Automating professional services processes in Salesforce

In professional services, profitability is directly dependent on how efficient your processes are. If your team can do things 10% faster then this is money that does straight to the bottom line. A common recommendation that we make to our clients during Salesforce CRM implementations is to look for ways that the CRM can automate repetitive tasks or move projects through pre-defined stages as smoothly as possible. These requirements are as relevant to the post-sales phase as sales phase.

So what are the standard ways that Salesforce can automate processes? Here’s a summary of the techniques that Tenacre typically use for professional service firms.

Use Salesforce as the single-source of data

Your business development will collect a lot of data during the sales process for each project. A good sales process will require consistency in the amount, quality and format of the data that is to be collected so that the firm can produce a proposal.

Tenacre customises the CRM so that there are multiple data blocks (text, pick lists, checkboxes etc.) where this data can be stored. The CRM is further customised so that the sales process cannot progress through the sales stages without this information being captured. This setup ensures that data quality standards are maintained, and that this information can be used by colleagues in your organisation.

Create standard documents from within Salesforce

With all customer and ‘deal’ information stored in Salesforce, we can automate the creation of documents directly from the CRM. Your Tenacre consultant will create buttons or automatic processes whereby data in the CRM is merged with standard document templates and then saved to the record as a PDF. Each document will be version-controlled, so that you can see how these documents are developed and the changes that are made throughout the sales and delivery phase of the project.

This feature of Salesforce not only saves a tremendous amount of time, it also ensures consistency in the format and quality of the documents that are sent out to clients. Tenacre typically sets up document automation for

  • Proposals

  • Project plans

  • Contracts

  • Change Requests

  • Invoices

capture all communications with email, calendar integration, In-app messaging & automatic alerts

Salesforce integrated with MS Office 365. This feature makes it easy for users to add emails or calendar items to Salesforce, and to see all Salesforce data related to the emails they receive.

Salesforce can lock all communication into the CRM, helping all stakeholders to have a 360-degree of each project and process. In the first instance Tenacre will integrate all users’ Outlook or Gmail / Google Calendar into Salesforce. This means that emails or meetings are automatically logged in Salesforce and are viewable by anyone on the team that has access to that record. This saves time, enabling team members to see communications threads and the records of all meetings.

Salesforce has a built-in communications app called ‘Chatter’. Chatter allows messaging between Salesforce users as well as the sharing of files and threaded conversations. Chatter is built into each individual record (Company, Contact or Opportunity), so team members can quickly communicate on these particular deals or accounts and have all the backup information easily accessed on that record page.

Breaking processes into ‘Paths’ with defined steps

All of our clients in professional services have developed their own methodology for all parts of their business, marketing, sales and project delivery. Tenacre develops Salesforce CRM to enhance these processes, linking progress with a particular process (such as sales stages) with specific and sequential actions or tasks.

An example of a predefined process ‘Path’ in Salesforce, along with instructions on required data fields and guidance for completion

This process mapping in Salesforce reinforces your standard operating procedures and through Salesforce reports, provides management with a much more accurate picture of the current state of all sales efforts or projects.

Use ‘Live Documents’ with Quip & Salesforce

Sometimes our clients need to pull data out of Salesforce and into spreadsheets or word documents. Now Salesforce offers it’s own document suite called ‘Quip’. The key difference between Quip and traditional office applications is that the data is ‘live’, with built in messaging and links to records directly in Salesforce.

Integrate project management & financial accounting applications

Integration of processes and technology is one of the most important ways to build efficiency in a professional services business. Integration of systems means that your users don’t have to key in the same data twice, instead data flows from one team or processes to the next.

Integration with your ERP or accounting application allows invoicing to be automated, and the billing and payment history to be visible within the CRM. For may of our clients, systems integration is an ongoing process, with legacy applications being connected to Salesforce in phases, one at a time. Our most common integrations (other than ERP and accounting apps) for professional services include project management, document management and resource management.