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Going Deep vs. Going Wide

I see this question get asked in a number of different ways and wanted to weigh in.

I’m in sales/revenue operations, and we use multiple systems including Salesforce. Should I get Salesforce certified?

This is a common dilemma in many technical career fields.

The answer boils down to a framework of going deep, going wide, or a combination of the two.  

The direction you choose in this framework depends on what direction you want to take your career and helps you answer this question for yourself.

Going Deep

Do you enjoy the technical aspect of databases? Do you find that Salesforce is your favorite platform to work in? Do you have an aptitude for the platform and find yourself genuinely interested to dive deeper into the platform? In that case, you might consider specializing *deeper* in the Salesforce platform. 

If you’re unfamiliar with the Salesforce ecosystem, consider this a primer. 

Before Salesforce, being a database engineer was a lot harder. There weren’t many declarative (point and click) tools at your disposal, so you pretty much always had to write code. The database software was hosted on servers in the company office, which meant you didn’t have uniform updates pushed from the database’s producer, which we get with Salesforce’s seasonal updates. This also meant you had to be a bit of a handwork and network engineer as well, which was a high barrier to entry in this career field. But the demand was certainly high.

Salesforce saw this as an opportunity. They instead designed their platform on the cloud, removing the need for networking and hardware. They also revolutionized the “clicks not code” paradigm, which gives declarative admins a lot of engineering power without needing to know how to code. They also designed certifications to recognize your proficiency and skills on the platform.

They then created a cloud-based self-paced learning platform called Trailhead that was meant to teach anyone how to become proficient in the Salesforce platform. (Personally, I started my entire Salesforce career purely through Trailhead and can’t say enough good things about it. More on that here)

Salesforce recruits heavily from non-engineering backgrounds onto its Trailhead platform with plenty of transformation stories from those who have chosen to get Salesforce certified. School teachers becoming admins, construction workers becoming developers, veterans becoming consultants and entrepreneurs, etc. These are called Trailblazer stories, and you can read more here. This is a much lower barrier to entry for database admins than in the days of old, and Salesforce recognizes it as a competitive advantage it has against other CRM platforms. 

All that to say, there is a clear and well-defined career path available for you to go deep into the Salesforce platform, even if you don’t have an engineering or programming background.

Many sales ops departments are large enough that they rely on teams of pure Salesforce admins and developers within the department. Countless consulting agencies specialize purely in Salesforce technologies. 

It all starts with the Administrator certification, which is considered the base for nearly all deeper learning. This certification is fairly technical for a first-timer and you can expect to spend a few weeks to a few months studying for it. I only recommend this is if you plan to make Salesforce a deep part of your career, like going specifically for Salesforce roles in operations teams, or more importantly when considering a Salesforce consulting career.

Here are more Salesforce career paths you can learn about as you decide if you should get salesforce certified.

Going Wide

On the flip side, do you enjoy the variety of technology in your day-to-day job? Do you enjoy designing multi-system processes and enjoy focusing more on the people aspect of your initiatives? Getting buy-in from other departments, stakeholders, executives, etc? Focusing on people, leadership, user adoption, user training, and seeing the big picture of operations across the entire revenue spectrum?

In that case, you’re looking to go wide instead of going deep. Learning and starting on the path to get Salesforce certified can get VERY technical very quickly, and in this case, you’d be better off learning delegation skills, project management, data strategy, and building relationships across the entire organization. You might also consider an MBA over Salesforce certifications. You can join communities focused purely on Revenue and Sales Operations, going to RevOps conferences, etc.

Focus on the revenue operations community rather than a more technical Salesforce community. Find a mentor at one of these conferences and study their career path, which I’m sure was technical at one point until they were recognized for more of their people skills and strategic planning.

That being said, Salesforce will likely be the foundation of any revenue operations platform you end up in, so if you absolutely hate Salesforce then neither career path is likely right for you.

Blending Depth and Width

If you can’t decide on going deep vs. going wide, consider doing a little of both. This career decision doesn’t have to be a black or white dichotomy, but rather a spectrum that you can blend to your liking. This could consist of a handful of technical certifications (maybe the Salesforce Admin certification along with Platform App Builder or Sales Cloud Consultant, along with some Hubspot or other common RevOps tools) along with some leadership development.

As you start to answer “should I get Salesforce certified?” for yourself, the most important decision you’ll make is defining the strategy for your career path. You can’t go wrong in any 3 of these directions, but you’ll find the best bang for your buck by picking one direction and committing to it over time.

Remember the framework: You can go deep, go wide, or blend the two. 

A final note:

A few months back, we asked ourselves, what’s the number one problem we typically solved as Salesforce consultants?

We discovered a clear trend across hundreds of completed projects: low Salesforce adoption.

Solving Salesforce adoption challenges is essential, NOT just to help get a better ROI out of your licenses, but because low adoption causes lost sales. In a low adoption environment, information slips through the cracks, and a well-organized competitor is right there to steal your deal away. We’ve curated our successes, methodologies, and resources (built from the work we’ve done across countless Salesforce projects) to help you tackle your company’s Salesforce adoption roadblocks and compiled it into a free Increasing Adoption email course.

If you’re in sales/revenue ops and Salesforce adoption issues have given you a headache in the last 30 days, sign up for our free course here.