Advice From the Experts: Salesforce Best Practices From Influencers and MVPs

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What’s the best thing about working with Salesforce? Is it the platform’s near-infinite customization capabilities? The constant innovation that comes from its triannual updates? Or maybe the fact that you don’t have to be a developer to build awesome solutions with its low-code tools?

We could go on and on about what makes Salesforce great — a talk on the subject would probably span several (virtual) Dreamforce keynotes — but we think we’ve pinpointed one aspect of Salesforce that makes it particularly extraordinary: the community.

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Few other software platforms are supported by communities as vibrant, active, and helpful as that of Salesforce. Whether it’s people like Steve Molis who are always willing to answer questions on the Trailblazer Community (81,000 answers and counting!) or Gemma Blezard, founder of Ladies Be Architects, who offer up their time to coach others on their own Salesforce journeys, there’s no doubt that the Salesforce community is full of amazing people.

We at S-Docs know that tapping into the community is one of the best ways to learn more about Salesforce, improve your productivity, and grow your career. That’s why we asked some of the top Salesforce MVPs and experts about their advice and best practices for working in the Salesforce world. Here’s what they had to say.

Charly Prinsloo is a 2x Salesforce MVP, a director and co-leader at Ladies Be Architects, a RAD Women coach, 17x Salesforce certified, and a Practice Lead at Sense Corp.

How do you find time to do it all?

I don’t think there’s any real answer — it does take a lot of time, but it comes naturally when you’re doing it with a goal in mind. Most of our community work is because we’re learning ourselves, so it becomes really easy to make the time for it because it’s something you would’ve done naturally. Sometimes it means you wake up at 5 in the morning instead of 6, or go to bed an hour late, but the time comes easy because it’s fun.

What resources are most helpful to you?

If I have to look at the bookmarks on my computer, most of them are the Salesforce official documentation, and I’m always jumping between different people’s blogs. Trailhead has become one of my first stops to find something too.

What are some of your Salesforce best practices?

Whether you’re an admin, developer, or an end user, I think it’s important to remember to keep it simple. Salesforce is great at delivering incredible functionality through simplicity. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and you don’t have to have lots of buttons and lots of screens to achieve something.

As far as apps go, I love using Agile Accelerator, a tool built by Salesforce Labs. It’s free on the AppExchange and it’s a complete agile project management tool. You can track your user stories, your sprints, your epics, and your whole backlog management. Agile Accelerator does it seamlessly since it’s native to Salesforce.

What advice would you give people looking to get into the Salesforce community or further their career?

Take people with you on your journey and share what you learn. If you want to learn how to configure a lightning page, reach out and say ‘Hey, who wants to do this with me?’

It’s important to learn networking and team work. My primary rule in everything I do is kindness. If you have kindness, networking becomes easy because you want to find out how people are. You’ve also got to be self motivated — you’ve got to set yourself some goals, take that hour a day or 2 hours a week to settle down and do some trails. Or reach out to the community and learn a new thing; that’s how you’ll stay connected and also make a difference.

Brendan Conroy is a 5x Salesforce MVP, Certified Administrator, Certified Consultant, and a Senior Business System Analyst at Twitter.

How do you find time to do it all?

With all the help that the community has given me in my past, I almost feel obligated to extend the same to others. Even if I am working 70 hour weeks, I still try to designate some time in order to help out the general community.

What resources are most helpful to you?

I think the main resource would ultimately be Trailhead. I think one can get the most value out of Trailhead since one can not only learn new skills, but can also reflect achievements such as Badges, Trailhead rank, and number of Superbadges earned on one’s resume. For example, even if someone has zero experience with Salesforce in their actual job (i.e. has done a full length project end-to-end), one can list Superbadges on their resume and state during interviews that even though they have not completed a project professionally, they have built a full length project that is essentially sanctioned by Salesforce itself since building out a reasonably complex, functioning process is required to achieve a Superbadge. So my best advice to folks who are new to Salesforce would be to utilize Trailhead in order to get hands-on training within the tool and to pad out one’s resume. SalesforceBen is great as well since he explains complex Salesforce functionality in plain English, so even if one is not super familiar with the Salesforce platform, his blog’s overall presentation doesn’t use a lot of tech industry jargon and can be leveraged by newcomers to the system. I tend to go to YouTube a lot — Brian Kwong, known as the Salesforce Wizard, has a great YouTube channel where he does release notes and overall functionality, particularly with Flow. He’ll show a pretty complex flow and how to set that up.

What are some of your Salesforce best practices?

I think the most important thing is to think, ‘How am I gonna report on this?’ If you’re not able to report on the data, then it may be extraneous. When I was in Salesforce consulting, the first thing I would ask is, ‘What do you want the reports to look like’? It’s just a very direct way of saying ‘What’s the process, and how are you going to make the data match that.’ It can be one thing to say ‘what do you want to happen,’ but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to resonate with the data.

I also think that it’s important to break down a new request step-by-step in order to understand the “big picture” of what should happen and understand any considerations that might come out of making this change. For example, it’s common that I would get requests from users saying, “can you have an email be sent out to me every time (specific criteria happens).” What the admin has to do with that information is to think, “okay, what are they trying to achieve here ultimately? How is that different from what they do normally? Are there any exceptions, etc”. If one does not do that, they may miss an important consideration that contradicts the request and end up making the wrong decision resulting in frustrated end users (i.e. “We get emails about this every 5 minutes. Why is this set up this way?”).

So as a best practice, when getting new requests as an admin/developer, try to understand the full scope of what is to be achieved from an end-user standpoint, which users (internal or external) will be impacted, and if there are any issues that may have to be dealt with in the future if this is implemented. After that, determine the details such as timeline, what needs to be done in order to achieve the request, etc. I believe that understanding the full scope of a request before implementing it is pivotal.

What advice would you give people looking to get into the Salesforce community or further their career?

Regardless of what industry you’re in, you have to develop some degree of social skills. As an admin, for example, you’re dealing with sales, service, the C-Suites, marketing, finance…there’s all kinds of departments that you’re working with, so you have to be able to interact with folks and really get to the heart of what they’re asking. You have to think of things holistically.

Additionally, call out Trailhead Superbadges on your resume if you have any as I mentioned earlier because those are full-fledged projects that are essentially sanctioned by Salesforce. Even if you don’t have a job that is specific to setting up Salesforce, you can do a full project life cycle by doing Superbadges on Trailhead.

Eric Dreshfield has been named a Salesforce MVP from 2013-2019, MVP Hall of Fame, Founder of Midwest Dreamin’ and the Evansville, IN Administrators Group, as well as the Dreamforce Breakfast for Newbies. He is currently the Vice President of Delivery for ITequality.

How do you find time to do it all?

I’m fortunate enough to now work for a company that places a high value on involvement with the Salesforce Community, continuous learning, and good mental health. In addition to that, since I’m responsible for Marketing and Brand Awareness, it’s literally part of my job to be active on social media. However, when workload requires a lot, I do rely on tools like Buffer to be able to schedule future social posts. So, while there are times I’m awake and live tweeting at 3am, 6am, 10am, 4pm or nearly any hour of the day – sometimes my tweets were planned out days or weeks in advance. I’ve actually got a tweet already scheduled for 1:59 on March 14, 2021. (That’s Pi day: 3 14 1 59 – get it?) I have told people before who asked this same question, that I give up sleep more than anything.

What are some of your Salesforce best practices?

My most recent 2 roles, covering roughly the last 5 years, I’ve been a Salesforce End User. So for me, best practices are pre-defined & governed by company policies and procedures. When I do build things in Salesforce, I try to follow the examples set by the experts – those who know more than I do. People like those mentioned when talking about blog posts and podcasts. People like Salesforce MVPs, those individuals who hold multiple certifications, and those who give back to others by presenting on various topics at community group meetings, community conferences and Salesforce events like Dreamforce and TrailheaDX. Like I always say, for me, it’s all about the people and the connections you make. Because I feel that who you know is more important than what you know. Since who you know can lead you to the answers you seek, or they can lead you to someone else with those answers.

What resources are most helpful to you?

Trailhead is a big one. For a couple of my previous positions, I used Trailhead to make sure I knew what I was going to do before I did it.

There are a ton of blog posts and podcasts out there. David Liu has a great series of blog posts and video learnings that are all about teaching people to code.

One of my favorite podcasts is the Salesforce Campfire Stories with Justice Sikakane and Stacey Cogswell, where they have a guest on every episode and talk about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and how the community impacts their life. There’s another one that’s called Two WIT with Melinda Smith and Kristi Campbell that’s always a fun one to listen to. The Salesforce Admin podcast is a great one as well.

What advice would you give people looking to get into the Salesforce community?

Probably the hardest skill for some people would be to get outside your comfort zone. You have to get over your fear and just put yourself out there and do something. Whether that’s writing a blog post or speaking at an event, just get out there and do something to share your knowledge.

Gemma Blezard is a Salesforce MVP, the founder of Ladies Be Architects, an 18x Salesforce Certified professional, and the CEO of The Architech Club.

How do you find time to do it all?

It’s not necessarily about devoting time or setting time aside to do these things in my opinion. You do these things because you want to do them — not because you want to be an MVP or because you want some client recognition — it’s a genuine desire to be helpful and useful.

What resources are most helpful to you?

Number one: I go to Trailhead. But if I’m not able to find something on Trailhead, I tap into my network of architects that I work with because they are such smart people. I find that just running things past other people and getting a second pair of eyes on something that I’m stuck on is really helpful, using the experience that they have.

What are some of your Salesforce best practices?

One of my best practices for designing Salesforce is to design against what is going to make your users really enjoy working with Salesforce and really want to learn more. Make it fun to use, whether that means having a scoring system or turning it into a game in some way. I’ve seen too often when customers have implemented Salesforce and it’s aimless because people are not engaged with it.

When you put requirements together, try to resist the urge to say “the ability to do this, the ability to do that.” Spend time with users, understand what their thoughts are, what their feelings are, what their wants and their needs are. Use empathy. These things affect what we do at work, so we have to recognize that in our technology.

What advice would you give people looking to get into the Salesforce community?

First of all, be kind to yourself. Additionally, accept mistakes; everyone makes them. What matters is what you learned from them and what you take from them into the future.

Steve Molis is a 10x Salesforce MVP with a passion for helping others — in fact, he’s answered over 81,000 answers on the Trailblazer Community to date.

What resources are most helpful to you?

I listen to the Admin Podcast. There’s also all these Salesforce-moderated groups like Release Readiness, in addition to these individual Chatter groups that people have spun up on their own. I have mine for who owes me a beer… but some of them are more serious than that! I like the Process Automation Hour with Jen Lee — I go there for what people are talking about in process automation, what people are talking about in reports and dashboards, what new features are out there like field to field filtering, role-level formulas, and stuff like that.

Christine Marshall, a new MVP form the UK, has got a great blog called the Everyday Admin. Celeste Keller has posted some great stuff on the Salesforce Saint blog. All you have to do is Google “Salesforce” and you’re not going to be wanting for resources.

What are some of your Salesforce best practices?

I love the AppExchange because there’s so many things out there that can help you if you can’t do it through the regular setup and configuration of Salesforce — I guarantee you’re gonna find something out there that fits your needs. I had a requirement for document generation a couple of years ago, and I stumbled onto S-Docs, and sure enough it did exactly what I needed it to do.

I also have a little admin life hack that I came up with while working with formulas. If you create or edit a formula in the formula editor, that little “check syntax” button makes sure that you’re not doing something illegal in your formula, like using an INCLUDES function on a checkbox field, or comparing datetime to just date. However, it doesn’t check the logic of your formula. (A+B)/C will give you a completely different result than A+B/C, but they are both syntactically correct.

So, to test my validation rule logic, I create a custom formula field on every object called “validation test,” and before I activate my validation rule, I put my validation rule formula in my formula checkbox field. Then I create a report or a list view that has all of the fields that the validation formula is evaluating, along with my checkbox right there.

This way, I can see if a record returns a true checkbox — meaning it would trigger and flunk my validation rule — or if it’s an unchecked checkbox — meaning it would pass my validation rule. This way, I can see if I’ve got a loophole.

What advice would you give people looking to get into the Salesforce community?

Put yourself out there. The Success Community is a judgment-free part of the internet. The people are welcoming. If you have an idea or if you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask. There is no stupid question.

Finally, don’t jump on the first answer or the first solution you find. Be open to other ideas or ways of working at things.

Scott Luikart is a 2x Salesforce MVP, a 9x Certified Salesforce Professional, founder of

#MGPDoesTrailhead, and a Salesforce Architect/Tech Lead at Whole Foods.

How do you find time to do it all?

I firmly believe that we are called to make the world a better place, and to leave it better than the way we came into it. To me, that’s being called to do things for other people. I am super happy to spend one less night going out with friends to create community with other people. That might look like spending an afternoon talking about queer history, or supporting my friends who advocate and educate about Black Lives Matter (BLM) while helping others who don’t understand BLM and the value of this movement. DeRay Mckesson profoundly explains BLM in his book On the Other Side of Freedom.

If that just means that I take a little bit less personal time, I don’t think it’s a sacrifice because it’s showing that there are people out there that care and that’s the ultimate goal in life.

What resources are most helpful to you?

I will always look for a SteveMo formula. I will scour the community just to see if he’s ever answered a question before, before I will try somebody else’s plan. His formulas are some of the best things that I’ve ever seen.

There’s a blog out there called Automation Champion by Rakesh Gupta. He does fantastic Flow and Process Builder kinds of things. Jen Lee has equally fantastic content about Flow and Lightning, so I absolutely love reading her stuff as well.

What are some of your Salesforce best practices?

I think that using macros is underrated and people don’t do them enough. Macros inside of Salesforce will allow you to automate emails to prospects, email customers on open cases, and complete records in very specific ways to keep your data quality high. I think that people shy away from them because they’re complex to set up, but the return value of them is high and they’re relevant for a long period of time.

What advice would you give people looking to get into the Salesforce community?

Don’t get too many certifications too quickly. If you come to a company with six certifications but no experience, they may not be able to pay you the same amount as if you came with one and earned five over the next five years, and then got a pay raise every year to compensate for that additional knowledge.

Also, don’t wait to get that first certification. I know a ton of people think that they have to study for six months. The goal is always to go in knowing 100% of the content and pass it. This is a good approach, I have experienced people get nervous that they aren’t ready and put the exam off 3, 6, even 12 months from their original goal. If you commit to it and pass you are better off than you realized. If you fail you can then retake it, and you will be better off. Fearing the unknown of how well you will do is always going to hold you back.

Joy Shutters-Helbing is a Salesforce MVP, a 5x Certified Salesforce Professional, a Chicago Community Group Co-Leader, and an independent Salesforce consultant.

What resources are most helpful to you?

I find myself in help and documentation more often than not. Trailhead is also really great for wrapping your head around the concept that maybe you haven’t been exposed to before.

Salesforce Saturday is another good one: you come to the meeting and share what you’re working on and if you’re stumped, the people there can help you work through it.

I’m a co-host of MVP Office Hours, which is also great. It happens twice a month on a Friday afternoon. You can bring your problems to the table and we’re gonna see if we can get through it as a group.

There’s also Ohana Slack, an informal Slack group that’s a really great place for quick feedback.  Additionally, the Salesforce Answers Community is another great resource because you can get answers from experts.

What are some of your Salesforce best practices?

It all depends on the business. For an organization that’s a little bit into the weeds and looking to clean up, Field Trip is a really great app to help. It does an inventory of the data on your objects. You can really get an understanding of where your data is when you use it.

Salesforce Labs has an Adoption Dashboard that is free and can help stakeholders see what’s going on in their org, whether it be the number of logins, or the number of new accounts created, or new contacts created, on a daily basis, monthly basis, etc.

What advice would you give people looking to get into the Salesforce community or improve their careers?

Always try to be the person that you needed someone to be for you. Look at your own journey and where you could have used a helping hand, and be that helping hand for someone else. Think about how you can really help empower those around you or those that are struggling.

In-person events matter as far as meeting people and getting to know people and making that personal connection. In the current climate it’s not really in person, but it’s important to find ways to make that one-on-one connection with people.

Melissa Hill Dees is a 4x Salesforce Certified Professional and the VP & Founding Partner at HandsOn Connect Cloud Solutions.

How do you find time to do it all?

My team thinks I don’t sleep! It can be a little bit overwhelming at times, but if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, and I really feel that way. People talk about work-life balance, but I think it’s more of a work-life integration. Last year, my husband and my daughter went to Europe with me because I was speaking in Amsterdam at Yeur Dreamin,’ so we integrated family vacation with it. It all blends together. I like exposing my family to the smart, funny people that I know in the Trailblazer community, and vice versa.

What resources are most helpful to you?

I very rarely have time to listen to podcasts, but I love the Wizard Cast. They always do a great job.

The Power Of Us Hub is another great resource. It’s like the Trailblazer community, but of course it’s focused specifically toward nonprofits and higher ed. There’s a wealth of information there.

Salesforce Ben is a great blog that I normally read. I read Zarina Scott’s blog, as well as Jen Lee if you like Flow.

And then I like Trailhead. I like that hands-on approach. I’m a very kinetic learner, so if I can do it once, then I can probably do it again.

What are some of your Salesforce best practices?

Don’t immediately start thinking about how to solve a problem with Salesforce. Instead, you really need to understand what it is that the customer or the users need to accomplish. Instead of thinking “This process needs to happen after record deletion, so it’ll need to be an Apex trigger,” think about the reason behind wanting to do something after a record is deleted. Ask yourself what the goal is.

I also think using solutions from the AppExchange is critical to meet certain needs. Mogli SMS is a text messaging app on the AppExchange that integrates beautifully with HandsOn Connect. Elements Catalyst is another great app that helps document, explain, and keep track of the technical debt you are adding to your system, so that when you’ve got to go back and explain it later, you can show why you did what you did and how it’s supposed to work.

What advice would you give people looking to get into the Salesforce community or improve their careers?

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Not that you don’t have to know things and have the expertise — but the single best thing that I did was start attending community events, even if it’s just a local Trailblazer community in your town. I go up once a month to either the admin group or the developer group in Nashville, even though I’m not a developer. Knowing those people and having those relationships will go farther and do more good career-wise than any amount of expertise.

Summary

Although these Salesforce MVPs and influencers each have their own story, they’re all a part of what makes Salesforce so great: the Trailblazer community. As a native Salesforce app, we leveraged our close ties within the Salesforce ecosystem to compile some of their best pieces of advice. We hope their tips and best practices have inspired you to go forth and blaze your own trail.

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