Salesforce ­ How to do it right

Moving on from managing your customer relationships in a worksheet and deciding to do that in a CRM system like Salesforce is a big step forward. If you have already taken that step, and you are a Salesforce customer, congratulations! What is the second step after that?

The whole purpose of switching to Salesforce was to save time and money and to multiply your business revenue. If that does not happen and Salesforce sits there like an expensive Japanese robot that no one uses because no one in your team knows how to operate it, what is the point of it then? Is Salesforce a poor investment? In my experience, the answer is a big “No”.

What you need to do is to configure it for your business for it to help you meet the expectations you had from Salesforce. If you do not know how to configure it, you need someone who knows. That may seem like the additional cost but if you want to multiply your business revenue in coming time then consider it as a part of the investment you need to make in your business. It’s like you buy a tractor to plow your fields instead of taking help of a cow. Yes you need to spend on fuel now (and a driver if you do not know how to drive a tractor), but you can plow a lot more land faster with tractor, grow more crops and multiply your money. Sounds reasonable, right?

Now let’s talk a bit about how to configure Salesforce in the proper way. The most fundamental factor I see where people go wrong with Salesforce is they do not know what the proper object structure for their business is. Like one of our clients (a US based insurance agency dealing in Truck Insurance) tracks policies, insured vehicles and drivers under each policy. Initially, they created a Policy object, Vehicle object and Driver object (actually I have seen cases where customers create fields of Vehicles and Drivers directly inside Policy layout which is extremely inflexible).

Now to associate Vehicle with the Policy they created a lookup to the Vehicle inside Policy object. Similarly, they created a lookup to the Driver object inside Policy object. So far it seems good and works well when there is one vehicle and one driver per policy. Soon they came across cases where they needed to store 2 or more vehicles and drivers per policy. This is where the confusion started. They added another lookup field in Policy for Vehicle2 and Driver2. This solved the problem for a while. But this is still very limited. What if there are 3 or 4 or a unknown number of Vehicles and Drivers? What if you import data from a 3rd party system, and you do not know which policy will have how many vehicles and drivers? So the solution, in this case, is to create a Junction object between Policy and Vehicle where policy lookup and Vehicle lookup will be stored as a single relationship record.

You can associate more fields here like date this insurance started for this particular vehicle, expiry date, etc. In case of X vehicles in a policy create X such records. Same for drivers. Not only that, link the same Vehicle to N number of policies without any problems. This is a very simple example, but it shows where customers start facing problems. They find decision making about objects to be complex.

Further how to change the layout, how to have multiple layouts of the same objects, how to create formula fields, hide/show fields, create a workflow to automate a process, web to lead forms, configure mail merge, run campaigns, import/export data, automate task creation and assignments etc. are further important features but only after they are properly configured. You can go beyond the basics and integrate Salesforce with other systems to sync data both ways without manual intervention (real-time or scheduled), clear plus merge existing data, build another multi­tenant cloud application on top of Salesforce, integrate Salesforce with Amazon Web Services (S3 for example) and so on. Salesforce comes with a bundle of important tools and technologies to achieve all of these objectives. There are endless possibilities with Salesforce that can help you tremendously to optimize your way of working. As I have mentioned above, what you need to do is to take the second step of engaging one or more capable technical minds who are well versed with Salesforce. Go ahead and do it right to meet your expectations from Salesforce.