Here’s a scene most CEOs at young companies are familiar with:

Business is growing, customers are starting to trickle in, and it’s time to start getting serious about sales execution. Enter Salesforce.com.

Everyone knows that Salesforce is a non-negotiable part of running a successful business these days, and it’s only a matter of time before a young company finally pulls the trigger and becomes a Salesforce customer. In fact, it’s essentially a rite of passage for the modern business.

But as soon as a growing company implements Salesforce, things tend to start going sideways.

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Salesforce, though essential, is far from simple. Many young companies struggle to see value from it, especially in the beginning. Instead of the silver bullet many young companies expect when they shell out for Salesforce, the CRM often becomes a major source of frustration. It won’t work right, sales reps won’t adopt it, the data is incomplete.

It often feels that for every question you answer about Salesforce, 10 more pop up. Heck, Salesforce’s own user guide is over 5,000 pages.

These difficulties can quickly torpedo a Salesforce implementation ‒ or worse, slowly sap valuable resources without ever returning a shred of value ‒ but they can be avoided. How?

CEOs need to take the reins when first implementing Salesforce. Instead of leaving it up to the sales team, or an unlucky and overworked admin, CEOs must be the ones leading the charge and setting expectations from the very beginning. Even Salesforce itself believes having an executive spearhead the implementation is a need-to-have, not a nice-to-have.

Of course, this isn’t easy. CEOs are busy, and most don’t have a ton of experience with Salesforce. There are a thousand reasons for CEOs to pass the buck when it comes to Salesforce. But there’s one big reason CEOs must put Salesforce’s success on their shoulders: It’s the most effective way to make it work.

Here is everything a CEO needs to know before signing on the dotted line for Salesforce.

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It’s all about adoption

One of the most common reasons Salesforce fails is that sales reps never fully work it into their routines. Many reps already feel like they devote too much of their time to non-selling activities like pre-call research, post-call notes, and opportunity management. Although this feeling is understandable, it is ultimately the most serious threat to getting value from Salesforce. If your reps aren’t actually using Salesforce, your company isn’t either.

This is why it’s essential that CEOs lead by example. Instead of buying Salesforce and leaving its implementation and education to a sales manager or administrator, lead the charge yourself. Explain what Salesforce can do for your business and how it can make reps more efficient and effective. Take time to field questions and concerns, and establish a process that helps reps fold Salesforce into their daily routines.

Don’t forget marketing

Salesforce is all about sales execution, right? I mean, it’s got “sales” right in the name. It’s software designed to streamline and codify the sales process.

Wrong. This line of thinking will doom Salesforce implementation from the jump. Salesforce is business software, not just sales software. Companies that fail to recognize this distinction ultimately end up shoving everything Salesforce-related into sales, which creates an impenetrable silo and ultimately does more harm than good.

As CEO, you should head off this threat by folding Salesforce into every part of your business.

And perhaps more than anything else, this means marketing. In many ways, Salesforce is just as valuable for marketing teams as it is for sales teams. It tracks campaigns, organizes leads, stores prospects. It is, in short, a marketing platform as much as it is a sales platform.

CEOs must make this clear from Day 1. Bring in marketing leaders as well as sales leaders and make them official stakeholders in Salesforce’s success. This will not only help work Salesforce into your company’s fabric, it will also improve sales-marketing alignment. Salesforce can function as a universal language for sales and marketing teams that desperately need one. Instead of competing definitions of “prospect,” “lead,” and “opportunity,” Salesforce offers a single interpretation that both teams can use to create a service-level agreement that delineates rules for how the two teams execute in relation to each other.

Use Salesforce as a launch pad for a cultural shift

Salesforce is a powerful tool. It’s a storehouse for every important piece of data your sales team collects and enters.

But it’s more than that. It is also a way of understanding and managing your sales process. As such, it is important to not only educate your employees about how to use Salesforce, but also why they should use Salesforce.

Salesforce’s enormous popularity has a little to do with how well the product has been marketed and sold over the years, and a lot to do with the shift from an old model of sales to a new, data-driven sales culture. Sales teams have become much more metrics-driven over time, and Salesforce is the embodiment of this shift. That’s why, when your company first buys it, it is important to use the purchase decision as a chance to root your sales process even more firmly in data.

Instead of simply throwing Salesforce into your existing business, use it as an opportunity to make your sales process even more data-driven. More than anything, Salesforce is a way to provide you with cold, hard numbers to help you make behavioral and strategic decisions. Adopting and implementing Salesforce is the perfect time to make sure your sales process is built on a solid foundation and set up for long-term success.

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