Salesforce for Absolute Beginners

A no-previous-knowledge-necessary introduction to Salesforce

What is Salesforce?

Salesforce is the market leading web based service for managing your customer data. Log in through your web browser from anywhere and you’ll be able to manage every interaction you have with your customers, from marketing to lead generation and sales, through to servicing your existing customers. Salesforce can also be extensively customised, and can be adapted to run anything from internet banking portals to healthcare management systems to ecommerce solutions and more.

A quick walkthrough of a typical session with Salesforce

Let’s jump in with a quick walkthrough of a typical Salesforce session, highlighting some of the key features and capabilities available without any customisations. Your experience may be different to this depending on how Salesforce has been set up but the principles will be the same.

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You’ll usually login to Salesforce by opening your web browser and going to login.salesforce.com, where you’ll be greeted by a screen similar to the above. Enter your username and password, click Log In, and you’re in. You’ll usually be taken straight to the Salesforce home page, but as this isn’t always the case let’s jump straight to basic navigation so you can at least find your way around!

Wherever you are you almost always have the navigation bar at the top:

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The 9 dots arranged in a square on the far left is the App Launcher. Don’t worry too much about what this means, at this stage it’s just important to know that when you click this you’ll get the App popup:

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And then clicking View All at the bottom will show you all the pages available to you in Salesforce:

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If you’re stuck or you can’t find the information you’re interested in - this is the place to go.

Salesforce organises data in what are known as Objects. Each Object can be thought of as a container to store information for a certain ‘thing’. For example we have a Contact object, and this is the place Salesforce stores information for People. The Account object stores information for Businesses, the Opportunity object stores information for Sales Opportunities, and so on.

Each item in the collection is known as a Record, so this would be an individual person, a specific business etc. On each record is each specific piece of information on that record known as a Field, so a Contact might have Last Name, First Name, Email Address and Phone Number fields; an Account might have Name, Address, Country fields.

Salesforce comes with a number of objects and pre-defined fields as standard, but we can easily create new objects and fields on new or existing objects.

Clicking on one of the menu options at the top of the screen, or one of the options under All Items in the App Launcher will take you to the home page of the Object you clicked on. For example, clicking Contacts will take you to the home page for the Contact object in Salesforce.

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Usually the home page is a list of the data you have access to in the system. There’s a dropdown in the top left which lets you filter for only certain types of this data, and rather confusingly when you first go to the home page for an object it shows you by default the recently viewed items. If you haven’t recently viewed any items the list will be blank! But click the dropdown, select another option (e.g. All Contacts)...

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... and you’ll see data appear in the list.

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Any time in Salesforce you see a link clicking it will take you to a detail page for the specific object you clicked on. So in the above example if you click on one of the contact’s Names in the Name column (e.g. Arthur Song) it will take you to the detail page for that specific Contact, but if you click the Account Name in the same row it will take you to the detail page for the Account (e.g. United Oil & Gas).

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This is an example of a record detail page. As standard they’re all laid out pretty similarly, but with different information shown depending on the object type.

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At the top you’ll get some summary information, and often a few options for actions to perform for the selected record, in this case creating a new Case for Ashley, or creating a new Note (I’ll cover what this means in a future post).

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Beneath this you’ll find a tabbed menu which lets you choose different data for the selected record. This will usually include Details, and Related.

Details shows detailed information for the selected record. So for a Contact like Ashley you can see this includes Title, Address, Email, Phone Number etc. This would be different for different types of data, but the layout would look the same. We can edit the values shown by clicking one of the pencil icons next to the data we want to change:

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Or selecting Edit from the menu in the top right corner of the page:

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Different edit options are available for different types of data being edited. For example, we have a Calendar option for Birthdate:

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And what’s known as a Picklist for Level - a pre-defined list of values we can select from:

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Once you’ve completed your changes remember to click Save to commit the changes to Salesforce.

The Related option in the tabbed menu at the top shows lists of different types of data related to the record you’re looking at:

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So for Ashley we could see all his Opportunities, all his Cases etc. Each list of data is known as a Related List. As is usual with Salesforce if we see a hyperlink we can click it to see more detail, so clicking on the Case number above (0001009) would take us to the detail page for that Case.

We can actually create new related data from here, without having to go to the detail page. For example clicking the New button on the Opportunities related list pops up a dialog box where we can fill in details for our new record, and it will automatically be associated with Ashley, and appear in this Related List, as well as in the list on the Opportunities page.

That’s it for this absolute beginners overview, hopefully now you should understand what Objects and Fields are, be able to navigate around the system and create and update data.

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