Salesforce CRM: Things to Consider During Purchase, Common Mistakes and Tips for Set Up

November 4, 2011

salesforce-logo_200X120BSalesforce Customer Relationship Software (CRM) can be a valuable tool when trying to manage prospect and customer details. I had a chance to sit down with Angela Mahoney, a certified administrator, developer and cloud consultant for Salesforce (SF) to ask some key questions about the CRM system:

What should someone consider when purchasing Salesforce (i.e. enterprise vs basic, ect): 

The marketing team does a world class job of touting the platform, and they should – it’s a great product that offers a slew of solutions, bells, whistles and support communities. But there are two important things to remember:  First, if you don’t know what your real issues are, then any CRM may appear to be the best one, so be very clear on what problems you are looking to solve and what types of users you may have on the system and now and in a couple of years (this includes external users: customers, partners, etc); second, there is a LOT of talk about how easy it is to deploy a org, and it can be easy to set up, but that also means it can be easy to mess up, so remember that it IS a database and you DO need to have some database management concepts under your belt to fully deploy a long term, valuable solution.

Common mistakes made during initial set up:

Complication can result if you set the CRM up without giving thought to they want to accomplish.  Oftentimes people see a lot of potential with the SF product but because it seems so user friendly, they avoid a proper set and miss a lot of stream-lined processes to meet their end goal. Building a great house on a shaky foundation. It’s tempting to just jump in because the application seems so user friendly – it’s not until you have hours and hours of time invested into the set up that you wish things could be done a different way – that or the company evolves and wants to utilize more of the reporting functions – which often is an afterthought – only to find out that you have to undo structure and rebuild to get what you need.

What are some of the most commonly overlooked but valuable reporting features of Salesforce? 

There are some hard-core analysts who like to complain about the reporting features in, and to them, I say, begrudgingly, “you have a point”. But to those that are coming off of hideous Access queries, or Excel workbooks with broken links and cells that have been overwritten (and it can be impossible to tell), then the reporting feature will seem like manna from heaven.  Reports can be easily customized, emailed out on a schedule, turned into dashboards that users can drill down into, and twisted and squeezed into a myriad of ways. Dashboard are now even available on your mobile device, which is, let’s say it together:  Awesome. Still, the most bang for your buck is simply training your users on how to create reports. I can’t count how many times I have sat down with a user who had a simple question but didn’t understand the fundamentals of the data structure enough to quickly set up an ad-hoc report.  Her training was… ten minutes on her first day by the receptionist. This is not a good use of a powerful system – spend the time to ramp your users up to speed on so they can use the data they spend so much time creating and updating.

Are there any commonly overlooked streamlining tools? 

VisualForce (VF)gives you the ability to streamline processes and pages. VF is  an underutilized tool where you can change the interface – for example reorg what a page looks like – more user friendly. Out of the box – it is a pain to go from a click and drag different messages, screens more dynamic when use programing (see example) When you are entering data may have click back and forth – can use everything on one user friendly pages.

There is a vast amount of out-of-the-box functionality with, but sometimes, even that isn’t enough. And you don’t have a developer on staff, so what do you do? You go to the AppExchange (, where you can find over 2000 solutions already hatched, tested, and available (some for free, even). Some of my favorites in a sales environment are GridBuddy, Conga, DocuSign, DemandTools and GeoPointe.

Anything else that you think is important for us to know about Salesforce that we haven’t covered?

Like so many other technical solutions, the platform continues to evolve.  They are constantly creating additional solutions, or even buying companies to integrate onto the platform to better serve us users. There are still many that think of as ONLY a CRM for tracking sales data, but it has moved far beyond that – you can track the sales process from lead to proposal to close to invoicing to service calls to having it speak to your HVAC system and log cases without you even being aware, for example. It’s unstoppable as a solution partner, so don’t overlook what it has to offer – the CRM portion is the proverbial tip of the iceberg. 

For those that need further help with CRM selection, set up or implementation of Salesforce, Angela Mahoney is available for consult in person, by phone or virtual. Having personally spent countless hours with clients in the restructure Salesforce content, I agree that it is mission critical to get your set up correct from the start. The small investment of time and if needed, consulting will likely same you a lot of time and cost down the road.


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