Salesforce Workflow: Everything You Need To Know
The topic of ‘Salesforce Workflow’ is a pretty big one. This is hardly surprising given the scope of what Salesforce enables you to do.
In its’ simplest sense, Workflow enables you to speed up the manual, resource intensive processes to save you time. Your sales process will be very grateful and you’ll be able to serve your customers better.
But there are lots of questions around it. Online forums are full of them. In this guide, we aim to answer as many of them as possible to provide a one-stop shop for all things related to Salesforce Workflow. You’ll learn when to use it, how to implement, key benefits, and what the alternatives are.
It’s a good read (though we may be a little biased), so why not bookmark it.
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Table of Contents:
- The Basics of Salesforce Workflow
- Alternatives to Salesforce Workflow
- Use-Cases for Salesforce Workflow
The Basics of Salesforce Workflow
Only using Salesforce for the basics? Or are sales reps spending valuable selling time manually entering data? These are not uncommon scenarios.
If you can relate to either, then you’re missing a trick.
You need the advantages of having all your information in Salesforce, but without the menial tasks that come with it, right? One way of achieving this is to make use of the automation features within Salesforce.
The ideal place to start is the original automation builder: Salesforce Workflow.
What is Salesforce Workflow?
Workflow is the part of Salesforce where you can build ‘rules’ to turn one action into a supplementary action. Workflow has been around for a while, and you can make certain actions happen a lot easier using other Salesforce functions. When set up correctly, it brings many benefits. These include making Salesforce less time-consuming, freeing reps up to serve customers.
What are Workflow rules?
The terms Workflow and Workflow rules are often used interchangeably but they are different.
A workflow rule is the order created by a Salesforce user to perform an automated action when another condition or series of conditions have taken place. These actions can happen instantly, or they can be set to operate after a certain amount of time.
Workflow rules are clear and logical, which makes them popular with busy sales teams who just want the task ‘done’.
Another possible point of confusion: Salesforce Workflow vs the workflow of your sales process or business.
The workflow of your sales process is the tasks you perform as a lead makes the journey from proposal to opportunity and eventually to a customer. Salesforce Workflow is the name of the Salesforce feature that lets users create automation. Although, sometimes the two can overlap as Salesforce Workflow can help you with your business workflow.
What tasks can Salesforce Workflow perform?
Salesforce Workflow enables admins to manually create automation within the CRM. There are a number of different automation functions you can create, but all around one simple principle. Workflow monitors records as they are created or updated, it then decides if an automated action needs to take place.
Workflow enables records to be more than a ledger of information. It makes them an integral part of the sales process.
Here are the automation functions you can set up using Workflow:
Updating a field
Altering a field so it displays new data once certain conditions have taken place.
Send an email
Salesforce users can set up preset emails incorporating plain text and HTML. These emails can be sent automatically when certain conditions in Salesforce have been met. It is possible to use mail merge so it displays the recipient’s first name, company and other personal information, for that extra personal touch.
Assign a task
When pre-determined conditions have been met in Salesforce, you can set a new task for a specific user.
Send a message to a different system
This is an outgoing XML message, sent to a specific URL outside of the Salesforce environment.
You can programme these actions in an ‘if this, then that’ manner, to take place when a record meets a certain condition or criteria.
Here are some examples of useful automation functions you can set up in Salesforce Workflow:
- Assign a task to a rep to review or update a record that has been inactive for a certain period of time
- Send an email alert to a rep when a lead’s score hits a specific number
- Update a field on Salesforce to reflect when certain fields have been changed
You could even set up a rule to remind you when it’s a customer’s birthday!
Workflow can replace the need to constantly monitor Salesforce for updates to leads you are working on. Instead of creating reports or monitoring your Salesforce dashboard to stay on top of your business, Salesforce Workflow can be the failsafe that makes sure no business slips through the net.
What is ‘if this, then that’?
‘If this, then that’ is a way of setting automation that to happen when a certain condition has been met.
In Salesforce workflow the two parts of an ‘If this, then that’ automation are the criteria and actions.
Criteria are the ‘if’ part of the procedure. It is something that must have happened for the resulting workflow to be triggered.
The action is the ‘then’ part. It is what takes place when the criteria have been met.
To create criteria in Salesforce Workflow, you must set it up in the criteria builder. By setting up statements, which can either be true or false, you determine the criteria that sets off an action.
Chains of automation
Chains of automation happen when one automation triggers off another one. This type of automation can be very useful for sales teams when one action always leads to another. For example, if you always send a confirmatory email when a deal gets closed.
Setting up chains of automation in Salesforce Workflow is tricky but it is possible. It is important to remember that there is an automatic order that Salesforce executes in. Salesforce does not make this information well known, but it is out there for you to find.
Salesforce Workflow will always update the field first, then proceed in the following order:
- Field Update
- New Task
- Email Alert
- Outbound message
If there is a process that you follow in your sales team that could be made with an automation happening in that order, it is possible that Salesforce Workflow could help you.
Using Salesforce Workflow with external systems
You can use Salesforce Workflow to trigger actions in systems other than Salesforce. This can be another real time-saver for your sales team.
For example, if you mark an opportunity closed as won in Salesforce, you can use Workflow to create a sales order in your organization’s Enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
This Workflow can boost the efficiency of your sales team because it saves duplication of work. It can also decrease the number of documents you need to generate when you win a deal.
An Application Programming Interface, or API, is an endpoint that developers can use to perform a function on their website or app. For example, Yahoo publishes a Weather API so you can display local weather news on your site.
There are many different Salesforce APIs. They allow you to send data from another app to Salesforce, while retrieving data from Salesforce and moving it into the other app. Salesforce Workflow makes use of the SOAP API.
The other app could be your own product, or a different solution that you use in your business.
Using Salesforce Workflow and the API, you can, for example, push data from Salesforce to:
- Your accounts software (e.g. Sage)
- Your e-commerce solution (e.g. Magento, Shopify, Amazon)
- Your email marketing software (e.g. MailChimp)
- Your shipping and delivery provider (e.g. FedEx)
- Any other app you use to run your business, perhaps one specific to your industry.
- Your own SaaS product
The main benefit is that it takes away having to manually enter the same data into 2 different apps. The API pushes and pulls the information between Salesforce and your desired destination. Data entry is time-consuming and repetitive. If your reps are spending valuable time typing in data when they should be helping your customers, anything you can do to give them that time back is helpful.
Using SOAP API, you can enable programs with different operating systems to communicate via XML. This is the power behind Salesforce Workflow’s outbound messaging facility.
You can find out more about Salesforce APIs in our FunnelFox article.
Alternatives to Salesforce Workflow
Salesforce Workflow was the original way to create automation in Salesforce, but it is not the only way. Other ways to create automations in Salesforce are:
- Process Builder
With the wealth of Salesforce automation methods on offer, it can be difficult to know which is the right version to use. It all depends on the type and complexity of the automation you want to set up.
If the automation you want to create for your sales team is relatively simple, then your first port of call should be Salesforce Workflow. Workflow excels at automation functions with one simple ‘if this, then that’ statement. Salesforce Workflow is ideal for automation that starts when a record is changed. For example, creating a task when a new record is set up. Workflow supports time-based actions, so you can leave an interval from the criteria being met before the action takes place.
Remember that you cannot create records using Workflow, only update them if they are the record itself, or related records. Although, you can create tasks.
Process Builder is a ‘point and click’ administrator tool in Salesforce that can be used to set up automation functions that help you in the sales process. It was launched in 2015 as a successor to its Workflow feature. Workflow still works, although it is no longer included in Salesforce updates.
Depending on the expertise of your Salesforce admins, Process Builder may come with a steep learning curve. If your admins already know how to use Workflow Rules and they can set up the automation functions you need in a short amount of time, why change?
You may have many Workflow Rules already set up if your organization is mature and you have been using Salesforce for a long time. Why spend time migrating them to Process Builder if they are running smoothly and you don’t need anything changed?
Additionally, some users believe that Workflow is better at handling automation on a large scale. If you are running hundreds or thousands of updates at the same time, Workflow Rules may be a better bet. However, Process Builder is continually being updated by Salesforce, so if there are any problems with it, you can expect them to be ironed out in due course.
Process Builder in Salesforce performs every task that Workflow does (except sending outbound messages), plus some new tasks too. It also gives admins more control over the automation. For example, you can easily set the exact order of automation. That was a lot more difficult when using Workflow.
In Process Builder, you can configure many more automation functions than you can in Workflow. It is also easier to use because you design automation in using flowcharts rather than coding.
Here are some of the jobs you can automate using Process Builder in Salesforce:
- Create a record
- Update related records
- Post to Chatter
- Submit a record for approval
- Consolidate Workflow – move across different Workflow rules into one easy Process
- Send email
- Trigger an automated launched flow
- Set up a Quick Action – to log calls and administrate records
You can find out more about Process Builder in our FunnelFox article.
Process Builder was well received by the Salesforce community. As a result, Workflow is not used as much as it used to be, although many systems still rely on it.
When to use Process Builder
Consider the automation that you want to set up. Process Builder is ideal for automation functions that need more than one ‘if this, then that’ statement to be true before the action can take place. You can begin automation functions in Process Builder if a record is changed, if it is invoked by a different process, or if a message is received.
Like Salesforce Workflow, Process Builder supports time-delayed actions. You can use it to create records, update any related record, invoke processes, interact with Flow and Apex as well as post to Chatter.
While it works on all browsers, Salesforce recommends that you use Process Builder with Google Chrome. It also works with a visual designer.
You can find out more about how to decide what to use in our FunnelFox article.
Salesforce has put together a series of guides to help you migrate your Workflow Rules to Process Builder automation, should you want to.
Apex is another code-based way of developing automation or any other function in Salesforce. It’s immensely powerful, but because it requires typing code, it is not for everyone. Think carefully before you decide to use Apex as part of your Salesforce automation plan.
Apex must be initiated by a qualified Salesforce developer. It must also be rigorously tested because every change you make needs to be validated against every other Salesforce function. You could find that in your quest to find speed and efficiency, you break something and cause more problems. To use Apex requires extensive training, skill and certification. For this reason, it’s often a last resort.
Here are some of the functions you can automate using Apex:
- Deleting records
- Updating records that are not necessarily related
- Distribute records
- Add and remove users in Chatter
- Generate email templates pulling information in from multiple records
Below an example of what Apex code looks like in practice:
Flow is a tool that sits somewhere in the middle of Process Builder and Apex. It is a way of building more complex automation functions with many different criteria involved.
Like Apex, it can be used to delete information which is handy for running your CRM efficiently.
It is also useful for setting up confirmation screens within Salesforce.
It is more visual than Apex, you will not need to write code, but it is still best to use a qualified Salesforce developer when diving into the Salesforce backend in this way.
When to use Flow
Flow is used for more complex automation functions, or change of functions. If the automation you need requires user interaction, Flow should be your method of choice, as user interaction is not available using Salesforce Workflow or Process Builder.
You can start Flow when a user clicks on a button or link, when they access a certain specific page or item in the utility bar. You can also link it with Apex to start if Apex is called.
Like Workflow and Process Builder, you can set up time-sensitive automation using Flow. It is the only method that allows you to automate the deletion of records. Plus, its automated email facility is more advanced than that of Workflow or Process Builder.
Flow works with a visual design interface, like Process Builder. It works with all browsers. However, Salesforce recommends that you do not use it with Safari. The two do not play nice with each other.
David Liu from SFDC99 takes a look at the age old Workflow vs Process Builder vs Flow vs Apex debate. He believes the Golden Rule of Salesforce: ‘Use the simplest tool for the job’ doesn’t always apply. Different scenarios call for different requirements.
Whether the priority is speed, testability, or functionality, for example, each tool should be assessed accordingly. The below illustration by Liu summarizes how each tool stacks up against different criteria.
Use-Cases for Salesforce Workflow
It’s simple to set up very basic Salesforce Workflow rules that make a big difference to your sales team. This sections covers the most common use cases for Salesforce Workflow.
When a lead comes into to an organization, time is of the essence. You stand more chance of making a sale if you respond to your prospect quickly. If you delay, your prospect may go to one of your competitors. An incoming lead needs to be assigned to a sales rep quickly, then, they can make the call and present your product as a solution. You can make this allocation process quick and easy using Salesforce Workflow. For example, if a lead is not claimed within a day, you can use Salesforce Workflow to set up a notification to the Sales Manager. The manager can then assign it to a rep manually.
When customers need help, they call service agents who log a case. When their query is answered to their satisfaction, the agents can mark the task case as resolved, but they cannot mark it as closed, in case another query arises from the fix. They have to manually go back into the case log and mark it as closed after an agreed period of time. This is obviously quite labor intensive, but it can be solved with a Salesforce Workflow rule. If a case is marked resolved, you can set up a Workflow that automatically marks it as closed after the agreed amount of time has passed.
Finally, you can use Salesforce Workflow rules to boost customer retention. Once a rep has closed a deal with a customer, you can set up email sequences to go out to them to help with onboarding and deal with any questions they have. You can also set alerts up for the rep to contact them after a certain period of time, to check they are happy with their purchase. All this is possible with Salesforce Workflow.
Creating automated processes using Salesforce Workflow can bring many benefits to sales teams. It can help sales teams become more productive and less wasteful with their time. It helps them reach the right customers with the right approach at the right time. Most importantly, it helps sales reps focus their time on their customers rather than their computer screens. Automation takes menial tasks out of the hands of sales reps, freeing up their time to complete tasks only humans can do.
For example, you could set up a Salesforce Workflow automation that notifies your sales manager once a rep has qualified a large deal. This is how it would work. When a record changes to show a deal worth $1 million or more, and it has been marked as Accepted, Salesforce will send an email to the sales manager letting them know the deal, to whom and that it is qualified. This saves the rep time typing out an email themselves, or trying to track down a busy sales manager.
It’s thought that automation functions like these can save sales teams up to an hour a day. Think of what you could do with that extra time. The customers you could serve. The solutions you could propose.
Minimizing human error
When Salesforce records are updated using Workflow rules rather than being done manually, it reduces the likelihood of error.
Mistakes happen. In high-performance sales teams, reps are under significant amounts of pressure to achieve. They may have to hit KPIs regarding:
- Number of calls made per day
- Number of demos booked
- Amount of revenue generated
Sales reps know that hitting these targets is the most important aspect of their role. It’s only right that they devote the majority of their time and effort towards them.
On top of the pressure to hit targets, there is the day-to-day pressure of life in a sales team. Reps have to prepare for meetings. They have to deal with incoming calls and emails. They may have direct reports to look after.
With all this going on, it’s understandable that entering data into Salesforce isn’t considered a top priority task.
However, when it comes down to it, reps will try to update their Salesforce as quickly as possible. This is where errors happen. More haste, less speed.
Mistakes in entering data can cause trouble. For example, one stray figure can give a manager a misleading picture of where they are against target. A misplaced letter in an email address and you may have no way of contacting your customer directly. Minimizing human interaction with the data in Salesforce means the information it conveys will be more accurate.
For example, you could use Salesforce Workflow to update related records in the event of a deal. It means you only have to update one record to get all of them correct.
Plugging these gaps in your sales process means your organization can have confidence in the consistency of your numbers. That is all-important for a smooth-running sales team. It leads to better-informed decision-making for your entire organization.
You can find out more about how Salesforce Workflow helps minimize human error in our FunnelFox article.
Knowing your customer
The more information on a customer contained within Salesforce, the easier it is for a sales rep to have a deeper understanding of a customer. It helps them personalize their approach to their customer, identify pain points and tailor a message that offers a solution. Having detailed information at your fingertips can be useful for reps when on the phone, dealing with objections or negotiating a deal. Salesforce Workflow makes compiling this information much easier.
For example, you can set up a Salesforce Workflow automation function to send an alert 30 days (or any other number) before a customer’s contract is due to expire. It starts when a record is created and an end date is set. When the date reaches the end date minus 30 days, it will send an alert to the relevant rep telling them that the contract is nearly up. They can then make a phone call to talk about renewing their contract. They have the opportunity to get feedback and address any concerns that may have arisen during their contract period. Who knows, they may be able to upsell to a higher value product?
As well as being useful for the rep, it leads to higher customer satisfaction. Your organization will be perceived as being ‘on the ball’ with their best interests at heart. It also puts the onus on you to make the call regarding renewal, reducing the number of inbound calls disrupting your everyday sales process.
Tracking your sales process
Setting up alerts using Salesforce Workflow helps reps and managers stay on top of their business. When reps are dedicating their time to specific customers, other opportunities can fall by the wayside. Email alerts can help keep them across all of their business. Managers can be confident in their forecasting and that they are not leaving money on the table. It allows managers to formulate a sales process, which is then easier to adhere to.
Expert admins can also set up workflow rules to track competition, or to assign tasks to users who can complete tasks faster than others. When you go deep into Salesforce Workflow, many things are possible.
This makes your CRM system more useable and popular with your sales team. Salespeople do not tend to like data entry and would rather be out selling. As a result, they may neglect to give the CRM the respect it deserves. The information they enter into the CRM may be half-hearted and lacking in detail. This eventually leads to a negative impact on the sales team and valuable information falls by the wayside. On the other hand, when you automate these data entry tasks, it is likely that reps will take more care over the tasks they still have to perform manually.
Setting up automation functions in your CRM using Salesforce can solve a number of everyday problems that beset your sales team. One of them is the essential measure of a sales team’s success. That is, of course, making sales.
If your sales team is not taking advantage of the time-saving benefits of automating tasks using Salesforce Workflow, they are not working at full efficiency. You have highly-trained salespeople, revenue generating machines, typing information into their CRM instead of being out there winning customers.
Salesforce Workflow automation also ensures managers and reps are on the same page with the situation of deals and the progress towards the monthly or quarterly targets. It means managers find it easier to make informed decisions regarding deploying new initiatives or resources.
Never losing track
Another hallmark of a great sales team is that they never give up on a piece of business, nor do they let a potential customer slip through their fingers.
This can be a difficult outcome to achieve. Sales teams can be large, with people leaving, joining or changing roles regularly. Often, a team can be dealing with hundreds of businesses at a time. Some customers are worth a lot more than others. Some are harder to sell to, or the sales process takes a lot longer. It’s no surprise that customers get forgotten about or fall by the wayside.
If you can put in a system that ensures that a rep will always follow up on a potential customer within a specific amount of time, this is a big step to ensuring nothing slips through your net. This is something you can do using Salesforce Workflow rules. You can automatically assign tasks to sales reps to call a prospect within a pre-set amount of time after their last contact.
You can also use Workflow rules to perform lead scoring, so if a prospect interacts with your organization enough times, their status is escalated and they become a more valuable lead. All this ensures that no prospect gets left behind, while reps can still prioritize the hottest leads.
The best sales teams flourish on two qualities, accountability and communication. Reps must take responsibility for the accounts they are working on, while managers must be assured that they are on track to reach their targets.
Of course, sales managers are also answerable to people higher up in the company – the CEO, for example. The most successful sales managers always know what is happening in their team.
Communication is key here. When things go wrong in a sales team, it’s often due to a breakdown in communication. Perhaps a sales rep hasn’t kept their manager informed that a piece of business is not going to renew. Maybe they need help clarifying their proposition to a customer, but are worried about asking for it.
Salesforce is an effective tool for helping sales managers stay up-to-date with what their team are doing. When a manager can easily see the details of every call a rep takes with a customer, or every email they receive, it’s much easier to have a handle on the business as a whole. However, as we’ve discussed, updating Salesforce takes up a lot of sales reps’ time. Plus, managers are busy people too.
Enter Salesforce workflow rules. When you can generate rules that automatically email the Sales Manager when a deal is marked ‘Closed’, for example, the Sales Manager will be more informed, without the rep needing to do anything.
Salesforce Workflow rules enhance communication in teams, which can only be a good thing.
Problems Salesforce Workflow cannot solve
While Salesforce Workflow automation is useful for saving time for your team, minimizing human error and boosting your level of customer service, it is not a magic bullet. If there are other inefficiencies in your team, automation will not help you. A successful sales team still relies on the human element.
For example, you could set up an automation to remind your rep to call a customer 30 days before their contract expires, as we talked about above. However, the rep still has to actually make that call. They have to be skilled enough to address any issues your customer may have, then eventually close the deal on the renewal. All the automation has done has set the reminder, if the rep doesn’t close, the problem is elsewhere.
It is also essential that all the Salesforce users in your team have adequate training on the CRM, including how the automation works for them. When organizations and their sales teams are growing quickly and new users are being set up all the time, this can often be forgotten. The quality of information on a sales team’s CRM is key to its success.
Possible issues with Salesforce Workflow
While Salesforce Workflow can bring many efficiency benefits to sales teams and the broader organization, it isn’t perfect. There are some parts of Workflow that attract criticism from Salesforce admins and users alike.
Salesforce Workflow isn’t always easy to use. It can be cumbersome. Rules are hard to enter into the system, even for experienced admins. It’s difficult to get multiple automation functions to happen in the right order. Often automation functions end up canceling each other out. To use Workflow to its full capacity, you need coding skills.
Another gripe with Salesforce Workflow is that it generates too many emails. Users feel so bombarded with Salesforce emails, that they serve as a distraction rather than a help. Eventually, users begin to ignore Salesforce emails.
Here are some tips to work around the issues and get the most from Salesforce Workflow:
- When designing Workflow rules that update fields, try not to overwrite previously entered data.
- Bear in mind that Workflow emails alert users to carry out a task, but they still have to manually mark it as complete.
- You cannot remove users from Salesforce if they are included in a Workflow. Admins must manually remove them from Workflows before they can deactivate their Salesforce account.
- Think about how many emails your Salesforce Workflow rules will generate to other members of your team. Will they feel bombarded? Will it actually save time?
Who can create workflow rules?
You can decide who is able to create workflow rules. If there is a Salesforce admin in your organization, then it is their role to perform these sorts of tasks.
If you are not a large organization with specialist Salesforce administrators, then, of course, you can try to do it yourself, but please be aware of the risks that are involved. Below are some step-by-step tutorials on how to set up some simple Salesforce Workflow automation processes. There are also many different tutorials online, on YouTube and on Salesforce’s specialist training function, Trailhead.
If you do not have the time or the desire to learn how to program Salesforce Workflow automation yourself, there are numerous outside companies that you can hire to set them up for you. These companies will have experience of setting up Salesforce Workflow and can recommend the most useful functions to suit your sales process.
Setting goals for Salesforce Workflow automation
The consequences of making a mistake when implementing a Salesforce Workflow automation could be disastrous for your sales process. To avoid problems further down the line, it is advisable to make a plan for your workflow.
When you prepare properly you can make sure there is no potentially problematic overlap between your automation functions. You avoid a tangle of different Workflow rules which can mix things up in your CRM.
You can also make sure the process and its purpose are documented properly. This is handy should you move on from the organization, and your successor needs to work out what you did.
Before you make your plan, you need to realize that every automation you implement has to have a purpose. There is no point in programming in a Salesforce Workflow automation just for the sake of it. Think of what your goals are from building Salesforce Workflow automation functions.
Start by documenting all of the functions of your business that are currently performed manually. Just because you can automate something, doesn’t mean you should. For example, an automated email to a lead might lack the personal touch required to move them along their buyer’s journey. You might prefer to keep that specific stage of the process a manual activity.
As a sales manager, think of the information you need to be notified about. Beware overload. You may think you want to receive an alert for every activity one of your reps performs, but in practice, do you really want to be bothered all day long?
Making a Salesforce Workflow plan
After you have worked out your goals for your Salesforce Workflow automation, you can make a plan to achieve them. Sketch out your automation on paper in the form of a flowchart. This will help you see in a visual manner how your automation will look on screen. You can see how it will work and if it can be improved in any way.
Documenting Workflow automation
When creating Salesforce Workflow automation, you have the opportunity to set the documentation for each one. You get to choose a name, description, name the criteria and anything else. It’s vital that you document everything well. This is because other members of your team may have to decipher it one day, perhaps long after you have left.
Use the naming system to signify the attention of your Salesforce Workflow rule. For example, a name such as ‘Follow up 30 days before the contract concludes’ tells everyone everything that they need to know. Future admins should be able to find out everything about a Workflow rule in seconds. They should not have to delve deep into the back end of the automation to find out what is going on.
How Sandbox can deliver better Workflow automation
Salesforce Sandbox is a copy of Salesforce’s standard environment. It can be used for a variety of purposes, but it is mainly used for testing new features, including Salesforce Workflow automation.
The beauty of Salesforce Sandbox is that if something goes wrong on a Salesforce Workflow you have set up within that environment, it doesn’t affect the rest of the CRM, the bits that your sales team are using every day. Therefore, it is a great place to experiment and to learn how the back end of Salesforce really works.
When you create a new sandbox, Salesforce will transfer over a copy of your organization’s Salesforce, so you get to experiment on real data, without it becoming permanent.
Before you incorporate a new Salesforce Workflow automation into your CRM, it’s advisable to test it out rigorously in your sandbox. It would be a disaster if your automation, designed to save time, ended up breaking everything else in your Salesforce.
We will now share some tips and walk-throughs on how to create specific Salesforce workflows. However, rather than go in feet first, it’s essential that you think carefully about why you need a specific piece of automation. You must also consider how the different automation functions interact with each other.
Once you know what you are doing with Salesforce Workflow, it’s tempting to go overboard and create multiple automation functions, increasing in complexity every time. Try to avoid this!
Setting up an email alert
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to use Salesforce Workflow to set up an alert to go to the Sales Manager when a user creates an opportunity worth more than $100,000.
This brings benefit to the sales team because it keeps the sales leader informed of what’s happening in the team. It also helps with forecasting. Plus, if the rep needs extra help closing a deal of this size, the manager can take more of a hands-on approach.
1 – On your Salesforce Home screen, go to SETUP >>> CREATE >>> WORKFLOW & APPROVALS. Finally, click WORKFLOW RULES.
2 – Click CONTINUE if you see a warning/training screen.
3 – Select NEW RULE
4 – Select the object to which the Workflow rule applies. In this case, it will be OPPORTUNITY. Use the drop-down menu to locate it.
5 – Give your Workflow rule a name and description. The more comprehensive the better, as it helps other people in your team understand the nature of the rule.
RULE NAME is the overarching title, so something like ‘Alert for bigger deal’
6 – Next, set the Evaluation Criteria. In this case, it should be CREATED, AND ANY TIME IT’S EDITED TO SUBSEQUENTLY MEET CRITERIA.
7 – Now, select the rule criteria. In FIELD, select OPPORTUNITY: AMOUNT. OPERATOR will be GREATER OR EQUAL. And the VALUE must be 100,000.
You have now set up your criteria and rule. The ‘if’ side of the ‘if this, then that’ process:
8 – On the next screen, you will select the action you want the rule to perform when the criteria you just set is reached (becomes TRUE).
9 – Choose between IMMEDIATE WORKFLOW ACTION to execute your action instantly or ADD TIME TRIGGER to set a time delay. If adding a time trigger, SAVE your choice.
10 – In the ADD WORKFLOW ACTION drop-down menu, select the action you want your rule to perform. In this case NEW EMAIL ALERT.
11 – Enter the specifics of your email alert. Select the email template you will use (see next section). You should create a preset template conveying all the information you want the Sales Manager to receive.
12 – Select your recipients, in this case, the Sales Manager. You can select up to 5 extra email addresses to be notified.
13 – Finally, click on ACTIVATE to make your workflow rule functional. And you’re done.
Creating an email template
As we have seen in the example above, if you want to use email with Salesforce Workflow rules, you need to have a preset email template ready to go. A basic email template is simple to create, although you may want to involve your organization’s design team if you would like to incorporate HTML or anything else sophisticated in your email template. Here is how to create a basic email template for use in Workflow.
1 – You can easily create email templates in Lightning Experience, which most Salesforce users will find more user-friendly.
2 – Click SETTINGS in the far right corner of your dashboard screen.
3 – On the next screen, activate the CREATE drop-down menu and select EMAIL TEMPLATE.
4 – You have a choice of what kind of template you want to make.
- HTML (using Letterhead)
- Custom (without using Letterhead)
In this instance, we are going to choose TEXT.
5 – Type your text email. If you are planning to use mail merge so you can add personal touches to your email template, such as first name and business name, here is where you can do it.
Make your email sound as inviting and as human as possible. You know your email is automated, but you don’t necessarily want your recipient to know that. No one really likes receiving a robotic email.
You can also add attachments at this stage.
6 – If you are using HTML in your template, select to create a plain text version of your template when prompted. Some email systems still do not automatically allow HTML to be displayed.
7 – Save it and you’re done. You now have a template you can use in a Workflow process as detailed in the previous section.
Automating the creation of a new task
Next, we will look at how to automate setting up tasks that arise when someone in your team has closed a deal. In any successful sales team, this should be a common occurrence. In Salesforce, it is marked when a user changes an opportunity to ‘Closed Won’. It marks the moment when a prospect becomes a customer, but of course, that is never the end of the story.
1 – Make sure you are working in Salesforce Classic. If you are in Lightning Experience, switch to the old style version of Salesforce.
2 – Select the ‘+’ tap on the far right of your top-level navigation section. Then select WORKFLOWS. Next, select NEW.
3 – Select your base object from the drop-down menu. In this menu, you will find the different ways your organization categorizes data in Salesforce. For this instance, select OPPORTUNITY.
4 – The next step is to give your rule a name. Make sure you make your name as descriptive as you can. It will help others understand what your rule does and how it affects their work. This rule may live long after you have left the company! In this instance, we should name our rule something like ‘FOLLOW UP TASKS AFTER CLOSED WON’.
5 – In the description section, describe exactly what your Workflow rule does. Something like ‘Create an automated follow up task for a user when they have closed won an opportunity.’
6 – Set the evaluation criteria. This is when you decide how the rule’s conditions should be read, and how it should decide whether its criteria has been met. For this automation, we need to select the second option, CREATED, OR EDITED TO MEET THE CRITERIA.
7 – Define the rule criteria, this is the specific point where the criteria is met that triggers the action in Salesforce Workflow. In FIELD, we need to select WON. Because we want to trigger the action when the deal is marked as ‘won’.
8 – The next part is the OPERATOR. This is the part that defines the relationship between the object and the field. We will use EQUALS, because we only want our workflow rule to come into effect in one particular case, when the deal is marked ‘won’.
9 – Our final section to enter is VALUE. There are only two values in this case. True or False. I this case, we need the value to be TRUE.
10 – To make sure that the right person receives the task, rather than everyone in your sales team, you must create another rule criteria. Make the FIELD to be OWNER ID, OPERATOR as EQUALS and VALUE ‘YOUR NAME’.
11 – Because we have two criteria at play here, we need to define how we want them to work together. Luckily, the default option in Salesforce is 1 AND 2, which is what we need here.
12 – Specify Workflow Actions screen. Here is where we decide what kind of action we want Salesforce Workflow to perform when our criteria that we have previously defined is reached.
By ADD WORKFLOW ACTIONS, you will see a drop-down menu detailing all the actions Salesforce Workflow is capable of. In this case, choose NEW TASK.
13 – Configure Task screen. We can select who we want the task to be assigned to. In this case, it is the RECORD OWNER. We can select a subject line for the task, such as ‘FOLLOW UP CLIENT MARKED AS CLOSED WON.’ Use the DESCRIPTION BOX if you want to go into further detail.
14 – Click on ACTIVATE to make your workflow rule functional. And you’re done. You may choose to test your new Workflow rule in the Salesforce Sandbox first. Use a similar record in sandbox and change it so it would trigger the automation if it was used in the real world. What happens? Does it work? If so, well done!
In his blog ‘Creating Workflow Rules in Salesforce’, Rich Loen uses automating task creation for a slightly different scenario: setting up an automated process based on the result of a call.
Altering an existing Workflow
There may be a time when you need to edit a Salesforce Workflow you or someone else has previously created. For example, your manager may not want to be emailed every time someone creates a $1 million opportunity, perhaps they would prefer $2 million instead. Here is how to do it.
1 – On your Salesforce Home screen, go to SETUP >>> CREATE >>> WORKFLOW & APPROVALS. Finally, click WORKFLOW RULES.
2 – Click CONTINUE if you see a warning/training screen.
3 – Select the Workflow rule you want to edit.
4 – Click EDIT.
5 – Locate the screen for the criteria that you want to change and change it to 2,000,000.
6 – Click SAVE
7 – Click DONE
Limits for email alerts
To keep the CRM system for overloading, Salesforce enforces limits on the number of automated emails the system can send out within a predefined time period. When planning your Salesforce Workflow rules, you must bear this in mind. If reps don’t receive their alerts because you have gone over the limit, it defeats the point of setting up the automation in the first place.
The standard limit for email alerts is 1000 per day per licence per organization. There is also a limit per organization of 2 million.
Once your organization has hit its limit, any automated email in the queue waiting to be sent will be deleted. Salesforce Workflow does not attempt to resend them once your allocation has been topped up.
However, if there is an action combined with the email, the action will still take place. It is only the email that doesn’t go.
An error message will be added to your debug log so admins can see what went missing.
There are some emails which do not count towards you limit, so you can create as many of them as you wish. These are:
- Approval notification emails
- Assign a task emails
- Lead and case assignment rules emails
- Case escalation
- Usage alerts
Your allocation rests to zero at midnight GMT.
Setting the default Salesforce Workflow user
When you set up time-delayed Salesforce Workflow rules, you have to appoint a default Workflow user. When the user who originally triggered the rule is not active on Salesforce, it will display the username of the default user instead. This happens in the
- Created By field for tasks
- The Sender field for emails
- The Last Modified field for updates
To set your Salesforce Workflow default user:
1 – Open the SETUP menu, select CREATE, then WORKFLOW AND APPROVALS, finally PROCESS AUTOMATION SETTINGS
2 – You will see the DEFAULT WORKFLOW USER box at the top of the Process Automation Settings screen. Select your default user. It is recommended that you nominate someone with Salesforce admin privileges.
3 – Click SAVE to finalize your choice.
Trailhead is Salesforce’s native training programme. Using Trailhead you can work through every process available in your Salesforce CRM.
There are some courses on Salesforce Workflow in Trailhead. However, with Process Builder superseding Workflow in Salesforce (Workflow is no longer updated by Salesforce), there are many more Process Builder exercises than Workflow.
There is a Trailhead course helping you transfer your Workflow rules into Process Builder, should you want to.
Glossary of terms
Here is a handy glossary of the terms you may encounter when working with Salesforce Workflow.
Action – The end product of a Workflow rule. The action is what happens when the criteria have been met.
Activity – An event, a task, a call, or an email. Users can link an activity to other records, such as an account, a lead, an opportunity, or a case. Workflow rules can automate this process.
Admin – Your Salesforce admin is the member of the team responsible for the smooth running of Salesforce. It could be a member of your IT department, or possibly Sales Operations. They will have ‘admin privileges’.
Apex – A method of creating complex automation functions in Salesforce using code.
API – a pre-written piece of code that developers can use to perform a function on their website or app.
Chatter – Salesforce’s self-contained chat feature. An organization’s chatter can only be accessed by employees of that specific organization.
Criteria builder – The screen on Salesforce where you define the criteria of your Workflow rule. Your criteria will be statements which are true or false. Actions will be triggered depending on the outcome.
CRM – Customer Relationship Management. A computerized system of keeping track of your sale process, including your leads, opportunities and customers. Salesforce is the No1 CRM in the world.
Default Workflow User – The username that is displayed in certain fields when the user who originally triggered the rule is not active in Salesforce. If you need to change the default workflow user in your Salesforce CRM, it is recommended that you nominate a user with Salesforce admin privileges.
Drop down menu – A menu in Salesforce where you can quickly select Workflow criteria and define values.
Email alert – A pre-written email that is sent to a pre-determined recipient as an automated action, once the specific criteria of the Workflow rule has been met. Some organizations set up automated email sequences as Workflow rules.
Email alert – A pre-written email that is sent to a pre-determined recipient as an automated action, once the specific criteria of the Workflow rule has been met. Some organizations set up automated email sequences as Workflow rules.
Email limits – To avoid overloading the system, Salesforce put restrictions on the number of automated emails each user can send in a 24 hour period,.
Email template – An email template is another type of preset email which can be customized with details such as first name or business name, using mail merge. Like email alerts, sending is automated when a specific condition is met. You can use text and HTML on email templates to send using Salesforce Workflow.
Evaluation criteria – This is the part of creating a workflow rule when you decide how the rule’s conditions should be read, and how it should decide whether its criteria has been met. You can choose between:
- When a record is created or edited to meet a rule’s criteria
- Only when a record has been created
- Formula evaluates to true
‘Formula evaluates to true’ is useful for creating narrowly focused Workflow rules, such as sending a notification to a rep if a customer is 30 days from their renewal date.
Field – The part of a Workflow rule’s criteria choosing to evaluate a specific category of your Salesforce CRM information. For example, leads, opportunities or customers.
Field update – An action of a Workflow rule that changes a field once the criteria have been met.
Flow – A method of creating complex automation functions in Salesforce using visuals.
HTML – Hypertext Mark-up Language. It is a common coding language used in web design. It is used to create layouts on websites, but also in emails which you can send using Salesforce Workflow.
If/then – In Workflow criteria, this is the basic command. If this criteria has been met, carry out an action. In more complex Workflow rules or Process Builder automation functions, you can combine if/then statements together.
Immediate action – When an action happens instantly after the criteria has been met.
Lightning Experience – The newest operating system for Salesforce. When setting up Workflow rules, you must switch from Lightning to Classic mode.
New task – An automated task that is generated when a specific criteria has been met.
Object – Parts of your workflow rule that affect each other. The base object is the variable part of your if/then command. Whether or not your secondary object is triggered depends on the state of your base object. An object could be a company, an opportunity or a product. In fact, it could be anything.
Operator – As in mathematics, the operator is the sign that specifies the relationship between the base object and the value of your criteria. For example, ‘greater than’ or ‘equals’.
Outbound XML message – A message that can be automated using Salesforce Workflow rules, allowing you to communicate with a piece of third-party software. This is the only function that is included in Workflow but not Process Builder.
Owner – The owner of a particular Salesforce Workflow rule is the user who programmed it, but also the primary user of the record which is being affected by a Workflow rule.
Privileges – A specific user’s level of access to data within Salesforce, including the back end of a Workflow rule. Admin privileges are necessary to set many functions within Salesforce.
Process Builder – The successor to Workflow as Salesforce’s automation creator of choice. It can perform more automation functions than Workflow and is intended to be easier to program.
Queue – A set of actions which have been determined that they need to take place, but haven’t happened yet. This is because they are set up with a time delay, such as sending an email 7 days after initial contact. Users can alter actions in the queue should they desire.
Record – An individual set of data points within Salesforce. For example, a customer record, containing information such as company name, main contact and deal size.
Re-evaluation – You can reset your Workflow rules after a field change.
Rule criteria – The set of rules that are assessed when deciding to trigger an action in Workflow. These include the field, the value and the operator. Criteria can be only one line, or a series of statements where everything must be true (or false) for the action to be triggered.
Sandbox – The staging area of Sandbox where you can test out Workflow rules to assess how they will benefit your sales team. You must also assess how they play with other rules you have already set up.
Time-dependent workflow actions – An action that has been set to happen at a pre-defined time after the criteria has been met.
Trailhead – Salesforce’s online training facility. You can find out everything you need to know about migrating from Salesforce Workflow rules to Process Builder on Trailhead.
Value – The part of the rule’s criteria that decides whether the action should take place. Values are usually numerical, such as deal size, but they do not have to be.
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