We recently started the journey towards implementing Salesforce. To say it’s been difficult is an understatement and for a small business like ours, it’s taught us quite a few lessons in identifying partners, negotiating contracts, AVOIDING the sell and getting better advice from platform agnostic providers. We don’t regret the selection but we have learned all those lessons the hard way, to say the least.
Here are a couple of things I wish I’d known BEFORE we signed on the line.
1.Find your implementation partner yourself BEFORE you get into any contracts with Salesforce. Get independent advice, make sure the partner is a good fit for you and can fulfil the project in the timeline and budget that you’ve set aside. Thankfully we managed to work with a great implementation partner who did their best to help us out but it was quite stressful trying to find someone who could do it in the time frame. Meanwhile we had already been billed for the annual contract so every month we delayed the start date we were paying license fees for every one of our staff members.
2. Make the business case on what value Salesforce will add to your business. Our sales reps had been screaming for a CRM so we finally gave in and did the deal with Salesforce. Having not really thought through the fact that because we weren’t connecting it to our ERP yet (we have a legacy system and are about to re-platform), Salesforce provides quite limited value. It’s essentially operating for us right now as a lead management tool; read: really good looking excel spreadsheet. To enable some continuity we have our reps attaching quotes and “opportunity value” but they also have to do the quote and enter all the client’s details into our ERP so there’s quite a lot of double entry. Yes it manages leads well, if we’d been through a rigorous process of really understanding the value Salesforce would bring (in this first instance prior to the new ERP coming on board) would we have been so quick to jump the gun and sign before we had a new ERP ? I’m not sure.
3. Discuss payment terms before you sign on the line. I signed the contract with Salesforce under the gun of what we’d call “Hardcore Closing the Deal Sell tactics by a Salesforce rep”. After numerous rounds and incessant calls from our Salesforce rep we signed’ only to discover that we had to pay 12 months upfront which Salesforce absolutely refused to budge on.
Likewise we were billed for every staff member’s license upfront at the start before we had started development. So for the months we were waiting to develop (and the months we were customising the platform), we were paying full whack for every user. For a small business like ours, that’s a lot to suddenly swallow. And like many big behemoth suppliers, my complaints went up and down the chain of command and across the seas but at the end of the day, you could hear the tumbleweeds swirling around our empty bank account.
4. Get advice from a Platform Agnostic consultant. If this is your first foray into choosing any kind of platform, you need to get advice. You wouldn’t build a house without an architect would you? So how can you make important decisions about technology platforms without good advice that DOESN’T come from the person trying to seal the deal. If we’d got more advice we would have delved into some of the functionality limitations more deeply. That wouldn’t have affected our choice necessarily, but it would have been a more sound starting point.
5. Get a good understanding of how the support will work. What support will they provide upon implementation?What support will your systems integration partner provide? What will you need to provide in house? How will you manage that? What’s the best way to roll out the new system and train people. We’re on the brand new system Lighting which seems great but there is little training stuff we can send around to staff. What they’ve given us is a bunch of weblinks and self help stuff. But given that we’ve done some customisations, it’s now our version of Salesforce and thus user queries that don’t relate to functionality need to be addressed in-house. Again, good to know.
6. Don’t let sales people rush you into decision making. As we do more research into technology platforms and consider quite significant decisions, it really hits home that these kinds of re-platforming decisions are major. They’re big financial decisions, they impact staff, productivity, workflow systems and company stability. Yet rarely does the sales process seem to reflect the gravity of these decisions.
We’re running a business that is strong and growing, but like all businesses, is faced with the risk of bad decision making and cashflow management as we attempt to navigate these uncertain yet exciting technological times. The sales person on the other side has often never run a business, has no experience with our side of the fence, and sees no issues with hurrying and pressuring us to make significant decisions – without any real interrogation in the process. Absolutely that was our responsibility not theirs. And if we’d had more time to spend reading and talking to people, as opposed to doing the other three thousand things you do in a SME, we would have been better off.
Buyer Beware. And be educated. Not a mistake we’ll make again.