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Configuration Ideas: 10 Years of Experience

Celebrating 10 Years with Salesforce.comAs I often tell prospective clients, I've been part of the salesforce.com ecosystem since 2001.  As 2011 approaches, I will celebrate 10 years of working with salesforce.com. Salesforce.com has had a product in the marketplace since the year 2000, so I've been around almost since the beginning.  During that time, I've been witness to more than 25 releases and numerous Dreamforce and Cloud Tour events.  I've been a customer continually and have always shared the administrator role because I'm so fascinated with the possibilities and delivering exceptional results to my team members. Over the same period, I've been involved in literally thousands of salesforce.com initiatives through three salesforce.com system integration companies where I've been a founder and senior executive: MW Advisors, Astadia and my current company, akaCRM.  The wonderful experience of participating in the salesforce.com ecosystem for nearly a decade has positively impacted the shape of akaCRM's own deployment of salesforce.com.  I thought I'd share some of the best configuration ideas I've deployed for my own company in this article. Feel free to add your best ideas at the bottom.

The following are best practices and top configuration ideas which are deployed in akaCRM's instance of salesforce.com. Where the idea requires the Enterprise Edition or Unlimited Edition, we have indicated (EE+) next to the topic. If you have Group Edition or Professional Edition, contact us for alternative methods on achieving similar result - there are many ways to achieve improved results!

1. Keep it Simple

Just because you can add hundreds of fields doesn't make it a good idea. "In the CRM space, less is more", I often tell clients.  Every time you add a new custom field, look for one to remove. Additionally, review your screens regularly and look for fields to remove even if you aren't adding any. Never use two or more fields when one will do. For example, if you want to know if you have received the signed contract, you could add a "Contract Received" checkbox field to the Opportunity record. At a later date, someone will say they want to know when the contract was received, so you add an additional custom field called "Contract Received Date".  The reality is, that the later field should be a REPLACEMENT, not a supplement. If the date is populated, then the contract was received.  If it is empty, then it wasn't received. Far too often, I see client screens with multiple fields that are doing the work of one well though-out field. Take your time and think about it. A key reason why redundant fields remain is because they are configured into reports and dashboards. It is simpler to design it well upfront than to allow the dust to build up. Another example of simplicity is the Search Box we are all familiar with. Most clients have the search drop down enabled that lets them search only within a certain object. Additionally, the same clients may have the "limit to items I own" checkbox enabled.  Unless you have a COMPELLING reason, turn these off.  That is two-fewer gizmos to distract you.

2. Keep Your Leads Cleaned Up (EE+)

Lead Status OptionsThere are numerous ways lead records get into your system: (i) imported lists, (ii) manually created leads from users, (iii) integrations with other systems, and (iv) the salesforce.com web-to-lead functionality. One of the techniques I use for leads is as follows.  For web-to-lead or integration created leads, I want to make sure that someone has followed-up. The assignment rules will allocate the lead record to the correct rep and even send them an email alert when the lead is initially created. We have enabled time-based workflow to send a follow-up reminder at 3 days and 7 days if the Lead Status field isn't already advanced from our default of L1 - Uncontacted or if the lead hasn't been converted or disqualified (see our Lead Status option values on the right).  I find that time-based workflow is better than simply using immediate workflow upon creation of a lead to set a task 3 and/or 7 days out, because if the rep is doing his/her job, there is no reason to penalize them by making them close out a reminder task they didn't need. With time-based workflow, the workflow only fires WHEN the problem exists.

3. Enrich Your Leads (EE+)

When we create leads manually or they come in from a web-to-lead or other source, we most always have the email address. We often don't have the website of the lead. We created a simple workflow rule with a field update (on the website standard field) that populates the website automatically. Our rule has the following criteria:

(Lead: Website equals null) and (Lead: Email not equal to null) and (Lead: Email does not contain msn.com,yahoo,gmail,sbc,comcast,me.com,aol.com,mac.com)

We basically only fire this workflow if the website is NOT already populated and the email IS populated and the email address isn't from a known ISP or public email provider such as gmail.com.  What's left is email address like This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. With a field update action, we can just strip off the left part, add "www." and now you have the website from the email domain. The formula we use is: "www."& RIGHT( Email,len(Email)-find("@", Email) )

The end result is a MUCH higher percentage of leads with a website address where no effort was required on our part.

4. Determine Lead & Contact Time Zones

If you have a national customer base like akaCRM does, you may not remember all of the area codes and you may need to figure out if your customer is awake yet, or is about to go home. We used a simple formula field to display the time zone (e.g., Pacific, Mountain, Central, Eastern) on our Lead and Contact records. We wrote an article specifically on this topic. Go to article.

5. Keep Account Type Current (EE+)

About every client encounters this problem. They use the "Type" field on the Account record which includes "Prospect" and "Customer" among the choices (or some values similar to these). By default, Accounts start out as Prospects. When the sales rep wins the first Opportunity, they almost never go back and update the Type field on the Account record to "Customer". This might be spotted later in an exception report or dashboard. We recommend adding a Trigger to the Opportunity so that when the WON stage is set, it will automatically update the Type field on the Account record to "Customer". Here is an example of the code we use for the Trigger:

trigger AccountTypeUpdate on Opportunity (after update) {
list<Account> accounts = new List<Account>();
Set<String> accSet = new Set<String>();

for(Opportunity opp : Trigger.new) {
if (opp.StageName == 'Closed Won') {
accSet.add(opp.AccountId);
}
}
accounts = [Select ID, type from Account where ID in :accSet];
for(Opportunity opp : Trigger.new){
for(Account acc:accounts){

if(opp.AccountId == acc.Id && opp.StageName == 'Closed Won'){
acc.type = 'Customer - OD';
}
}
}
if(accounts.size() > 0){
update accounts;
}
}

6. Be Efficient with Travel (SORRY - THIS TIP HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED)

Some of you may be aware of the free "Find Nearby Accounts" application from Force.com Labs which is a mash-up of Google Maps and your Account/Lead locations. If you installed it before March 2010, you were probably also aware that there were severe limitations on the Google API that limited your ability to geo-encode your locations. A new release is out now that eliminates this problem and provides many other enhancements. Imaging before driving across town, plotting all of your leads and accounts along the way and creating efficient routes. Even if you don't travel much, this application is smart installation.

Find Nearby Accounts

7. Keep Contact Information Updated

Stay-in-TouchThe Stay-in-Touch feature is one of my favorites and has been around for a long time. I haven't however, seen clients using it well. To begin with, you really need to expose the two Stay-in-touch fields on the Contact record (they are not on the page layout by default). I also recommend adding at least the Last Stay-in-Touch Request Date field on the Contacts related list on the Account page. This way you will have adequate opportunities to notice you have never even once requested this information. Be sure to update the default text and you are good to go. Did you know you can do Mass Stay-in-Touch requests? Create a filtered view for Contacts where the request date is blank or the last stay-in-touch save date is more than a year old. You will be surprised how this will help data quality.

8. Visual and Narrative Warnings for At-Risk Opportunities (EE+)

Will the Opportunity close? There are many indicators that suggest an Opportunity is in trouble. We've added a Warnings formula field on our Opportunity record to give us a heads up when there is a potential problem. We've added flags in addition to textual comments to make it easy to spot in a report or view. There are several warnings we look for.

First, we look for slipping Opportunities. In our business, if a close date moves out more than three times, it is a good sign that the deal was poorly qualified, is in trouble and in most cases will be lost. To measure this, we created a numeric custom field called "Times Extended". We added a workflow rule that looks for an extension of the Close Date. The rule has this condition: AND(ISCHANGED(CloseDate), CloseDate> Prior_Close_Date__c ). We then do a simple field update on the Times Extended field with this formula: Times_Extended__c + 1. The result is a field that tells us how many time the Opportunity has been pushed. We mark this one with a Yellow flag because there is nothing that can correct the slip - it is just a warning.

Opportunity Warnings

We also added a red flag for Stale Opportunities - that is Opportunities where the Close Date is prior to the current date and the Opportunity is still open. This one is Red because it is correctable. You can use custom formula fields to create a number of warnings, making it easier for reps and managers alike to stay on top of problem deals.

 

In summary, there are many, many more ideas we have configured into our instance of salesforce.com. We will add more as time allows. Have a comment or a great idea? Please feel free to share it below or contact us if you need help or have questions with anything you have seen above.