The Salesforce Story You Should Tell
The Salesforce Story You Should Tell

The Salesforce Story You Should Tell

11/17/2023 by Andrew Fretwell
Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” archetype provides a powerful framework for conveying your organization’s Salesforce undertaking.

Internal successful Salesforce implementers often become victims of their own success when they aren’t careful. A well-implemented instance of Salesforce provides an organization with a sturdy foundation from which to launch itself into a true digital transformation - increasing efficiency, productivity, and decision-making speed and quality across the board. However, many organizations rest on the laurels of their successful implementation, which erodes the value of their instance over time.

Power users and leaders often find themselves frustrated by this plateauing and have come to us at Arkus seeking guidance on how to break out of the stagnation. When I am asked this, I always start by posing the same question: What is the story of your Salesforce journey? The common thread is that at organizations with a floundering instance of Salesforce, there is never a good answer to that question - and therein lies the first problem that must be addressed.

Stories are the basic mechanisms we as humans are trained with to understand abstract concepts - if you want to verify that, you can find about a million articles, books, interviews, podcasts, and TED talks to back that up.

Joseph Campbell asserted in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces that across cultures, a number of elements consistently define the “Hero’s Journey,” which he calls a “monomyth” - a way to tell stories that is universally accessible. It is as ancient as Gilgamesh and The Illiad, and as modern as Zelda and Moana.

Campbell’s work is pre-eminent in comparative literature; I recommend utilizing it because when framing your Salesforce project/s as “The Hero’s Journey,” you transcend a business proposition into a narrative cause - and that will win every time priorities are being decided. Here are some key elements of Campbell’s framework that can be appropriated for this purpose.

Act I: The ‘Ordinary’ World

At the outset, the Hero —  which can be the organization as a whole or designated teams or leaders —  and his/her/their world is not necessarily in great peril; just full of mundane, boring elements as one plods along. As the storyteller, we should already be setting up what the “better world” looks like at the end of this story, emphasizing the little aches and pains that will later be cured.

This could include wasting time on manual data processes, sorting through myriad data sources to stitch together information for decisions, or struggling to consistently execute engagement plans or policies. Understand your audience and choose accordingly: your CFO will want to hear about all the manual reconciliation of financial and fundraising data, while the Chief Development Officer will feel the pain of missed opportunities from a high donor email bounceback rate.

The Call to Adventure

At some point, the Hero must be shaken out of complacency and forced to confront a hard truth: something’s gotta give. Perhaps it was a year of low revenue putting the organization at risk. It could be a surge in staff turnover that threatens the quality of work, or a project that the organization is not ready for but leadership has committed to. And of course, a good old-fashioned recession, or fear of one, can do the trick too.

Cross the Threshold 

The first great moment of drama is when the commitment of time and budget is made to a major Salesforce implementation. The storyteller should focus on the Hero’s state of mind: What were the hopes and fears swirling around their head? Success was not inevitable and acknowledging the Hero’s anxiety raises the stakes for the eventual triumph. With that mix of hope and fear in tow, we now begin the journey…

Act II: The Great Journey

Allies, Enemies, and Tests along the way

The journey is wondrous, fraught with tests and dangers. What were some of the tests you faced as you endeavored ahead? Staff turnover? A realization that your legacy system was even worse than you originally thought? Misalignment of executive expectations with your team’s capabilities? You will also come across “enemies.”  Perhaps it is someone who loves your old system and is now blocking progress. But it also can be the old system, platforms, and processes themselves.

And on the other side, what were some things you also learned along the way? Did you become more agile in your approach to project management? You’ve probably learned how to operate on a platform that allows for customization, not boxing you into a one-size-fits-all model. You certainly had allies along the way - your implementation partner, first and foremost. But beyond your partner, the Salesforce Trailblazer community ensures you have many friends to advise and support you on your way.

Ultimate Ordeal

Great stories are defined by dramatic moments. Just like in video games, ‘bosses’ gatekeep the next level, and the “Big Boss” at the final level is always the hardest to overcome. Choose the greatest barrier/enemy and explain how you defeated them. How do you choose? Start with the one that resulted in the most lasting impact or change for your organization. In the “Ultimate Ordeal,” the Hero’s triumph changes the Hero at his/her/their core. 

Seize the Sword

This is the moment of ascendancy: your organization now wields its newly found power, ready to change the world around it. In this case, this will usually be when your Salesforce instance goes live with your leadership’s consent and your users’ ready adoption. Behold the glory!

Act III: Triumph

Return with the Elixir

The end of the Hero’s journey never ends with the Hero. Conquest is only meaningful if the Hero can translate that into helping those around him/her/them - that’s why the “elixir” must return with the Hero - benefitting the whole world. For your story, ask: What is the real-world impact of your increased effectiveness? Whether it be an increase in revenue or constituents served or a reduction in expenses and overhead - give specifics that are easy to contrast with the “ordinary world” you describe at the story’s outset.

Post-credits teaser of the Sequel

This is my own addition, and I am borrowing from Marvel - they are masters at generating excitement about the next movie in their series. Just when you think the movie is over, they whet the audience’s appetite for the next one with a short post-credits teaser. If you want your leadership to not just be content, but hungry, now is the moment to make it happen.

Salesforce is such a powerful and flexible platform, that this can be almost anything, so as long as you’re aligned with your audience’s priorities - donors, case management, marketing, AI, integrating with other data sources, data visualization, the list never ends! Choose one and dangle it in front of your audience. “And for our next act, we’re going to increase our fundraising with a branded, self-service donor portal!”

Put Your Story to Work

Once your story is ready, use it before it’s too late. Within 3-6 months of your go-live, coordinate an executive briefing with your leadership to share your tale of triumph and future aspirations. If you wait too long, your leadership may look at your Salesforce undertaking purely in the past tense. You have earned their attention and energy, so share your strategy and plans while their point of view on Salesforce is a forward, not backward-looking one. Now let’s chase that horizon together!

Do you have a great Salesforce story you want to share with us? Share with us by reaching out to us or contacting me on LinkedIn.