as a clunky end user experience.

On the high end of the spectrum, we have our Frankenstein org with custom objects and fields and automation that no one understands and it results in an unmanageable Salesforce instance. Now, let’s shift gears a little bit. Let’s focus on adoption with the end users. Let’s focus on that. What does that look like? Why is it that end users are not enthusiastically ready to do training? 

Well, I touched on this a little bit earlier. Sales reps are typically too busy selling. They just don’t have time to learn a new system or sometimes they feel that they are just fine knowing whatever it is that they currently know. Hey, if there are other parts of the tool called Salesforce that are really cool that you think are worth me learning, well right now I’m cool with what it is that I don’t … that I know. I don’t have to know more than what I know right now.

That’s a very common approach and they often use description or note fields to log their calls and tasks because they just don’t know how to log activities in Salesforce. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with clients where I see a long description field that is just a series of abbreviations of dates and it’ll have things like left VM for left voicemail. 

Sometimes they use spread sheets and outlook to capture information that they just don’t know how to store in Salesforce. What’s the end result when end users don’t get the training that they need and adoption is low? What is the end result? Well, on the low end of the spectrum, okay we have low adoption so very people are actually utilizing Salesforce and those users who actually are logging into Salesforce, they get really frustrated. 

They start cringing any or they hide every time you even mention the word Salesforce. On the high end of the spectrum, well you’ve got data that’s sitting everywhere trying to get a list of current customers or prospects or getting the list of the current pipeline, that’s like doing a CSI investigation expedition because you’re now pulling Excel spread sheets together from all kinds of people and places. 

You’re looking at Google Sheets that are coming from one or multiple sources and the data quality in Salesforce is horrible because it typically will end up containing old and outdated data if people are using other systems to update their pipeline or the contacts that they’re working with. Now, let’s talk about how to address it. 

Well, the system … The Salesforce admin for the folks in IT, it’s actually really easy. It’s incredibly easy and believe it or not, your best solution is free. It’s completely free. Trailhead. I’m sure most of you have heard of Trailhead. If you haven’t heard of Trailhead, I’ll explain it to you right now. 

Trailhead is a completely free, incredibly valuable resource specifically for Salesforce admins and Salesforce developers where essentially you can learn anything and everything you need to know on how to be a superstar of a Salesforce admin or a Salesforce developer through Trailhead where you’ve got content there from beginner to advanced, everything from what is Salesforce, what is a CRM to building APIs and building custom apps. 

All of it, you can learn on Trailhead for free and now by the way, Trailhead is an online learning tool. Text, videos, exercises that you can do hands on, it tells you if you did it correctly or incorrectly. It’s incredibly powerful. Yeah, at the same time, I know that there are people, myself included by the way whose learning style is not 100% match for that type of … What’s the word I’m looking for? That type of consumption of information.

Of course, I’m capable of reading online articles, of watching videos, of doing exercises and getting immediate feedback to learn something, but that’s not necessarily my preferred learning style. My preferred learning style and maybe it’s just because I’m old, maybe it’s because I’m old school, whatever, maybe it’s just my DNA is more classroom style and when I say classroom style, it’s not even necessarily in person classroom style, it could also be virtual classroom style where someone is … I’m looking at someone’s screen. Someone is explaining. They are teaching, they’re explaining concepts and they’re showing how to do it. 

I am either taking notes or I’m actually doing the same thing at the same time on my own screen. Whether it’s live in a classroom style where I could physically reach out and touch the instructor or virtual through like a GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar type of environment, those are my preferred learning styles. 

If your learning style is more along those lines, you might cringe a little bit. You might get … You might be find using Trailhead, but you might cringe a little bit at the thought where, “There’s no real instructor, there’s no one that I can really truly reach out to.” Well, guess what? Salesforce has a solution for that too and it’s called Salesforce or I should say, it used to be called Salesforce university.

It’s now under the umbrella of the Trailhead group where you can sign up for classes virtual online or in person where you can sit in the classroom to take classes to learn everything that you need to know. Again, whether it’s from beginner to advanced as a Salesforce admin, as a Salesforce developer, as a platform architect, whatever it is that you need to learn, you can go ahead and do that. 

My recommendation if I were the CEO of an organization where I have a team of Salesforce admins or folks in IT who don’t really consider themselves Salesforce admins, yet they have the Salesforce admin profile in the system admin profile in the Salesforce, I would go ahead and I would implement the rule that within three months, anyone who does not have at the very least, the bare bones entry level Salesforce admin certification what’s often referred to as the 201 certification.  

Anyone who does not have that level of certification, I would strip away their Salesforce admin permissions. That’s what I personally would do. No excuses whatsoever. I would enforce that from today, you have a grand total of three months to not only do the training to go ahead … I don’t even care if you do the training. You need to get certified. 

Guess what? The best way to get that certification is to go ahead and do the training. You feel that you’re above training that you know it already, fine, sit for the exam. You know Salesforce so well, you’ve been doing it for so many years, you’ve been playing around in databases for 30 years and you think you’re such an expert and you have Salesforce admin permissions? Go ahead, just sit for the exam. 

You don’t have to worry about the three month timeline. That should be a no brainer. That’s what I personally would do. Now, by the way, if you … As my listeners, if you are in such a role of authority within your organization to go ahead and implement or announce such a role, I’m telling you right now, the people who are going to complain the loudest, those are the people who you should be stripping away their admin access immediately because those are the weakest links in your organization.

Think about it for a minute. If someone truly knows everything that they claim to know in Salesforce, they should not be cringing or backing down or complaining about getting the most basic entry level certification of a Salesforce admin. They should say, “Sure. Okay, you want me to do that formality? Fine.” They would see it as an annoyance, but nothing more than that.
                    The people who are going to complain and push back and riot, yeah, I would take … I’m telling you, if they would come to my office, I would strip away their Salesforce admin permissions instantly like before they even finished their sentence. That’s what I personally would do. Maybe I’m a tough cookie, but that’s exactly what I would do. 

That’s how I would address it for the Salesforce admins and the folks in IT who have Salesforce admin permissions. Now, let’s shift gears and talk about the end users. How do you address low adoption with the end users? Well, I’m going to tell you. The first thing that you need to do is you need to show them what’s in it for them. 

Of course, you could simply say oh, everybody has to … Everyone in sales and marketing and such, they all have to sit in the class and they all have to take the training. All you’re going to do, if you have that, all you’re going to end up with is a bunch if warm seats. You’re going to have people that are sitting there to make sure that they are counted from an attendance perspective.

They are not going to be paying attention to whatever training is being offered to them. They are going to be doing their regular work. They’re going to step out of the room every opportunity they can. They might even just sit there and be on Facebook all day long. They are not going to pay attention. It’s not going to work. It’s going to fail and I say this because I’ve seen it and now very often I’ve been at the front of the room performing the training, doing delivering the training and I can tell immediately when people are paying attention or not.

Those people who are not paying attention, those are the ones who end up suffering the most. The whole organization suffers by the way because just like I said before, when you have poor data quality from one sales rep who simply puts all of his day, it keeps all of his data in outlook or in excel, well the person in marketing who wants to pull the distribution list to send a product, a new product announcement or a price promotion to all of the prospects and customers, well they can’t do it now because you just … because of one person, one person who’s still using Outlook or Excel to keep track of all of their context. 

That’s horrible. You need to show them what’s in it for them. You need to explain to them and show them here’s how you are going to benefit by knowing how to use Salesforce appropriately. Here’s how your life is going to be simpler. Here’s how you’re going to have more information at your fingertips. Here’s how you can collaborate with your colleagues on particular deals where you need to on product issues and customer service issues, on marketing issues, on issues with prospects that you’re struggling with by having the information in Salesforce, it will make your life easier as a sales rep, as a marketing manager, as a customer service rep.

In order to do that, we also need to identify the audience of the users. We need to identify exactly who are these people that need to get training and you can’t just say with broad strokes, “Oh yeah, it’s everyone in the organization, it’s everyone in sales.” No, you need to have an actual list of all of the people who have login access to Salesforce. 

Those are the people who need training. You need to identify the audience of users. You also need to identify the core business processes for those users. For example, if I am in a role of business development, I’m working with leads, with prospects and maybe people who are signing up online or filling out the contact us form, people who are downloading white papers, people that maybe I am reaching out to from an outbound calling perspective to identify leads or I’m doing hunting on LinkedIn or elsewhere to find leads and try to qualify them.

What are those business processes? We need to understand what piece of information do they need to capture when they first talk to someone and don’t just say everything in Salesforce because if the answer truly was everything that’s in Salesforce, you wouldn’t have such adoption issues, okay? You wouldn’t. You need to sit down with those people and you need to understand as if you are an employee of that team to understand what are their business processes with the first time they have a conversation with someone, what pieces of information do they gather and when they gather those pieces of information and they end that initial interaction, what do they do next?

How do they assign those leads to specific team members? What pieces of information do they gather in order to determine if they’re going to qualify or disqualify those leads? What are the factors that they use to qualify or disqualify certain leads? How frequently are they expected to reach out to them? What pieces of information do they need to either provide to them or get from those leads? 

When they convert the leads, who did they assign those leads to? You need to understand all of those pieces of information in order to provide appropriate training because first you need to know what are the core business processes of every user who’s utilizing Salesforce. You need to identify how they are currently managing those business processes today whether it’s in Salesforce or outside of Salesforce because that’s where you’re going to start realizing that they’ve got [empty 00:30:05] number of Excel spread sheets and Google Docs where they’re putting information instead of Salesforce. 

We need to identify those. We need to listen to all of their … We need to list out. We need to listen to and we need list out all of the current pain points for all of these users. By understanding the business processes and seeing what tools they’re using and understanding what pieces of information they’re gathering and what they do after gathering these pieces of information, that’s when we can start to build out the curriculum of what these people need to learn in Salesforce based on their business processes.

It’s all about their business processes then we need to provide them, once we identify the curriculum based on their business processes then we can provide them with training. Walking through their business processes while acknowledging and recognizing the current pain points that they have when utilizing Salesforce. Now, those pain points, they need to be addressed and how do we address them?

Well, we can address them through future Salesforce enhancements or by showing them how to do it properly and how to avoid those pain points. For example, very common pain point I hear when talking to users who are not trained, they say, “Yeah, I don’t really like using the Salesforce activity features because I struggle to find those activities after I enter them in, I don’t even know how to find them. How am I going to find them? Then when I show people, “Well, it’s visible right on the home page.”

They’re like, “Wow, really? Oh my God, I never knew that.” Then they start smacking themselves on the head. They wish they would have been using the activity logging features in Salesforce for years or show them how they can create a report or go ahead and create a report for them showing all of their activities that are open that they need to follow up with.

Once they realize that they’re going to see, “Oh my gosh, it would have been so much easier how they simply utilized the native out of the box features that are available to me in Salesforce.” They would avoid those pain points altogether. Next, when we do these training sessions, you need to record them through whether it’s go to meetings or Zoom or WebEx or Google Hangouts, it doesn’t matter which tool you use, just record all of these training sessions. 

You need to make the trainings available for everyone who has login access to Salesforce. After you go ahead and you cover the curriculum that you’ve built out based on the business processes and you walk them through every step of their business process and showing them here’s how you do this business process in Salesforce, after you go ahead and do that then … You’ve completed your curriculum, then you go ahead and you conduct office hours with your team.

How do you do office hours? Schedule one hour out of the week. Let’s say lunch time. Do it as a lunch and learn. It could be in person where conference room A, I’m going to be sitting there, just stop by and ask me any questions that you have related to Salesforce or it could be virtual. You could set it up as a go to meeting. 

1 o’clock you invite everyone on the team and if they have any issues, any questions, any frustrations related to Salesforce, any followup questions from the training, they know that you will be available to them during that time slot on the calendar. They know how to log in. Worst case scenario, nobody shows up. Well, guess what? 

Even if nobody shows up, you gave them an opportunity to come in and either vent or express their concern or frustration and it gives you as the Salesforce admin, it gives you the opportunity to go ahead and address those issues. Sometimes addressing those issues and simply about showing them how to do it in Salesforce or by explaining, well we made a whole page for you to enter that in.

There’s a field right here how to do that in Salesforce or the person might come up with a whole new project for you to do it. They might be uncovering a whole new used case that nobody ever thought of or expressed previously that currently there is no mechanism to track or manage it in Salesforce, but this person is coming from a sense of frustration or they’re just completely lost and confused, but by expressing themselves to you, you’re now realizing that there is a missing piece to the puzzle that was not uncovered before and you’re adding now tremendous value and developing fantastic rapport with the business user by addressing it through the Salesforce configuration and enhancing the Salesforce configuration in order to support this used case that no one knew of previously.

You go ahead and you conduct office hours in order to extend support to the end users in order to address all of their concerns. If you go ahead and do that, again let’s … Just a recap. For the Salesforce admins, for the folks in IT, you pick a timeline, my recommendation, three months. Within three months, everyone who has Salesforce admin permissions, they need to get at the very least the Salesforce admin certification done within a three month time period.

If they don’t have it, they lose their Salesforce admin permissions. End users, you identify exactly what are their core business processes, who needs to get trained on those business processes, what are their pain points, you deliver training for them, you make those training, your record those trainings, you make those recordings available to everyone and then you conduct office hours to gather any followup, any feedback, any concerns in order to address them.
You do those things and I guarantee that within three months, you’re going to see a dramatic change both on the configuration side as well as your Salesforce adoption. That’s it for me on this topic. If you have any thoughts on the topic, feel free to reach out to me. You can drop me a note, send a … Leave a comment on the podcast or on my blog and I’m looking forward to seeing you in the next episode.

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