By Laura Maker

If your Salesforce org is a baseball stadium, your Salesforce users are the players – regardless of how beautifully your stadium is constructed, the players are what makes the game worth watching. And just as unskilled players can make a game painful to sit through, poorly trained users can make a terrible muddle of your Salesforce org.

But do not fear, intrepid Salesforce admin! By putting some time and careful planning into your training program, you can prepare your users to be all-stars on the field of Salesforce. Here are six steps to leading a great training program for your organization:

Plan

As with any project, the first and most important step is planning. Before you get to agendas and meeting logistics, you need to know why you’re doing this training program in the first place. Ask yourself what is the business objective that you hope to achieve. In the case of a fundraising implementation, your objective might be to improve relationships with your donors by keeping accurate records of their giving history.

Once you know your objective or objectives, envision the outcome you want to reach. If your training program is wildly successful, what will that look like? Your vision might sound something like this: My users will enter donor and donation data accurately and completely, and will know how to pull reports that help them make decisions about how to spend their fundraising time.

It may sound elementary, but starting with the purpose and vision will inform every other part of the training plan. How are you going to know who to invite, what to teach them, and what materials to give them, if you don’t know what ends you’re trying to achieve? Armed with this basic understanding, the rest of your preparation will glide smoothly toward success.

Create training materials

Think about what training materials will be most useful for your audience, both during the training session and afterward, when they will practice the skills on their own. You may want to provide slideshows, user manuals, a glossary of terms, or a list of resources and links to more information. Materials can be very comprehensive, or very simple, depending on the time you can devote and the purpose and vision you identified earlier.

Use visual aids to help your users learn. These can include screenshots, tables of information, or graphics that represent a process or workflow. Images can go a long way in helping people understand processes and complex information.

Your most important training document will be your agenda, since it will guide you and your users during your training session. Develop two versions of your agenda – a stripped-down version for your users, and a detailed version for you that includes all the fine points you plan to cover. This detailed agenda will help you focus attention on your learners and ensure you don’t forget any pieces of the curriculum along the way.

Make the logistics seamless

Take some time to make the logistics of your meeting smooth and uneventful. You want your users’ attention to be focused on learning, not on extraneous matters like finding parking, calling into the meeting line, or trying to see a tiny and distant computer monitor. Think about these details ahead of time so they don’t use up valuable time and energy during the session.

For in-person meetings, make sure you’ve scheduled an appropriate room with the right equipment. Will your users be doing hands-on work (ideally, yes) or watching a screen? Can they see and follow along? If it’s a longer session, provide snacks and water to make people comfortable.

For online meetings, make sure everyone knows how to log into the meeting room, and that your platform allows you to share your screen, give others control of the meeting, and record the session.

Finally, schedule enough time to get through your agenda, with ample room for questions and the inevitable sidetracks. If your training session is more than 1.5 hours, be sure to schedule breaks; otherwise, you’ll quickly lose the attention of your trainees.

Set the stage

After all your thoughtful preparation, training day will finally arrive. It’s time for your users to step up to the plate and take a few swings. But before diving into tabs and fields and flows, you need to set the stage so your participants can get the most out of their time with you.

If you have time, consider spending a few minutes on introductions. Ask each person to say a few words about what they hope to learn from the session and how they will be using Salesforce in their job. This will help you tailor your presentation to your audience, and it will help them focus on their own goals for the day.

Give a brief overview of the agenda, and be sure to highlight the business objectives for the training. Your students have taken time out of their day to attend your session; make sure they understand how it will help them make a greater impact on your organization’s mission. After all, that’s what this is all about.

Train

Users, meet Salesforce; it’s time to learn some skills. Here are basic tips for helping your trainees start their journey to becoming pros:

  • Explain the business reason or use case behind each skill you teach. Most people (awesome database nerds being the exception) don’t learn Salesforce just for the thrill of it; they want to accomplish a goal. Help them tie the skill to a specific outcome.
  • Explain how to accomplish a task, and then let your users try it out themselves. If they are struggling, redirect their efforts with specific instructions. Give them praise and encouragement when they get it right.
  • As you wrap up each module, review what they just accomplished. This helps the information stick.
  • Check in with your users along the way to be sure they understand you. Leave plenty of airspace for questions.

Evaluate

Congratulations, your training is almost complete! But you’re not finished yet. Whether you make it formal or casual, it’s always a good idea to get feedback; that’s how you’ll improve your game next time.

In a casual small-group setting, you might take 5 minutes at the end of the meeting to ask for feedback or suggestions for future sessions. In a larger group or a more formal setting, you could ask your users to complete a follow-up survey. Either way, spend a little time on your own or with your team debriefing and analyzing the feedback. Make a few notes on how to improve your next training session or program.

Bringing it all together

Armed with solid training and materials, your users will have the skills and knowledge to make good use of your organization’s Salesforce org. Ultimately, it will be their ongoing use of the system that determines its impact on your nonprofit’s mission. With a solid and ever-evolving training program, you can ensure that Salesforce plays a vital role in helping your organization be successful and do more good in the world.

Related articles:

Laura Maker

Laura Maker