8 Steps for a Success Salesforce Implementation (2023)
Implementing Salesforce is a notoriously complex process that has a reputation for humbling even the most skilled teams.
In fact, CRM implementation projects are known for having a failure rate of anywhere from 30–70%. But you have the power to make your software implementation and rollout a success. How you approach planning, implementing, and training will all impact the success of your CRM implementation project.
Enterprises undertaking a Salesforce implementation should plan carefully, invest in the right partner(s), and include the needs and concerns of their end-users in the change management process as much as possible — including all affected employees in the planning and roll-out will increase your chances of a successful Salesforce implementation.
What are the 8 steps for a successful Salesforce implementation project?
- Identify what you need (and want) from Salesforce
- Create a budget
- Find the right experts for your needs
- Plan your organizational change management strategy
- Migrate your CRM data
- Roll out features gradually
- Invest in employee training
- Provide proper CRM maintenance & support
3 Types of Salesforce Implementation
While it is possible to implement Salesforce without hiring a third-party company to support the project, investing in a Salesforce implementation partner who knows your industry will pay off.
Official Salesforce implementation partners are experts. They are able to optimize every stage of an implementation project: from planning and building to transitioning and training. This will save you frustration and time, while also providing you insights and opening up possibilities that wouldn’t be available without them.
Here are three types of Salesforce implementation projects:
1. In-house implementation
Implementing Salesforce entirely in-house is rare. According to Salesforce, 90% of Salesforce customers rely on implementation partners for consulting and apps. But, even so, some smaller or mid-sized organizations (and even enterprises on rare occasions) will attempt a fully in-house Salesforce implementation project.
- Upfront costs are low
- Will motivate your team to learn a lot about Salesforce quickly
- High potential for technical debt (i.e., when you create a short-term solution that creates more work in the long run)
- Often takes much longer than bringing in an expert and buying tools as needed due to the learning curve
- Limits your options as to what features and tools your team can learn about and build quickly
You’ll have a hard time finding any experts who recommend the fully in-house approach, though. Implementing Salesforce without an implementation partner or incorporating third-party apps almost guarantees you’ll be reinventing the wheel, and spending more time and effort to build less effective systems than if you’d invested in the right tools and support.
Official implementation partners and third-party integrations can help you create a customized system you need faster, better, and with greater foresight than you could on your own.
2. Third-party implementation partners
There are many Salesforce implementation partners and tools out there, some of which provide end-to-end services from helping you plan your CRM through training and even maintenance afterward.
However, it can be a large investment, and the monumental task of finding the best implementation partner for your particular industry and needs often deter teams who would otherwise jump at the chance to get expert support.
- Faster than trying to do it in-house — experienced implementation partners know the most efficient ways to build and introduce a Salesforce platform
- Provides assistance with organizational change
- Provides insights and helps you identify tangible business benefits that you didn’t know Salesforce could address
- More customized Salesforce instances
- Higher upfront costs
- Choosing the right partner can be difficult
- Lack of in-house IT talent that can continuously support Salesforce maintenance, meaning there is a need for continuously leveraging a third-party for ongoing support
There are many ways to use Salesforce; it would take significant time and education to learn it all. That’s what implementation partners bring to the project — they’re experts in the software and have helped many organizations successfully implement Salesforce.
3. Hybrid implementation approach
If you’re confident you can handle some element of Salesforce implementation efficiently, you might consider a hybrid approach.
For instance, though many enterprise organizations will bring in an implementation partner for planning, building, and data migration, they might have a robust training department ready to go that’s eager to take on the CRM training portion.
- Flexible — you can bring in implementation support for just the areas with which you need extra expertise
- Likely less expensive than investing in an end-to-end Salesforce implementation partner
- Builds in-house experts that you can rely on for Salesforce maintenance and support issues
- Requires additional work on your end
- Can be tricky to decide which parts of the implementation should be outsourced to a partner and which should be kept in-house
There’s no one way to implement Salesforce — you can find a partner for whatever your goals and needs are.
The 8-Step Process for a Successful Salesforce Implementation
Salesforce is a complex CRM platform with many different products and an almost limitless capability for customization. That’s why planning and getting input from the system’s future users is important for building the right platform for your organization’s needs and achieving software ROI on the investment.
Here is an 8-step framework for organizations to follow to help support a successful Salesforce implementation project:
1. Identify what you need (and want) from Salesforce
Start by asking each department to compile a list of their responsibilities, recurring tasks, sales processes, and workflows. Based on the answers, you can determine which areas of the organization can benefit from implementing Salesforce and what they need Salesforce to do for them.
2. Create a budget
Salesforce implementation costs vary widely, so your strategy will depend largely on your budget. Now that you have an idea of what you want to get out of Salesforce, you can begin to research the different options and costs.
Here are some common expenses:
- Salesforce licenses
- Salesforce consulting
- Implementation partner
- Data migration
- Salesforce training
- Salesforce adoption
- IT maintenance
- End-user support
3. Find the right expert for your needs
Official Salesforce implementation partners aren’t just experts when it comes to Salesforce; they each have their own industry expertise that will influence what they offer organizations. Look for a partner who has experience implementing organizations of your size within your industry.
Trailhead has a 10-minute course on choosing a Salesforce implementation partner that can help you jump-start your search with key skills to look for and a list of useful questions to ask.
4. Plan your organizational change management strategy
Getting your entire workforce comfortable with a new CRM can be difficult, so it’s your responsibility to ensure employees have everything they need to adapt to the new system. If you want to give your organization the best chance of success, putting effort into your organizational change management strategy is vital.
Start by actively seeking out your employees’ opinions via surveys and setting up a system so employees can ask questions and submit feedback as early in the change implementation process as possible. For the most honest feedback, make sure it’s an anonymous system. From there, strategize your Salesforce implementation roll-out and your communication plan.
5. Migrate your CRM data
To get your new Salesforce CRM up and running, you’ll need to move any data you want to have access to into the new system.
Migrating data is more challenging than many organizations anticipate, particularly when they underestimate the skill and knowledge required to make the shift, so invest in an implementation partner with experience migrating data in an organization of your size to help you ensure the transition goes smoothly.
6. Roll out features gradually
The endless possibilities that Salesforce offers and the dizzying number of features available is one of the best parts of implementing this widely popular CRM, but these same aspects can make learning to use the platform overwhelming and cause low Salesforce adoption across your team.
That’s why gradually rolling out features can help ease the transition and give employees some breathing room to learn and adapt at a more reasonable pace.
Kick things off by introducing a few elements and features per team. Solicit feedback and observe how the first roll-out goes. Then adjust your process before rolling out the next tools or features.
7. Invest in employee training
Whatever you do, don’t cut corners on training. There’s a steep adoption curve for Salesforce, and if your employees don’t have enough training and resources, you’ll risk lower Salesforce adoption rates than if you give your teams what they need to succeed.
Unless you have a robust learning & development (L&D) department with Salesforce experience, consider bringing in an implementation partner for this part. In addition to investing in professional training, offer employees other resources for ongoing learning.
You should also invest in a digital adoption platform (DAP) such as Whatfix to provide in-app guided Salesforce onboarding and training, as well as provide on-demand self-help user support.
8. Provide proper CRM maintenance & support
Salesforce implementation is an ongoing process. There will always be updates and changes, so plan to maintain your CRM. Your Salesforce implementation partner will likely help you set up your organization’s ongoing maintenance. You’ll also need to do regular reviews of your processes and workflows in order to make changes as needed.
With Whatfix, organizations are able to rely less on IT and admins for Salesforce-related support, and instead, embed contextual documentation and support in the moment of need with self-help wikis – all located directly in your Salesforce platform.
4 Tips to Guarantee a Successful Salesforce Implementation
A successful implementation focuses on being agile, communicative, and methodical. Make sure your employees are a part of your process; their feedback is key to creating a platform people actually want to use.
Here are four helpful tips to ensure your new Salesforce roll out is a success:
1. Hire a certified Salesforce admin
This will likely be a full-time job and will continue after adoption. An admin is one of nine official roles in Salesforce and the backbone of any Salesforce system. Their responsibilities include maintaining the system, helping teams build and implement new features, and staying up to date on Salesforce products and functionality.
2. Stay flexible
Your plan might change over the course of implementation when you learn more or bring in a partner. Expect to have last-minute changes to your implementation plan and revisions in your approach through trial and error.
Include employees in every department and at every level in the planning process to minimize surprises and resistance to change. Listen to them and be ready to adapt your strategy to what your future users are telling you.
3. Prioritize communication
Update everyone in the organization regularly on the implementation’s progress. Keeping employees updated will help make everyone feel like they’re part of the process, even when it’s too early to have many people involved. Prioritizing change communication also means regularly soliciting feedback from your employees, the end-users of your new Salesforce system. This will help you shape a more comprehensive CRM platform for your users and foster better employee engagement at the same time.
4. Offer a variety of training options and resources
Everyone learns differently, and one of the key things you’ll learn in a Salesforce implementation is that the more types of employee training you can offer your users for learning and staying up to date with the CRM, the better. That might include traditional classroom-style courses, apps, e-books, gamified training, official Salesforce training, blogs, and podcasts. Thanks to the massive popularity of Salesforce, there are plenty of resources out there to offer, so make use of them.
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When building your Salesforce implementation plan, remember that it’s your team who will determine whether or not the platform will be used.
A whitepaper on CRM Salesforce and Forrester released in 2021 noted: “CRM deployments often fail to deliver expected results because employees don’t use the CRM. They don’t understand the value that CRM can impart to their jobs. They also often don’t know how to use the CRM features because of inadequate training.”
Invest in your employees as much as you invest in the CRM. Ask them what they want to see from the platform and how you can best support them through the transition. Make sure they have all the resources they need, and that leadership continues to listen to their needs as Salesforce implementation wraps up.
A CRM is a living system that supports your team. Continue actively (and regularly) seeking out employee input on ways to improve, and you’ll prevent the dreaded low adoption rates that plague so many implementations.
Request a demo to see how Whatfix empowers organizations to improve end-user Salesforce adoption, reduce the need for IT support, and improve the productivity and performance of sales teams.