Drive More Proactive Sales Activity with Salesforce

One of the biggest challenges facing sales managers is getting their sales people to become more proactive, and ensure that they continually move Opportunities forward. The right way to do this of course, is to set next steps at the conclusion of each sales call or meeting. And the best way to do that is to enter each call or meeting with a defined objective or goal for that call. Namely – what do I want the prospect to do as a result of this call. It could be as simple as agree to another phone call, or review a proposal, but there needs to be some clearly defined “next step” in place if we are going to move deals forward.

Salesforce Activity Management…Done the Right Way

This is one of the areas where Salesforce shines. The Activity Management component of Salesforce was really designed to encourage proactive activity. However, so many of the firms we’ve worked with don’t truly understand how Tasks and Events really work, and sadly aren’t taking advantage of this really useful functionality.

Listen, sometimes it might appear that this column is overly fond of all things Salesforce, and for the most part, we are. Trust me, there’s still some things we think are a bit quirky – like the way an “Account” is any business entity, and not just a customer (the way most salespeople tend to think of an ‘account’). Or the way that when we go to “Log a Call” we’re asked to Edit a Task that was never set up in the first place. Clearly the work of an IT minded brain here, and not a sales mentality. But we digress.

When it comes to setting up Activities, Salesforce really gets it. Anyone who’s ever set up a Task and then completed it, gets that Salesforce gives you two options. One, to Save but also, one to Save and establish a New Task. This is something that almost every sales or service person should be looking to take advantage of, because the whole point of selling to prospects or servicing customers, should entail some form of next step, be it a follow-up call or email, send a proposal, get a reference, etc. We spend a fair amount of time in our training programs on Activity Management in Salesforce because it is so vital for salespeople to know.

The Elusive Magic Deal!

We’ve often worked with clients and as soon as we get into their instance of Salesforce we can tell immediately if they understand how activities work. The lack of any Open Activities on Opportunities or Cases reveals to us that the sales/service teams don’t get this concept. One of the things that I constantly reinforce with sales managers is that if you have a team of salespeople who are logging their Opportunities, you should want to see at least one Open Activity on every open Opp. I mean, think about it. If you’re selling to a prospect and you haven’t closed them yet, doesn’t it inherently make sense that you would have a next step defined?

It always amazes us how many Opportunities a team has with no Open Activities in place. It’s almost like they simply expect the sales deals to just close themselves without any outside interference (ahhh, dare to dream salespeople, dare to dream!) We call these the Magic Deals, and they are a lot like unicorns because they are very elusive to spot (and maybe even capture). Clearly, deals don’t just move through the pipeline on their own. We need to work at them and plan our path to Closed Won. This, to us, is one of the quickest wins we can give a sales team in terms of showing them how to get value from Salesforce.

Increasing Functionality (and Adoption) with the Activity Commander

Now, as good as Salesforce is in encouraging users to set up next steps, one of the things it’s still relatively poor at, is the ability to manage a list of Tasks or Events from one location. Fortunately, Salesforce has enabled third parties with a platform to showcase a number of applications designed to improve the user experience within Salesforce. As of this writing, there were 2,911 apps on the Salesforce App Exchange. That’s a lot of options.

In terms of better Activity Management, one of our favorites is the Activity Commander by Stony Point. This tool does a number of things, but three features stand out to us in particular. It creates a List View of Tasks and Events and allows the user to filter by specific date range, Today, Tomorrow, Yesterday, This Week, Last Week, etc. And not can the user view the tasks, they can edit them from one central location, on the fly, without having to go into each individual record. It also allows the manager to look at the Activity list (upcoming and completed) of his or her team so that they can see at a glance what their salespeople are doing, or committed to do. There’s even point-scoring option in which you can arbitrarily assign points to different tasks – an email, call, meeting, meeting with C-level, etc. so that you can measure the user’s productivity in metrics that make sense to your business.

And lastly, the real winner of this app is the cool traffic light feature. Now we’re all ingrained to believe that green is better than yellow and yellow better than red. So the desired colored light is of course green. Well, the only way to get a green light is to have an Open Activity set up. A yellow light indicates Activity History but no Open Activity, while a red light indicates no Open Activity and either no Activity History, or Activity History that has surpassed a defined period of time as dictated by the organization.

What’s so useful about these lights is that they can be included on any List View or Report, so that’s it is very easy to see a list of Opportunities or Cases (or Accounts, Contacts, Leads, etc) and see whether or not the user is truly on top of them as they should be, with clearly defined next steps.

So, next time your sales team seems to loathe to use Salesforce regularly, ask yourself if you’ve demonstrated enough value to them. Chances are that you haven’t. But with Activity Management, and cool apps like the Activity Commander, you can give the reps a real productivity tool that will drive better adoption and encourage proactive behavior.

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