Salesforce has changed the way businesses operate in the modern world. Their digital CRM tools have drastically reduced manual, tedious work and enabled organizations to simplify their business processes and make their work more efficient.
One of the most powerful resources in the Salesforce toolbox is workflows.
Salesforce Workflows are automated systems that streamline certain, customer-centered processes based on evaluation criteria set by the Salesforce user. Once the criteria are set, they become workflow rules that always follow an “if, then” formula: If a certain piece of criteria is met, then that will trigger the next step in the automated process.
It sounds simple enough, right?
The actual ins and outs of workflow automation become more complicated the more you dive in, but to really reap the benefits, you've got to get into the deep end.
We've put together this complete guide to Salesforce Workflows to help you learn to swim. We'll cover everything you need to know so you can see the benefits of process automation as soon as possible.
The automation offered by workflows simplifies a number of tasks that would otherwise require an organization’s time, talent, and resources. These include:
Workflows in Salesforce operate in a particular way, and users will need to know each of the various parts that make up the whole.
First you have the rule criteria. This makes up the “if” part of the “if, then” statement; it is the thing that must be true to trigger the workflow.
Next, you have the action – the “then.” This is what happens when the criteria is true. Salesforce offers users two different types: immediate actions or ones on time triggers.
The immediate actions happen in real time as soon as the criteria is met and are often used for quick turnaround or internal communications. The time triggers allow you to delay the action and work well for things like outbound messages or email campaigns.
The last piece of the workflow is the evaluation criteria. This allows users to establish when an action will be triggered after meeting the rule criteria. Evaluation can happen in one of three different time slots:
A quick example might help make this clear. Say you have a piece of criteria – someone becomes a customer – and you want to automate some sort of workflow action – send an email alert to the VP of Sales, for instance. Your workflow looks like this: if a lead becomes a customer, then the VP of Sales receives an email.
The evaluation criteria allows you to set a rule for how often Salesforce will evaluate someone’s qualifications for meeting the workflow. If you set it to only option 1, then Salesforce will only trigger the action after a record’s initial creation. This means updating its status will not trigger an action. Users would have to create a new record that meets the criteria.
Option 2 works a bit more smoothly. You can edit an existing record to match the criteria. You might change the status from lead to customer, and this criteria-meeting edit will trigger the action.
Option 3 works well for highly specific workflows. You might set a new rule for something as specific as leads who convert without engaging a rep. The if/then statement remains true, but it requires a more focused “if.”.
One brief caveat worth mentioning is that you can align workflows with external systems as well if you set the action to update something in certain, compatible platforms in your org.
Each of these main components – the rule criteria, the action, and the evaluation criteria – combine to make up the workflow rule. This is the set information that must be true for the workflow to operate correctly. Once each of these pieces are in place, you can let the automation take over.
Organizations utilize workflows to automate a number of processes, and seeing a few use cases will help prospective users see how the workflow functionality can best serve their organizations. Some workflows are never intended to require human actions (e.g., a workflow that generates a weekly report from data already in the system), and some absolutely require human interaction (a task assignment workflow or a next step is past its due date).
Is your revenue team following the MEDDIC sales framework? This special sales framework requires teams to answer specific questions and follow a formula for success.
Many platforms aren’t built to help you run the MEDDIC framework right out of the box. With Troops, we’ve already put together MEDDIC workflows to ensure all fields get completed and then we signal in Slack/Microsoft Teams to ensure they get inspected by managers.
No coding or experience needed!
No ultimate guide is complete without a little “how to” in there. We want to set you up for success, so here are a few simple steps that show you exactly how to set up Salesforce Workflows on your own.
Salesforce has made the process simple for Admin users. All you have to do is...
1. Click “Setup” in the “Admin User” dropdown menu located in the upper right hand corner of your screen.
2. Find “Create” in the large menu on the left of your screen. Another dropdown menu will appear where you can select “Workflow and Approvals” and then “Workflow Rules.” This will bring you to a new screen.
3. Click the button that says “New Rule.”
4. Select an object for your workflow from the dropdown menu. The list includes things like Opportunity, Lead, Account, Solution, etc. Make a selection and then click next.
5. Fill out the form on the screen. Enter a name for the Workflow rule, something that briefly describes the workflow, and then set the evaluation criteria* and rule criteria before clicking save and next.
(Note: The software gives you various options to configure your criteria in a dropdown menu. You can select the ones that best your particular workflow.)
6. The last step is where you add workflow action. Each type of action will be a little different, so you will select the appropriate one and follow the instructions. For example, if you want to send an email alert, Salesforce will ask you to select an email template the software can send out for the workflow. You also need to decide if you want to set up immediate actions or time-dependent ones. If you choose the latter, you will create your time triggers. Once you finish adding the workflow actions, you can click save and done! You’ve created your first workflow.
If you need more help, Salesforce's own training program – Trailhead – has plenty of resources on setting up and managing workflows.
Automation makes life easier for any organization, and workflows make it simple for you to make your team run more efficiently. Here are a few of the primary ways Workflows can do this:
Relieves your sales team of burdensome tasks. Study after study has shown that sellers only spend a fraction of their time selling products. A lot of their work week gets filled up with minute, tedious tasks that keep them from customers. Automation takes on much of these administrative burdens so sellers can go out and do what they do best: sell!
Reduces human error. Computers can’t do everything better than people, but one thing they’ve gotten right is minimizing mistakes. Automated processes ensure that your junior sales rep who just started doesn’t type the wrong thing into the wrong field. If set up correctly, the workflow will put the right information in the right place every single time.
Creates measurable, repeatable, and predictable processes. Having automated workflows means that customers who meet the criteria will experience the same actions, making it easier to measure what works and what doesn’t. You will have the data to see which workflows fly and which ones flop, and your organization can use this data to set predictions for the future.
Improves onboarding and training. Internal workflows work great for new hires. Sales managers can set them on a path for success by automatically guiding them through training programs and onboarding material. Leaders can digitally check in on the newbies to see where they’re at, what they’re struggling with, and where they’re succeeding. This streamlined process allows new hires to get ready quicker without taking too much attention from managers.
Salesforce workflows work really well for specific situations, but it is not a perfect tool. Some drawbacks and limitations do exist, and they're especially challenging for anyone looking for solutions to automate their complex workflows.
Limited Flexibility. The “if/then” format helps when you need linear workflows, but some organizations want workflows with a bit more flexibility. You won’t find that with Salesforce. Everything has to follow the straight path, so if you want to build out complex workflows, you might have to look elsewhere.
No Cross-Workflow Work. Users cannot do any type of cross-workflow triggers. A customer in one workflow cannot complete certain criteria to then trigger the flow of another one, limiting the ability to weave together various, complicated workflows.
Literal limitations. Salesforce only allows users a limited amount of workflow customization and a set amount of workflows depending on the level of subscription. For instance, each time trigger or immediate action can only include 10 of each: email alerts, tasks, field updates, and outbound messages.
Email-Only Notifications. If you use automated workflows, the notification to take some sort of action is sent from Salesforce to the person’s inbox. We all know how inundated our inboxes can be. If they receive the message on mobile email, they can’t take action.
No Follow-Up Action. Once a notification is sent to the right person, they’re expected to know what to do next. They often don't know which specific action to take, which delays response time.There’s also a ton of friction in asking them to log back into a system, search for what they need to do, and click around to actually perform the function.
Can’t Send to People Outside Salesforce. What if you need to notify someone who doesn’t have a Salesforce account? You can’t.
The limitations of Salesforce Workflows may lead some to look elsewhere for solutions that still integrate with Salesforce. Here are a few options any organization can adopt. Our list includes alternatives offered by Salesforce, followed by third-party integration platforms.
Process Builder is another tool within the Salesforce ecosystem that shares similar functionality to workflows but takes it up a notch. The Salesforce team did a great job taking what worked about Workflows and adding capabilities to it. Workflow rules limit you to updating a field, sending an email, creating a task, or sending an outbound message.
The advanced features of Process Builder allow you to create a record, post to chatter, create a flow, submit something into an approval process, and invoke another process. The only struggle with Process Builder is that it has a pretty steep learning curve, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Salesforce as a whole. But if you’re willing to put in the time, you can get a ton out of the platform.
Apex has a ton of flexibility because it is code-based software that integrates with Salesforce. It allows teams to do things like delete, update, and distribute records, add or remove users from the Chatter, and create email templates from various records.
While all this flexibility gives users options, the code-based aspect of the platform does make it challenging to use. Apex requires training and even certifications to get the most out of it. For those who want to put the work in, it can offer returns.
Flow operates in a kind of in-between from Apex and Process Builder. It has similar functions as Apex, but it doesn’t require any code. Operating it still has some complexities, like Process Builder, but it won’t require the same level of expertise as Apex.
Users look to Flow to solve for particularly complex automation needs. The platform allows them to do more advanced processes than the standard Salesforce Workflows do like deleting information.
Einstein Automate is the newest offering from Salesforce, but it has a big trick up its sleeve: AI.
The platform uses artificial intelligence and robotic process automation to help automate processes, so it responds to some needs on its own even without admins putting in criteria.
The solution also gives organizations a chance to integrate data across their various systems, all with the goal of increasing productivity.
Mulesoft Accelerator for Salesforce Clouds
Mulesoft Accelerator helps teams unlock critical customer and product data from external systems such as SAP, ServiceNow and Jira “based on best practices synthesized from customer implementations.”
With the Mulesoft Accelerator service, teams can create ServiceNow and Jira tickets from within Salesforce Service Cloud.
It also works for B2C Commerce Cloud and PIM integrations where anyone can search for product data.
If you’re using Salesforce Lightning, the option to use Lightning flows is at your fingertips. They empower any business to create and extend the power of process automation to any customer or employee experience.
This low-code, drag-and-drop feature enables teams to reduce wait times for customers, digitize business workflows, and improve team productivity.
Troops takes the best parts about Workflows and makes them even easier to use so organizations can deliver the right information, to the right person, in real time in messaging interfaces like Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Troops is the only solution designed explicitly for engaging people in messaging platforms in an actionable way.
Instead of the simple if/then formula used by Salesforce, Troops utilizes and/or logic, making it much easier to keep track of complex workflows. Setting up workflows is entirely codeless, so anyone in the company can set up automations for their teams or themselves.
Similarly, Troops software integrates with Salesforce, but instead of engaging people over email, Troops engages teams and individuals inside of Slack or MS Teams. On each workflow, people can also add actions such as editing or creating SFDC records, sending emails, and making calls without even logging into the CRM. They can even add GIFs to the workflow to enhance the customer experience. (Who doesn’t like a good GIF, am I right?)
If Troops sounds appealing to you, you can try it free for 30 days. That should give you plenty of time to see if it’s the right solution for you.
Want to have full control over how all of your tools talk to each other? From simple tasks to complex, multi-step processes, any one of these tools can get the job done.
All tools are designed to be user friendly with low code requirements, however, they can require a fair amount of technical skill to use and do not provide actions, user management, or engagement analytics.
Except for Troops, none of the tools we’ve covered so far integrate directly with Slack or Microsoft Teams - where people live and work all day - or offer actionable, codeless capabilities that enable everyday business people to create their own workflow automations.With Slack and Salesforce combining forces, it’s clear that Salesforce knows how important those integrations are for the future of work, and that work needs to shift to the collaboration platforms where people are spending their time.
Teams today live in Slack or Microsoft Teams - especially in the digital transformation age we’re living through. This is why having Salesforce workflows run through these collaboration platforms is not only practical but critical.
Here are some examples of high-value Salesforce workflows for Slack and Microsoft Teams:
Those are some of the top Salesforce workflows for Slack and Microsoft Teams. See a full list of Troop workflows for these platforms.
Salesforce’s popularity makes it easy to find helpful tutorials and resources on just about any subject. There are videos on Youtube users, forums, and websites dedicated to helping you figure out Salesforce, not to mention Salesforce’s own resources.
We’ve provided you with a strong introduction for Salesforce workflows, but now that you know how to swim, you can go even deeper. Here are a few resources to choose from as you become a master of workflows:
The more you master the skill of workflows, the more you will realize their power. Soon, you’ll have made your work more efficient, more productive, and more automated.