SPOILER ALERT: Having to think about a Dashboard other people might use made this exercise a bit more challenging, but a lot more fun.)
Welcome to the second installment of “Watch Danny Learn: a real life sales rep learns Salesforce with Trailhead”! If you are continuing along in the series, thanks for checking out Part Two. If this is the first you have heard of the series, you can read Part One here. This post was initially going to be about using the Reports and Dashboards module in Trailhead to learn how to build out a Dashboard for my unique role. However, as I was working on the post, I was joined by John and Alex – two new members on our sales team. Their addition to the organization forced me to refocus the way I was thinking about the Dashboard I was building since I knew it was likely I would be asked to share what I had built with them. There is some necessary background we have to get through before the Happily Ever After, though!
In May 2015, I changed roles at ReadyTalk and became an Associate Account Executive — a prospecting-focused role that had just come into existence. When I moved into the job, the Dashboard that got put together was a mix of elements from my old Inside Sales Dashboard and various reports from Account Executives. It had a bit of a Frankenstein feel to it. It had all of the information I needed, but as time went on, my tinkering nature kicked in, and I knew there had to be a better way. Convinced, I decided to figure out a way to show data that would be a) easily digestible and b) would reinforce the process I was trying to develop for the position.
At this point, I understood that Dashboards pulled in data from Reports, but anything beyond that was magic to me. I pieced together some kludgy reports and sent Brent a few Admin Requests to change data sources for various Dashboard elements, before deciding it would be easier to just set up a meeting with him. After commandeering the open Executive Board Room (For the best chairs in the office, obviously) one Tuesday morning, Brent and I set a course. He agreed to give me the permissions to edit Dashboards I create as well as clone the Dashboard I had. In the process, I would come to lean heavily on Trailhead to understand how to build the Reports I needed. At this point, I was only building out a Dashboard for my own edification, and the initial Reports I built reflected that.
I knew there were a number of things I was hoping to see clearly and completely within my Dashboard:
- The Tasks I have upcoming, both daily and weekly
- The distribution of my Tasks
- My completed Tasks on a weekly basis
- A quarter-long view of completed Tasks for KPI purposes
- All Prospect Opportunities I am working
- All Opportunities I have created for a particular Account Executive
The first Dashboard that I built out for myself was an improvement, but it certainly was not a masterpiece. It still had a bit of that Modern Prometheus vibe to it.
Before diving into the work of making substantial changes to my Dashboard, I wanted to complete the Reports and Dashboards module on Trailhead to get some experience under my belt. I was a bit overconfident in my ability to build out reports, so the first time through I focused more on the Dashboard lessons (That overconfidence would soon be my data cleanliness downfall…).
The first project I tackled on my Dashboard was figuring out how to organize my Opportunity data in a way that was useful. As my Dashboard was set up when Brent handed me the keys, I had a useful chart showing me the prospect Opportunities I had, broken down by Account Executive. This chart was nice because it was an at a glance view into how many Opportunities I was working for each Account Executive. With the goal of keeping 125 Opportunities in the funnel at once, this chart does not change often, but it does make it very apparent when I need to backfill Opportunities. In my first Dashboard iteration, I opted for the Donut chart – if for nothing but aesthetic reasons. I also wanted a way to show the difference between Prospect-status Opportunities I was working and those I was not, for the sake of historical data. For these, I turned to Summary reports with a variety of filters. I was not concerned with an application beyond my own use case yet, so both of these reports had ‘Account Executive CONTAINS …’ filters.
I supplement the prospecting efforts of five different Account Executives, each of which cover a different part of the United States. The system that I settled on to alleviate the confusion that comes with having potentially 150 individual prospects in the air at once seemed like a simple one. To distinguish between the different Account Executives at the Task level, I just used their initials as the beginning of each Subject line. To guarantee that I send the right email or use the appropriate messaging, I close the subject with “Call X” based on where a prospect is in my process. I created individual Tasks and Events Reports for “Call 1” through “Call 4”, using Report Filters to pull in tasks associated with my prospect Opportunities. You are all Salesforce gurus, so you can immediately see how specific the result of this system was. Regardless, this felt really useful to me. The final Dashboard representation looked like:
Building a report to track my completed activities for the week was easy enough. I created a Summary report and built a filter to include only Incoming and Outgoing Calls and emails. I created a pie chart with the different activity types making up the wedges. That report gave me a different way to look at what I have to get done in any given day. The report that I was more interested in building out, though, was one that showed my activities over the course of the quarter.
When I set out on this task, I was convinced that I would need a Formula to show the data I wanted. Conversations with Brent about the difficulty of Formulas had prepared me to spend a healthy amount of time fleshing out a solution. Fortunately for me, Trailhead saved the day by showing me a little feature of Salesforce I had never seen before.
Watching the video brief on Matrix Reports, the instructor mentioned, “to add another summary to an existing field, click the “Summary Field Menu.”
Unbeknownst to me all this time, Salesforce allows for easy summarizing and grouping of fields within the Report Builder. I had spent quite a bit of time thinking about how I was going to group Activity data by week, and Salesforce had already done the thinking for me! Once I saw that the Summary Field Menu even existed, I was curious as to how else I could use it. I cobbled together a quick Summary report to show all of my completed activities over the Current and Previous month, grouping first on Date and then Activity Type. Leveraging this newly found information, I clicked on the Summary Field Menu dropdown on the Date filter to see what my grouping options were. I was pleased to see that I could easily group my dates by Calendar Week. This circumvented the need to build a complex Formula that averaged my activities by date and let me instead use a much simpler Report. To visualize this on my Dashboard, I settled on a vertical bar chart, grouped by Activity Type.
While initially I was expecting to build out a Report that showed my average over time, this report turned out to be much more illuminating. While an average would be subject to fluctuations over time, this chart allowed me to present my activity data with more context around it. For example, it looks like I took it pretty easy in the middle of September, but with the date information available, my manager was able to see that drop lined up with a trip I took to Florida.
I mentioned something earlier about my Report building hubris being my downfall…
The reports that I built out to populate my initial Dashboard elements were all filtered by Account Executives within the report, so if I ever had to work with a new Account Executive, I’d have to change all of my reports. Additionally, any tasks I assigned myself on a new AE’s opportunities would not show up in my “Call 1, Call 2,” charts. That is also ignoring the fact that if I ever fat fingered the very specific Task subject, it was very likely that I would miss that Task. These were all issues I did not even think about until John and Alex came on board, I cloned a Dashboard for them, and everything was broken.
This was another time when Trailhead saved the day. I went back to the Reports and Dashboards module and reread the different sections that focused on Reports. I came across the Report Types explanation that covered primary objects versus related objects and how they interact in Salesforce. This chart was particularly useful for me because it visualized how reports work in a way that I had never seen before.
From here, I knew I had to tweak the reports that I had built to include a related object, likely the Account so I could pull in the Account Executive field. What I ended up using for upcoming calls were Activities with Contacts reports. These would show any upcoming activity without having to use the ridiculous “AE Initials + Call X” formatting. For the reports that pulled in Opportunity information, the fix was as simple as deleting the filter that listed the Account Executives I am working with, and changing “All Opportunities” to “My Opportunities” in the filter field, and then summarizing by Account Executive. Once I updated my Dashboard with the new data sources, I was able to make the changes to John and Alex’s respective dashboards – and voila! They finally saw their respective information! This is what the final version looks like today:
Not only was it nice to walk John and Alex through the day to day stuff, but it was also rewarding to provide something more practical. The Dashboard layout reinforces the process in a way that shadowing cold calling or email templates cannot. It serves the dual purpose of helping any future AAE ramp up into the position quickly while providing real-time feedback for the saltiest of dogs. On top of that, I built out a Dashboard that had all the elements I was hoping for – thanks in no small part to Trailhead.
The next post in this series is going to be a walkthrough of the “Sales Rep Trial – Using Lightning Experience,” so keep an eye out for that!
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