As you embark on your quest to implement the number one CRM in the world, keep in mind that planning is crucial for success. In this article, I explain the most critical steps to setting up Salesforce for the first time. 

Step 1. Plan

Set and Measure Goals


Begin with an end in mind. What do you want your business to achieve? 

After you have set and defined goals, be sure to create metrics to track your progress. Two different kinds of metrics should be clearly defined to aid in achieving your goals. First, are metrics that lead to specific results (AKA leading measures or leading indicators). An example of this could be the number of calls each sales agent makes per day. Second, are the results (AKA lag measures or lag indicators) achieved from the leading measures. An example could be when a sales agent closes a sale.

With these clearly defined goals and measurements to achieve them, you can create reports and dashboards. Salesforce has superb reporting tools and dashboards to keep you up to date on your company’s health and progress towards the things that are most important to the success of the business.

Create or Define Employee Hierarchy

Not every person in a company needs to see and access all pieces of data all the time. Salesforce provides a way to set rules for who gets to see what data by using Roles and Profiles. If you already have a defined hierarchy for your employees, setting up the Roles and Profiles will be a breeze.

Also, for the sake of efficiency, Salesforce has Page Layouts, which let you choose how the data is organized and presented to the user. One universal and vital role to define before you get started is a System Administrator. The System administrator will always be able to see all data and will be the one in charge of setting up permissions for everyone else in the company.

Know Your Data

Unless you are a brand new company and you’re starting with Salesforce from the get-go, you will have data. Likely, you will have lots of data spread out across multiple systems. Gathering all of this data is going to be tricky, as is making sure it is all clean. After you collect and clean your data, you need to define a map to explain where the data will live when it’s in Salesforce. There are a couple of great tools native to Salesforce for importing all this data when your’e ready. They’re called Data Import Wizard and Data Loader.

Step 2. Set up Salesforce

Now that you have planned, have clear goals, and your data is ready to be moved to Salesforce, you are prepared to begin setting everything up!

Define Structures for Your Data

Giving all the data a proper place to live is going to be one of the best first steps here. Salesforce has many “Standard Objects” already in place to make things easier for you. You can also create custom objects for extra data specific to your company’s needs and goals. If you’re not familiar with databases or programming, you can think of an object as something that represents something in the real world.

A few examples of “Standard Objects” in Salesforce include Accounts, Contacts, Opportunities, and Cases. Let’s look at how Accounts and Contacts represent real-world objects. An Account would represent a Company. That company would have a name and an address and employees. A Contact would represent an employee in the company and have information like a phone number and an email address.

Defining Page Layouts for your objects is a natural next step here. Page Layouts are the different views of the data that your users will see. They let you move the data around and organize it. For example, it would probably be useful to keep contact information like phone numbers and email addresses in one place. Page layouts are assigned on a profile by profile basis. Creating smart and efficient Page Layouts makes a big difference in user productivity.

Secure Your Data

Setting up security settings is next on the list. Sometimes information needs to be visible only to specific people within the company, for example, employee salaries. Unless your company’s pay structure is wide open, you’d only want a few people to be able to see this data. Security settings allow you to define who can view and edit specific information.

As mentioned earlier, Profiles are a significant part of data security. Profiles can be given access to different data points on your objects. If there are very specific pieces of data that certain users need access to, but are spread across different profiles you can take advantage of Permission Sets in Salesforce. Permission sets are assigned to individual users or profiles in the organization.

Set up Reports and Dashboards

Finally, with all these things in place, you can create reports and dashboards. Reports are one of my favorite things because it’s so easy to get a macro view of your company and even drill down into the specifics. Go back to your goals and your defined lead and lag measurements and create reports on them. Use these reports to keep a clear vision of your company’s progress towards your goals. After creating reports, you can create dashboards using data from those reports. Dashboards are a great way to get a big-picture view of performance.

Step 3. Launch!

Add Your Users

Now you can begin adding users to Salesforce and assigning them to their respective roles and profiles. It’s a good idea to do this using the Data Loader mentioned earlier because it won’t set passwords for your users yet. Waiting to set passwords is a good idea because it gives you time to import the rest of your data. You can also test to make sure the right users can see the intended information. Salesforce has a useful feature that allows you to log in as a user and see Salesforce exactly how they see it. Waiting to set passwords also gives you time to train your users rather than throwing them straight into the fire.

Import Data

Now that the users are in place, you can start importing your data. It’s a good idea to do this in a Sandbox environment in small batches firsts. Doing so will allow you to play around and make tweaks to the data much faster and without potentially messing up your production environment. A sandbox is a great place to do any testing because it’s an entirely separate instance of Salesforce, and you can make as many mistakes as you want in it. Refreshing a sandbox and starting over is a straightforward process.


Whether in person, or with training materials (or both!) it’s essential to ensure users know how to interact with Salesforce. Again, the sandbox is a great place to do this because users can move around in the system without messing anything up. We like to create videos and written documentation because everyone learns differently.


After following these steps, you will have a fantastic, stable CRM to fulfill your business needs. I’ve only scratched the surface of what Salesforce is capable of doing for your business. There are things like Processes and Flows to help you automate users’ workflows and save time. There are Validation Rules to make sure the data stays uniform and prevent accidental. There are Formulas to keep your users from having to perform calculations elsewhere. Salesforce even has a proprietary programming language, which allows you to customize the finest details of how Salesforce works. Integrations with external systems are a common use case for such a thing. There’s also an entire app store called the App Exchange, where you can find pre-made packages to customize Salesforce.

If you have any questions or would like help with this process, or if you want us to do it all for you, sign up for a free consultation. We are happy to help, and if you can’t tell, we think Salesforce is a powerful platform capable of helping you succeed as a business.