Thought Leadership – Extracting Value from Salesforce

Sep 08 2016

Thought Leadership – Extracting Value from Salesforce // Management Consulting // Salesforce // Sep 08 2016

Gartner released their latest Magic Quadrant for sales automation last month and – no surprise – Salesforce is still the leader.  Born in the cloud, Salesforce has transformed into a magnificent platform that will some day be capable of running ALL of your critical IT applications.  Heck, with the robust AppExchange (Salesforce’s version of Apple’s App Store) it’s there for many businesses already.

However, a caution Gartner noted about Salesforce is the subject of this post.  Per Gartner: “Customer references gave Salesforce the lowest score of all providers for perception of product value.”

When I read that I did a double take.  How is that even possible?  It’s not because there isn’t value to be had.  The key is figuring out how to extract that value and how do you do that?  I’ll tell you how.

“…customers perception of Salesforce value is lower not because the platform holds no value, but because they lack the means to extract the value it holds.”

The Platform Can do Anything

As a platform, Salesforce is incredibly powerful and capable of anything.  Not only can you automate your sales force (through SF’s offering “Sales Cloud”), but you can provide high quality customer service (“Service Cloud”), automate marketing (“Marketing Cloud” and “Pardot”), and explore analytics (“Wave”) and much more all through the single Salesforce platform.  With Salesforce1, mobility is superior and with the release of the Lightning Experience (Salesforce’s newish interface), Salesforce has never been easier to use.

Add to that native applications such as Docusign which provides electronic forms and signatures, and Geopointe which geo-locates just about anything in Salesforce, and you’ve got a world-class platform that any business would love.  With such  flexibility and power, how could anyone perceive Salesforce as anything other than jam-packed with value?


You Need A Sacagawea

Consider for a moment Sacagawea, the legendary Shoshone guide who lead Lewis and Clark through then-unknown and dangerous American western wilderness of the early 1800s.  Lewis and Clark had a goal, but they needed a guide.  They hired Sacagawea (and her husband – little known fact) to help them reach their destination.  Though there is some controversy about specifics, it’s clear that Lewis and Clark could not have reached their destination without the assistance of their native guide.

Let’s romanticize a bit, going back to 1804 and fantasize about how some of those interactions went.  I’m a trained theatrical improviser and for me it looks a little like this:

Lewis: “I say darling, this river looks rather daunting.” **Removes hand from waistcoat, takes long draw from corncob pipe, wipes sweat from furrowed brow.**

Clark:Indeed yes, fine Lewis.  Whatever shall we do?!?” **Eyes wide, mouth agape, panic building, tiny bead of white saliva present at either corner of mouth.**

Sacagawea: **Calmly motions north with open palm.  Gestures lower water level.  Mimes pulling up knickers and tip-toeing gingerly through low water.**Lewis and Clark at a River

Clark: “I say, I’m not sure that I...” **

Sacagawea: **Flails a dismissive wave, irritated scowl on face.  Gestures “let’s go.”  Whirls, animal pelt hair brushing Clark’s face, and casually walks north.**

That’s how I picture it anyways.  The point is although Lewis and Clark knew their goals they weren’t exactly sure how to achieve them.  They needed a partner – Sacagawea – to lead them over obstacles and the unknown.  But, what if Lewis and Clark had chosen a different partner?  Surely they must’ve had many options to choose from.  Would their outcome differ had they chosen a different partner?  Obviously we’ll never know but Lewis and Clark were really no different than you as you begin your Salesforce expedition; you’ve got to make a choice on a partner to guide you through the unknown.


Not all Salesforce Consulting Partners are Equal

There are 2 types of Salesforce consulting partners.  The first is what I’ll call the “Implementation Partner”.  The typical implementation partner has a number of certified Salesforce professionals on staff.  The primary objective of an implementation partner is to make Salesforce functional for you based on your stated needs.  If you extend the platform, for example by purchasing a geo-location tool such as MapAnything they get it installed.  They know the platform very well and are good at getting Salesforce up and running for you.  Although not always, they may be lower cost than other providers.  This comprises a majority of Salesforce consulting partners and if you’re looking for an implementation on a very tight budget they may be right for you.  Following your rollout you’ll be ready to use Salesforce and have access to the power within the platform.

The primary objective of an implementation partner is to make Salesforce functional for you based on your stated needs.

But, there’s one major disadvantage…and it’s what that causes Gartner to give Salesforce “…the lowest score of all providers for perception of product value.”  Gartner  chose their words carefully. They used the word “perception” on purpose – it’s not that Salesforce doesn’t hold value the perception exists because customers are unsure how to extract value.

Let’s go back to Lewis and Clark for a minute.  Imagine if Lewis and Clark had been commissioned by then president Jefferson to explore the west, but with additional parameters like “Clark, you gotta do this on the cheap.  Get there fast, boy!”  Ol’ Clark’s perception of value is someone who knows the area who can guide “cheap” and “fast”.  Back to our river crossing scenario – but with a cheap/fast guide, Norman, a young man in his early 20’s –  who they picked up for free outside the post office in St. Charles, Missouri.

Lewis: “I say darling, this river looks rather daunting.” **Removes hand from waistcoat, takes long draw from corncob pipe, wipes sweat from furrowed brow.**

Clark: “Indeed yes, fine Lewis.  Whatever shall we do?!?” **Eyes wide, mouth agape, panic building, tiny bead of white saliva present at either corner of mouth.**

Norman: **shrugs**  “You guys wanna get there fast right?  This is the fastest way.”

Clark: “Yes, yes quite right Norman.  We do want to arrive with all haste.  Make way as I shall proceed!”  **approaches cold, fast moving river**

Norman: “OK.  Anything you say Mr. Clark.”  **stepping dutifully aside**

Lewis: “Hmm.  Are we sure about this, fine Clark?  I mean the wa….”

Clark :”AHHH!!!  Help!  Help!  This severe undertow has grasped my fine leather boots and is…”  **gurgle, gurgle**

Russian Gold MedalSo long Clark.  And thanks to the decision to ignore the value of an experienced guide who could add significant thought leadership to the expedition, Lewis and Clark never get past the Osage river.  In fact no American ever does and, in what becomes the start of the Cold War in 1810, Russia is the first to the West coast going on to win significantly more gold medals than America in every single Olympic Games thereafter, thanks in large part to their stable of talented swimmers and beach volleyball players from Bolshefornia.  Ouch!

Recognizing Salesforce holds significant value is a good start.  The question becomes “How do you EXTRACT value?”  the answer to which is by choosing a partner who can provide Thought Leadership.


Value is Created through Thought Leadership

The 2nd type of Salesforce consulting partner is what I like to call a “Thought Partner”.   Whereas the implementation partner’s primary objective is to get Salesforce functional for you, the primary objective of the thought partner is to maximize value of your Salesforce purchase through innovative use of the platform to solve business problems.  Installing and configuring Salesforce is table stakes for this partner.  Developing a long-term understanding of your business objectives, drivers and challenges, immediate and future goals and your big problems is what creates value and thought partners do just that.

“…the primary objective of the thought partner is to maximize value of your Salesforce purchase through innovative use of the platform to solve business problems.”

The Salesforce consulting thought partner is an extension of your executive team, a critical problem solver who not only delivers deep knowledge on the Salesforce platform but also brings extensive business experience with a track record of solving problems.

There’s value in knowing how to setup and configure Salesforce for sure.  There’s A LOT MORE value in knowing how to apply all that Salesforce has to offer in a variety of creative ways to give you a competitive edge.

For example, when a customer tells you that they sell commercial ovens and have a team of 15 sales people who need to track sales activity Salesforce is a good fit.  The implementation partner sees 15 licenses of Sales Cloud with a focus on configuring and training on logging sales activity, opportunities and leads, etc.

By contrast, the thought partner asks more questions.  Through those questions he discovers how the supply chain works and that all ovens are sold through distributors.  He discovers the sales team calls on these distributors and not end customers.  The Salesforce thought partner begins to ask about distributor performance, how performance is measured and if it’s important to know who the best performing and under-performing distributors are.  If the company knew that information, they could make quality management decisions related to incentives, where to apply resources and in training.

The thought partner can still configure and train on logging sales activity but additional value is unlocked by using Salesforce – with no extra licensing fees – to track distributor performance.


Salesforce Thought Partners Maximize Value

In summary I believe customers perception of Salesforce value is lower not because the platform holds no value, but because they lack the means to extract the value it holds.  By carefully choosing a Salesforce consulting thought partner you’ll be choosing a partner who goes well beyond configuration and training and who, like Sacagewea, guides you in extracting maximum value from your Salesforce investment.


Email Sigis a full service Salesforce consulting thought partner based in Madison, WI.  Contact us to begin your partnership with Emelar today.