What Makes a Salesforce Professional Valuable

 

It’s a big world for the Salesforce professional. There are tons of features to learn, tools to master, certifications to grab and trails (Trailhead) to be explored. There are weekly meetups, online communities, conferences, webinars and workshops. If desired, one could LITERALLY eat, breath, sleep, and dream Salesforce.

To a large extent, I too am involved in the community. I have certifications. I do the Trailheads (Expeditioner), and I try to stay abreast on new tools and functionality. I believe it is my responsibility as an admin/developer to keep learning.

However, I sometimes have a fear that Salesforce professionals dance on the precipice between professional understanding of the tool and obsessive loyalty.

The obsequious professionals collect and treasure digital accolades like badges and certifications a little too much and it’s common for many to have a few years of professional experience in the application development world.

To be clear, this isn’t a BAD thing. In many ways, this is not dissimilar to my experience. See my previous article: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/perfect-detour-from-english-major-personal-trainer-grant-ongstad/.

In my work experience as an Admin/Developer I try to keep remembering two simple things:

1)     Serve the Business, Not the Application

Unless you work for Salesforce, Salesforce doesn’t pay your bills – the person or organization that signs your check does. They use Salesforce because it may be a tool that can solve their problems and help scale their business and, in some cases, it may not be.

They do not care if you use flow, process builder, workflow rule, or apex they only care if you solved their problem. If Salesforce reporting cannot handle their unique groupings and summaries as well as an existing excel report – don’t be afraid to tell them!

Businesses don’t just hire Salesforce professionals because they know Salesforce, they hire them in the hopes that they can solve their problems.

Whether you are an Admin, Developer, Cloud Consultant, Salesforce CPQ expert, Architect, or all of the above, your first allegiance is to the business and its requirements.

My boss once told me that tools and applications come and go but if you can understand the goals and mission of the business, how it operates, and where they are heading that I’d always be in demand.

2)     Be a Solution Architect

Every change, customization and enhancement should be considered in relationship to the entire system architecture. You are not just an order taker who reads a requirement and implements a change without question. What effect will this change have on existing customization, user experience, reporting etc.? Are you making assumptions about how users are interacting with the system vs how they are actually using it?

A solution architect thinks ten steps ahead when implementing or recommending a solution rather than jumping to the neatest and shiniest tool. Sometimes the solution is a change in an internal process.

I don’t intend to throw shade on those who truly love Salesforce. For many of us, the tool has provided a rewarding career path and I believe the demand will only continue to grow. It is also tremendously important to have skilled users of the tool. Everyone who wears the badge (yes, on Trailhead too) of the Salesforce professional should have an in depth understanding of it.

I only hope that we never lose sight of the customers we serve and of the skill that make us most valuable: The ability to understand and solve problems.

How to Keep Up with Salesforce CPQ

How to keep up with Salesforce CPQ

The demand for CPQ solutions is growing exponentially. According to a Gartner report, market revenue for CPQ tools is expected to grow by 20% year over year through 2020. This is for good reason, too. Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) solutions allow businesses to accelerate sales and recognize revenue faster by quickly configuring products, defining pricing and discount structures, and integrating back-office billing systems.

In competitive industries where the customer can shop around with the swipe and touch of a finger, it is more important than ever to be able to provide a quote with speed and accuracy. The same Gartner study mentioned that being able to quote quickly provides the “highest probability of winning the deal.”

If you are one of these companies considering a CPQ solution such as Salesforce CPQ, you may have already begun your due diligence and research to get an idea of what it takes to implement. You may have even met with an implementation partner or consultant.

If you have, chances are they mentioned that a CPQ implementation is not just a matter of flipping a switch, installing a package or purchasing licenses. From a business point of view, there will be a substantial amount of requirement gathering to determine how CPQ will fit your business needs all the way down to defining your product and pricing structure.

From a technical point of view, implementing CPQ will require data analysis, transformation and loading, reporting, and the technical resources necessary to accommodate any custom business logic.

Maintaining your CPQ solution after implementation leads to an entirely new set of requirements that companies should also prepare for. Some questions you should ask yourself are:

Do you have the IT infrastructure to support the solution?

With Salesforce CPQ, it is important to have defined processes regarding ownership of the solution – who is responsible for changes, enhancements and adoption. It is not uncommon for companies to leave the ownership of Salesforce to the Business users – such as your Sales or Operations team. This may be fine for many implementations, especially ones that utilize out of the box Sales Cloud functionality.

However, CPQ is considerably more complex. With Salesforce CPQ, a technical team is highly recommended. A recent study provided by IBM Bluewolf noted that when IT has control over the use of the Salesforce platform, the business is ‘3x more likely to be optimized for ongoing innovation, use more of its features, as well as ‘coordinated process improvement’ (The State of Salesforce, 45).

Do you have the bandwidth to hire or train permanent Salesforce resources?

In an article by Salesforce about preparing for CPQ success, the author recommends Admin and User training as two of the five necessary components of maintaining a successful CPQ implementation (How to: Prepare for CPQ Success).

Finding the necessary professional resources can be expensive and training current employees may not be feasible for your business. In addition to the hours of training necessary to become a competent platform user, CPQ will demand users to keep abreast on areas to improve and optimize.

For these reasons and more, it may be appealing to contract your CPQ ongoing maintenance. Check out our other blog post on reasons to contract Salesforce work: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/4-reasons-contract-your-salesforce-project-grant-ongstad/

What are other important Maintenance activities your team should be aware of?

From a maintenance standpoint, most professionals agree that on-going house cleaning activities will need to take place in the following areas:

Products and Pricing: Is your product and pricing structure accurate? This includes cleansing of duplicate products or contradicting pricing rules.

Workflow and Approvals: Do the approval processes still reflect agreed upon business rules?

Quotes and Contracts: Is the language and terms accurate in quote and contract templates?

Conclusion

There is plenty of work to be done before and after implementing a CPQ solution, including creating support plans and assigning maintenance responsibilities.

The key to success is often careful and diligent planning. Although an investment in Salesforce CPQ can yield a significant return on investment, it is important to consider the long-term investment that will have to be made to keep things running smoothly.

Visit Pinkus Partners at www.pinkuspartners.com and gain access to the top Salesforce CPQ Professionals in the industry. Whether you are just beginning your CPQ implementation or have already gone live and could use some additional support, we can help you during any stage of the process for a successful outcome.

4 Reasons to Contract your Salesforce Project

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For even a small company, implementing and maintaining a Salesforce instance will require the help of certified professionals. With an increased demand for Salesforce professionals and the wide range of technical knowledge needed for many projects, consider these reasons to contract your Salesforce work.

Save Time and Money

The hourly rate of a Salesforce consultant may seem high when compared to a FTE, but after healthcare, paid vacation, sick pay, and 401k match – it is likely you will realize a substantial cost savings contracting at an hourly rate instead. Many consultants will provide their own resources, including software licenses, cell phones and laptops – substantially reducing the cost and time of an on-boarding. A Salesforce contractor will also provide for their own educational development, including maintaining certifications. During tax season employers also can avoid the headaches since they do not have to worry about employee withholdings. In most cases consultants can take a simple 1099.

Quickly Scale Resources

The scope and demands of your project can change drastically in a matter of days, requiring an increase in resources or a specialized, high demand skill set. Working with contracted professionals allows you to quickly scale up or down when needed. Salesforce consultants usually have certain areas of specialization such as APEX development, creating responsive lightning applications, or implementing and maintaining a CPQ implementation – just to name a few. Most staffing firms have a network they can quickly call on when needed. After a project is completed, scaling down is as simple as deciding to do so, without the hassle of dealing with typical off-boarding processes.

Technical expertise 

Hiring a full-time employee requires a considerable level of research, candidate hunting and vetting. Other than a resume and a few interviews, it is difficult to verify expertise, competency level, all while considering if the candidate is a cultural fit. This puts a strain on employers and candidates.  On the other hand, a specialized staffing firm’s competency can be measured by the talent they have readily available. Look for a staffing firm that provides customers with Salesforce certified and highly trained subject matter experts. These firms are able to offer Salesforce resources with the business experience required to fit in and make sure the project stays on task. When it comes to working on and completing projects, contractors are battle tested – they have worked on a variety of implementations, developed and tailored complex solutions, designed around multiple use cases, and have encountered all the exceptions and ‘gotchas’ along the way. These specialized Contractors are aware of ‘best practices’ when it comes to Salesforce solutions and are familiar with the design principles to ensure your solution is scalable for future initiatives. Since the majority of C-Level Executives rank a Salesforce project’s implementation time as their number one concern (Bluewolf, the State of Salesforce), and the best companies are aligning Salesforce to prioritize new initiatives based on both impact and time-to-value, bringing in specialized Salesforce resources with hands on experience is a critical component of a project’s success

Availability

Contractors are used to working whatever hours are needed to get the job done. They often work with significant time constraints and have a history of delivering successful projects under pressure. A full-time employee may have a few opportunities to prove themselves but a contractor knows they can easily be replaced if they do not perform.

Salesforce is a powerful tool. However, like any tool, its effectiveness starts and ends with the craftsman using it. Contracting a Salesforce professional can ensure the best craftsman for the job.

Visit us at www.pinkuspartners.com to gain access to the top Salesforce Professionals in the industry. Whether you are just beginning a Salesforce initiative or need year-round support, our skilled and certified Salesforce contractors can help you during any stage of your process.

Life After Launch: 8 Ways to Maximize Your Salesforce CPQ Investment

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After spending time, energy, and resources on an effective Salesforce CPQ roll-out, the time has finally come to enjoy all the benefits your new configure, price, quote software has to offer (and is expected to deliver).

So, what are the most important items to focus on to ensure smooth sailing with Salesforce CPQ?  Here is what Salesforce CPQ customers and Certified Salesforce experts consider to be most important in Life after Launch.

Life After Launch

If you completed a Salesforce CPQ implementation, you may remember the feeling you had on the day the solution was launched into production – aka ‘go live.’

All the planning, the effort, the project that was on your mind 24-7 – now finally complete. You may have wanted to take a nice vacation after that, maybe a trip to Cabo, maybe even tour Europe.

But then a couple days passed, the excitement wore off, and you came back down to earth and realized that the journey with Salesforce CPQ was just beginning.

While I may not be able to promise you that vacation to Cabo, I did compile a list of what Salesforce CPQ customers and Certified Salesforce experts consider to be the most important items to focus on during life after launch with Salesforce CPQ.

1. Increasing User Adoption

With all the benefits Salesforce CPQ adds to a business, if users are slow to adopt this new technology, your company pays the price. It can be challenging to get users away from what they’re accustomed to. Ask any sales rep if they rather spend their time selling or learning a new system, and you’ll be met with more than a few eye rolls. But if that new system is Salesforce CPQ, your sales reps should be itching to get their hands on a tool that is built specifically to help them close deals faster and make their jobs easier.

Therefore, companies need to ensure a smooth transition to increase adoption. Capturing and analyzing usage metrics, providing relevant training resources, and soliciting user feedback to improve outcomes is essential. In addition, providing quick resolutions to any problems your users may encounter is necessary to ensure they are less likely to revert back to old habits.

2. Ensuring Clean and Accurate Data

Data cleansing itself can be a full-time job, especially when dealing with large volumes of data from multiple channels. Validating and maintaining clean and accurate data is essential for your business. Luckily, Salesforce offers a variety of tools and functionality to help manage duplicate and incomplete data. This functionality, when leveraged by your team’s experienced Salesforce professionals, provides your company with invaluable information. Clean and accurate data ensures insightful and accurate reporting.

3. Leveraging Insightful and Accurate Reporting

Sales teams can effortlessly create their own reports and dashboards. Unfortunately, they may not always be useful or accurate. It is not uncommon for companies to spend thousands of dollars on Business Intelligence reporting professionals. Make sure to utilize your company’s Salesforce resources for their expertise when building reports and dashboards that are useful at every level – from the rep on the field interested in their pipeline to executive interested in quarterly performance.

4. Driving Innovation and Improvement

Salesforce knows that the way to stay at the top is by constantly improving and innovating. Make the most of your implementation by keeping abreast on Salesforce news and by identifying ways new or upcoming Salesforce products, services, or functionality can help improve your process. As your business evolves, so will your solution requirements.

Leverage your Salesforce employees to effectively manage and reinforce your current state, but also provide a road map to future innovation. As your product line or pricing structure evolves, your reports will stay relative and up-to-date. In addition, you are preparing your company to take advantage of Salesforce AI capabilities (Einstein) to help identify new insights. See our article on Salesforce Einstein for a good read!

5. Managing Workflow

Salesforce CPQ is all about the workflow – a succinct handoff from the sales rep through the hierarchy of approvers and all the way to billing. In a growing company, this workflow may change quite often. As your process, team, and products change – you’ll need to stay on top of automated workflows. Make sure you have a team in place that can quickly address any holdups in your automated approval process and can make the necessary updates and changes as needed.

6. Managing Templates

Your legal team may need to add a new addendum to a contract, make a change to terms in your quote templates, or your design team may agree on a new header design. Between all these changes, it can be difficult to manage accurate templates that are used in multiple places. Ensure that the most accurate templates are being used by your team so your customers receive consistent and accurate messaging, and your legal team isn’t hit with any surprises.

7. The Development Lifecycle

Your typical Salesforce user and potentially even your power user may not understand best practices of the development lifecycle. With growing expectations and regulations being put on businesses, it is important to be able to point to a clean audit trail of changes made to your production environment. Salesforce experts can help build and maintain a clean deployment plan from development, to stage, to production as well as properly store, deactivate, or remove old metadata.

8. Integrating with Other Applications

If your company’s data doesn’t only exist in Salesforce, you’ll need to put some effort in managing your integrations. We know many vendors may brag about their ‘seamless’ integration, but mistakes happen! Between incorrect mapping, user errors, or data anomalies, a hold up in the integration process can lose you a potential customer. Make sure you understand the common applications that integrate with Salesforce CPQ to keep everything running smoothly.

Managing so many moving parts can be a challenge without the right resources in place.  Stay tuned for more content in the coming weeks to help you stay on top of the most relevant Salesforce CPQ and Quote-to-Cash news and updates. If you missed out on reading through the 485 pages in the Salesforce Spring 2018 release notes, you can find a summary of the 9 changes for Salesforce CPQ and Billing in the newest release right here: Coming Soon: 9 New Salesforce CPQ and Billing Changes

 

AI and Salesforce Einstein: 3 Things Every Company Should Know

The increasing adoption of artificial intelligence has lead more and more executives to ask what role the powerful technology could play in their organization. It is no question that AI is and will continue to revolutionize the way businesses interpret data, interact with customers, and discover opportunities. However, before making the switch to becoming an AI powered organization, there are a few very important questions organizations should ask in determining readiness.

“When used right, technology becomes an accelerator of momentum, not a creator of it.” – Jim Collins, Good to Great

Here are 3 crucial components that should be thought of as prerequisites before taking the plunge into AI, so let’s dive in! After listing each component, I’ll provide detail on how to approach them – allowing your company to be one step closer to making the most of Salesforce Einstein.

#1 Your Data: 

It’s not a question of having data, but how quickly you can find, access, and leverage it.

To take full advantage of the capabilities of Salesforce’s AI product suite, there needs to be a significant level of unification among data. Many companies, having built their solutions in silo, are left with disparate systems where important data resides. This leaves some companies experiencing a downside to owning so much data.

That’s right! In some cases, data could be a culprit. According to a report by IBM’s Bluewolf – 72% of salespeople from small businesses report data inconsistencies as the No. 1 cause of their incomplete view of their customers” (The State of Salesforce, 22)In cases that involve multi-step, longer sales processes that depend on many variables – salespeople are required to search for information in places they haven’t had to look before to meet customers and prospects with relevant interactions. This can prove to be an issue in a sales cycle where time is crucial.

On the other hand, a sales team powered by artificial intelligence and backed by accurate and organized data can leverage powerful tools such as Salesforce’s Einstein Opportunity Insights and Lead Scoring – which can accurately determine the likelihood for a new conversion or give recommendations when a customer is likely to buy.  

For this reason, many companies are finding the value in efforts of consolidating, standardizing, cleaning, and reorganizing the way data is captured and stored, including finding ways of integrating their disparate systems. With a 6.5 Billion Dollar acquisition of MuleSoft, Salesforce is poised to be the premier one-stop solution for both integration and AI solutions.

#2 Your Business Process: 

Your business processes determine the success of your organization. Identify bottlenecks in your process and eliminate them.

When your business has been doing things the same way for a long period of time, it’s difficult to change, which is why it’s imperative to take a proactive approach when evaluating your business process.

So what’s the first step? While it may have made Simon Sinek famous, 3-year olds have been using this technique for years: Start by asking why.

To see how ‘why’ can help you, take your current sales process as an example. Start with the time you qualify a lead to the time they pay their first invoice. For each step in your process, ask yourself why it is done that way.

Repeat the ‘why’ question at least 5 more times and you may begin to gain new perspective. Go to the next stage of your process and repeat. This is a simple way of looking at an important business process that at its core is a way of reasoning from first principles. It breaks down a complex process into smaller, fundamental parts, getting to the heart of an issue. Bring in your Director of Operations, Sales, Business Development, and IT, and try the same exercise to see what they come up with!

Many companies have taken the first step toward a faster sales process by adding configure, price, and quote (CPQ) application suites. And while implementing a CPQ solution results in higher close ratios and greater revenue, it’s only one piece of the larger quote-to-cash solution.

To review vendors that are strong players in this market, head over to G2 Crowd for more insight into which applications are the best fit for solving your most pressing business challenges. There is also a deep pool of talented Salesforce professionals who can guide your company through the discovery process to maximize your investment with Salesforce.com.

#3 Your Customer Relationships:

Artificial Intelligence is and will continue to change the way companies interact with their customers. Know how your customers will react to AI.

Despite the positive ways that AI is impacting the world, there is still a lot of hesitation to adoption. The world is in the middle of what tech leaders, including Salesforce’s Marc Benioff, are calling the fourth industrial revolution. All aspects of life are being transformed by a new era of technology. A lot of people, understandably, are critical of AI’s ability to replace jobs, skills, and human interaction.

It is the organization’s job, therefore, to understand the relationship they have with their customers and determine how they will react. A prospect for a new Aerospace technology may react differently to being told that they were discovered by a machine learning algorithm than a contractor – who prefers personal interaction.

In addition, consider how your sales team communicates with clients. Is your sales cycle a long, multi-faceted process? Or is it based on a series of one on one conversations. These questions are important to your organization and provide insight to how Salesforce Einstein will score leads. As an organization, Salesforce recommends taking into account a customer’s unique journey with their organization” (The AI Revolution, 13). How you build relationships with customers should determine how your organization approaches a Salesforce AI strategy.

With easy access to clean data, a clearly defined business process, and fundamental knowledge of your customer, you are on the right track towards leveraging AI to accelerate momentum within your organization.

If you are challenged with getting the most out of your Salesforce investment, reach out to Pinkus Partners to speak with a Salesforce consultant today.