Making Validation Rules Work Without Alienating Your Team

Ask any sales rep on your team about validation rules, and they will probably start rolling their eyes.

But how else are you supposed to get the data leadership and operations needs?

In today’s post we’re going to explore Salesforce validation rules, considerations for using them, and how to make them work best for your team.

What is a Salesforce Validation Rule?

Salesforce Validation rules verify that the data a user enters in a record meets the standards you specify before the user can save the record. 

Typically these come in the form of required field sets that need to be filled out with with a particular field change. An example would be needing to fill out the amount and purchase use case on a closed won deal.

Companies instigate validation rules for two primary reasons:

  1. To collect rich data for analysis and advanced sales analytics
  2. To enforce the sales and customer success process(es)

Seems like a fair enough ask. So why do reps hate them?

Validation Rule Challenges

Whenever there are validation rules, you’re inherently introducing friction for the people that need to fill them out.

For starters, your reps will wonder why they are now being asked to fill out all of this additional information. You hired me to win new business, not do data entry... right?!

Moreover, the user experience in Salesforce is often opaque and confusing. I’ve seen reps claim that they’ve spent 15 minutes filling out fields only to miss one required piece of information and having it fail to save. This can be incredibly frustrating and creates tension between sellers and their ops counterparts.

As a result, many reps will begin to game validation rules by putting in low quality information to simply advance an action. A classic example of this is a closed lost reason that just says “other.”

When this scenario unfolds, no one benefits.

Ouch. So should you use Salesforce validation rules? 

The short answer is probably yes, but there are some things worth considering when evaluating this decision for your company.

Sales cycle length - if you’re in an incredibly transactional sales environment, it probably doesn’t make sense to slow your reps down by introducing a ton of data requirements. Managing communication on a high volume of opportunities is enough work, let alone maintaining the information.

Manager inspection ability - As noted earlier, part of the reason salesforce validation rules exists is to verify that reps are following your sales process which is ideally documented in Salesforce. One simple example of this is stage exit criteria which require reps to input specific fields prior to advancing an opportunity.

If your frontline managers really understand how to tightly inspect opportunities throughout the sales process in order to keep their teams accountable, you might go easier on required validations since managers are looking at it anyway. However, if you’re dealing with a team of newer managers, you might put some safeguards in the form of required fields while they ramp up.

Data requirements - Before introducing friction to your reps, you need to identify where the information gaps you need are. Why are you winning deals? Why are you losing deals? Are we getting metrics we can sell against in the sales process? The degree to which there is a data gap preventing you from improving on your processes should inform the amount and complexity of validations. 

Culture - This is a more anecdotal consideration, but a very important one. Some companies care less about the integrity of CRM rigor, so long as they’re crushing their numbers. Others can’t imagine growing their business without data as a north star. These types of decisions are going to come from the top down and arguably are going to be inherited by whoever is making the decisions around validation rules. 

Some Alternatives to Salesforce Validation Rules

When and the degree to which you employ validation rules is going to be based on a lot of the things outlined above.

Given some of the challenges we talked about earlier, there are some alternatives to requiring validation rules worth mentioning.

Salesforce Reports with Grouping

Again what we’re driving towards is high quality information and sales process adherence. One way to make sure you are getting both, is to create reports for your managers that group the opps by stage showing the relevant fields in each stage so that it is easy to see where there are gaps in data integrity or process.

A photo showing how Troops does their report grouping.

Managers will need to be looking at these frequently across all parts of the sales process to ensure your sales methodology is being fully adopted. 

*Just having these filled out is not enough. We’ll talk about quality inspection in a minute.

Custom Call to Actions 

One of the reasons validation rules fail is because it’s often very confusing for reps to understand when they need to put information in certain fields — until they try to save something. One approach to solving this is by creating custom call to actions for data input.

You can do this in Salesforce by creating a custom button in Salesforce  — or if your team uses Slack, through Troops’ action buttons

One of the nice things about Troops is that you can proactively engage your team — prompting them to fill out these “call to actions” based on where things are in your sales process (or other criteria).

Reps can be prompted based on anything from an approaching date, key field changes, or even lack of required information. This type of system makes it easy to guide reps throughout your sales process without slowing them down.

Even if you still want to use validation rules, either of these strategies can reduce the number of validations you need — which will be a positive thing in the eyes of your reps.

Looking to improve your sales process execution? Use Troops to drive real-time data capture and coaching for free here or Request A Demo from our team to learn more.

What About the Quality Issue? My Reps Still Game Things

Ah yes...there’s still the fact that many reps will game any type of validation you put into place, which ultimately does no one any good.

My first suggestion, before we get into any specific tactics, is that you must educate your team on why collecting this information is important. Within the context of this conversation, they need to understand how this is going to benefit them. For example:

"By collecting better information on where we are getting stuck in the sales process, your manager can better coach you so that you can make more money."

This shouldn’t be a one time conversation, but something that is consistently reinforced.

Once you’ve done this, the responsibility for quality assurance needs to be on your managers (and their managers).

The two ways we’ve seen this done is through:

  1. Inspection reporting 
  2. In game micro-coaching 

On Inspection Reporting 

In the first scenario, managers are likely looking at Salesforce reports on their own time or during 1:1’s. 

The challenging part about this is that managers don’t frequently look at what they’re supposed to and only focus on late stage deals (given their lack of bandwidth). Moreover, there is often little oversight from leadership to inspect the quality of coaching reps receive. Meta, I know. Sales 1:1’s are often a black box outside the reps and the manager!

What Is This “In-Game Coaching” Thing?

For this reason, we’re a big fan of the concept of “in-game coaching” in which we advocate a real-time messaging interface that combines information and collaboration, such as Slack.

In game micro-coaching is about making various outcomes and parts of your sales process highly visible in real-time so that many people can have eyes on whether the information is being filled out and the quality of the information. 

The beauty of this setup is that it allows you to accelerate the feedback loop on your coaching from once a week to multiple times a day. Assuming you’ve invited multiple team members to a channel, it keeps managers accountable because their coaching (or lack thereof) is highly visible across the organization vs. behind closed doors.

We’ll be writing more about the topic of in-game coaching and how to implement it, but this should give you the general idea.

Putting It All Together and Where to Get Started with Salesforce Validation Rules 

If you’re new to validation rules, first re-read this post. :) 

Many sales leaders we’ve surveyed recommend the following scenarios as a starting place to implement rules:

  • Movements from stage 1 to stage 2 (qualification)
  • Closed lost deals
  • Closed won deals 

On the last example, closed won validations might also take the form of submitting an approval to finance.

At the end of the day, it really is about finding a balance that is right for your team based on your unique scenario. You need to get the information you need, while making sure not to overdo it to the point where it’s actually hurting your team’s productivity. The only way to find the right mix is through experimentation and feedback!

Did we miss anything on the topic of making validation rules work for your company? Let us know in the comments what you think!

Looking to improve your sales process execution? Use Troops to drive real-time data capture and coaching for free here or Request A Demo from our team to learn more.


Scott Britton

Written by Scott Britton

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