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Salesforce.com + LMS = Measurable Training Bliss

Salesforce.com and LMS integration: How does it improve sales training, channel partner learning and customer education? Independent analyst John Leh explains

If you ask any sales professional in the world what Salesforce.com does, they would know — even if they do not use it. On the other hand, if you ask any HR or employee-focused training professional what Salesforce is, you should expect vacant stares. Possibly you’ll get an occasional “May-the-Sales-Force-be-with-you-Luke” quip. But you don’t need to live in a galaxy far, far away to recognize that sales professionals live in a very different world than corporate L&D specialists.

Nevertheless, there are many strong reasons for learning professionals to appreciate the value of Salesforce — especially if you’re responsible for extended enterprise learning programs. Let’s take a closer look at why Salesforce should matter to anyone who uses a learning management system (LMS) to support training in business environments.

What is Salesforce.com?

Salesforce is the world’s most widely used cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software solution. Salesforce can do a wide variety of things, but at its core it manages all sales operational activities, as well as data about business prospects and customers.

Salesforce is so powerful, it is used daily as a tool (perhaps even a crutch) by sales representatives, sales managers, sales administrators and others throughout sales organizations. If you’re a sales rep, Salesforce makes it easy to keep track of your territory, target accounts, contacts, sales opportunities and documents — as well as every marketing and sales interaction associated with those elements.

Sales leaders and company executives rely on Salesforce for macro-level rolled-up sales performance status checks and reporting, for forecasting guidance, for pipeline management and for running sales operations in real-time. Salesforce even keeps track of a prospect’s status and interactions after the account converts to a customer.  Salesforce remains in the background throughout the life of everyone who comes in contact with your company, documenting everything they say, do and buy.

What is an Extended Enterprise LMS?

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A learning management system is software that brings learners and content together and keeps track of all the related details — usually in an online environment. There are multiple LMS “flavors” — some are designed for employee training, while others are geared exclusively to the needs of academic institutions or associations. Other learning platforms focus on the unique requirements associated with “extended enterprise” learning — customers, business partners and others located outside an organization’s traditional four walls.

Many corporations rely on a specialized extended enterprise LMS to train and certify external channel partners and developers, as well as customers and prospects. But here’s the beauty of LMS integration with Salesforce:  Extended enterprise LMS users are often the same organizations and individuals you’re already tracking and managing in Salesforce. That overlap is where you’ll find a golden opportunity to create business value!

Salesforce.com + LMS = A Match Made in Business Heaven

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When you bring together Salesforce and an external-facing LMS, you have the most measurable training platform possible.

By leveraging common audiences, user experiences and (most importantly) shared data, your organization has unprecedented ability to identify precisely where and how training makes a specific business impact (or not).

After your partners complete certification training, do they sell more, faster and more over time?  After customers receive product training, do they renew or upgrade at a higher rate?  Do they tend to buy more complementary products or send more referral business in your direction?  An integrated Salesforce/LMS solution can answer all these questions and many more, turning your learning initiatives into strategic tools that can differentiate your company from competitors in your industry. Oh yeah. Now we’re talking!

Salesforce.com and LMS Integration Points

LMSs can be integrated with Salesforce via custom web services or via an app that LMS vendors list on the Salesforce AppExchange.  In both approaches, typical integration points include:

  • Single sign-on
  • Contacts, users, accounts
  • Courses, course offerings
  • Training assignments and course recommendations
  • Progress, completion and certification status
  • Sales leads, opportunities, sales

Salesforce/LMS Integration Use Case Examples

Prospect or customer actions that are documented in Salesforce or the LMS are called “triggers” because they can initiate actions in the other system. What workflow triggers can kick-off a cascade of related events? The sky is the limit. Here are some use case examples I’ve seen recently:

  • Sales Prospect Learning — When a prospective customer subscribes to your blog, downloads a whitepaper, watches a demo, registers for a webinar, or visits a tradeshow booth these touchpoints are tracked in Salesforce. If you send them a follow-up email, every link they click and every page they visit your website is also tracked by Salesforce. Any of these triggers can be shared with your LMS to drive proactive training recommendations, cross-promotions and more that can help engage prospects and move the relationship forward.
  • Customer Learning — Salesforce knows who each of your customers are, what they purchased, when they purchased, renewal dates and any interactions with customer support. Sharing those profile triggers with the LMS adds intelligence for personalized customer training recommendations and learning paths.  Well-trained customers renew at a higher rate and spend more on your products and services, over time.
  • Partner Certification — With specialized apps, you can create channel certification programs that support a tiered channel relationship structure and launch unique training programs that drive partner entitlements. For example, your partners who are not certified can automatically increase their commission rate from 20% to 30% when they successfully complete training to achieve a “Gold Certification,” partner designation.
  • Sales Staff Learning – Whether it is your channel partners’ sales staff or your own, virtually all sales teams are already using Salesforce for account management. That means it’s also the perfect place to push them onboarding and ongoing product training. You can deploy a new tab inside of the Salesforce application that displays a personalized training plan so new reps can accelerate their onboarding-level sales training. Then on an ongoing basis, you can assess their lead flow in conjunction with ongoing training performance and certification completion.

Which LMS Vendors Are Embracing Salesforce?

Over the past 4 years, I’ve reviewed more than 150 learning systems, and so far I’ve found several dozen LMS vendors who integrate with Salesforce, or are building apps that work with Salesforce. Many well-known learning and sales enablement vendors have gone the extra mile to certify their solutions through the Salesforce AppExchange. For example:

(For a more complete list, see our AppExchange Buyer’s Guide.)

The solutions available today represent a broad range of sophistication. However, with such a strong CRM market ahead, I expect to see an increasing number of learning tech vendors enter this space and push the boundaries of creativity and specialization.

Conclusion

Salesforce has gained wild success in the CRM market because it gives business organizations an attractive cloud-based “subscription” approach to actionable marketing and sales intelligence. LMSs are now doing the same for training organizations. Integrating training workflows and data with customer and sales-related data elevates training from a cost center to a profit center, because it helps prove the business value of learning.

Progressive LMS vendors are automating Salesforce integration so their solutions can offer a more direct path to new revenues, higher profit margins and sustainable competitive advantage. This is one marriage with a very bright future, indeed.

Thanks for reading!


Want more insights? Replay this free webinar:

Customer Education Meets Customer Success

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How can you create strategic value with LMS-Salesforce integration? The world’s most strategic organizations do exactly this. But if your organization isn’t there yet, it’s not too late. How can you catch up and gain a competitive edge?

Join John Leh, CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, and Sandi Lin, CEO and Co-Founder at Skilljar, as they explain why and how you can realize measurable results by combining the power of a modern customer-focused learning platform with Salesforce.

In this dynamic one-hour session you’ll learn all the essentials:

  • What the Salesforce platform is and why it is vital to so many organizations
  • What Salesforce-LMS “integration” means
  • How to decide if you should use Salesforce-approved apps
  • Top ways to apply Salesforce-LMS integrations, illustrated with real-world examples
  • How to prove customer learning success from your integration efforts

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John Leh
About John Leh (162 Articles)
John Leh is CEO and Lead Analyst at Talented Learning, LLC. Named among the “Top 20 Global Elearning Movers and Shakers” in 2018 and 2017, John is a fiercely independent LMS selection consultant, blogger and podcaster who helps organizations develop and implement learning technology strategies – primarily for extended enterprise applications. His advice is based on more than 20 years of industry experience, serving as a trusted LMS selection and sales adviser to more than 100 learning organizations with a total technology spend of more than $65 million. You can connect with John on Twitter at @JohnLeh or on LinkedIn.

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