With the success of our recent Admin & Developer Interview posts, it’s now time to release one for the budding consultants out there! The Salesforce Consultant position is a logical step for admins wanting to climb the career ladder, or for seasoned IT professionals who are looking to transfer their skills over to a high growth industry.
Within this post, we’ve tried to mirror the variety of questions you would get in a real-life interview, these would include both technical and also softer skilled questions. As some of these answers can include a wide range of answers, we will give you a selection of possible responses.
1. What advice would you give to a customer (with little to no SF experience) who is planning to self-implement?
As a consultant, you could be faced with this question if a customer is dubious about paying a high day-rate to deal with a consultancy. There are a few different angles to take with this question:
- Salesforce is a fairly complex system with all it’s interlinking components. Without knowing how all of the elements should be used, and how they can be extended with custom features, you can almost guarantee that something will not be set up correctly. This has two main knock-on effects; the system will not be used correctly, and therefore you may need to pay more money in the future to unpick the work to ensure it’s best practice.
Consulting partners earn their living by knowing Salesforce inside out. However in addition, they have also built up years of experience working with similar customers. This means that as well as getting someone that knows Salesforce, you have someone that can advise on your business processes and precisely the best way to implement based off of years of experience.
As well as feature and implementation experience, a Salesforce project will also include requirements gathering, training and optimisation for adoption. Without these three core areas, how well Salesforce is setup becomes redundant.
2. What are your top 3 tips to improve user adoption?
Adoption is one of the most important aspects towards the end of a project. Developing a proper roll-out and training plan is essential to ensure users as fully equipped to apply the system in the correct way, here are a few examples of tips to improve adoption:
Training – Training is your biggest chance to show off the system to users and demonstrate how to use the system in the most effective way. Training should not just be a one-off event; there should be various follow-ups in different mediums to ensure users have truly understood the system.
Ongoing Support – Developing a plan for ongoing support is essential to ensure adoption and make sure that users don’t feel lost with the system. This can be in the form of power users, system administrators, of using a consultancy to support users.
Project Involvement – Involving users right at the start of a project will ensure that they feel their opinion is valued. After all, to some extent, they will be shaping the system. Involving users early on will also demonstrate to them the importance of a CRM and the importance of their particular project.
Feature Development – You should listen to your users and constantly be striving to improve the system. Opening a channel of communication between users, managers and system administrators will mean that their voice is heard, and changes to the system will happen.
3. What are your best practice tips and advice for maintaining clean data in Salesforce?
First of all, consultants and admins alike should always strive to ensure that any data entering Salesforce is clean data. If implemented effectively, retroactive cleaning of data will be minimal. There are multiple ways to initially keep data clean, and then various ways to retroactively clean it. Here are a few examples:
Validation – Using Validation in Salesforce is a fantastic way to keep data clean. This can come in a few different forms such as required fields, using picklists over free text fields, validation rules, as well as setting correct permissions. All of the mentioned features are simply trying to ensure that users can only enter data they should be entering. This is one of the most effective prevention methods for bad data.
Duplicate Management – A common issue for users and admins using Salesforce, is duplicates. They can come from various sources including an initial data load, marketing leads (Events or website), or users themselves manually entering them. Salesforce has various simple but powerful duplicate tools to prevent this.
Training – An occasionally overlooked fact for duplicate management is actually making users aware of the problem. This is sometimes users biggest bugbears, so if you explain best practices and ways to prevent duplicates, it will make their lives a lot easier going forward. A couple of ideas here would be first to explain how duplicates arise and why they can cause big problems, as well as explaining ways to ensure all leads you are dealing with have been dupe checked (If Salesforce is setup correctly this should be automatic).
Initial Loading – One big area to pay attention to as a consultant, is to ensure that the initial data being loaded into the system has been checked for duplicates. If Salesforce has been set up correctly, you can actually block dupes from entering the system.
Retrospective Clean Up– In the event that you are working with a Salesforce Org that has a very big dupe problem, there are a few options available to use. These are mainly based around Apps on the AppExchange, some of the most popular ones being Cloud Dingo & DemandTools.
4. What advice would you give to a Salesforce admin who wants to advance to consulting?
First of all, I would say that this is a fantastic choice for them! A logical career step for an admin that wants to challenge themselves is a move into consulting. Generally you will be faced with more complex projects, a wider variety of clients, and you will also be exposed to a broader range of technologies.
Being a consultant is very different to being an admin, but there are also some similarities. The one big piece of advice I would give is to switch their thinking from just implementing features in Salesforce, to implementing business solutions that are going to transform a companies processes; saving time and money. This thought process is one that a lot of admins already have, but the role of a consultant requires this thought process to be executed.
5. Explain the core differences between Sales Cloud and Service Cloud.
Sales Cloud – Sales Cloud was Salesforce’s first product and is designed to support businesses to manage their sales cycles. At the heart of the product, Salesforce is a CRM designed to support businesses keeping track of their customers and their relationships. In addition to this, Sales Cloud extends the basic CRM by providing lead management, opportunity management, forecasting, product and quoting functionality.
Service Cloud – The Service Cloud is a similar product that sits on top of Salesforce’s core CRM cloud. Service Cloud has been designed to support businesses with their customer service department. The Service Cloud has functionalities such as case management, entitlement management, knowledge bases, Email2Case among others.
6. In your opinion, what are the fundamental differences in skills between a Salesforce Admin and Salesforce Consultant?
A Salesforce admin’s primary responsibilities involve administering the Salesforce system, ensuring that the system is maintained, new features are implemented, users are managed, and any queries about the system are answered. While on the other hand, a consultant will often be involved in projects to solve complex business problems that have arisen.
Whilst there are a lot of overlaps in both of the roles, a consultant should generally be more involved in business analysis than an admin. That is not to say that an admin should not use business analysis skills in their role, but this is usually solely why a consultant has been brought into a project. Depending on the “kind” of consultant we are talking about (Business vs Functional), they may need to have a stronger technical knowledge of Salesforce due to the nature of the projects they will be working on.
7. What are the benefits of using the AppExchange?
The Salesforce AppExchange was built in order for Salesforce partners to develop specialist applications on top of the Salesforce platform. The benefits of the Salesforce AppExchange are similar to that of any App store such as iPhone or Android; they provide out of the box Apps both free of charge or at a cost, that help extend the functionality of your platform. With Salesforce there are various Apps, both simple and complex, that help you automate key business processes. These can range from a simple App that helps you clone records, to complete accounting systems that sit on top of Salesforce such as FinancialForce.
8. How would you explain what Salesforce is to someone who didn’t even know what a CRM was?
To some, Salesforce is a very complex system and can be hard to grasp. Of course, most people reading this would already have an extremely good understanding of Salesforce and how it can help your business, but as a consultant, you need to be understanding of people who won’t. My explanation of Salesforce to non-technical people or clients goes like this:
“Everyone in the world who runs a business will use a Customer Relationship Management system of some sort. Whether this is a market stall writing down the names, addresses and products bought in a notebook or a mechanic who uses a spreadsheet to do the same. Meanwhile, some small, medium and worldwide enterprise companies will choose to use Salesforce to accomplish this, which has a huge amount of benefit to bring to a business. ”
9. What are your tips for dealing with non-technical clients?
Dealing with non-technical clients is inevitable in Salesforce projects. While you will nearly always have people from an IT team involved, most people involved in the project will be from a business perspective and may not be used to talking in technical terms.
- Be sympathetic that some people are not technical, do not make them feel less intelligent because of this fact.
Avoid talking too much about the technical solution, and more about the people, process, and the actions.
When you do talk about a solution, don’t use Salesforce terminology. Instead of using the term workflow rule, apex or process builder, talk about automation.
If you do have to talk about something complex that the client might not understand, be creative in how you explain it and draw on examples.
10. How would you support a client that was very resistant to change (i.e. a Salesforce implementation)?
A common problem among implementations is that some users or managers like the way they work, and don’t see any need to change the way they are working (The old idiom “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” comes to mind.) These types of people can be initially frustrating when you come across them, and as a consultant you should know the benefit that a new system will bring them. However, getting them on board is key for a successful project.
- Have empathy towards people that may dislike an external party coming in and telling them alternative, improved methods. This is often an uncomfortable situation to be in.
Learn more about the way they are working and what you can do to help them in a non-intrusive manner.
Involve them very early on in the project so that they feel like they are a part of this new system.
Never focus on the direct solution, but talk about the benefits it will bring to them and the time saving that will apply.
11. List 3 critical success factors for a new implementation and why they matter.
There are many critical aspects to projects that must be perfected in order to ensure the best roll out and implementation possible. Here are some examples:
User & Management Buy-In – Getting user and management buy-in from the start ensures that the system has been designed specifically for the people that are going to use it. Neglecting either one of these user groups (or executives) can result in a low adoption rate due to either the system not being fit for purpose, or the users not realizing the implications of the system.
Training – Another critical success factor is the training. Training is one of the most important parts of the project following a proper implementation. It ensures that users have all the information and the tools to do their job. For some, Salesforce is a daunting system, and although should always be designed with the user in mind, training is still key to ensure adoption.
Reporting – Salesforce has a fantastically powerful reporting and dashboard system, and this should never be forgotten to implement. Reports & Dashboards give both users and management alike, insights into what is happening in their Org. This is one of the only ways to ensure that the system and users behaviors can be improved.
Data Migration – A data migration for any implementation is very much a critical success factor. This can always be a stressful exercise, but it’s one that should be executed with particular care. If the data from the old system is in a bad place, importing this will just serve to confuse and frustrate users, as well as mess up reporting.
12. What would you say are some of the more common reasons for project scope creep? What measures do you put in place to reduce the risk of this happening?
Any consultant or project managers worst nightmare is scope creep. What does this mean? It basically means that the project goes outside of the defined project scope at the start of the project. It’s bad because it can increase the length of the project, the cost of the project, which means the consultancy could sometimes foot the bill if this is not managed correctly. Here are some ways scope creep happens and how to manage them:
Undefined Scope – All projects will have a scope of work of some kind before the project kicks off. The aim of this will be to give the customer confidence in the consultancy to deliver the project within a set timeframe, a price, as well as a set of requirements. If the Proposal or Statement of Work has a lot of “wiggle room”, this will mean that the customer may try and fit more requirements into the project than has been generally agreed. This is always a tough risk to manage but the scope of work should always have clear in scope and out of scope requirements, defined assumptions about the project as a whole, and any specific tasks or requirements.
Lack of Project Management – Effective project management is the key to any successful project. The project manager will control the resources (consultants) on the project including their tasks, timelines, and will have overall responsibility for delivering the project to a high standard and to a specific timescale. If the project management is poor, this may lead to scope creep due to no one taking responsibility for what is in or out of scope. Scope creep also usually occurs when the project is massively over deadlines which can be a result of poor project management. All projects should have a clear role defined for the project manager,and there should be a solid project management plan in place with clear timescales for all tasks.
Length of Project – The longer a project runs for, the more time that people involved in a project can choose to make changes. In addition to this, at the current pace of how businesses change, if a project runs for long enough, the whole business could change. This is all related back to good project management. Project plans need to be in place to ensure everyone sticks to agreed timescales.
13. What information would you say should always be captured on a working lead, regardless of industry?
Leads coming into your Salesforce Org often will only have the basic required information, so it’s important that as a consultant you advise on certain fields which should always be included on the Leads object. This also links back to the section on keeping data clean.
14. How do stay on top of new Salesforce Features/Products/Apps?
It is imperative that as a consultant (Or any Salesforce professional for that matter), you stay on top of Salesforce as a platform. This includes staying on top of releases, features, new products (Or acquisitions), and of course knowing about the AppExchange. It is best to get your information from varied sources so that you get a well-rounded knowledge base. Here are a few ways to stay on top of the platform:
Salesforce Release Notes – This is where all Salesforce professionals need to spend a good amount of their time at each release, looking through the areas that apply to them and their area of expertise. Knowing about the release notes can unlock a variety of features for you to implement for your customers. Not only that, it can lift previous limits that might make previous solutions that didn’t work, logistically possible now!
Salesforce Blogs – There are a lot of blogs out there, where authors spend their time writing up helpful articles for Salesforce professionals. These are a great way to get targetted content about summarised topics on a daily or weekly basis. Make sure you check out our ultimate blogs list to see some of the best.
Events – Attending Salesforce events, whether they are community hosted or official, are a great way to network with fellow Salesforce professionals, and also to hear from fantastic speakers about a broad range of related topics. Similar to blog posts but with deeper content, these will be entertaining and provide you with a great deal of value for a particular topic.
15. Describe a use case for enabling the Person Accounts feature in Salesforce.
Salesforce was built primarily as a B2B system, hence the fact that when you purchase Salesforce, you have Accounts & Contacts objects to mirror the setup of an organization. Salesforce extended the functionality of their platform to deal with B2C businesses, personal accounts allow you to access a new type of record (Which is actually a combination of the Accounts & Contacts objects), that can support a B2C business.
16. A client has a customer support team and a sales team who both use the Account object. All records are completely private but contain fields that indicate the commission a sales rep will earn, therefore management doesn’t want this field to be visible to the customer support users. What solution would you put in place that would achieve this?
There are a couple of options that come to mind as soon as you have to hide a field from a particular set of users…
Page Layouts – A common solution to an issue where two sets of users are using the same object, is to create a separate page layout. This has the huge advantage of giving them both independent personalization to the same object. The field in question could be removed from the Page Layout and voila! However, this would not remove the field from reports, still giving them access to it still.
Field Level Security (FLS) – To ensure that the field is removed completely from the support users across the whole of Salesforce, we need to use FLS. Field Level Security is a great way to quickly remove the ability for a certain profile to see a field. We can simply turn this field for the support users and there we go!
17. What is the difference between a Role and a Profile in Salesforce?
Profiles are features that can be added to a user record in Salesforce. Roles are optionally added while Profiles are a basic requirement of setting up a user.
Profiles help to control object privileges such as CRED (Create, Read, Edit, Delete). They also contain system permissions that a user can carry out such as exporting data.
Roles on the other hand, help with sharing records across an organization. They work in a hierarchical fashion, giving users access to records that are owned by people lower down in the hierarchy.
18. What are the main limitations of using Salesforce Professional edition?
Salesforce Professional Edition can be thought of as a lighter edition of Salesforce Enterprise. While it looks identical to Salesforce, behind the scenes there are a few major differences to Enterprise that a Salesforce consultant would need to know. This is very important because if you scope out a requirement that is more complex than usual, you may need to recommend a different Salesforce edition.
The best way to explain the differences between Professional and Enterprise Edition, in a nutshell, is limitations. Professional Edition enforces limitations around automation, connectivity, and integrations. Because of these limitations, this also means that not all AppExchange Apps are available to Professional Edition users. Some examples of these are that only 5 process builders are available, workflows are not available, Apex & Visualforce are both unavailable, as well as limitations around sandboxes. There is also no API access available with Professional Edition which means that integrations with external systems are not possible.
19. What are 3 metrics/reports every Sales Manager should have set up in their Salesforce org?
Reports should be able to show the sales manager not only how the business is performing (or not performing!) but actually give them insights into the business, to understand what they are doing well or could be doing better in. As well as the typical reports you should always suggest i.e. open leads; opp’s; activity etc. you should also suggest these reports in any implementation you do:
Lead Win/Loss Ratio – Yes your sales rep might be hitting their ‘number of new leads target’ each month, but how many of these are they actually converting? And if they aren’t, why not? Is this because their leads target is too high and they aren’t focussing on quality? Is it a training issue and the sales rep isn’t properly qualifying? Or is it because the territory/sector they work in is not currently a viable market? Who knows until you look at the numbers!
Lead and Opportunity Loss Reasons- Even more powerful is showing the potential revenue amount per reason. Imagine if you had lost £1m over the last year as your product was missing a certain feature – this provides you with a business case to go back to the product team (and senior exec team to try and get this on the roadmap – which will also motivate your sales team as it is good to know that the product/service they are selling due to market needs – this makes their job far easier).
Last Activity Reports – In particular for customers. It is a really powerful report and a great talking point in a meeting to be able to highlight how a sales rep has not spoken to their top customer in 3 months (albeit they might not have logged in Salesforce…) but this really holds the sales rep accountable for their customers, and as a sales manager you can easily identify customers that need to be reached out to.
20. What are the benefits of using a Sandbox to make changes?
This provides you with an environment to make changes without any risk of breaking anything! Many Salesforce instances can be very complex. In particular, if you are a consultant working in an org that you didn’t implement yourself. More often than not, despite best practice, we tend to work in org’s with no documentation or handover so even the most experienced consultant can run into issues when making changes. Aside from this – the user impact is key. All changes to a Salesforce instance should be communicated to users ideally prior to the change.This should include what the change is; why it is being made (think benefits) and how it will affect them. Making changes in production that change the way they work, and even worse making a change that prevents them from doing something is one of the big reasons users become frustrated and disengaged with the system, and we all know user adoption is critical to the success of a Salesforce implementation.
21. Can You explain the three types of object relationships in Salesforce?
There are three main relationship types in Salesforce…
– A lookup relationship can be used to link two objects together. It is the most basic type of relationship that creates a child-parent relationship between two objects.
– A master-detail relationship can also be used to link two objects together. A master-detail relationship creates a tight relationship between the parent and the child. The child record inherits security of the parent, and if the parent is deleted, all associated child records will also be deleted. Master-detail relationships created some extra functionality such as roll-up summary fields that allow you to calculate data on the parent from the children.
– A many-to-many relationship (Also referred to as a junction object), allows you to create a relationship between two objects that need to model a many-to-many relationship. These are created with an object that has two master-detail relationships to two parent objects.
22. Why is it useful for any organization using Salesforce to conduct a Health-check of their usage at least once a year?
Even with a team of Salesforce admins in place, this is really a necessity. Why? All it takes is a change in process, a new app being installed and this could have repercussions on your org. For example, suddenly you’re exceeding your data storage limit. People also often change roles in the business, processes slip, someone got made system admin for one day as they needed to do something quickly and you didn’t have time to make a permission set for them… and since then they have been creating fields all over the place. At the end of the day, Salesforce is not a static system, it should evolve with time and more importantly, as your business evolves. So check in on how you are using Salesforce. And don’t forget Salesforce do 3 major releases a year which not only give you more features which could be utilized but also usually provides you with more tools to give you insight into how your users are using Salesforce – so make the most of them!
23. A client wants to understand what Accounts are Customers (indicated by any related Closed-Won Opportunity). What solution would you propose here?
A clear solution would be to use the Type picklist field on the Account object. Usually defaulted to a value such as Prospect when they have been converted from a lead. You would then implement a process builder that would update this field to Customer once the associated Opp is Closed-Won.
24. A client has used 121% of their data storage limit in Salesforce and has reached out to you regarding the options. What would you suggest they do next?
You should always check what is taking up all this storage straight away within the Company Profile. You will sometimes find there is one particular component that is taking up a the majority of the storage. In some use cases, it is an incumbent app which reduces the storage considerably. Often it is a particular object that is causing the issue and I would suggest reviewing the use of this object and potentially archiving data. As a last resort, you can look to purchase more storage from Salesforce, but this is a more expensive alternative.
25. A client currently manually creates a Quote in Word (using an Excel sheet to get costs etc.) which they PDF to send via email to a client. The quote provides their customer with a high-level estimation of costs based on the mix and volume of products they are purchasing. They have 5 sales reps selling up to 10 quotes a day. The client currently uses Salesforce Sales Cloud and have asked us what we recommend to help automate this process from them – what would you suggest?
First of all, this is a perfect use case for Salesforce. Any processes like this which are done outside of Salesforce and are extremely inefficient can take advantage of features and tools inside of Salesforce to ensure sales users can focus on what they do best; selling.
The first feature set that should be recommended off the back of this issue would be the Salesforce quoting engine. This allows you to generate a PDF quote and email it out to the client, with products attached to it. This does have a number of pre-requisites which includes having Opportunities, Products & Pricebooks setup correctly. Depending on the complexity of the customer’s requirements, a more complex CPQ (Configure Price Quote) solution may need to be investigated.
As well as potentially asking you questions about being a consultant and what you would do in a particular scenario, there is no doubt that they will also ask you questions about your personal experience. This section is designed to give you an idea of what questions could be asked. Be sure to have a think about how you would answer these before going into an interview.
26. Which Salesforce Clouds have you worked with in the past? How would you describe your level of understanding for each?
27. Tell me a bit about some of your previous projects (size; clouds; role; the number of projects worked on at any one time).
28. What Salesforce certifications do you currently hold? Do you have plans to take on any new ones?
29. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?