I’ve been in marketing long enough to learn first-hand and through word of mouth about the potential pitfalls of Salesforce.com implementations, so let me share a few observations with you.

Many companies  hear about the nirvana of Salesforce.com and think, “oh it is so easy to use, and not very expensive; we can roll it out quickly.” They become so excited to get rid of their current lead/contact management system (especially if they are still using Excel sheets) that they overlook or at least underestimate the work that will be required to rollout and then maintain the Salesforce.com implementation.

Salesforce.com is a wonderful thing. And I think it is the gold standard of CRM systems, so most companies are wise to use it. But Salesforce.com is both simple and complex. Companies love the demos they see, understandably. It is easy to use, and solves a lot of problems. But it requires some bandwidth to manage it, and companies  typically underestimate the man hours required to get it up and running smoothly.

Part of the trick is to satisfy all key stakeholders (the executive team, sales managers, sales reps, and marketing staff) at every step of the way. Everyone knows that they need to build consensus about what data fields should be included/tracked, what reports are needed, what constitutes a lead vs. a contact, etc.

The truth is, building consensus is easier said than done. The proverbial misalignment or schism between sales and marketing often exists. And the needs of all the stakeholders are often in flux, because opinions change, staff change, sales objectives change, marketing programs adapt, and on and on.

I recently had a boss who said (not his original quote), “Hey if it were easy they would hire monkeys to do this.”  That’s why it’s helpful to hire a Salesforce.com consultant on board before you rollout, if you can at all afford it. And I do believe you can’t afford not to do so.

The manpower required to bootstrap a Salesforce.com implementation is substantial. It’s not that a good IT manager and marketing director can’t figure out how to map fields in Salesforce.com or work with a web design firm to integrate Salesforce.com with the company’s web site and marketing automation platform. It’s just that it will take a lot longer for them to do it, and they’ll make a couple of mistakes along the way. And internal staff are often under pressure to “just get it done” to meet the executives’ deadline to “go live” with the implementation.

While it’s true that a consultant may not be familiar with your business rules and sales processes, they bring the benefit of having coached a wealth of other similar organizations, so they can bring that experience to bear when they consult your organization. A consultant has the foresight and expertise to think downstream about how the data fields in Salesforce.com will be used in the future. For example, marketing and sales can get tripped up on a supposedly simple thing like how to define and categorize vertical industries and their sub-industries, and how those categories map to your marketing automation platform.

Another aspect of any Salesforce.com implementation is migrating your current lists/database into Salesforce.com… that may be the stickiest problem of all. More on that topic in a later post.

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