This content is part of the Essential Guide: Inside the Salesforce platform: The Salesforce clouds

Don't get buried by a Salesforce Sales Cloud implementation

Bringing Salesforce Sales Cloud to your sales reps doesn't have to be a revolution. It can be an evolution in their way of working.

At its core, CRM software does what the acronym CRM conveys: It provides organization, structure and centralization...

to customer relationship management for sales teams.

The Salesforce Sales Cloud is a leading cloud-based option for the key tasks of a CRM system. It's known for ease of use and configuration, as well as its ability to adapt and grow as a company's needs expand and change. A Sales Cloud implementation also provides several capabilities that can put sales reps ahead of the pack. But implementing a CRM system always brings process and cultural changes to a sales team. Brace your sales reps -- and arm yourself with some change management practices and tips to ensure a smoother implementation.

With the Sales Cloud, sales managers can get key performance indicators on sales reps. It also guides sellers on the next steps in the sales process and prompts them on activities, rather than making assumptions about how a quarter is faring, or which prospects or leads they should contact today. Using a CRM system can boost sales numbers exponentially, because it drives discussion on processes within the company and goals the business wants to achieve, and then creates the structure to implement and manage those processes.

How to approach Sales Cloud

A Sales Cloud implementation should be handled like any other Agile development project. Even though it is easy to add fields and upload an Excel spreadsheet of accounts to the system within hours of obtaining licenses, that doesn't mean it is advisable.

Depending on the complexity of the sales process and company as a whole, those administering Salesforce should spend two weeks or more gathering requirements and preparing data for the system. Leadership should decide with the project team what the end state of the system should look like, and what phases can be done before and after initial system launch. This should include a range of issues -- from the basics of the different stages of the sales process to how databases within the organization should be connected to this new system. Once documentation has been approved on the model for the launch, data should be obtained from current resources with the information that will drive the CRM system.

All data stored in systems might not be necessary to import into Sales Cloud. This is critical to understand, Salesforce admins: It's important not to bombard the system with information that is not critical to the end goals of the CRM system. Additionally, it is crucial to establish a set of rules -- such as naming conventions for columns and fields, and record identifiers -- that are built into the system and to which leadership is willing to force users to adhere. These data-structure rules for a CRM system should be used as part of the cleaning process of all current data that will be imported. Without this, user adoption of the CRM system can be compromised, because information becomes much more difficult to find and build on. You don't want to lose users early on in a CRM implementation -- instead, you want to build faith in the system.

The ups and downs of a Sales Cloud implementation

With a process implemented and clean data imported into the system, sales teams can start to benefit from Sales Cloud. Automation is the greatest virtue of Sales Cloud, because it is easy to implement workflows, assignment rules, and other items that require fewer interactions from system users to get the information they need and to drive sales. Marketing users can upload a leads list from a current campaign, and assignment rules can automatically assign the campaign to the right sales users and notify them that a new lead has been assigned, as well as create a task in Salesforce that will remind them to contact the lead. When a sales rep receives an email or opens Salesforce, the task pops up with the pertinent information, without requiring additional clicks from a sales rep to find it. The workflow then guides the rep through the rest of the process by creating new tasks and assigning other departments with tasks throughout the process.

Previously, this kind of process might have required a slew of email messages. Additionally, it's likely that data on the success of campaigns could be lost, but now, a dollar amount won can be associated with the campaign, which a salesperson can track and use to establish a relationship with the new clients, without getting bogged down in email messages.

The pitfalls of a CRM system often stem from data quality, configuration issues and lack of training.

In addition to automation, the reporting and visualization of the data stored in the system gives sales teams and leadership a snapshot on progress for the quarter, comparison data for how to improve product and service selling, and other important data elements. Forecasting becomes much easier with Sales Cloud's out-of-the-box forecasting tool, which does all the calculations from opportunities.

Once a system is launched, the pitfalls of a CRM system often stem from data quality, configuration issues and lack of training. The system is only as good as the time put into it before launch and the management of it as it continues to grow after implementation. User acceptance testing must be conducted before launching to a larger group of users to ensure the data is correct, the flow of the sales process is intuitive and easy to use, and training is simplified and easy to conduct. Project members should expect change during this period, because sales reps need to get into the system and get their hands dirty to understand what it can do, and how they can use it to be more efficient.

Sales Cloud is a powerful sales enablement tool for any company, because it streamlines processes, and provides better communication tools within sales teams and leadership. If implemented correctly, users can feel freed by some of the organizational and process improvements, particularly the ability to centralize, update and automate information in one place. Sales managers and reps can gather key pieces of information with a click, rather than waiting on others to compile all the data to make decisions.

This kind of process improvement, centralization and automation makes complete sense once you have it, but it can be a rocky road to get there. Don't let change management stand in the way of Sales Cloud success. Take it by the reins.

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