The Ultimate Salesforce Implementation Guide for Leaders

Dear Business Leader, In an ideal world, you’d have been involved in your company’s Salesforce implementation from the very start,

10 min. read

Dear Business Leader,

In an ideal world, you’d have been involved in your company’s Salesforce implementation from the very start, weighing in on organizational needs, platform options and project goals. After all, Salesforce is more than a tool for sales reps to track leads and opportunities — it’s a solution that can power your entire business. That said, we know the ideal world and the real world don’t always match up. You’ve got a thousand things going on every day, so it’s totally understandable if delegating the company’s CRM initiative to somebody else was the only way to keep it moving. We get it.

But if the paperwork has been signed and your company is about to begin the implementation process, you need to dive in with the rest of your team. A successful Salesforce project depends heavily on strong alignment with core business processes, and leadership buy-in is a must if you want employees to adopt the platform. From this point forward, you can’t afford to sit this one out.

No need to worry, however, because we’ve put together this quick guide designed to bring you up to speed and prepare you for what comes next. Read on to get caught up on our Salesforce implementation essentials for business leaders — we think they’ll answer some of your key questions.

“What do these words even mean?”

As is the case with many technologies, Salesforce brings with it a host of buzzwords. If you’re just jumping into your company’s implementation project now, you’ll want to get a handle on the lingo. Here are some core terms:

  • App: The word “app” has two different meanings in Salesforce jargon. It can refer either to a “third-party app” that you download from the AppExchange (see below) or to a collection of tabs you build for a functional team, like the “Sales” or “Service” apps that come standard in Salesforce.
  • AppExchange: The Salesforce AppExchange is a marketplace of third-party apps and more. Think of it as Salesforce’s equivalent of the Google Play or Apple App store. Find add-ons for Salesforce, implementation partners (see below), product demos and more.
  • Classic: Salesforce’s traditional UI. For some users, it represents “old reliable,” an interface that gives them everything they expect — something safe. For others, it’s simply something of the past.
  • Lightning: Salesforce’s newer UI, released in 2015. Offers a slicker interface, more customizable styling and more modern features than Classic.
  • Org: The specific configuration of Salesforce a user sees when they log into Salesforce. Your org (also called an “instance”) contains its own unique data and metadata, and every user in it has a unique username to that org. To clarify, one person can log into multiple orgs, but they must have a unique username for each of them.
  • Partner: A business that works in the Salesforce ecosystem. These include independent software vendors (ISVs), who develop their own products that run on the Salesforce platform, and system integrators (SIs) or implementation partners, who consult, advise, build, and train on the Salesforce platform to help their clients develop custom solutions that fit their business needs.

To continue your vocabulary lesson, check out the full blog we pulled these definitions from: “Salesforce Jargon: 19 Terms Every Newcomer Should Know.” Then, when you’re ready for a more technical lesson, read the follow-up: “Business Leaders: Here are 17 Architectural Salesforce Terms You Should Know.”

“Who are these people I’m paying?”

Now that you know what a Salesforce partner does (we’re talking SIs specifically, here), it’s time to learn more about what a potential implementation team could look like. Your company hired these people, after all, so you should know what you’re paying for. Here are a few essential roles:

  • Consultant: The consultant’s job is to bridge the gap between business needs and technical solutions. They’ll work with you to understand your processes and pain points and determine how Salesforce can help you meet your goals and achieve success. In many cases, they’ll act as your main point of contact throughout the entire project.
  • Analyst: The analyst (or multiple analysts, depending on the scope of the project) is responsible for the actual configuration: Fields, objects, automations, third-party apps, reports and dashboards. You know, the nitty gritty. They’ll work closely with the consultant to make sure what they build suits your business needs.
  • Platform Architect: You can think of a platform architect as the connection between a consultant and analyst for more complicated builds. They’ll have a strong familiarity with different kinds of business models as well as a deep knowledge of the platform. When a business’ needs demand a robust use of Salesforce, a platform architect will work side-by-side with a consultant to design a technical solution that addresses those needs as effectively as possible. They’ll then work with an analyst to make sure the configuration is successful.
  • Technical Lead: A technical lead is something like a platform architect who also has the ability to code. When an org’s design features custom integrations or extended platform functionality, it’s a good idea to have a technical lead on the team.
  • Developer: When custom code is required, the developer is the one who will actually write it. They’ll team up with the technical lead to understand what is needed, then plug in and execute.

An implementation partner offering this full suite of expertise will be well equipped to help your organization achieve Salesforce success, no matter how complicated the build is. If you’d like to learn more about the ins and outs of their configuration efforts, check out our post on the topic: “What Does a Salesforce Analyst Actually Do?


“Salesforce is like a fancy Rolodex, right?”

It’s a common misconception that Salesforce — or any CRM, really — is just a convenient way to store contact information. In reality, it’s much, much more than that. However, if you weren’t involved in the decision making progress, watching demos and reading white papers, you might not be aware of the platform’s full capabilities. Here are a few technical aspects of Salesforce that help to illustrate how it makes employees of all kinds more impactful and efficient at their jobs:

  • Validation Rules: Essentially, validation rules are Salesforce customizations that force users to meet certain conditions before they can save a record. While this might sound overly technical, it’s important from a business perspective because the right validation rules can prevent your employees from making the sorts of mistakes that could cause lasting repercussions for your organization (like offering a discount that’s so steep the deal ends up costing the company money).
  • Automations: Automations are designed to reduce the amount of tasks — no matter how small — that a user must accomplish by hand. This benefits your business in two distinct ways. One, it allows employees to get more (and more meaningful) work done. And two, it provides a safeguard against human forgetfulness. Because let’s be honest: Sometimes people forget a step or two in a complex process. The more you can automate, the less your employees will have to remember.

For a list of specific validation rules to check out, head over to this blog: “3 Salesforce Validation Rules Business Leaders Should Know.” And for an equivalent rundown of automations, head here: “Why Business Leaders Should Care About Salesforce Automations.”

“How will my employees know what to do?”

As we mentioned earlier, leadership buy-in is an absolute must if you expect employees to actually use a new platform. If they see that the boss doesn’t care, why should they? But there’s another step to adoption that might be even more important: Making sure people know how to use Salesforce. Your team needs training (most likely conducted by your chosen implementation partner). And as a leader, you’re in a position to make sure that training is a success. Here are a few concrete ways how:

  • Make sure the entire team is free and on site. Leadership must convey to employees how important it is that they attend all scheduled user training sessions, and one great way to do that is by ensuring that everybody is actually able to attend. Communicate the dates of the sessions well in advance, and don’t schedule any company-wide meetings or events on those days. And if you’ve got employees who are regularly on the road, make sure they’ll be in the office.
  • Communicate your future Salesforce support process during training. After user training ends, your implementation team’s job will be done, but that doesn’t mean your users will never have another question about Salesforce. During training, then, you should introduce your support person and explain the appropriate processes for requesting help. (More on how to find said support person in a bit).
  • Be open to user feedback. It’s not unheard of for an employee to notice an issue or make a recommendation for improvement during a user training session. And instead of telling them that it’s too late to make any more changes, you should hear them out. This helps reinforce the idea that Salesforce is a tool meant to help them do their job better — a productivity tool — and that you value their feedback.
  • Announce your go-live plan during training. Training is often the final step before your company officially “goes live” with Salesforce, making it the perfect opportunity to communicate your company’s launch plan. What day will it happen? How long will existing legacy technologies remain active? Answering these questions will help position user training as a lead-up to a defining moment for the company, rather than making it seem like some random requirement.

For more on each of these suggestions, read the original blog in its entirety: “4 Ways Leaders Can Make Salesforce Training Successful.”

“Wait, this thing needs maintenance?”

Okay, you’ve mastered some buzzwords, memorized your implementation team’s roster, learned some technical aspects of the Salesforce platform and made plans for top-notch user training… now what? If you haven’t yet, now is the time to hire a Salesforce admin — someone to manage your new platform. They’ll handle everything from small issues (like resetting passwords and acquiring new licenses) to major changes (like building new functionalities to solve problems). As you start on the hiring process, here are some traits to look for:

  • Analytical: An analytical admin won’t just do as they’re told. Instead, they’ll investigate what’s really going on, looking into all the details until they have a full understanding of the situation. They’ll take that data and and use it to make a suggestion for the answer they believe is best. Often, this rigorousness means the difference between time wasted on a subpar solution and an effective fix that elegantly solves a major issue.
  • Holistic: In Salesforce, everything is connected. Which means that improving one area of the platform could very well break another. You need an admin who can think of the system in its entirety — one who is constantly aware of how the system’s various parts work together.
  • Organized: At larger organizations especially, an admin is going to be bombarded by requests from users across functions. Some of those requests will be urgent, some less so. As they roll in, an admin will need to make lots of fast decisions and organize their workload accordingly.
  • Creative: As mentioned above, a Salesforce admin needs certain investigative skills so they can get to the root of a problem and design an appropriate solution. But as you know, solving problems often requires a great deal of creativity. You need to be able to look past the obvious, trust a hunch and experiment. The same is true when it comes to Salesforce.
  • Persistent: Learning Salesforce to the fullest extent means learning its many nuances — which features and strategies are compatible, which aren’t, things like that. A great Salesforce admin won’t give up in frustration when they can’t figure something out. They’ll keep trying until they crack the case.

For a more in-depth look at these traits, check out our post: “5 Essential Traits of a Great Salesforce Admin.” And if you’re ever tasked with hiring an in-house Salesforce developer, head here: “Here’s How to Interview a Salesforce Developer if You’re Not a Programmer.”

There you have it! Now you’re fully up to speed, and should feel poised for success. But if you’re looking for even more Salesforce advice — for yourself or for your team — check out this eBook: “Essential Advice from 25 Salesforce Experts.” It features tips from authorities across the Salesforce ecosystem.