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Mark van Voornveld

Yash is a Sales Operations Manager who has optimized crucial organizational processes using Salesforce. In his pursuit to be a certified Salesforce Admin, he learned that his Salesforce experience is already an edge, and studying for the exam unraveled further Salesforce knowledge that strengthens his current expertise. In this article, he also shared stories of his industry tenure, study habits for the certification, and his future career goals.

I am Yash Arora. I am originally from India, but I've been living in Europe for the last 13 years. I work as a Sales Operations Manager at a company called Ontruck and I'm based in Madrid, Spain. 

How and why did you get started with Salesforce?

When I moved to Spain, I finished my masters. I then started in sales at a start-up company and eventually, we started to grow. I ended up branching out and focused only on sales operations, which became the way for me to get into Salesforce. We had a CRM called Zoho which we wanted to migrate to Salesforce. The thing is, my boss is in New York and I’m in Madrid, so we hired some consultants based in the US but did not do a very good job.

My manager and I decided that we had to roll our sleeves up and do the migration together. She had an idea about Salesforce, but I have never used it personally, so I've kind of got head-first into this challenge. This is how my journey into Salesforce started: I did the migration and then I continued to use it. Trailhead helped me to learn it along with the Salesforce resources available online. If you ask a question, there's going to be an answer on the internet. 

What is your role now?

I am a Sales Operations Manager. I work on strategic projects related to processes around the sales team in which Salesforce is involved. I implemented all the automated processes and data analysis on Salesforce while working closely with Business Intelligence (BI) teams and other product teams to build a 360-view of the customer. We specifically use Salesforce for this, but we also get data from other sources like Tableau or other tools that we are using.

Besides that, I'm also involved in sales enablement. I provide the training material for the sales team. I make sure that whenever we launch new functionality, they're trained to take care of the onboarding salespeople. I work very closely with sales leadership as well to see the data trends to help us decide on the business strategy that we want everyone to adopt going forward in the sales team.

I do a few marketing ops as well, like using HubSpot. So, it's a little bit of a transversal role—I'm connected to every department one way or the other, and Salesforce is at the center of it. Among my important tasks is managing Salesforce and then getting value for our
investment
.

I'm connected to every department one way or the other, and Salesforce is at the center of it. Among my important tasks is managing Salesforce and then getting value for our investment.

What were your goals when you were starting and how did you keep motivated?

I was in sales operations but almost similar to what I am doing now. I am currently more on a support role that requires me to be very good at Salesforce. But in terms of what kept me motivated, it was simply the fact that I was able to save so much time using Salesforce because we were doing everything manually back then. 

We had 15,000 Excel sheets flying around with different kinds of data. Also, the sales team was using Microsoft Word to generate quotes and the finance team was not getting the right information they needed in terms of when the deals came in or when did we sign the quote. It was a mess.

With Salesforce, we were able to streamline all these processes. It got me thinking, “This is an amazing tool! I can do so much with it.” We then started connecting Salesforce with various seller resources to build customer profiles. Our lead generation management to HubSpot was also connected to Salesforce. I was like unraveling more and more things as I got going.

Salesforce is not just a CRM. It has everything now: you have the Service Cloud, you have marketing, you have Sales Cloud. You can do many things with it, and that keeps me motivated.

What was the most challenging part of learning Salesforce and how did you rise above those challenges?

I think the most challenging part was how vast it is. You might think you know everything at some point, but you don't. So basically, the challenging part was keeping on learning. And there are so many little things and shortcuts that you discover along the way, and sometimes you read about them online. This helped me learn a lot of things that I wasn't exposed to. It keeps me on my toes, and I think it's good to look at the resources online.

To give you an example, we had a project in Ontruck, a marketplace that connects truck drivers and carriers with the clients. We had a problem: we have to find a way to forecast how many shipper orders we expect month over month. There was no standard way to do it and I don’t want to create 12 fields that the salespeople will update manually from time to time.

Good thing, Salesforce is built for B2Bs and SaaS pipeline that allows you to go through the sales funnel, making it highly customizable. So, what did I do? I Googled a lot of stuff and found an app on AppExchange. I immediately got in touch with AppExchange partners and knew that there was a way to do it.

We installed the app with some customizations, and after that, it was very simple. The salespeople were able to enter the shipper orders easily without having to create 12 fields and it would also automatically calculate revenue in the background based on some formulas I had created.
Process issues like this could be challenging, but there’s always a way, there’s always something that you will find in Salesforce. 

Salesforce is not just a CRM. It has everything now: you have the Service Cloud, you have marketing, you have Sales Cloud. You can do many things with it, and that keeps me motivated.

What certifications do you currently hold and how did obtaining the certifications affect your career?

I recently got the Salesforce Admin Certification, but I have been using Salesforce for many years, so I have reached an advanced level already. But as I said earlier, there are little things that you may not get exposure from, unless you are studying for the exam. Mainly, these are things related to security org-wide settings or things like that.

I got the certification in the last couple of months. In terms of how it helped my career, I think I have more knowledge than I had previously. I was not only able to do things faster but also come up with more innovative solutions, which I wasn’t able to come up with before because I wasn’t aware that certain functionality exists. 

What is your advice regarding the certification and how to study for the exams?

I gave myself over 3 months. The important thing was I started with a goal in mind, “I wanna get the exam on this date.” I booked the exam date in advance and in that way, I’m working towards a goal, right? You set a date, so you have to make sure you are prepared for that. It’s just a matter of discipline.

I studied every day for an hour and studied a bit more during weekends. I juggled work with studies, so I make sure that I get some hours of studying every day. Besides that, I wrote and kept notes, but Salesforce is very vast. When I used Focus on Force, everything was condensed neatly together and greatly helped me to go through all the Salesforce learning materials in Trailhead. There is a very good Trailmix on Trailhead which talks about all the important topics.

I also focused more on the topics which have a higher weightage in the exam. Because it makes sense to focus more on, for example, security that I think has 13% weightage in the exam as opposed to mobile and branding which has 3%, I believe. I also did a lot of quizzes. I would do a quiz every day for about three months. It’s important to know where you are doing the quizzes and if the resources are reliable because you have a lot of resources flying around the internet. You can find the exam questions but could have the wrong answers, so you have to be careful with that. Instead, I relied on Focus on Force which had quizzes and turned out to be very useful.

The exam isn’t that much focused on theory. The questions are tricky as they are based on real-world situations, so I would get familiar with the format of the exam as much as possible because you might think “Oh I know all these theories, I know what this button does, I know how to go to setup, etcetera,” but the questions are not necessarily like that. A bulk of the questions are very reality-oriented. Focus on the type of questions that might come in the exam. Even Trailhead has practice questions which give a sense of how the exam questions would look like.

The exam isn’t that much focused on theory. The questions are tricky as they are based on real-world situations, so I would get familiar with the format of the exam as much as possible.

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently working as a manager in sales operations, so I am probably going to continue it. Meanwhile, there’s a new buzzword called Revenue Operations which connects the whole funnel, from lead generation to customer success. I think Salesforce will be at the center of this as a great declarative tool to build code-less processes. For this, I aim to keep getting better in using Salesforce to broaden my expertise and then get promoted because of the value I give to the company.

I also think that with the Advanced Admin and Sales Cloud Consultant certifications, I will be more capable of using Salesforce better to come up with more innovative solutions and enable me to bring more value to the company. Oftentimes, we have to depend on a third party, like hiring a consultant for 6 or 10 hours to do something. But if I have these certifications, I can do things internally without the need to hire consultants, allowing the company to save cost. I don’t necessarily want to work as a Salesforce consultant, but I just want to be more useful in what I do.

What would you suggest to someone who wants to start a Salesforce career?

One thing I would do is do pro bono consulting projects. You can work for non-profit organizations, for example, who are starting with Salesforce. You won’t have that much money, but you will learn. I think the most important thing with Salesforce is not the theory; it’s the hands-on experience. Once you start getting the hang of things in the Salesforce architecture, then you can study for the exam.

If you just learn the theory, even if you take the exam and pass it, it’s not going to help you in the future because you don’t have any hands-on experience. I think it is still necessary to have hands-on experience and then get the exam. That way, you will be more knowledgeable and will be more attractive to future employers who are looking for experience.

What Certification are you studying for now?

Focus on Force currently provides practice exams and study guides for ten certifications

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