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Listen First: Advice from a Salesforce Consultant

By 08.01.19
Reading time: 3 minutes

I’ve been outgoing my entire life. My mom liked to say my sister would sit in the corner and read to herself as a child; I’d sit in a corner and read out loud for all who wanted to hear (or not). So I find it interesting looking back at the last decade of my career and realizing the success I’ve had and the expertise I’ve built is on a foundation of listening first — not just to what people say, but what they mean. And a lot of that started with a chance encounter with Salesforce.

From ad hoc to admin

My journey toward Salesforce geekery started like that of many others: through a complete accident. I was hired at a digital ad tech startup as the account manager. As the company was so young, the first steps were to define the role, do the job, and then hire and train the team that would report to me. My boss also wanted someone to “figure out Salesforce” and designated me — creating a fortuitous fork in the road. And so began my career as a Salesforce Administrator.

To be the first in this account manager role, and the first to implement Salesforce was both daunting and exciting. To often be the only woman in the room designing these critical roles required me to trust my voice and my instincts. I was regularly in a position that required advocating very vocally: for myself, for my team, on behalf of my clients, and for what I thought was right as the company grew. 

From my perspective now, I can shake my head a bit fondly at how each battle fought seemed extremely mission critical at the time. I didn’t have to fight for a seat at the table, but I had a lot to learn regarding how to win without requiring others to feel like they lost. I needed a bit of empathy and a better strategy for how to better use my voice. 

Listening first

It truly was my Salesforce “side gig” that taught me how to thoughtfully listen and interpret the needs of our fast-growing and diverse user base. I was able to impact change relatively easily within my own team, but I had to learn to wait for my moments and strategically offer support with other groups around the organization. My favorite questions became “What are you trying to accomplish?” and “Can you please explain it to me?”

One question at a time, I was able to creatively solve or optimize a huge volume of organizational problems leveraging our Salesforce investment from process creation and tune-ups to actionable reporting and insights. Success begat more success. Users weren’t being forced onto the platform — they were now seeking me out and asking for more functionality. The proverbial yellow brick roadmap stretched out so far ahead of me that I was asked to make Salesforce and business systems my full-time focus. 

It took a lot of work to temper my reaction to speak first, but I couldn’t argue with the results.

Applying sharpened skills

As I move through my professional journey, including my recent transition to client services at Silverline, I realize that I’m still hopelessly outgoing. It’s only become more apparent after my recent return to Wisconsin, where it’s basically rude to not have a full-blown conversation with every person you meet. However, I’m no longer talking at anyone within earshot like I did as a kid. Instead, I employ more active listening, supporting, questioning, and learning to my conversations. 

It’s pretty amazing how much better people hear you speak when you’ve taken the time to listen to them first.


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