A Salesforce consultant is not just a technical expert who helps build flows and runs reports. We go beyond that, and it’s up to us to take the position of a trusted business advisor and strategic partner.
Our expertise as a consultant should extend beyond knowing Salesforce inside out. We should also be mindful of the client’s business and their goals while showing compassion towards the experience of end-users. This empowers businesses to take full advantage of the technology and take strides towards their objectives.
Why Is This Important?
Oftentimes we get too excited about the tools at hand and overlook other important aspects of consulting. I’m certainly guilty of geeking out about a new Salesforce feature! However, a successful career in any Salesforce role involves much more than platform knowledge. I’ve learned that professionals who stand out today can wear multiple hats for the business they are working with. If you have a consulting gig, this also means happy clients and long-lasting relationships.
This article explains the different hats I wear as a Salesforce consultant and the steps I take to deliver the best possible experience for businesses.
1. The Teammate’s Hat: Build Real Relationships
Being a consultant is all about building relationships and showing compassion towards the stakeholders. One of the biggest challenges of being an external team member is the lack of engagement and trust. This subsequently impacts your position and the value that you bring.
For example: Imagine yourself joining a low-rank football team as the head coach. The executives hired you to drive change so that this team performs better next season. However, you don’t invest the time to bond with the players, and miss out on appreciating things like:
- Their key strengths and weaknesses
- Relationships with teammates
- Preferred style of play
Ultimately, there would be no bond with the team and the strategy would fail.
This can be applied to the role of a Salesforce consultant. Like a football coach who needs to learn about the team, a Salesforce consultant needs to spend time getting to know the business to deliver a solution effectively. Befriend the team and be passionate about helping your clients. By earning trust, you enable your voice to be heard and position yourself for a long-term relationship as an advisor.
2. The Translator’s Hat: Articulate the Data
Do you ever find yourself explaining what you see in Salesforce to a business leader but neither of you have an idea what was just said? This is a common challenge for those who work with technology. A great consultant should be able to translate Salesforce into everyday language and articulate what the data really means for the business.
Speak the client’s language (and share best practices)
Salesforce consultants are often hired by businesses for our experience in similar scenarios. For example, you might be expected to demonstrate an understanding of departmental metrics, industry trends, or annual objectives.
The customers I worked with greatly appreciated my background as an SDR (Sales Development Representative), as I was able to advise best practices on how Salesforce should be configured for their sales goals. This is often much more valuable than advanced Salesforce knowledge or technical skills like Apex or Visualforce.
While goals may be similar across businesses, keep in mind that each organization has a unique glossary of terms…
SAL (Sales Accepted Leads):
SALs are often tracked by Marketing, SDRs, and even Sales to manage the sales funnel and track conversion rates. Below are four ways I’ve seen businesses define a SAL in Salesforce:
- The next Lead Status after an MQL (Tracked on the Lead Object)
- A lead that’s been scheduled for a demo (Tracked on the Event Object)
- Lead that converted into an Opportunity (Tracked on a Converted Leads report or the Opportunity Object)
- An Opportunity that passed the first Opportunity stage (Tracked on the Opportunity Object)
There’s no right answer to what a SAL should look like in Salesforce, but there are some standard practices to meet reporting requirements. As a consultant, it’s vital to understand such metrics and the different ways they can be tracked. If you’re having challenges with your reporting, connect with me on LinkedIn and I’d be happy to make some recommendations.
3. The Strategist’s Hat: Lead the Way
When working with Salesforce, it’s easy to fall into the cycle of fulfilling requests as things come up. While this may seemingly feel fine, this reactive approach may be doing more harm than good to the client’s instance of Salesforce. A Salesforce consultant must embrace the role of a strategist and always keep in mind the strategy behind every business request.
By thinking beyond immediate needs and focusing on the client’s long-term goals, we can craft solutions that not only address current challenges but also set the foundation for sustainable success.
3.5 The NaySayer: Be Cynical
A part of being a strategist is sometimes being the cynic in the room. Ask questions to make sure you address all the requirements before implementing a solution. Don’t be afraid to say “No” and explain why you think so. After all, your job is to deliver the best solution, not any.
4. The Innovator’s Hat: Expand on the Potential of Salesforce
Businesses often do not realize what Salesforce is capable of. Especially for small businesses who set up Salesforce and forget about additional development, it’s common to see Salesforce not configured to its full potential.
As a consultant, make it a habit to introduce innovative solutions to the problems the clients are having and you’ll earn your spot as an expert advisor. Discuss topics like flows, notifications, and integrations with other tools the business uses.
Integrating With External Tools
It’s common for businesses to rely on external tools that interact with Salesforce to manage their workflows. To properly advise on Salesforce, you need to have a general understanding of the other tools and how they interact with the blue cloud. Here are some common tools that you’ll find integrated with Salesforce:
- Connect with Salesforce to track marketing activities and prospect engagement. Pushes information about leads and marketing campaigns to Salesforce.
- A tool to manage sales activities and ensure prospects are engaged appropriately in a scalable manner. Data is synced as activities, such as calls, emails, events, and/or tasks.
ERP or Accounting system:
- Track orders, contracts, and billing. Ensure that customers receive what they bought and pay for it.
By keeping a finger on the pulse of emerging technologies and their integration with Salesforce, we extend our position ourselves as an advisor of not just Salesforce, but the wider operations of the GTM team. Always keep an eye out to learn how different tools can be implemented to complement the Salesforce experience of businesses. This foresight ensures that our clients are maximizing the potential of their Salesforce investment while solidifying your role as a Salesforce consultant.
5. The Teacher’s Hat: Enable Users
One of the most pivotal roles of a Salesforce consultant is empowering users with the knowledge and skills to navigate Salesforce effectively. Below are three key aspects of a teacher in Salesforce.
Every major change to Salesforce should be followed by a training session for end-users. These sessions should cover the reason behind the change, followed by specific features and best practices. Training should be tailored to the organization’s unique needs, ensuring that users acquire the skills relevant to their roles and responsibilities.
Another aspect of the teacher’s role is creating user-friendly documentation. This includes developing manuals, guides, and workflow diagrams that users and future admins can reference. Clear and concise documentation serves as a valuable resource for users, offering step-by-step instructions, troubleshooting tips, and explanations of key concepts.
Collecting feedback from users regarding the overall user experience should be regular practice. This input helps refine business workflows, address pain points, and ensure that Salesforce is being used properly. Make sure you have the appropriate channels in place to receive troubleshooting requests and potential improvements in Salesforce.
Successful enablement can ensure that users understand how to use Salesforce and comprehend the rationale behind certain configurations. This helps foster a sense of ownership and confidence in the data, but most importantly a culture behind using Salesforce.
Four Steps to Take During Onboarding
Positioning is easiest at the beginning of a relationship, so take proactive measures during onboarding to save your spot as an advisor. Here are 4 steps I recommend:
1. Schedule Stakeholder Interviews
Find time to meet with key stakeholders across different departments and introduce yourself. Ask about their roles, responsibilities, pain points, and objectives. Understanding individual perspectives can provide valuable insights into how Salesforce should be customized to meet specific departmental needs. Try to identify the power users of Salesforce in the business, as they will be your best friends when promoting user adoption.
2. Review Existing Documentation
Request for any existing documentation, such as process diagrams, Salesforce configurations, and any integrations with external tools. This will give you a foundation to understand current practices and identify areas that may need improvement. Remember the earlier emphasis on company-specific terminology? This is also a good opportunity to learn about the key terms and metrics in the organization.
3. Attend Team Meetings
Looking at data by itself is not enough to grasp the full picture. To be an effective advisor, you need to understand what’s happening out in the field. The best way to do this is to invite yourself into team meetings to observe how different departments collaborate and operate. This firsthand experience can provide greater context into the daily challenges faced by the organization, and help you identify opportunities for process optimization using Salesforce.
4. Analyze Historical Data
This will be the most time-consuming, but also where you’ll be able to provide the most amount of value. Be prepared to get your hands dirty and dive into historical data within the Salesforce org. Look at past performance metrics, metadata, and any existing reports or dashboards. I’ve listed out just a few things to look out for and common follow-up action items.
Is reporting accurate or is data hygiene an issue?
- How does this impact the current forecasts of the business?
- What’s the reason behind the data discrepancy?
- Do we need a flow to automate?
- Is it a training issue?
What data do we need to collect to reveal the insight needed to succeed?
- Can we track conversions through the entire sales funnel?
- How are we tracking our customer-facing activities?
- Do we know why a deal is lost?
Do we need a clean-up exercise?
- Validation from each department on their metrics
- Backfilling of any missing data
- Clean up of duplicates
Analyzing this data can reveal patterns, trends, and areas where the organization has succeeded or faced challenges. It also demonstrates your commitment to understanding the business and shaping its future.
At the heart of Salesforce consulting are the soft skills required to deliver the best Salesforce experience for businesses. As shown by many content shared by the SFBen team, the Salesforce job market is strong and growing.
Being able to demonstrate the roles mentioned in this article can help you navigate client engagements and differentiate yourself from the market. The journey doesn’t stop there though – what’s your unique hat that you wear as a Salesforce consultant?