My Journey: From Helping My Family Put Food On the Table to Salesforce Essentials Customer and MVP

My Journey: From Helping My Family Put Food On the Table to Salesforce Essentials Customer and MVP

Last Updated on January 8, 2019 by Rakesh Gupta

My Salesforce journey is a topic of discussion that often comes up with acquaintances, strangers, and friends. They hear bits and pieces of my journey and tell me that they are curious to learn more. The questions generally hover around topics like: How can a person, from a small village in India, form a vision to become a Salesforce MVP, blogger, trainer, solution architect, customer etc.?; How did you become a Salesforce MVP; what is the right path to become a Salesforce MVP?

Since my journey seems to have inspired a few, I decided to write a blog to (1) share insights I gained from my voyage; (2) show how Salesforce has transformed my life; and (3) convince as many as possible that they could be next!

I will segment the blog into three sections:

  • My journey
  • My recipe of the secret sauce to become an MVP
  • Why I chose Salesforce Essentials

My Journey

My journey started from a very small city in India called Katihar. My current position/reputation was a secret dream of mine. I did not share it with anyone out of fear that I would be ridiculed for being a foolhardy.

I started speaking English at the age of 21. When I accepted my first job at Patni Computers System Ltd., I barely spoke a few sentences. This made me very self-conscious but also emboldened my resolve to overcome this deficiency. As a result, now I am an author of few books written in English and an owner of a popular blogging site, AutomationChampion.com.

No person is an island; and, I am no exception. Along the way, many have extended their support and encouragement and therefore, they are equal partners in my success.

Life has not been easy, to say the least. There have been many ups and downs – especially, a healthy dose of the latter, during my childhood. I am deeply grateful to my dad, mom, and my sister for shielding me, as much as possible, from life’s hardships and, by bestowing on me their love, dedication, and disproportionate sacrifices.

My dad is a retired teacher. Memories of my dad, walking for miles in heavy rain, to go to work have been painful and vivid to this day. Due to dated irrigation system, the unpaved roads used to be flooded and extremely dangerous to travel on. Despite the physical hardship, at times, my dad did not even get paid for months.

Our situation became so dire that, at the age of 13, for the first time, I took up a small job to earn money to contribute towards buying food for the family. My dad took loans from others to pay for my education. My parents refrained from buying basic necessities for themselves, even things like clothes, to save money so my sister and I could go to a good school and better college.

Not only did we not have any good schools in my village but, there was no English Medium school for miles.  As a result, I did not receive any formal training in English. Consequently, occasionally, I still struggle to write blogs. Writing in English continues to be a challenge for me. However, fortunately, my desire to help others achieve mastery in Salesforce is stronger than the challenge!

The aforementioned instances may seem like scenes from a tragic movie; but, unfortunately, that is not the case.  My life story is not unique; many talents in India remain under-utilized because there are few, if any, outlets or channels to achieve professional success. Things are changing for the better.  And, I hope, this blog encourages others to pursue their dreams despite obstacles and hardships.

My Recipe of the Secret Sauce to Become an MVP

On social media, in-person, or through emails, many ask and wonder — how did you become a Salesforce MVP? What is the most effective and efficient path to becoming a Salesforce MVP?

Sorry to disappoint but, there is no secret sauce to becoming a Salesforce MVP. In other words, there is no checklist that would help anyone to become a Salesforce MVP.

In my opinion, a Salesforce MVP title is just a recognition to give a person credit for going above and beyond to contribute towards strengthening and empowering the community. This includes sharing valuable insights and know-how to shape Salesforce products (via Idea Exchange); for helping customers (via forums or through blogs); or, for being one of the best evangelists (by running a user group, or organizing #SalesforceSaturday etc.).

I always admire my fellow Salesforce MVPs – Steve Molis, Johan Yu, Cheryl Feldman, Jitendra Zaa, Mohit Srivastava, Bob Buzzard, Dale Ziegler, Nana Gregg, and many others – not because they started their Salesforce career-long back but because of their consistent performance year-over-year.

For example, Jitendra Zaa has been generating quality Salesforce content for many years. As a result, countless users, customers, and partners have been helped beyond measure. I am not saying this because he is a good friend of mine. Go ahead and check out his blog and social media and thereby experience the learning and knowledge sharing!

Another example is Cheryl Feldman – I learnt many things from her. I always admire how she leads her user group in New York. Cheryl not only offers great contents via User Group meetup but inspires, empowers and helps many by preparing them for future user group leader role.

At times, all people see is name and fame and tell me, “Rakesh you are lucky, you have name and fame and, you are a Salesforce MVP, what else do you need”? I chuckle. For, they see my current status but fail to understand my dedication, diligence, and sacrifices. For example, I spent endless nights to solve someone’s issue on Trailblazer community; or, I worked for hours on a solution so I could help someone by answering his/her questions. Once I find the answer, I post a step-by-step solution so many can benefit from it and continue to build on it.

So, the moral of the story is – work on creating impact, generating quality content, be an evangelist – this is how you become a customer hero.  Running after fame, without acquiring and achieving the breadth and depth in a subject matter, is lame indeed.

Why I Chose Salesforce Essentials

Recently I had an interview with Salesforce at Dreamforce to explain my experience, as a customer, with Salesforce Essentials.

Let me start from the beginning. As you all know, I am an owner of the AutomationChampion.com blog and I get many emails per day enquiring about training and other stuff.  As a result, I am heavily dependent on emails and email marketing.

Until 2017, I was using Microsoft Excel to manage Leads, Opportunities, and a reminder to send follow-up emails. We all are painfully aware that Microsoft Excel and emails are not seamlessly connected. Therefore, I was inundated with many manual procedures and processes laden with errors and missteps. Needless to mention, my inability to properly follow-up on Leads and Prospects negatively impacted my revenue pipeline. It did not take me long to bite the bullet and opt for a more sophisticated tool for Email Marketing, in particular, and a CRM system in general. I did not have to look too long or too far.  As I started to explore, choices became almost a no-brainer!

During the last quarter of 2017, I started exploring how to connect email with a CRM system to track Lead and Prospects data automatically – which, I knew, would be a huge time-saver, to say the least. I tried almost all of the CRMs available for small or midsize businesses. None of the available systems met my needs – either effectively or efficiently, except Essentials. Here’s how Salesforce Essentials differed from other CRMs:

  • Mobile app: Most of the CRMs I looked into did not have a mobile app. Say what? Are they serious? How was I going to access my data when I am away from my computer? Luckily, Salesforce has a mobile app for me to always access my data when I’m on the go.
  • User Interface: I liked a few CRM systems but found the User Interface confusing and disorienting, to say the least. Salesforce Essentials was easy to use and figure out.
  • Integration with custom Apps: Thankfully Salesforce Essentials integrates easily with many apps. Unlike Salesforce, many CRM systems do not integrate with apps like GetFeedback, etc.
  • Price: Most of the competitive CRMs had the same price point as that of Salesforce Essentials. But, none of them offered the core essentials of a CRM like (1) Automation (Process builder, Flow etc., – included in Salesforce Essentials); (2) Ability to Track Emails; (3) Auto creates follow-up tasks; and (4) Send Emails to customers in their time zone.
  • Einstein: Salesforce was different! I fell in love as a customer! I was floored by Einstein’s activity capture. Imagine! you have a Lead in Salesforce and you send an email to the Lead. Once you do that, behind the scene, Einstein gets to work to auto-associate Email with the right record! No other CRM, for small and medium businesses, offers this feature at this price point. What is not to love?
  • Trailhead: Salesforce Trailhead is one of the best sources to get started on learning about Salesforce products. It took me less than 30 minutes to get started with Salesforce Essentials.

After one month of discovery, I signed up for Salesforce Essentials and started using it. It helped me immensely to improve my productivity. Now, I do less manual work and let Einstein do the heavy lifting!

I connected everything to Salesforce from Email to Web-to-Lead pages on my website. Now, if someone sends enquires to me, Salesforce Essentials auto creates a Lead in Salesforce and I start capturing all the conversation. Using Salesforce Essentials has significantly helped me to increase my revenue. It enables me to deliver a pleasant customer experience by letting me send an Email to a customer in their time zone (yes, it is possible to define in which time zone an Email is to be sent by using Salesforce Inbox).

By using Salesforce Essentials, I automated everything in my org — from email reminders to order creation (Thanks Salesforce for including Process Builder and Flow in Salesforce Essentials!).

In light of the above, I can attest that Salesforce Essentials is indeed essential for small or midsize businesses to thrive and flourish!

Let us look back at the start of my journey. If you had known me then, more likely than not, you too would have sincerely believed I was foolhardy for fantasizing a bright future. Who could have blamed you? But, dreams, when pursued relentlessly, can rarely withstand the tsunami of diligence and dedication without being transformed into a successful butterfly.

A few years back, I considered myself lucky if I got even a tiny project that required me to leverage my Salesforce skills. What a difference a few years make when sprinkled with hard work and strong resolve! Now, far from struggling to get my hands on any Salesforce related projects, I have reached a stage where I need a CRM system like Salesforce to manage my business.

I hope my journey becomes a lighthouse that guides many to not let the uncharted waters deter them from their goals and vision. Along the way, remember to be kinder than necessary and empower others and the community. They may meet you somewhere on the path to success!

What do you think about this blog? Do leave your comments and share your stories!

Note: – I am grateful to Resco.net, Smartcloud.io, and Cirrus Insight for sponsoring my blog.

Proofreader: - Munira Majmundar and Suha Saya
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