The Complete Guide to Salesforce Implementation



When utilized effectively, the Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) system can empower your company to increase revenues, foster long-term brand loyalty, and boost profitability. Although there are numerous CRM systems available on the market, this guide is designed to help you with a Salesforce implementation so your company can successfully adopt Salesforce to maximize your existing sales and marketing efforts.

With a successful Salesforce deployment, your business can streamline operations and consolidate all customer data, including contact, account, lead information, and more, from every channel (phone, email, web, and social networks) into a centralized location. This capability enables different departments (sales, marketing, and customer service) to make informed decisions about engaging their prospects and retaining current customers throughout their entire buying lifecycles to help increase your company’s sales.

Effective Salesforce implementation, however, can’t be completed on the fly or lack contributions from the end-user groups who will utilize the CRM tool. Rather, a productive Salesforce implementation requires a multifaceted strategy that accounts for various challenges and requirements, diligent planning, proper employee training, and constant communication between end-user teams and the implementation team during every phase of the project.

Throughout this guide, your business will learn about Salesforce’s different functions, the challenges associated with a Salesforce implementation, common deployment strategies, and other factors and recommendations that your company should consider when moving to the Salesforce CRM.


What is Salesforce?

Since launching in 1999, Salesforce has been a driving force behind the cloud-based CRM market. Today, more than 150,000 companies of all sizes and types of industries rely on Salesforce, which holds the largest share of the CRM industry in the world. Salesforce’s dominance is so profound that the company’s 20.3% market share during the first half of 2018 was more than Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, and Adobe combined.

Overall, CRM systems have become so popular that, according to Gartner, CRM represented the largest software market in 2017, generating $39.5 billion in revenue that year. In 2019, the research firm anticipates that Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) deployments will account for 84% of all CRM sales, up 7% from 2016, a trend that further signals companies’ desire to adopt cloud-based platforms rather than on-premise systems to support their CRM initiatives.

Salesforce Products

At a bird’s-eye view, companies across the world rely on Salesforce to unify data from their sales programs, marketing campaigns, and customer support services to gain a clearer understanding of their prospects, customers, and business processes. By having a complete view of this data, companies can improve sales and marketing outcomes and strengthen customer relationships by engaging with prospects and customers at optimal times. At a micro level, different Salesforce products deliver specific functionality to individual teams:

Salesforce Sales Cloud allows companies to track accounts, contacts, and leads throughout the buyer’s journey. The tool also enables sales teams to streamline processes by creating automated follow-up tasks with their leads to help drive conversions, and allows sales managers to track and analyze sales pipelines.

Salesforce Marketing Cloud enables marketing teams to leverage data that predicts customer behavior so they can provide a more personalized experience to their targeted audiences. Marketing groups can utilize Salesforce Marketing Cloud to automate social media channels by scheduling posts, deploy relevant search and social ads, build customized emails with dynamic content, and connect with prospects and customers in real time across their preferred channels and devices.

Salesforce Service Cloud delivers real-time customer support so companies can automatically route tasks to their support teams to improve their omni-channel customer service. With Salesforce Service Cloud, businesses can also view all customer case histories and manage customizable case records.

The Salesforce suite extends much deeper than just these main tools and includes notable products such as:

Salesforce CPQ (configure price quote software)

Sales Cloud Einstein (predictive analytics)

Quip (customized and shareable spreadsheets and documents)

Salesforce DMP (data management platform)

Pardot (marketing and email automation)

Field Service Lightning (mobile app for real-time collaboration)

Commerce Cloud (cloud-based B2B and B2C commerce solution)

Community Cloud (branded digital portals, forums, and community platforms)

Health Cloud (patient management software for clinical and insurance claims data)

Salesforce UIs

Salesforce is available in two user interfaces: Salesforce Classic and the Salesforce Lightning Experience. The Lightning Experience incorporates customizable dashboards and homepage features, more refined end-user experiences across mobile phones, tablets, and desktops, and additional forecast layouts than its predecessor. It also boasts AI (artificial intelligence) functions through Einstein. The Salesforce Lightning Experience launched in August 2015, and the new interface was designed to enable users to complete tasks faster, smarter, and more easily than the Classic version.

Although businesses can continue to utilize the Classic UI, which is heavily customizable, Salesforce will only issue new innovations to the Lightning Experience moving forward. By winter of 2020, Salesforce will turn on the Lightning Experience on a rolling basis to encourage users to change UIs, but they will still be able to switch between the two interfaces through their profile menus.  

With such a robust portfolio that addresses so many businesses’ needs, it’s not surprising that Salesforce is the dominant CRM on the market. The process of implementing this popular, customizable, and innovative CRM platform isn’t an easy feat. But with the right strategy, expectations, and support, your company can start turning customer interactions into actionable data to drive higher conversion rates and return on investment for your sales and marketing initiatives.


Salesforce Implementation Methodology

When it comes to Salesforce implementation and software deployments in general, there are often two methodologies or principles that are in play: waterfall and agile. For a waterfall method, your company will have to follow five clear steps for adoption:


Until the requirements of your Salesforce implementation are established, the design phase of the software deployment can’t begin, and if the design stage hasn’t finished, the implementation process can’t start, and so on. Each phase of a waterfall implementation can’t continue until the preceding step is completed. If one phase is slowed at any point, the entire timeline will be delayed, so any changes to the project can have profound effects on a targeted go-live date.

While waterfall methods are rigid and structured, an agile approach is much more flexible, and enables businesses to adapt to situations by making iterative changes throughout the duration of a software project. Agile principles gained particular prominence in 2001, when the “Agile Manifesto” was created by 17 founding members who value:

“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”
“Working software over comprehensive documentation”
“Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”
“Responding to change over following a plan”

Waterfall vs. Agile

So when should your company follow waterfall over agile methods and vice-versa? Trailhead, an online tutorial for Salesforce developers, is a valuable educational and training resource to understand the intricacies of how Salesforce functions. For waterfall and agile methodologies as they relate to Salesforce, Trailhead recommends using:

Waterfall for predictable, simple projects; waterfall is also applicable to complicated projects that can utilize automation

for projects that need constant feedback and incorporate new learnings into the implementation as the project progresses; agile is also effective for businesses adopting new software

Your business’s overall experience with CRM and other software implementation in general will undoubtedly influence how your company will adopt Salesforce. If you’re still not confident you can implement Salesforce on your own, this guide also includes recommendations of how your business can seek outside help through hiring a consultant to ensure a smooth transition to Salesforce.


Steps for a Successful Salesforce Implementation

Even after selecting an implementation methodology, there are still numerous factors that can make a Salesforce deployment sink or swim. If your company is ready to take the plunge with Salesforce as your new CRM, you can achieve a successful deployment by following some simple, yet effective planning, data cleaning, and migration steps that will ensure the platform is not only successfully implemented, but also embraced by its users.

Set SMART Goals

In any business, employees who work smarter rather than harder to complete the same tasks are immensely valuable to their employers. When implementing Salesforce, your company should want to do the same. By following “SMART” criteria, your business can establish guiding principles that will ensure your deployment is scoped effectively and realistic results can be accomplished. SMART stands for:


The Salesforce Pyramid

In addition to SMART goals, your company can take other steps to establish a more refined and targeted Salesforce implementation. There’s a reason why there are many pyramids still standing today; they are architecturally sound, thanks to a wide foundation that supports the rest of the structure. An effective way to approach a Salesforce implementation is to think of the process as a pyramid. Your strategy’s base should begin with the “awareness” stage and progress all the way to the top of the pyramid, which is “ownership” of the Salesforce CRM system.

A Salesforce implementation pyramid consists of:

Awareness: Desired outcomes and implementation timeline are established. Answer these questions: What do you want Salesforce to do? Who will be the key players involved in this implementation? What are their roles? What’s the timeline for completion? Also identify any customizations your company wants to utilize in Salesforce such as customizable dashboards and functions specific to your company’s needs and industry demands.

Understanding: Discuss the answers to the above questions with stakeholders and end users to help them grasp how the new CRM will impact their workflows.

Buy-In: Make sure all team members agree on the Salesforce project’s goals. Take the time to address any of their feedback or concerns in order to finalize alignment on the implementation.

Adoption: All team members have adopted Salesforce and are learning new ways to utilize the platform to improve their workflows. Also during this stage is when the detailed work of cleaning and migrating data comes into play. Clean your data by deleting incomplete, inaccurate, corrupted, or duplicate records, and then transfer your data into the new CRM. Provide necessary training so all users can maximize the CRM system’s capabilities. Your company should be able to determine the types of training required for your employees, establish a realistic timeline to complete the Salesforce training, and ensure employees are incentivized to learn how to utilize Salesforce.

Ownership: All team members involved in adopting Salesforce contribute to the implementation’s success. Hold employees accountable to their training and always track the implementation’s progress, communicating the results with your sales and marketing teams and any other end-user groups who are utilizing the CRM.

By combining SMART criteria with an implementation pyramid that are both supported by some of these other critical steps above, your company can set a successful Salesforce implementation strategy that will target realistic goals from day one of the initiative. Also, by involving team members from the start of the process, your company can make sure end-user groups welcome the shift to Salesforce rather than resist any changes to their current sales and marketing processes.

Want to save this article to read it later?

Download the article as a PDF

Challenges of Implementing Salesforce on Your Own

Your company now has the playbook in hand and knows what your Salesforce implementation should look like from multiple levels. However, are you ready for everything on the horizon as your business adopts this new CRM platform? Do you have the necessary resources to shift gears in the face of unexpected challenges and potential delays?

These are just some of the questions your business should ask if you plan on launching Salesforce on your own. Since mapping out a strategy and executing a plan are vastly different in practice, your company should be aware of some common challenges that may impede your progress with a Salesforce implementation:

Incomplete planning: Your business may not see the forest through the trees. In other words, you might miss some of the necessary requirements for a Salesforce deployment to hit a specific timeline. An outside point of view into your company’s processes and needs can be helpful in avoiding “scope creep,” which involves new requirements and features added to a project during its lifecycle. Depending on the extent of these additions, a seemingly simple Salesforce implementation can quickly spiral out of control if your business is ill-equipped to deal with potential rapid changes.

Lack of experience: If Salesforce or CRMs in general are new to your organization, your teams may struggle to address challenges quickly during implementation, which will prolong the deployment time frame.

Labor shortage: This challenge is especially true if you’re a small business implementing Salesforce. Proper internal resources that are often hard to come by, so you may experience productivity dips if some team members from different groups are required to focus their efforts on a Salesforce deployment rather than their primary day-to-day tasks.

Integration complications: Although Salesforce is ideal for enabling businesses to customize functions to meet their unique operational needs, your company may face hurdles if you try to implement too many third-party integrations at once. This approach could lead to unnecessary complications for the end-user teams to overcome.

Training: This challenge builds off of the lack of experience cited earlier. If your company hasn’t used Salesforce before, your teams may struggle to acclimate themselves to the new CRM platform if there’s no one in-house with the expertise to educate other employees about using Salesforce. Comprehensive training without a strong trainer will undoubtedly prolong the timeline for  your business to start utilizing Salesforce effectively.


Why Use a Salesforce Implementation Partner?

In general, it’s estimated that one-third of all CRM projects fail in some capacity, with many initiatives falling short of initial expectations. This outcome is why it’s imperative to set realistic goals with any Salesforce implementation, especially if your business will embark on this journey by yourself. Given the potential risk of failure, your business may want to consider enlisting outside help to ensure a smooth transition to the new CRM system.

A Salesforce consulting partner can handle all of your company’s implementation, integration, custom development, and data migration needs. These partners will be able to analyze your company’s workflows to ensure you don’t have any repetitive tasks in place, automate customizable tasks that will deliver personalized experiences to your customers, and improve data collection and management processes across your business. Also, these experts can handle all of your company’s training requirements to expedite end-user adoption of the platform.


Cost of a Salesforce Implementation

Now that your business understands both the steps necessary to successfully complete a Salesforce implementation and the potential challenges, it’s time to dive deeper into how much your business will have to allocate in terms of financial resources to incorporate Salesforce into your workflows.

There are numerous Salesforce-related products available to your business, and there are also various pricing options to consider when planning a Salesforce implementation. At first glance, the number of different editions to the Salesforce suite may be overwhelming if your company is a first-time adopter of the Salesforce ecosystem. Salesforce’s sheer scope of its product portfolio presents your business with myriad options to choose from in terms of a pricing standpoint. For Salesforce’s primary products, your company can expect to allocate the following for each user:

Salesforce Sales Cloud: $75 for Lightning Professional, $150 for Lightning Enterprise, and $300 per user per month for Lightning Unlimited

Salesforce Service Cloud: $75 for Lightning Professional, $150 for Lightning Enterprise, and $300 per user per month for Lightning Unlimited

Salesforce Sales + Service: $100 for Lightning Professional, $175 for Lightning Enterprise, and $325 per user per month for Lightning Unlimited

For pricing of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, your company will have to contact Salesforce directly to receive a quote.

In addition to the monetary commitment required to sign up for your new CRM system, your business must also think about the opportunity cost related to Salesforce adoption. The age-old adage of “time is money” applies to a Salesforce implementation if your team members are in the weeds contributing to the design, training, and implementation themselves. In such a scenario, your company’s employees are not devoting all of their time to their sales, marketing, and customer support roles, which could mean that certain sales and marketing targets won’t be hit, or customer support standards could drop.

If your business wants to maximize its investment in Salesforce from day one of the initiative, hiring a consultant will result in another cost associated with your adoption of Salesforce, but the benefits of selecting the right partner will outweigh the monetary investment in a variety of ways. By freeing up your company’s internal resources from all the critical functions detailed throughout this guide, your business can now focus on internal goals instead of implementation. Since a trusted professional will oversee your Salesforce adoption, your teams can take advantage of a faster completion timeline and can begin utilizing any features and customizations to perform their sales, marketing, and customer support tasks more effectively.


What Does a Successful Salesforce Implementation Look Like?

There are plenty of reasons why Salesforce remains the top CRM platform globally. Salesforce CRM  is applicable to companies of all sizes and industries, and as a result of this level of flexibility, there are nearly endless success stories of Salesforce powering businesses’ sales, marketing, and customer support operations. Here are just a few examples of how Salesforce has transformed some notable customers’ operations:

Electronic Arts (EA), a video game publisher, understood that the advent of social gaming through channels such as Facebook made it necessary for the business to interact with customers around the clock. The company implemented Salesforce to foster stronger relationships with gamers across the globe by providing a full end-to-end experience from when consumers pay for games to when they receive support after purchase. EA also increased its advisor staff from 400 to 1,600 team members in just six weeks to manage the company’s Worldwide Customer Experience websites during peak game launch periods, which can attract millions of website hits across the company’s channels.

U.S. Bank has been a Salesforce customer since 2009. The company, which is the fifth-largest commercial bank in the United States, implemented Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Marketing Cloud to unify its branding under a “one U.S. Bank” strategy. The business wanted customers, regardless of which division they connected with (payments, investments, mortgages, or banking), to foster trust with the U.S. Bank brand, not just any one division, which was previously the case. With Salesforce in place, the financial services business unified its platform for all branches, ATMs, mobile, and website channels. U.S. Bank’s use of Salesforce increased the company’s lead conversions by 2.35x.

Virgin Media, a broadband, mobile/landline phone, and television services provider in the U.K. and Ireland, leveraged Salesforce to support millions of omni-channel sales interactions across its portfolio. The CRM system provided full visibility into Virgin Media’s end-to-end buyer journey to optimize certain sales channels based on interactions with customers and prospects. With Salesforce in place, the business can seamlessly direct visitors from its website, where more than 80% of prospects originate, to the most appropriate store or contact center. The company also built a mobile app on Salesforce Lightning to digitize sales agents’ monthly work schedules.

A successful Salesforce implementation doesn’t end after your teams start using the CRM system; it requires ongoing maintenance to ensure the CRM platform remains optimized from performance, security, and usability standpoints. If your company wants support maintaining Salesforce after your go-live date, you can also enlist the help of a Salesforce consultant to handle any maintenance and administrative tasks so your business can focus solely on leveraging the CRM platform for successful sales and marketing outcomes. Should your business want to add any new features, third-party integrations, or further customizations, a Salesforce consulting partner can also contribute to these objectives and provide additional training to your company’s employees so they can fully utilize the new enhancements.

Salesforce is a powerful tool that will enable your teams to achieve a 360-degree view of prospects and customers throughout the entire sales lifecycle. An ineffective Salesforce implementation will make it difficult or impossible to drive true ROI through your CRM investment. By following these recommendations, your business can join the thousands of organizations around the globe that are transforming their operations through a well-implemented, customized Salesforce CRM system.

Want to save this article to read it later?

Download the article as a PDF.