Successful Salesforce implementations all begin with a methodical approach to preparation. While the actual plan may end up looking different from organization to organization, proper preparation involves taking some fundamental steps to ensure the business investment in new software and processes reaps great rewards long term.

If you’re thinking of implementing Salesforce, take this time to prepare for all the aspects of a new software tool ranging from establishing goals to encouraging user adoption. Doing so can drastically reduce any possibility of a failed implementation. From the experts at LiquidHub, we offer a helpful nine step guide to building a successful Salesforce implementation plan for any business.

1. Know your Budget & Anticipated Cost

Don’t Buy a Mercedes when all you need or can afford is a Volkswagen. Here are the key cost areas to consider before implementing Salesforce:

Customization – A detailed requirements document will produce a more accurate scope from your implementation partner. Without it, expect to pay upward of 50% above quote. Plan at least a one-to-one ratio between your software and customization costs.

Data Migration – Consider how many sources of data you need to have migrated and the condition of the data. Detailing this as much as possible up-front can save you a headache and extra dollars down the road.

Training – After implementing Salesforce, you’ll need to train your users so they know how to use the system. The average cost of training for a successful deployment was $1000/user (according to CRM.com)

Support – Your users and administrator will eventually need help, so don’t forget to budget for support questions. According to Crm.com the average cost of support for a successful deployment was $1500/user

Pro Tip: When on a tighter budget, it’s important to think economically, but don’t short change or try to cut corners at the risk of a poorly implemented system.

2. Organize your team

The recommended implementation project team will include an executive sponsor, project manager, system administrator and other key users. Selecting the right team is half the battle won when it comes to Salesforce implementation.

  • Executive sponsor needs to be the guiding star right from the inception of the ideas, to mobilization, go live and other stages of the process
  • Project Manager is your single point of contact for project updates and oversees the entire implementation process to ensure that deadlines are met
  • System administrator needs to understand the back end process of the application to offer solutions for any user challenges
  • Test users are the first point of reference in identifying user based challenges
  • Trainers are essential for creating reference materials and manuals for users, and can help identify potential areas of ongoing training sessions

3. Clearly Define Goals and Objectives

Creating an implementation roadmap in the beginning will ensure your solution highlights the core information that’s needed, not to mention help you identify which capabilities you can do without if you are struggling to hit budget. Leverage your team to iron out the details including:

Identify Current Issues. Perform gap analysis by identifying pain points with or without a CRM system across various roles and departments. This exercise will help unveil faults within the current business processes to determine which customizations are prioritized over others.

Decide how you plan to measure future success. Set high level goals for your strategy and consider which critical metrics that you want Salesforce to measure. Think about the type of reports, charts and dashboards you’ll need to track progress. Examples may include better reporting, shorter sales cycles, converting more marketing leads and improved customer retention. Ideally, all your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time sensitive. It’s also beneficial to document your vision of the end product. What do ideal processes look like in your organization? If you’re having trouble defining your CRM vision, write down what your ideal scenario would look like and then build our reasonable workflows that meet your needs and budget.

4. Choose the Software or Hardware that Best Fits Your Needs

Let your structured list of requirements dictate your technology decisions. What aspect of your customer-focused processes do you need to support with technology? Which CRM Salesforce implementation partner most closely aligns with your existing technology infrastructure?

5. Prepare Your Data and Desired CRM Fields

Which data needs to be imported to your new CRM system? How clean is it? If you’re importing history how far do you want to go back? What type of more complex records will be imported in addition to contacts and company names? Confirm what data you need to track on each CRM record including contacts, sales opportunities, support cases campaigns, leads and any other relationship and process that need to be managed.

Too often, we see organizations neglect this critical step and go directly into uploading existing data into the new system. Data cleaning will provide you with an opportunity to check if you are tracking all the right information to achieve your business performance goals.

6. Manage Expectations for User Adoption

Poor user adoption is a main cause of CRM implementation failure. Get users engaged early and show them how the new system will make their work lives easier. Yes, there will inevitably be bumps along the way. But, setting expectations clearly from the beginning will help alleviate burdens down the road. Some suggestions on getting your users involved:

  1. Consult your test users for ideas,
  2. Secure CRM commitment from executive level, and
  3. Nominate a CRM go-to person in each department so that users benefit from more than just a generic training.

7. Keep it Simple

Focus on the foundational functions for the initial solution and build upon that. Use standard features as much as possible and don’t over-engineer the system thinking that it will produce more business value. Also, consider having only one administrator. With one main point of contact, your users can funnel all of their issues through one person.

8. Hire an Expert

To save time, consider outsourcing an implementation to a third party. Implementation partners are experts and can free up resources so your business can continue focusing on core competencies. Even if you have resources available, another organization may be able to do it better simply because of expertise and consultative approach.

Additionally, with knowledge of both the core product and the the industry, your CRM consulting partner will help you save time and money with best practices. They will also be able to create a phased project plan that will help you keep within budget while allowing for future growth.

No matter which Salesforce product you use, the steps for a successful implementation on the Salesforce Platform are basically the same. A Salesforce implementation is not a casual activity. It requires careful planning and detailed execution. The smallest mistakes in planning the implementation could lead to major business impacts. If you take the time to look at your overall strategy and plan ahead, your Salesforce implementation is taking its first step in the right direction.