The Most Important Skills of the Salesforce Admin (That Won’t Be On The Exam)

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article titled What Makes a Salesforce Professional Valuable where I explained that the most valuable trait of a Salesforce Admin is understanding the business. Its positive reception inspired me to write this follow up that outlines, in my experience, very important skills that should be in an admin’s wheelhouse that may not necessarily be found on a study guide.

I’d like to preface this article with the assumption that these traits are valuable in tandem with the skills of mastering the Salesforce platform.

Business Analysis

Every good Salesforce Admin is a better Business Analyst. Requirements handed down to the Admin by the business users rarely present the whole picture. A request as simple as adding a picklist value to an existing field could warrant several follow-up questions: What order should the picklist value appear in? Is the picklist global? Is the picklist being mapped to another object or will it affect existing validation rules?

Try creating a use case for each requirement that clearly follows through every likely scenario. It’s the details that makes or breaks the Admin, and business analysis skills can help with mastering the details.

The Business Analyst is also a professional at understanding, well… the business. Taking the field modification example, several follow up or discovery questions could be analyzed purely from a business point of view.

What is the real problem that this change will solve? Is there an easier way to solve it? Why is this change important to my users?

Getting these answers will also help set the priority of which to assign requirements.

Integration

It would be nice if Salesforce was always the one stop shop for all business needs but that’s not always the case. Understanding business legacy tools and how Salesforce ‘speaks’ with other tools in your organization is paramount to helping your users.

As an Admin, you’ll not only receive tickets and concerns about Salesforce functionality, but also about anything that Salesforce may be integrated with. Does a website provide your company with leads? Do you use Pardot, Mailchimp, or some other marketing tool that modifies or creates data in Salesforce?

Many days of a Salesforce Admin consists of tracing data back to its origin and following it through its journey, knowing why an integration may fail, and being able to troubleshoot common integration issues. The admin’s integration expertise should extend to a working knowledge of AppExchange and available connected apps that can solve business problems

Data Analysis

Data is the lifeblood of your organization, and not just the customer data! Data includes product data, price data, Object and field meta data, and historical data.

Many of the actions a company makes are decided by metrics and information provided by data. In my experience, the best Admins understand the importance of data and know what must be done to protect its integrity including structure and accuracy.

The Salesforce Admin should know how to quickly report on their company’s data and WHY those reports are helpful to their business. The Admin should know what the business’s most important metrics, or KPI’s are.

Knowing how and when to implement duplicate and matching rules, how to export and import data, how to modify data using API tools like Data Import Wizard and Data Loader and by knowing what, if any, transformations take place to data behind the scenes is a most beneficial skill.

Conclusion

These skills are not honed on trailhead or in the classroom but by diving in to real world business scenarios, thinking about business and processes holistically, and by focusing time and energy into understanding data. Salesforce is an exceptional tool that is constantly changing and improving. Admins, as the craftsmen of this tool can best earn their clients trust by focusing on these skills. If you’re looking for an experienced Salesforce Admin who has these skills, visit www.PinkusPartners.com to find one!

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

Social Media Trends LinkedIn Post Header

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

Copy of 8 ways to Maximize your Salesforce cpq investment

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