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Your Role after Deployment: Using SFDC to Help Drive the Ship

Once the SFDC system’s data asset has become solid thanks to greater usage, it will serve as a key management tool. In addition to delivering good metrics on internal activities, it represents the repository for your customer intelligence. The system can be the command center for customer relationships—and here are best practices for how to use it in this role.

Be Careful What You Ask For

In a system with as much data and reporting as SFDC, it’s easy to ask for things and get a nice-looking dashboard in short order. Unfortunately, you could ask for lots of meaningless data on this dashboard, and subordinates aren’t likely to say no to your requests.

For example, it’s easy to ask for the number of leads each week. But leads are like Web site traffic: they are better indicators of visibility and vague interest than they are of a solid pipeline. Further, activity management indicators (such as “number of dials” or “customer support call volume”) are very easy to “game,” and the numbers won’t mean anything to the business.

Here are the best indicators of business health, particularly when compared over time:

Marketing

  • Number of fully qualified or converted leads
  • Number of converted leads accepted by sales
  • Percentage of leads converted
  • Percentage of free trials that converted
  • Percentage of nonresponsive or stale leads

Sales

  • Percentage of reps logging in on a weekly basis
  • Number of sales cycles started
  • Number of quotes issued
  • Average time in stage (or, conversely, number of stalled deals)
  • Percentage of wins, losses, and no-decisions
  • Number of new customers
  • Average deal size for new customers versus repeat customers
  • Percentage of repeat business
  • Percentage of renewals/retained customers

Pipeline

  • Forecast sales versus quarterly goal
  • Actual bookings versus weekly expected achievement8
  • Percentage of opportunities “moving backward” (decreasing in size or probability, or moving out in time)
  • Number and dollar value of disappearing opportunities (deals dropping out of the quarter, plus losses and no-decisions)
  • Forecast accuracy
  • Number and value of unforecasted deals

Customer Support

  • Number of new problems identified
  • Number of problems solved
  • Customer-perceived “time to resolve”
  • Percentage of satisfied customers
  • Percentage of problems solved through your knowledge base
  • Number of highly dissatisfied customers

Customer Base

  • Cost of customer acquisition
  • Percentage of revenue coming from repeat business
  • Percentage of customer base that’s still active/current
  • Customer lifetime revenue
  • Customer lifetime profitability9
  • Customer loyalty (upsells, renewals, and repeat business)

Don’t get too fancy with the analytics too early. They scare the employees, and besides, half the time the data aren’t any good early during the system implementation process. Gradually add a new report, dashboard, or analytic every 6 weeks or so.

SFDC also has a set of dashboards that can give you a great personal overview of the data. There’s one key caveat: any time you see a Refresh button on a dashboard screen, click it! Dashboards are the only part of the system that do not display data in real time, so the information will be misleading if you haven’t refreshed it recently.

Forecasting

SFDC is a real-time system that allows forecasts to be run at any time. For most companies, a weekly forecasting cycle is all that’s needed. The forecasting cycle typically starts on Thursday evening (when the individual reps put in their commit numbers) and continues with a multilevel review and refinement process that culminates in a consolidated forecast ready for executive review on Monday morning. As discussed at length in Chapter 9, it is imperative that all qualitative and quantitative information about the forecast be stored in SFDC, and only in SFDC.

SFDC is the natural place to run sales forecasts, and there is no reason to look outside the system for bookings forecast information. When it comes to accounting data (adhering to generally accepted accounting principles [GAAP]) and revenue forecasts, however, you must look to the financial system for the best data. Only that forecasting system has the revenue recognition, inventory allocation, reserve accounts, and other special logic and calculations needed to prepare an accurate worldwide forecast of all channels’ revenues.

We recommend that this bifurcation of forecasting roles be maintained: the SFDC system for bookings (which is usually what sales and marketing use to manage things) and the financial system for revenues (which is what the executive staff and the board need to see). Of course, the SFDC bookings forecast must feed into the revenue forecast, but the financial forecast should not be pushed back into the SFDC system. In addition to keeping things simpler, this division of roles ensures that only those with a need to know have access to the corporate financial forecast.

Executive Meetings

No one will ever run an executive staff meeting exclusively from an SFDC screen. Nevertheless, it is a best practice to have a couple of dashboards and reports that are available for executives first thing on Monday morning.

Many executives have trouble reading the fine print of an HTML report. For ease of reading and nice formatting, SFDC reports should typically be exported to Excel, where they can be made far more legible using simple macros. Although it may take a while to get everything just right, these reports can be reproduced by clicking two buttons every week. Make sure that a lucky executive assistant knows where to find those two buttons and is made responsible for printing the spreadsheets in preparation for your management meeting.

If the executive staff meeting generates minutes, any sales or customer-related items should be documented in SFDC records. SFDC’s notes area allows for notes to be made private so that prying eyes won’t see confidential remarks.

Compliance

Although SFDC is almost never the system of record for accounting or other auditable and regulated data, it may hold sensitive information and feed business processes that draw government and legal attention.

For publicly traded companies, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act mandates business process documentation and enforcement of information controls and revenue forecasts. SFDC has very fine-grained access controls to make sure that only the right people can see certain fields and that an even narrower group of people can make changes to sensitive data. SFDC also has workflows that can be configured to assure that forecasts are modified by authorized people only and that closed deals cannot be modified by anyone except individuals in the finance organization.

For companies that work in health care, financial services, higher education, and other regulated markets, there are industry-specific mandates about customers’ private information and required audits. SFDC has passed the regulatory requirements in virtually every industry, so the platform is solid. But the devil is in the details of how you use the system, so make sure that the implementation team has “locked the system down” from day one.

As a matter of best practices, you should deliberately discourage anyone in the organization from sending pipeline-related internal emails with any real content. The critical information should reside in the SFDC system, which serves as the central repository of all things customer—for all the authorized people to see. Emails have no inherent controls for what’s in the message, when the email will be read or acted on, or who will see the email (via random forwarding). SFDC’s controls and workflows guarantee that only the right people will have access to all the key data, while reducing the amount of internal email about current deals and customer situations.

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