Why Do Salesforce Implementations Fail?

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"The old saying “begin with the end in mind” has real value in implementing Salesforce. Management wants increased sales. They understand that increases in certain actions, activities and behaviors will yield increases in sales. Salesforce.com was brought in to measure these elements and make them more visible (and therefore manageable) in the form of REPORTS."

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Many companies bring Salesforce.com into their organization with high hopes that they will receive increased sales, productivity and visibility into their company’s sales activities. With the right help and cooperation from management, some of these implementations go very smoothly. Sometimes, the opposite happens. Six months later, the system is not meeting expectations or worse, barely being used at all. In short, the ROI seems marginal.

Why do these other implementations fail? I’ve got news for you. If you have a failed implementation and you’re reading this, it's probably you!

Humor aside, we use Saleforce.com every day, in a high production environment, making thousands of calls and sending thousands of email. We love it. And while it’s not perfect, frankly we could not do our job without it.

Here are the major reasons Salesforce.com implementations fail and how prevent or remedy them.

1. Management does not have clear goals and objectives (other than to increase sales). The reports needed to manage sales activities are not available, either because Saleforce.com is configured in an incomplete way, the process does not match the requirements, needed data is not being captured or needs have simply evolved.

The old saying “begin with the end in mind” has real value in implementing Salesforce. Management wants increased sales. They understand that increases in certain actions, activities and behaviors will yield increases in sales. Salesforce.com was brought in to measure these elements and make them more visible (and therefore manageable) in the form of REPORTS.

Reports are the “end” described above. They contain details or summary information that is very useful in managing the actions, activities and behaviors of the sales team. Reports are derived from data captured (i.e. if a piece of data was not typed or imported into the system at some point, it generally can’t be included in a report (at least not in a simple way)). So all Salesforce.com implementations should begin by deciding what reports will be required by management and the sales team.

I like to sit with the stakeholders and write what's needed on paper, one page for each report. I ask “What will the report be called? What is its purpose? What will the column headings be? Will it contain details or will it be a summary? Will it be grouped or sorted in any way? How often will you run it? What will you want the sales team to do with it once it’s run?” I sketch out each report on paper and that becomes the beginning of the blueprint of the Salesforce.com design.

This can be a difficult step since management often has a hard time pinning down the exact actions, activities and behaviors they are trying to encourage and measure. That being said, the success of the implementation depends on how successful they are at this step.

Here’s a practical example. Maybe management believes that offering free webinars will increase sales since it worked well in the past. So the goal is to run well attended webinars.

How will Salesforce.com be used to promote these webinars to prospects and clients? Will a set of emails be sent, starting a few weeks before the first webinar? Then a prospect list with email addresses will need to be purchased and loaded and a compelling email invitation created.

Will prospects be called and told about the webinars? Then phone numbers will be necessary, a script will need to be created and a person designated to make the calls. To track call results, an activity report should be created and run on a regular basis to test the messaging, to make sure the calls are being made and to analyze the prospect responses. Will the report be grouped by prospect type (or industry)? Then that data will need to be captured or imported for each prospect.

Finally, reports should measure the success of each webinar, so that results can be tabulated. How many people registered and attended are important to measure, as well as what happened to the prospect once the webinar was complete to determine the ROI of running the webinar.

The devil is always in the details with these kinds of things since any one piece missing here can stop the project in its tracks.

Each major element in the “make more sales” process should be analyzed and implemented in a similar fashion. I realize that this can sound like a daunting process but don’t be intimidated. The first major element is always the most challenging. Once it’s complete, views and reports can be copied and edited for new campaigns and email content can tweaked and repurposed.

2. Salesforce.com does not support the way the sales team wants to use it so they view it as an obstacle rather than a tool to help them accomplish their goals.

If sales management and the sales team are expected to use Salesforce.com every day as a primary tool, they need to be involved in the design of the system. It's better to take a staged approach rather than to try to solve all of management's problems and concerns at the time of roll-out. Here's an example. Let's say that management has dictated that it's necessary to get the email address of any prospect entered into the system. So the email address is set up as a required field, which will keep the sales team from saving a record without a value being entered. What will they do? They'll make up email addresses so they can save the record. This is a good goal but situations and circumstances will occur in which the sales team will need to enter a record (perhaps even temporarily) without entering an email address.

3. Lack of administrator level knowledge (mass importing or updating leads, sending mass emails, tracking which emails have been opened, configuring Salesforce.com) causes utilization to get bogged down. Helpdesk support is lacking so questions or problems that come up are not addressed immediately, forcing work-around solutions by the sales team.

Businesses need their implementations of Salesforce.com tweaked all the time. These tweaks are the result of new management requirements, data irregularities, new campaigns and sales team requests. There needs to be a mechanism to address these requirements quickly and painlessly. The same mechanism should also provide a Help Desk capability for the sales team so that questions and problems are addressed immediately. Having an administrator on-site is ideal but really only practical for larger organizations. An administrator can be trained but this can be a long and expensive process and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Salesforce.com offers various levels of support and there are companies that offer support. This will allow the small daily bumps in the road to be addressed quickly and keep Salesforce.com humming along.

4. Management does not stand behind the implementation (meaning get help as needed) or require that the sales team use the tool completely.

If the implementation gets off to a rocky start and the sales team is offering resistance, sometimes management caves and the effort is soon abandoned. They fear that the sales team may lose productivity, get frustrated and perhaps leave the company. The answer is to get the sales team to help drive the use of Salesforce.com rather than be at odds with it. The way to ensure this is to use a “pull” methodology rather than a “push”.

This can accomplished in a number of ways. Creating a contest in which the sales team members who complete their Salesforce.com work in a satisfactory way win a prize is a good one. In these situations, I’ve learned that prizes are better than money for the following reasons. 1) People like gadgets 2) People who would yawn about $39 extra in their paycheck will go to tremendous lengths to win a $39 item in a sales contest. 3) They will tell all of their friends, neighbors and relatives that they won the item in a sales contest. Try this:

Buy a few cool new gadgets that you think your sales team will find desirable (ipod docking stations, AM/FM radios emergency radios, digital cameras, portable LCD TVs, etc.) priced in the $25-$100 price range. The items should have an increasing value up to the limit so some are more desirable than others. Set them somewhere where they are visible to the sales team and the whole office. This is important since seeing them and having the whole office talk about them really stirs up the competitive spirit. Explain that you will be awarding these prizes to any sales team members who complete all the things that you are requiring in Salesforce.com weekly (keeping Opportunities updated, completing prospect records, sending out one mass email, adding 15 new prospects or whatever actions drive sales). Whoever does the best job (should be things that are measurable and objective) chooses 1st, 2nd best chooses second and so on. Try to have enough prizes so everyone has a chance to win something.

Repeat this process as needed, varying the requirements and prizes. For example, August could be “cold call month” (most cold calls wins). October can be “demo” month (most demonstrations wins). Just make sure that ALL of the measurement, tracking and documentation has to be done in Salesforce.com or else it doesn’t count.

5. The sales team receives initial training or attains a beginner level on their own. No additional training is ever given to makes Salesforce.com more self-service.

After a few months of using Salesforce.com effectively, the tendency is to believe that no more training is necessary. This is a common mistake. Salesforce.com has a tremendous depth of features and capabilities. Ongoing, periodic training is important as it makes unused features accessible and keeps the sales team interested in wringing the most from the investment in Salesforce.com. Enhancing Salesforce.com knowledge can also reduce supports costs.

A professional training firm can be employed or the person within the sales team with the best Salesforce.com aptitude can be recruited to prepare a monthly or quarterly lesson. There are many books and online tutorials that can help.


Posted in Marketing, Sales.

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