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Sales Fundamentals: Best Practices for Building a Basic Salesforce Dashboard

Post by Jimmy Conley, Director of Technical Services at SalesLoft. Jimmy has a passion for solution development, sales & marketing data strategy, and relationship building.

If hearing the words, “I need you to build a Salesforce dashboard” strike fear in your heart, you’re not alone. 

While Salesforce has extremely powerful reporting capabilities and dynamic dashboards, it’s also not the easiest platform to use. Because it can do so much, it can also overwhelm you.

I would know because before joining SalesLoft, I worked at Salesforce for 5 years. During that time, I got to dive deep into the Salesforce ecosystem.

Now I’m the Director of Technical Services at SalesLoft. Our mission is to provide the technical expertise that our customers need, be it consulting or configuration.

But when I first came to SalesLoft as a solution architect, my goal was to understand our customers’ biggest needs related to Salesforce and integrating with it.

Any guesses as to the most popular request I got? Customers wanted to create reports and dashboards inside of Salesforce using data from the SalesLoft platform.

But What About SalesLoft Analytics?

Maybe you’re wondering—why are you talking about Salesforce dashboards when SalesLoft has its own analytics offering? I’m glad you asked. 

SalesLoft Analytics is quite powerful and getting even better with each release. We know this because our customers are sharing that with us. 

Our analytics help reps quickly understand how they’re doing today or what they have coming up. It also lets managers drill down into how their team is performing, what’s working, and what’s not.

Still, SalesLoft users will also always need reporting inside of Salesforce for three reasons:

  1. SalesLoft Analytics only has the data that lives in the SalesLoft platform. But, our customers want to take all the activities that we’re piping into Salesforce and pair them with their CRM data. That could be custom data inside of Salesforce, objects that SalesLoft might not sync with, or objects that customers don’t want in SalesLoft for security compliance reasons. 
  2. Because reporting needs vary depending on line of business, Salesforce’s highly customizable dashboards let users showcase data in the most meaningful way for their organization.
  3. And probably the biggest reason: leadership and C-level team members are used to reviewing dashboards and reports in Salesforce. Beyond that, executives don’t typically access reporting in SalesLoft because they aren’t using the platform everyday like sales reps and sales managers do.

Ultimately, customers want to be able to take what they’re doing in SalesLoft and Salesforce and analyze those activities in a single view. By accessing reporting within their CRM, customers can craft a complete story with their data that they wouldn’t be able to tell using our analytics alone.

Best Practices for Building a Basic Salesforce Dashboard

Before you begin creating a dashboard, you must clearly define two things:

  1. What are you trying to measure?
  2. How do you want to visualize the data? Hint: if there’s a goal tied to anything you’re measuring, it’s best to use a gauge or vertical  bar chart.

Once you’ve nailed these items down, perform a data audit to understand what data is available, where it lives, and what data is not currently in your system of record. This is helpful because it allows you to understand what data you can report on and how it’s related in your Salesforce environment. 

The first time I tried building a Salesforce dashboard, understanding the relationship between a report and dashboard was a hard concept to grasp. So, now that you’ve clearly defined your objectives and where the data lives, review some Salesforce Dashboard training articles to understand how reports and dashboards work together. 

Beyond that resource, here are some useful Salesforce reporting features to help you create your dashboard:

  • If the data you want to analyze involves a Custom Object, using Custom Report Types allows you to build the reports you need, joining data from the Custom Object and related objects in your organization.
  • Use Dashboard Filters with equivalent values to automatically filter your components without having to manually update each report.
  • Use Grouping to visualize your data on an X and Y axis and to display your data in a more clear and meaningful way.
  • Use Bucket Columns to bucket similar values. This prevents your admin from needing to create an additional Custom Field.
  • Use Summary Formulas to calculate field values in your report to display a specific metric, measure, or value without having to create an additional Custom Field.
  • Use Charts to provide a quick view of your data. Charts will also dynamically update within your Dashboard.

A Note on Salesforce Field Configuration

For SalesLoft users, your Salesforce Field Configuration defines how data is exchanged between Salesforce and the SalesLoft platform.

In my opinion, ensuring you’ve mapped all relevant SalesLoft activity fields to your Salesforce environment is crucial for providing granular reporting in Salesforce. The right mapping helps you dive deep on rep activity, which in turn, helps with coaching. 

Here’s what I mean by that. If looking at a Cadence, which steps were completed? Or, which Cadence generated a particular task? If the activity was a call, how long did it last? What was the disposition or sentiment logged? The more you can capture about an activity, you’ll be able to slice and dice the data in a meaningful way. 

This helps you uncover why one rep is performing better than another. For instance, you could see that Jessica made just as many calls as Jaime, but Jaime made those conversations go further. With that level of actionable insight, you’re better equipped to both coach those who need help and replicate the success of top performers.

Avoid These Common Dashboard Creation Pitfalls

There’s so much to consider when creating a useful dashboard. Sometimes people get overwhelmed and try to begin before they’ve appropriately planned. Here are the most common dashboard creation pitfalls I’ve seen:

  • Not having all the data you need in the right places. For instance, if you’re trying to measure activities conducted in SalesLoft, you need to ensure the correct SalesLoft fields are mapping to Salesforce.
  • Making assumptions on what the data means instead of truly understanding how it’s being populated. Are you sure that the fields you’re building reports on are being used by your organization? Also, watch out for duplicate fields. Before creating a report, it’s critical to do this type of check in with your reps because they’re using Salesforce every day.
  • Referencing formula fields to tie data across multiple objects. Salesforce data is not a snapshot in time. It changes as the records continue to change. So, you need to make sure you’re taking snapshots in the recording, that you’re reporting on things in the right way, and that you’re using the data correctly.

When Salesforce Isn’t the Right Reporting Tool

As mentioned, Salesforce’s reporting and dashboard capabilities are very powerful.

But there are going to be some reporting or analytics needs that require an even more powerful engine. Perhaps someone needs to log trends over time, and there are limitations with the number of fields for which you can track history in Salesforce.

So, I think that organizations really need to understand what should be a dashboard and report in Salesforce versus what should live in a robust Business Intelligence (BI) tool.

What makes a BI platform a better candidate than Salesforce for certain types of reports? Typically, if you have large volumes of data to report on and complexity in tying together multiple objects, or you need sophisticated trend data, a BI platform is the better option. 

Many customers think that the Salesforce dashboard is going to be a silver bullet. And a lot of times, it’ll get you 90-95% of the way there. But eventually you’ll encounter really big data questions you need to answer. And that’s where a BI platform will be your best bet.

Have You Heard About Insight from SalesLoft

Regardless of company size, a lot of businesses appoint Salesforce admins who don’t have a deep understanding of the tool or are relatively new to the Salesforce ecosystem. And even the most experienced Salesforce admins have limited bandwidth.

Because of that, we wanted to provide customers with a dashboard package as a starting place. So, in January 2019, we released Insight from SalesLoft, which all of our customers can use. It combines SalesLoft and Salesforce data into Salesforce dashboards and reports to transparently summarize the most important sales metrics. 

“We’ve also installed the Insight from SalesLoft dashboard and it’s been a game changer for us. We are now able to get a more detailed perspective of the SalesLoft activities imported into Salesforce.” SalesLoft customer using Insight

Based on research and conversations with our customers, we created fields that we highly recommend you sync to Salesforce to show the data we believe the majority of our customers want to see. All of the dashboards, reports, and automation we’ve included in the package are customizable to your business, organizational structure, and processes. 

There are two dashboards included in the Insight from SalesLoft package; one shows activity and the other shows outcomes and results. And you can view all data at both the team and individual user level.

Insight is a fantastic option for customers who have constrained resources on their Salesforce admin team. It saves people time, adds efficiencies, and provides a template from which to start.

But if you have a strong Salesforce admin and know exactly what you want to measure, there’s nothing preventing you from creating the custom fields that you need, mapping those from SalesLoft to Salesforce, and doing it 100% on your own. We definitely have customers who do that.

 Our customers who use Insight say we’ve given them an excellent framework to start with and they appreciate understanding what other customers are trying to measure. They’re gaining more transparency and better insight into rep activity, and are able to customize reports to more closely align with business needs.

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