Involved with Salesforce in any way? This engaging, comprehensive webinar is for you. In this webinar, Xplenty welcomes author and Salesforce expert Phil Weinmeister for an all-encompassing talk about the platform and his work.

Phil begins the webinar by detailing his prestigious "Salesforce MVP" status, going over how the company honored him as being a Salesforce "evangelist." He then describes his process of writing one of the influential industry books on Salesforce, touching on the writing process and the importance of commitment as well as the overall importance of being passionate about creating the type of content that will interest audiences.

From there, Phil touches on some of the hot-button Salesforce issues of the day. He speaks on the idea of declarative or clicks-not-code programming and goes over the basics of Salesforce communities and why/when to use them. Phil also talks about finding your niche area when it comes to Salesforce - again, advocating for finding a passionate part of the platform to share your interests and thoughts.

To wrap up the webinar, Phil discusses the process and basics of the Salesforce classes he develops on the Pluralsight platform before addressing the work his company (7Summit) does.

Want to learn more? Take a deep dive into the issues with the full transcript below.

What You Will Learn

  • Being a "Salesforce MVP" (03:55)
  • Developing THE book on Salesforce (06:46)
  • The writing process and the importance of commitment (11:53)
  • The importance of creating content (13:53)
  • Declarative or clicks not code programming (16:29)
  • What are Salesforce Communities - and why use them? (20:31)
  • Common problems faced on mobile (26:13)
  • Finding your niche area in Salesforce (27:35)
  • Salesforce classes in Pluralsight (31:15)
  • What 7Summit does (38:47)
  • Final thoughts and recap (39:33)

Full Transcription

Leonard Linde (00:31):

Welcome to the second XForce webinar. We're happy to have Phil Weinmeister with us. Phil is many things - I can't tell you all of them, but I will let him explain to you all the many things he is. Today, he's going to talk about sharing, sharing his expertise in the Salesforce ecosystem, and, more generally, sharing his expertise more broadly. So without further ado, here's Phil.

Phil Weinmeister (01:41):

Glad to be here today, and thanks, everyone, for joining us. I hope you guys get some value out of this chat. About me - I live in Powder Springs, Georgia. I've been in this area for about 15 years now - time flies. I've been in the Salesforce ecosystem for about ten years at this point. It definitely has been a game-changer for me. From pretty early on, I've been looking to share and teach. We're going to be talking about that a lot today, just in terms of where I'm at right now.

Phil Weinmeister (02:24):

I'm the VP of product for 7Summits, headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I travel up there a good bit - not during COVID times. I do various things. I lead our product team. We build Lightning accelerators on the platform primarily for community cloud implementations. They're my primary function at 7Summits. I have authored a few books about Salesforce, and I recently just completed my second Pluralsight course on Salesforce communities, and I'm just starting a third one. Also, I pretty regularly - again, during non-COVID times - do a lot of presentations and demos, helping people understand how to get the most out of Salesforce and what to look for, what's coming out, tips and tricks, all that good stuff.

Leonard Linde (03:38):

Let's start with a little more talk about the Salesforce community. First, let me get to your books and everything. You're a Salesforce MVP. You want to tell everybody what that is and how you got that?

Phil Weinmeister (03:55):

Salesforce has a program called the Salesforce MVPs. It's been around for a while now - I would guess probably about ten years give or take a few years. Essentially, the program is to recognize the evangelists of Salesforce - that's kind of how I put it. That's not Salesforce is language per se, but, you know, there are people out there across different roles - whether it's business analysts, administrators, developers, TAs, project managers - that are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about Salesforce. These people - really just as an extension of who they are - are out there contributing and sharing in various ways. Salesforce has a program to recognize that. A lot of people aspire to become an MVP, which is a great thing.

Phil Weinmeister (04:58):

There is no secret formula to becoming an MVP. Again, it's a recognition of those individuals who are already doing a lot in the community. There are definitely things that you can look at across MVPs and see some common patterns. Overall, these are individuals who bring a lot of new content out into the ecosystem. That's certainly something I've done for a while. I was first selected in 2015, and it was pretty exciting at the time - definitely a big deal to me. It's renewed five times now, which is really cool. At the time, I had been blogging, and I wrote my first book, which was my first significant contribution to the ecosystem.

Phil Weinmeister (06:01):

As I said, there's no secret formula. They don't really tell you, "here is why we selected you." I would imagine that the book had something to do with it, but it's really an honor. It's cool because they do provide us with some opportunities and an elevated platform to share. So I've had opportunities to do some presentations around the country that I probably wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. I've had several people come up to me after the presentations to let me know that they got a lot of value out of it, so that's always extremely rewarding.

Leonard Linde (06:40):

That's cool. So was your first book, the one on communities, or the one on clicks not code?

Phil Weinmeister (06:46):

Back in 2015, I came out with a practical Salesforce development without code. It was a non-communities book, just general platform - now, the world of clicks not code or declarative development has just absolutely exploded in the past five years. It should have because Salesforce has invested so much into these excellent tools on the platform. However, back then, workflow was still a real primary tool. When I wrote my book, Process Builder didn't even exist. It was the very next release after my book came out, which was frustrating. Actually, when I talked to people about it, it worked out for the best because it's almost better not to cover something that's brand new that's going to transform so rapidly.

Phil Weinmeister (07:51):

It would've probably not even looked like Process Builder does after a year or two. That was 2015, and it was pretty interesting how that actually happened. I had a coworker I worked with at EDL Consulting. Some of you may have heard of EDL Consulting - the company out of which CloudCraze came, which was later acquired by Salesforce and is now Salesforce B2B commerce. Then the remainder of EDL got purchased by Simplus. So a number of you out there may be familiar with the company. While I was there, I had an individual encourage me to start sharing out more. He noticed I was really into teaching and sharing and encouraged me to start doing more. I started blogging regularly, and that's when an editor from Apress reached out to me.

Phil Weinmeister (08:51):

I wasn't sure if it was a joke, email or prank or something like that - but he was real, and with Apress, which is part of Springer Nature. He talked to someone in the technology space and realized, "Hey, we need to have some books on this platform called Salesforce." They had zero books on Salesforce. I didn't feel qualified at the time, but I couldn't turn that down. That was such an excellent opportunity. The rest is history. That was the first book back in 2015.

Leonard Linde (09:37):

So I think a lot of people when they think about writing a book, they would get super intimidated about just how much work it would be. You had to have some kind of strategy. What was your approach to writing the book to fit it in with your busy career and family?

Phil Weinmeister (09:56):

I failed to mention this before, and they're a massive part of my life - I have a lovely wife and four children. People are always shocked when I tell them that, especially while I'm writing a book or something like that. They're like, "How do you do that?" It's a good question. I'd love to talk a little bit about that because whether you're writing a book or doing something else that's extracurricular, that is a good question- how do you balance this all out? How do you do all of it and have a life and not just get consumed by work plus more work? I hadn't done anything like that before, so it was new to me.

Phil Weinmeister (10:43):

I was a little bit intimidated for sure. But I also was very passionate about it, and I think that's really important. Today, there are a lot of avenues for writing. You can definitely self-publish and things like that, and that's totally fine. It's a legitimate way to do it. However, you do it, you want to be extremely passionate about it. You need to care enough to put the time in. If you're a little bit indifferent, it's probably not going to happen. Know what you're passionate about. I was fairly disciplined about it. I came up with this my own schedule to break down chapters.

Phil Weinmeister (11:33):

Depending on how long they were, I gave myself more or less time for each chapter. I tried to stick to that. That was an essential thing. Writing the book took about eight months in total - definitely a significant investment. Some days I didn't write, and there were days where I spent seven or eight hours writing. There were Saturdays and Sundays where I took most of the day to write. Additionally, I would get up early, stay up late. Early morning, late at night, do a little bit of writing. The key there is just to be persistent and regular - consistent is the right word.

Phil Weinmeister (12:22):

It's kind of like with anything. If you come up with excuses to put it off, it's just going to become too burdensome. I did a good job staying on it as I went through and stayed on and delivered it on time by the deadline. It worked out pretty well. I also communicated very openly with my family, my wife, to make sure that we were really in that together.

Phil Weinmeister (13:19):

Then I would say the other thing is I experienced are challenges somewhat like writer's block. When I started a new chapter, of course, I had an outline, and I had thoughts, but starting a new chapter and then going through these mental exercises once again - I would think, "What do I have to say?"

Phil Weinmeister (13:53):

The other thing I would think about is, "Does anybody really want to read this?" That's something that if you're going to be creating content - whether it's an online course or a book or even a blog post, I think you have to put that out of your mind. It's true that not every blog post gets read by thousands of people. I mean, sure - there will be some that maybe don't resonate with people or the content is common. That's fine. However, you have to kind of get past the worry that somebody else has already said this, or nobody really will care. If you can't get past that hurdle, you'll never be able to share your content.

Phil Weinmeister (14:40):

It's really funny to look back because, at the time, there was way less content out there than there is today. There are probably ten times, 20 times more content over the past five years, just about Salesforce and the technology. At the time, I looked at the help documentation, and I thought there are so many help articles out there - I'd think is this really going to help? You know, it absolutely did. So I just had to push through that. That's something that I would definitely encourage people to think about is if you're blogging or you're presenting something like that, you're just going to have to go for it. Don't be too worried that it's going to be a home run with everyone. It may or may not be successful in terms of helping people. You're not going to be able to do anything if you don't just go forward.

Leonard Linde (15:45): 

So let's talk a little bit about the content of your books. You've picked two interesting topics, as far as I'm concerned. Let's talk a little bit about clicks not code development. Do you have some insights into how Salesforce professionals can encourage more declarative or clicks not code programming?

Phil Weinmeister (16:29):

That's a really good question. There's definitely a lot to that. I'll be the first to say while I've written a book on declarative development, I don't write code myself. Code on the Salesforce platform can be extremely powerful and is critical. Some solutions absolutely require a code. There are sometimes where there's no way a click that will satisfy those specific requirements. You also bring up a good point, which is that there may be challenges while understanding the platform of how powerful the declarative aspect is. If you look at it this way - if you're a developer from an outside platform, it's understandable if you come into the Salesforce world and think, great. I'm going to learn Apex.

Phil Weinmeister (17:30):

You're going to learn how to develop lightning components, and you really focus on that side of it and see it as, "I'm a developer, I'm going to stay on that technical side." I think that's a wrong move to come in thinking that way. To your point, there are a lot of solutions that can get delivered without any code, and a lot of solutions that should get delivered without any code. You don't want to add code if you don't need to if it's not bringing additional value in terms of functionality or performance. When I wrote the book, my intended target wasn't just the new person to Salesforce or an admin. That was a main consideration, but it was also for someone who would be a developer who's new to development on Salesforce. They should be aware of all these tools. 

Phil Weinmeister (18:41):

A solid Salesforce developer should know not only the code side but that other side as well. Then they might not be the ones to build a process. Let's say maybe there's somebody else in their organization to do that. However, they don't look at it like, "Well, you know, I'm a developer, so it's going to be code, that's what I do." It's more like, what is the best solution on the platform? I will namedrop someone well known in the ecosystem - David Lu. He works for Google. He's a Salesforce MVP. He's pretty much everywhere. You'll see him at events. He's done some fascinating work around the analysis of which tool to use. He does comparisons - code versus declarative and which tool, and I like his approach cause he basically says, "What's the right solution?" and then applies it. So I think that's the right way to go at it.

Leonard Linde (19:58):

I'm going to switch over to Communities now, which is a newer Salesforce product. Why did you get interested in Communities, and what do you think the strengths are? So, first question - how did you get into it? Second is, why use Communities over a WordPress or some other cheaper solution?

Phil Weinmeister (20:31):

Gosh, great question. Communities started in 2013, so it's been a little while, but Lightning communities got introduced just a few years back. Now they're the norm. Up until now, the enterprise communities got built on Visualforce, and there still are probably a number of communities out there that are Visualforce communities. In terms of where things are going now, it's Lightning as the focus. Personally, I love Communities because it's all about creating a unique experience. Thinking back, if you look back a few years when Communities first started, then - more than ever - you had a limited presentation or display in terms of what the internal Salesforce org looked like. It's come a long way since then - when it was not very attractive.

Phil Weinmeister (21:35):

Now in Community's first launch, other than Visualforce communities, they weren't the most beautiful either. They've come a long way. So the ability to create a beautiful digital experience is something that I love. So it's pretty interesting. It's neat to get away from the Salesforce look and feel and create something that a client loves. The other thing is if you're looking for - and this is a segue into the second question - if you want to open up Salesforce to an external user, a partner or a customer, you have limited options.

Phil Weinmeister (22:30):

You're not going to bring those users into the internal org. That just doesn't make sense. It would be expensive, and there are security concerns. So that's not something recommended. You're going to have to do something externally, or there are some other options. You can go cheap and build and a Weebly or WordPress website. You can go big too and go with, let's say, Adobe Experience Manager or something like that to build something beautiful. The real value of a Salesforce community, I think, lies in the fact that you have such power at your fingertips. You have all of the CRM data available to you with no integration. 

Phil Weinmeister (23:21):

Because of that, you can leverage all the tools and all the logic all the metadata that you have in your org. You can spin up a beautiful looking website quickly on some of their platform, but then you're going to have to build your custom integration. Salesforce acquired MuleSoft and, and of course, integration has come a long way over the past few years. Still, that's not something anyone desires - a highly custom heavy integration to manage over a long period, you know? So the fact that you can leverage all of the standard platform aspects, like the sharing and things like that when it comes to security and visibility - it's really powerful. So yeah, there are cheaper options, but if you want to fully leverage Salesforce and provide that data to your external users, it's hard to justify going around it unless you have some specific requirement.

Phil Weinmeister (24:35):

If you're looking at a public website with no aspect of personalized authentication or personalized data, you know, gets into a little different area. In that case, you might still be leveraging some of the CRM data, but it's not going to go. It's not going to be as valuable. You're not taking advantage of as much and mentioning public communities. If you guys weren't aware in summer, 20 major changes are coming on. What guest users can do in a Salesforce community gets restricted even more. There are reasons for that, but the bottom line is what I'm saying, on the public community side you're not getting as much value out of it. Still, anything that's going to require login or my account information or my products, anything like that, where you have something personalized to you, it will remove so much time and money managing integrations and custom functionality. So it's pretty cool stuff. 

Leonard Linde (25:52):

We had a question here from Charlie in the audience. What are the common problems you have encountered with mobile?

Phil Weinmeister (26:13):

We've worked with a mobile publisher a few times at 7 Summits. I've done some research and posted a blog post about it. It's somewhat high level, but you can check that out. That's on the 7Summits blog. There aren't a lot of exceptions when it comes to the mobile publisher. It's not like, well, it works, but these ten things just won't render in your mobile publisher app. Everything's there except for a couple of things that are coming along.

Leonard Linde (27:20):

Another audience question: How do you find your niche area in Salesforce - the right intersection between the demand for your talent and what you like to do?

Phil Weinmeister (27:35):

That's a good question. So this individual's thinking of in two aspects here makes me think a little bit of a Venn diagram here and looking for that overlap. I came up with a diagram once somewhere buried in all my notes that kind of shows something similar to that - here's where you would want to focus on if you're trying to become an expert in an area. I would say there is such demand in the Salesforce ecosystem in general, which is a unique thing that there's almost no area that would be something that wouldn't generate some interest. So you can almost to a degree say not to worry about demand in the Salesforce ecosystem.

Phil Weinmeister (28:33):

If you're coming from a different platform or something like that - sure. That's something to look at. There are legacy areas of Salesforce - writing blogs about classic interface might not be the future, but there are still a lot of users on that. The point is - I would say don't worry too much about demand, and I would just focus the most on what you're passionate about. Look for some external validation about your expertise, if that makes sense. You do have to have some valuable knowledge. It's one thing to be passionate - you could love a service cloud, but you have to have something unique to add.

Phil Weinmeister (29:29):

Run that by some other people. Ask them, "Hey, here's what I'm thinking about bringing to the table." The biggest thing, though, is just to get interested and passionate about it. That'll the best fit. If you start focusing on an area that maybe isn't something that you care about, it's just going to become a drag over time. So for me, what's cool is - and this isn't really a coincidence - I focus on communities, and I work for 7Summits. We focus on the main product at Salesforce, which is the community cloud. My day job and what I do in the ecosystem are all related. 

Phil Weinmeister (30:21):

There are a lot of careers in the Salesforce ecosystem. So if you can overlap those things, then definitely try to do that. If you're doing a very niche-specific job on the Salesforce platform that doesn't align with something that you really care about, that'll just make it harder. There may be times when your company sees you have a lot of focus in an area that may be close to what they do. That's a way to make it a win for everyone. You know, your company will be super excited that your content relates to what they're doing. You're passionate about it. Trust me. There'll be some demand somewhere.

Leonard Linde (31:03):

Yeah. I think that's a great answer. So you've done some videos on Pluralsight - I guess we call them classes. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Phil Weinmeister (31:15):

That's been pretty interesting, as we talked about already, I've written a couple of books on Salesforce, and that is a very specific medium. I the technology world, you know, maybe that's having a paperback book isn't necessarily what you'd expect - but I'm surprised by how many people have come to me and told me that they love having a physical book. Pluralsight is a great platform. It's a kind of a natural fit for teaching and sharing expertise because it's digital, and it's easily accessible, and Pluralsight has doubled down on the Salesforce content. I don't know when their first Salesforce course got published, but they have quite a bit more now than they used to. So that's been a great experience. So I got involved with two courses.

Phil Weinmeister (32:16):

One is a play by play course that is really run by someone named Don Robbins; that's a conversational-style course. There's definitely a lot of prep that goes into it - not nearly as much as a regular course - but it ends up being a conversation. What we do is tackle a real-world business problem, and we solve it. We talk through it, and we solve it. That whole series is pretty interesting. I don't know how many he has out there now - I think upwards of 50. They're pretty interesting. So you can check out Salesforce play by play with Don Robbins for that. I also just published a course which is more a traditional Pluralsight course. A lot of work, very different from the book, but also overlapping as well.

Phil Weinmeister (33:10):

It was pretty cool to do that. I want to communicate how to do a certain thing in a way that resonates with people that helps them and equips them to do their job better or to do a new job. Instead of just thinking and putting my thoughts on paper, it's a lot about creating diagrams and visualizing material. I have a lot of diagrams in the book, but again, it's a different medium. You have to make sure your energy's up, and you had your readings that morning, but that was very rewarding.

Phil Weinmeister (34:04):

There there's a good bit of material there, about two hours' worth. I am starting my next course today, literally today. I do see the question there - how much time have invested for each video? What's your advice for someone who's planning to make videos? So Pluralsight will say their guidance is you spend about 40 hours per hour that you produce. I think that's reasonable. I believe that going forward in my second course, that'll be accurate and maybe even slightly less than that because now I have the hang of it. I probably spend a little more than that on the first one. I probably spent - I didn't track it all - but maybe a hundred hours, and I produced two hours of work.

Phil Weinmeister (34:54):

So, and that's a lot, obviously when you have a full-time job to fit that into nights and weekends. The same thing as writing a book - you'll want to have discipline. Don't push off because of things that come up. You have to just keep on track and get through. Pluralsight does a great job breaking it down into small chunks. So you have a course that gets split into modules that make sense with the overall content. Then within those, you have these clips - two to five, two to six minutes each. So you're focusing on those one at a time, which helps a lot. If you're looking at doing 30 minutes of recorded material at a time, that would be overwhelming. 

Leonard Linde (35:50):

How many hours do you think would equal a book roughly? I mean, hours of Pluralsight, how many pro Pluralsight courses would be equal to a new book? If that question makes sense.

Phil Weinmeister (36:23):

I worked with Pluralsight to develop the curriculum for the community cloud path, which involves four courses. I'm offering two of those. I have a colleague who's actually doing one of the four. The book is as comprehensive as it could be a try to include everything possible in there. There were three courses on declarative items and one on customization. So those three together are comparable to what's in the book. There's probably a little bit more in the book because I could kind of structure it however I wanted. Still, I'd say three to four courses equate to what's basically in the book, on the declarative side. I haven't done any Pluralsight on the declarative side, but - I wrote the second edition of that book, which came out last year. That was quite a beast. It came in over 500 pages, which is quite a bit for a tech book. That one would be a few more courses. I pretty much try to cover everything possible on the Salesforce platform in that book.

Leonard Linde (37:52):

Well, then you got to bring on another addition, right? With all the new stuff.

Phil Weinmeister (37:57):

Yeah. There was so much that came in over the past five years, like Process Builder. Flow has changed so much that it required a lot of just net new material. Then you can keep things updated hopefully without changing too much, but that's the good thing about the Salesforce platform with its three releases a year - there's always fresh content. That makes it hard for a physical book author, but that's okay. That's why there's so much content out there - there's so much new stuff.

Leonard Linde (38:38):

There's a question of whether 7Summits does full platform consulting or if you only do community solutions.

Phil Weinmeister (38:47):

We are very focused on communities, so it depends on what you're looking for. Of course, you can reach out to me directly if you want, but yeah, we do multi-cloud solutions for sure. We're just best known for some of the amazing experiences we create through communities.

Leonard Linde (39:17):

We have a couple of minutes left. Is there something else you wanted to talk about? I know you probably do some other things besides writing books and Pluralsight and being an MVP? 

Phil Weinmeister (39:33):

Sure. I wanted to make sure anyone who attended or listened to the recording leaves feeling encouraged and inspired to share what they have. Just to recap - first of all, you have to start small. I think blogging is an excellent way to do that because you can grab a WordPress site and just start blogging - come up with a topic or one specific thing that you solved on the Salesforce platform and spend some time and make it a quality post. It's not. It's not about quantity at all. Put your heart into that. Maybe you write it over a month, that's fine. Share that out and then leverage social media as well.

Phil Weinmeister (40:30):

Social media is huge in the Salesforce ecosystem. Get a Twitter account if you don't have that. Share it on LinkedIn and then drip it out there over a few days. This is a pattern to follow, and a great way to put content out there. What'll happen over time is that you'll have some followers and subscribers, and they'll start sharing your stuff. That gets really exciting. Then you'll see that not only are certain people being equipped and enabled through this, but they're sharing it out further - which is very cool. So blogging is a great way to start and then consider these other mediums as well. You can also record short videos - leverage YouTube if you want.

Phil Weinmeister (41:23):

Some people do podcasts. That's a bigger one. But it doesn't have to be as big as, "Oh, I'm going to write a book or publish a course on Pluralsight." These are big things. So I'd say start small, be passionate about what that is, and focus on quality, focus on value. You might feel like this is something covered before. There's a lot of material on it, but if you have a unique voice and communicate well and solve a problem that others can relate to, it will have a lot of value. There are a lot of smart, motivated people in the Salesforce ecosystem. So I would just encourage you to start there and see where things go and just look for opportunities to teach, share if you have a chance to present at your own company, and take advantage of that. Oh, and always reach out. You can always reach out to someone like me. Other Salesforce MVPs are happy to share as well. So yeah, I just want to encourage you there to think small and just continue that. It's kind of a long process, but if you have something interesting to say, I think it'll get picked up eventually in that ecosystem.

Leonard Linde (42:43):

Well, that's a great finish and we appreciate your time so much today. Thanks for participating. I want to let everybody know about our next webinar if you enjoyed this one. We are having a Salesforce Summer 2020 Release Highlights. We've got two long-time Salesforce consultants. H is from HIC Global and BIll is from a consulting firm called Metazoa. That will be the 30th of July.

Leonard Linde (43:29):

Thanks again for participating. Thanks to Phil, and we hope to see you at the next webinar.

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