21 Features every Salesforce Professional should know

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Knowing about the most common Salesforce features will enable you to boost user productivity, and build in line with Salesforce best practices.

While Salesforce orgs can be customized to suit a business’ exact needs, there are some Salesforce CRM features that you almost certainly will come across as a Salesforce Admin. As you work with Salesforce longer you’ll become familiar with even more of its capabilities. Then, if you follow Salesforce’s releases closely, you won’t be a stranger to the latest and greatest in its technology.

This is how we’ve categorized these 21 key Salesforce features – ones that every admin should know (level 1), experienced admins will know (level 2), and new ones (level 3). Do you know them all?

Lightning App Builder (and Lightning Components)

The Lightning App Builder is a point-and-click tool that’s easy to create pages for Salesforce Lightning, or to use in the mobile app. This enables you to rearrange pages to highlight key information users need, and hide anything irrelevant.

There’s a big emphasis on Lightning Components – “compact, configurable, and reusable elements that you can add to a Lightning page in the Lightning App Builder” – which are available to drag on to the page canvas. You can see Lightning Components on the left-hand side on the user interface below:

Learn more!

Trailhead module: Lightning App Builder

Trailhead project: Quick Start: Lightning App Builder

Salesforce Reports & Dashboards

Salesforce reports and dashboards are Salesforce’s out-of-the-box analytics, the “go to” option for quick reporting; as you would expect from the #1 CRM in the world, they are powerful, intuitive, customisable, and they work well for organizations of all types and sizes.

Salesforce reports are a list of filtered records. There are two main parts to the Lightning report builder:

  • ‘Outline’, where you decide which fields you want to include on the report,
  • ‘Filters’, where you narrow down which records you would like to display.

To create a Salesforce dashboard, add charts and graphs that are based on a report. In other words, the dashboard displays visualisations of reports (see examples here).

Have you heard about Salesforce dashboard filters? Dashboard filters in Salesforce are drop-down lists that sit at the top of a dashboard. After a Salesforce Admin has created them, they are available for users to drill down even further into the data, for example, adding a ‘Region’ filter would only show the sales data for a specific region.

Learn more!

How to Create a Report in Salesforce

6 Salesforce Reports You Never Knew You Needed (for Marketing)

Trailhead module: Reports & Dashboards for Lightning Experience

Trailhead project: Quick Start: Reports & Dashboards

List Views

Who doesn’t love a Salesforce list view? List views in Salesforce are what they sound like: a view that’s a list of records. Find list views on the home tab of each object, for example, on the lead object, you will find list views such as “Today’s leads”, “Recently viewed leads”, plus any custom views you create.

The major plus point of list views is the ability to view and edit multiple records at once. My guess is that users love them because they are the closest thing to Excel spreadsheets (which as we know) are hard for some users to part from, hampering your user adoption.

Learn more!

Trailhead module: Create and Customize List Views

Validation Rules

A Validation Rule is a rule on a field which verifies that data entered by a user meets a certain criteria, before the user can save the record.

The rule asks a yes/no question where the answer must be yes (True). If not, an error message appears, where the admin has explained what the user must do to correct the record before clicking ‘Save’ again.

Learn more!

How to Get Started With Validation Rules

Trailhead module: Formulas and Validations

Security: Profiles, Roles, Permission Sets

Security in Salesforce is crucial to ensure each user can access only the record data that’s appropriate/relevant to their work. Anyone that has looked at the Certified Administrator will know there’s a big emphasis on this topic because it can be tricky to nail down as a Salesforce newbie.

The most common Salesforce security controls are Profiles, Roles, and Permission Sets. These three security features work together so that data visibility in your Salesforce org is spot on for your teams’ needs.

Learn more!

Salesforce Roles and Profiles (Feat. Permission Sets)

Trailhead module: Data Security

Sandboxes

A Sandbox lets you develop and test your configuration, in the safety of a controlled environment. They are copies of your production environment that have the same platform customizations (eg. custom fields, code, automation). Some Sandbox types, will also contain a copy of your production data (eg. Leads, Accounts, Contacts data).

Sandboxes aren’t only for Salesforce Admins. You can grant access to users so they can check that what you’ve created falls in line with their expectations/how they actually work. This is called “user acceptance testing” (UAT) and can identify kinks before the changes are deployed to production.

Learn more!

What is a Salesforce Sandbox? A Beginners Guide

Trailhead module: Change Set Development Model

Change Sets

Salesforce change sets act like containers that move configuration between Salesforce environments, for example, from a sandbox to your production org (live environment users log into).

 Creating a change set involves selecting which items you are ready to deploy – for example, you could create a change set with a new field, a validation rule, and a Flow, which once after you are satisfied with your testing, will be inserted into production.

Learn more!

Salesforce Change Sets vs. DevOps Center

Trailhead module: Change Set Development Model

Data Loader

The Salesforce Data Loader is an essential piece of kit to know, ​​enabling you to insert (import), update, export, and delete records in your Salesforce org. The most common use are: Inserting data from one system to Salesforce (data migration), mass updating records with new information, mass deleting records that are no longer required, exporting data as a backup.

There is also the Data Import Wizard, which is included with every Salesforce org, and is accessed via Salesforce setup. There are differences between the Data Import Wizard and Data Loader – every Salesforce professional should know when to use which.

Learn more!

Introduction to the Salesforce Data Loader

Choosing a Method for Importing Data – Salesforce Help

Trailhead module: Data Management

Dynamic Forms

Dynamic Forms are user-centric, intuitive page layouts that display the right information at the right time. Over time, the page layout, or “Details” section in Lightning pages, can become congested with fields. These fields may well be necessary but not all the time or to all users.

  • Place fields anywhere on the layout without needing to add them to the traditional page layout (“Details” tab)
  • Use visibility rules to make fields and components appear and disappear based on criteria you choose
  • Do away with multiple page layouts
  • Improve page load times

Learn more!

Salesforce Dynamic Forms – Overview & Deep Dive Tutorial

Salesforce Flow

Salesforce Flow empowers you to build complex business solutions using clicks, not code. Flow Builder is the most powerful tool that a Salesforce Admin has at their disposal, giving you similar powers that Salesforce developers have.

If you need to perform mass updates across multiple unrelated records, or complex logic into opportunity conversion, these are common examples for when you should use Flow.

The use cases for Flow are endless, and its capabilities are growing with every Salesforce release.

Learn more!

Introduction to Salesforce Flow

Salesforce Flow Examples + 8 Top Tips

Trailhead trail: Automate Your Business Processes with Salesforce Flow

Setup Audit Trail

With Setup Audit Trail you can proactively check any metadata changes performed by users in your org. This could include anything that occurs in Salesforce setup, for example, changes to page layouts, automation, field-level security (and the list goes on…)

As the Salesforce Admin, don’t allow any changes to go unnoticed ‘under the radar’, and hold others accountable for bad Salesforce configuration practice.

Learn more!

17 Free Ways to Monitor Your Salesforce Org

Global Picklist Value Sets

Picklists are a Salesforce field type that restricts which values users can select when populating a field in Salesforce. In other contexts, they are called ‘dropdowns’. While picklists are highly valuable to admins who need to maintain data consistency (rather than giving their users free reign to type in free text!), have you stopped to wonder how to keep all values consistent across multiple picklist fields? If you have a picklist on two objects, and someone adds/removes a value from one, how will you remember to reflect that in the other picklist field?

That’s where Picklist Value Sets come in. These effectively create a single list of values that can be referenced by picklist fields on multiple objects (hence ‘global’). With picklists tied together, if a change is made, it will be reflected on every picklist using that value set.

The most common use case for this is for lead conversion field mapping (lead fields to contact/account/opportunity fields). See a standard example in your org – “lead source” is used across multiple objects.

Learn more!

Create a Global Picklist Value Set

Trailhead module: Share Values with Global Value Sets

Record Types

Record Types are a way of grouping many records for one type for that object, because these records have a lot in common. Record Types allow you to have a different page layout, with different fields, required or not, and with different picklist values. They can be applied to any standard or custom object in Salesforce.

In terms of your Salesforce career, working with record types is a milestone to pass – as Stacy O’Leary said: “Record Types are one of the most misunderstood and misused features of Salesforce”.

Sometimes using record types instead of simply a new page layout is the best option, however you should always know when to use record types to avoid over-engineering your Salesforce org.

Learn more!

Salesforce Record Type Best Practices + Tutorial

Record Type, or Not? 6 Questions to Ask When Planning Salesforce Record Types

When to use Record Types Vs Page Layouts?

Trailhead: Create Record Types

Case Formulas

You may have confused this type of Salesforce formula field with the Salesforce Case object – however, case formulas are used only in specific circumstances.

A case formula: “Checks a given expression against a series of values. If the expression is equal to a value, returns the corresponding result. If it isn’t equal to any values, it returns the else_result”. Read this great article for a relatable example of how CASE formulas work.

Dynamic Interactions

Dynamic Interactions are interactive components such as a list, a data entry form, a chart or a map. Whilst the initial component is created by a developer, it can then be added to Salesforce layouts by the Administrator who can control how the component interacts with other components on the page and what action it should take. These components are reusable, so they only need to be created once, and can then be used repeatedly.

Learn more!

New Lightning Components: Salesforce Dynamic Interactions

Einstein Opportunity Scoring

Salesforce Einstein Opportunity Scoring gives each opportunity a number between 1-99 that indicates the chance that the opportunity will end up Closed Won. Let Einstein guide your sales teams and enable them to prioritize a sure win, or escalate at-risk pipeline, depending on the Einstein Opportunity Score, as well as handy hints on the factors that contributed to the score.

In March 2020, this feature was made available, for free – so take advantage of Einstein’s intel!

Learn more!

What Is Salesforce Einstein Opportunity Scoring? Overview & Deep Dive Tutorial

Trailhead module: Sales Cloud Einstein

Account Teams

Salesforce Account Teams received a major upgrade in the Winter ‘20 release, which resolved the multiple limitations it had since the feature transitioned to Lightning. An Account Team is simply a group of users who work on an ac

count together, identifying who is working on an account, by Team Roles.

Admins should consider enabling this feature to manage larger sales teams that require more flexibility in account ownership.

Learn more!

Best Practices for Using Salesforce Account Teams

Trailhead module: Sales Team Collaboration

Row-level Formulas

Formulas can be used in reports for grouping records, calculations, or to compare data within a record. Row-level Formulas were added to the Lightning Report Builder as a highly requested feature from the Salesforce community; beforehand, Admins would need to create a custom field on the object, which is now not necessary in the majority of cases thanks to these formulas.

Row-Level Formulas apply to a single record, and appear on each row of the report you create the formula on. An example would be to check if two fields on the same record have the same value.

Learn more!

Summary Formulas vs Row Level Formulas in Salesforce Reports (+ Examples)

Trailhead project: Evaluate Report Data with Formulas

The Analyze Button (Page Analyzer)

The ‘Analyze’ button, available within the Lightning App Builder, provides a predicted page load time for desktop and a page performance index for mobile, as well as best practices and suggestions for improving page load time for a better end-user experience.

This analyzes the fields, Related Lists components, and metadata of a record page.

As much as we love Lightning (and want you to love it too), there’s no getting away from a topic that comes up…load time. Run this test to improve yours (like magic!)

Learn more!

The Analyze Button: Improve Your Salesforce Lightning Page Load Speed

URL Hacking

You may remember the popular Salesforce URL Hacking tutorial that Ben wrote back in 2015. You may also remember that Lightning Experience didn’t initially support URL hacking, which was replaced with Custom Actions.

However, early in 2020, Salesforce decided to bring back URL hacking. A URL Hack is a custom built button that creates a new record, and presets some default values using static or dynamic fields based on the record you’re currently on.

Learn more!

Salesforce URL Hacking for Lightning – Tutorial

Salesforce Data Mask

Salesforce Data Mask is a managed package that secures sensitive data in sandbox orgs (hence ‘masking’). Use this so that anyone developing/testing in sandbox environments doesn’t see data that would breach any data compliance policies your organization has regarding customer data.

Learn more!

Trailhead module: Salesforce Data Mask

Debug Mode

No doubt you’ve come across Lightning Components, the powerhouses behind modern Salesforce. Occasionally a component can go rogue and throw a scary error message! However, don’t fret, debug mode is a wonderful tool hidden away in the setup area that can be a real asset in finding the cause and eventually squashing those bugs!

Learn more!

What is Debug Mode for Lightning Components?

3 thoughts on “21 Features every Salesforce Professional should know

  1. Hi Ben,

    I like this list and it made me think of something I believe is really important for those who’d like to launch a CRM project and need to embark managers on the common vision : the “Did you know…? list”. From my experience, most managers have very little knowledge of what a CRM could bring to their organization and business beyond visit reports, dashboards and basic sales metrics. There is an enormous gap between what Salesforce can offer (IQ, Lightning, Thunder, Wave, Marketing…) and what managers know about CRM.
    To me, a project should start wiht a questionnaire around “Did you know CRM could do this or that to your business”, so very much oriented to benefits for project sponsors. Would you happen to have such a list of benefits in mind?

    1. Hi Fabien,

      I don’t have a list like that to hand but it’s a very good point. Salesforce is obviously primarily chosen for Sales benefits but the amount of other departments it can help is amazing. I will bear this list in mind and try to come up with something for it.

      Thanks,

      Ben

  2. You made a good point that a dashboard is critical in managing Salesforce since that would be an efficient way to monitor what everyone else is doing. I’m planning to open my own clothing store at the local mall this winter but I still have a lot of things to sort out regarding how I can handle the employees that I will be hiring, let alone scout for candidates in the first place. Perhaps getting a Salesforce management service would be a great investment in order to keep things manageable for me.

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