Building a Better Future for Puppies with Salesforce Solutions


Today on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk to Brandon Walton, President, Owner, and Principal Consultant at Cypress Learning Solutions. Join us as we chat about discovery, building trust, and why building with core Salesforce features is the best option for small organizations.

You should subscribe for the full episode, but here are a few takeaways from our conversation with Brandon Walton.

Creating a puppy pipeline in Salesforce

Brandon started his career as a car salesman and support tech in the Redmond, Washington area when a fateful call with a tech executive who liked how he explained things led to a job offer. That company used Pardot and, when it was acquired by Salesforce, he had the opportunity to become the implementation partner. The rest is history.

Today, Brandon’s a Salesforce Consultant for small businesses. One of his clients is Family Bred Puppies, which works to maximize the quality of life for dogs by matching families with small breeders. I wanted to bring him on the pod to share how he created a Salesforce implementation for them that’s scalable and easy to maintain. After all, who doesn’t love talking about puppies?

Creating a low-maintenance, scalable Salesforce implementation

As Brandon explains, when you’re working with a small team they want Salesforce to help them do what they do best. They often don’t have the resources to hire a full-time admin or developer. However, as he was doing discovery, Brandon realized that there was a way to map their already-existing business process onto basic Salesforce architecture.

Family Bred Puppies goes through an application and interview process to qualify families looking to adopt, which are handled with the standard Salesforce lead and lead status objects. If they’ve found a suitable candidate, they can upgrade that lead to a contact and use the stages of an opportunity to track the adoption process. There is, however, a custom puppy object for puppy-specific information like vaccinations and genealogy.

Because almost everything is built with standard Salesforce objects, the implementation is extremely low maintenance. It’s also easy to upgrade and expand. In fact, Brandon just came from a meeting to talk about adding case management and Marketing Cloud, and AI features like Einstein Next Best Action just work because it’s all standard.

How to build trust with clients

While all of this is good in theory, I really wanted to know how Brandon was so successful at getting his client to follow his advice. That’s the real challenge, isn’t it? You can explain all day why an opportunity would work better than building a custom adoption object, but how do you get them to believe you?

For Brandon, it comes down to building trust. “When someone believes that you’re listening to them and have their best interests as your top priority, that’s the foundation of trust,” he says. Keep asking questions instead of jumping to a solution right away, and get them involved in the process of creating a Salesforce implementation that works for them.

There’s a lot more great stuff from Brandon in this episode about scalability, user training, and puppies, so be sure to listen to the full episode. And don’t forget to subscribe to hear more from the Salesforce Admins Podcast.

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Full show transcript

Mike Gerholdt:
I got a plan. How about this week on the Salesforce Admins Podcast, we talk about the Puppy 360 instead of the customer 360. That’s right. So this week we’re doing a follow-up. You might’ve seen Brandon Walton on How I Solved This with Jennifer Lee. If not, I’ll include that link in the show notes. But Brandon helped a small family business that helps place puppies with the right people to use Salesforce. And so I’m having him on the podcast to talk about discovery, and building trust, and really building applications with native Salesforce features that require some, let’s call it minimal maintenance, because I think there’s parts of organizations that you build high maintenance or applications for because their business is constantly changing and ones that will require minimal maintenance. We also talk about the art of building trust, which is fascinating, but also puppies. So I’ll warn you, there’s a few puppy talks in there.

But before we get into the episode, I want to be sure that you’re following the Salesforce Admins Podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast. It’s super easy. Just click on the follow or subscribe button inside the app. And the reason I tell you to do that is then the app will automatically download new episodes. So you can wake up, say it’s Thursday morning, because that’s when new episodes drop, and you’re like, “I’m going to go for a walk this morning. It’s a beautiful May day, and I want to immediately listen to this fantastic episode about puppies.” The Apple have taken care of it for you while you were sleeping, so all you got to do is subscribe and do that right on your phone.

But with that, let’s get into the conversation with Brandon.
So Brandon, welcome to the podcast.

Brandon Walton:
Thanks, Mike. Thanks for having me.

Mike Gerholdt:
You bet. Well, I’m excited after watching Jennifer’s How I solved It on her YouTube channel, see all the amazing things you do. Plus, when she recorded the episode, there was puppies all over our Slack feed. So I’m a dog lover. Got to have people on the podcast that help people out with dogs.

But let’s get started with you Brandon. How did you get started in the Salesforce ecosystem and what do you do?

Brandon Walton:
Yeah, Mike, thanks. And before I get started, love puppies too. I love working with the Family Bred Puppies team. They’re just a great group of folks, and puppies barking, yapping. Just add a little of excitement that you don’t get to enjoy all the time.

So rewind a long, long time ago, my first jobs out of college were sales jobs. And I was the young just out of college guy who became that impromptu help fix someone’s computer here, help fix a printer there. This is back in the mid 2000s when we were still sending faxes back and forth. So I became-

Mike Gerholdt:
VGA ports. Don’t forget those. Never forget.

Brandon Walton:
Yes, you get it. You’ve been there.

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, yeah.

Brandon Walton:
So I worked at a car dealership actually, I was selling cars in Bellevue, Washington. And a big demographic that we serviced were Microsoft folks. So I was the dealership sales/tech support specialist guy, if you will, just by function, not by job title. And I was working with an executive and he said, “Brandon, I like the way you talk and explain things. [inaudible 00:03:49]. Do you want to sell cars the rest of your life? And do you want to come work for me, work with me?”. And I didn’t look back.

And so from there I did technical sales, business analysts work, a lot of it related to Microsoft, that being from Bellevue Redmond at the time, that was the big employer there. And the team I was on started using a tool called Pardot for communications, an email automation platform. Pardot eventually became acquired by Salesforce, and there was this opportunity to be an implementation partner. So I jumped at that opportunity, started working in the Salesforce ecosystem, and I’ve been a consultant in the ecosystem since 2014 now. So gosh, that’s 10 years in doing Salesforce work specifically.

2018, started my own Salesforce partner consulting firm, and get to work with small teams like Family Bred Puppies every day. And I love the challenges. I love solving things for different businesses. It’s kind of like you get to solve a new puzzle all the time.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. Well, you lasted in consulting 10x more than I did, so congrats. You mentioned Family Bred Puppies quite a bit. Let’s talk about them and a little bit of the solution that you built.

Brandon Walton:
Sure. So Family Bred Puppies is a client of mine. They work with small family-owned breeders. So their whole thing is they believe in quality of life for puppies, for dogs, especially the ones that they work with. And also making sure that families are getting a good experience through the adoption process. So when they came to Salesforce, looking at exploring Salesforce to facilitate not only relationships with the different breeders that they work with, but also the families that are adopting these puppies, they were looking for that all-in-one solution of being able to qualify applicants, also work with breeders, but manage the life cycle of a family that’s adopting a puppy, and also managing the relationships with the small family breeders that they’re working with on a regular basis.

So one of the things that we do as consultants, and where we start out with is, okay, let’s understand what this business is looking to do, and let’s understand how we can map what the business is looking to do with Salesforce’s core platform. Because that’s the other thing. Working with small teams like this is, they’re not necessarily developers. The Family Bred Puppy team, they love working with dogs. They don’t have a computer science background. So what’s good about that is they’re very open to our suggestions and recommendations. They really needed something that was easy to use, that didn’t require a solution that was so advanced that they would need to hire a full-time admin or a full-time developer.

So we start taking a look at all the parts of their business that they need to manage in order for them to deliver on their mission of providing a good adoption experience for families, providing a good relationship with the small family breeders that they’re working with, and having something that they can manage very easily. So we started taking a look at just that core Salesforce architecture. You’ve got your lead, a lead can be converted into an account and a contact, and you’re managing opportunities.And then down the road you look at cases and stuff like that.

So they have an application process. You can go to their website,, submit an application. They’re asking questions that are important for the application process. So they want to make sure that families that they’re working with, they’re not looking to start their own puppy mills and things like that. All those things are very important for the team. So we took a look at all of the questions that they needed to have to qualify a family looking to adopt a puppy. We mapped that to a web-to-lead form. Again, keeping it very simple out of the box. We set up that web-to-lead form on their website. And so now when someone goes to Family Bred Puppies and submits an application to adopt, that gets added to their Salesforce account as a lead. And all of those fields are being mapped in so they can see it all inside of Salesforce.

The team uses lead status as they’re qualifying the family, so there’s an interview process. The first part of that interview, if some of those questions aren’t answered correctly, maybe they’re looking for a breed of puppy that Family Bred Puppies doesn’t have or doesn’t work with, or maybe they’re looking to adopt a puppy for a reason that the team doesn’t want folks adopting puppies for, like they want to be very careful about people wanting to adopt a puppy and then go create a puppy mill from the puppies. They disqualify. So you have this using lead statuses, disqualify, [inaudible 00:09:34], disqualify.

When someone goes through that application process and they are someone that would be a good fit, that’s when we convert them from a lead to a contact. A contact gets associated with an account, a household, it’s a specific record type that we’re using. And then we have the opportunity. And what we did on the opportunity is we mapped the sales stages of the opportunity to the steps of their adoption process. So first step is let’s match the family with a puppy. Let’s have the family out to meet. Let’s make sure that the puppy’s gone through all their vaccinations and all these things. And then throughout the process, the final step is the puppy’s been taken home.

And so what we did with Family Bred Puppies is let’s map your business process as close to the Salesforce process as we possibly can. And what was good about working with the team is sometimes you work with small businesses that say, “ell, this isn’t an opportunity. This isn’t a product, this is an adoption. So rather than using opportunity, we should create something totally custom and call it adoption.” And then you end up recreating a lot of these out of the box features.

And so what was really important for, I think the success of this project was the fact that they were so open to listening to our advice and leveraging that standard Salesforce architecture. So now they have a solution where we were having a discussion earlier today about adding cases so they can actually do case management. And because it’s all built off of accounts and contacts in the core architecture, looking to add these things is just easier and easier and easier.

We’re early on in the conversations about looking at things like Marketing Cloud so they can send follow-ups a year in, two years in, three years in, when they’re working with these families. Or if someone refers a friend, being able to manage all of those kinds of relationships. And because it’s built on that core architecture, adding these new features and looking other things that we can do on the platform is just way more attainable because they’re designed for scale.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, no, I think you said something key at the beginning there, which is… And I get you’re a consultant and people listening to the, oh, why is he talking to a consultant? Well, essentially where admins are consultants are internal, right? We’re just paid differently.

But you’ll go into an organization, and I’ve gone into different parts when I’ve worked in organizations, and this client for you needed an app that didn’t need to be highly maintained because it was pretty sturdy. We’re not going with a lot of crazy out of the box stuff. And I’ve had different departments that use Salesforce the same way. And I think it’s kind of figuring out what does this department need, and how custom do they want to go, and how much can I support it? Because you were clearly wanting to set them up with something solid that they didn’t really need to pay. It is essentially like buying a new car. I just need to be able to put gas in it and manage everything.

You said something at the beginning before we pressed record that I thought was really interesting, because a lot of getting an organization or getting a department to use standard objects, and getting past the, “Well, but we adopt things and we don’t sell things,” is trust. And I wrote it down, you said, ‘There’s an art to getting them to trust you,” and I think that’s for the admin as well. What is that art for you? What does that mean for you?

Brandon Walton:
Yeah, I think trust in my world starts with the client, or the team, or the department, understanding that you’re listening and you understand. And I think for so many people, and sometimes by accident, that it’s a skill that you learn over time, is to listen and to listen to understand. And I think when someone believes you, that’s part of trusting, is believing. When someone believes that you’re A, listening to them, and two, have their best interests as your top priority, that’s the foundation of trust.

How many times are we in a conversation, a conference maybe where we’re meeting someone, or just whatever it is, meeting someone for the first time, and you’re talking to them, and you can’t get a word in because they’re just talking, talking, talking, talking, talking? But when you are engaging with someone who’s listening, and listening to understand, and asking questions, like we use the example, “Okay, Mike, you’re not really selling, but it’s more of this adoption process. But let’s talk about this adoption process and what goes into that?”. Just by asking questions rather than jumping to what that conclusion might be, it helps, not only it helps me really understand what you’re looking to do, but my goal is that you understand that I’m here to try to understand as well.

And then you can dig dig dig dig into a topic, and then at the tail end of that session, it might be a couple of days or a couple of hours depending on the complexity of the project, the goal for trust is to come out with we understand each other. And if we’re talking from a place of understanding, then I can make a suggestion to you and you trust that my suggestion comes from a place of, “All right, Brandon understands what I’m looking to do, and now we can have a conversation.”

But when you rush that, it’s kind of like if we were just going out for dinner, if we were going out on a date for the first time and I asked you to marry me after an hour, “Well, hold on, hold on. I don’t know if we’re ready for that.” So I think trust comes from listening and from a place of mutually understanding each other, and then believing that the person who you’re talking to really has your best interest in mind and can get you there because that person understands what you’re looking to do.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, I do feel like there’s a TV show of One Hour Date And Marriage.

But one thing you mentioned that I think is huge is you started with all of the core functionality web to lead. You mentioned lead object, you mentioned opportunity. And then you also, well, they’re looking to expand. It’s so easy to sit down and say, “Well, I was just at World Tour,” or, “I was just at this fancy user group and I’m all juiced up. I’m going to build a custom object. And I can create an adoption object. And maybe I call it adoption process object.”

For you, what was the benefit for them being able to expand, having used that core just opportunity object, just the core lead object?

Brandon Walton:
Well, in my world, I work with a lot of, whether it’s an app exchange package that a customer wants to install down the road, or even just expanding with more Salesforce products, I’ve seen it happen so many times where, “Oh, you know what? We’re ready to try CPQ,” or, “We’re ready to try Account Engagement or a Marketing Cloud.”

And you go in there and you realize, “Okay, well you can’t use that right now because instead of using a lead or a contact, we’ve got something totally custom that’s been rebuilt.” So there’s two things that come from that is one, just having gone through the pain of, “Oh yeah, you want to add on this DocuSign thing here,” or something like that, and not being able to do it because you have to map all the custom stuff back into standard objects anyways.

But also getting so familiar with all of those pre-built dependencies, and I think that’s one of the mistakes that is easy to make early on, whether you are an admin that’s just getting started, or a small business that’s just purchased Salesforce and you’re going to be your own admin, in my shoes, is understanding over time all of the relationships, like with opportunities, you get so much great stuff out of the box. You’ve got your opportunity line items, products and price books, and quotes, and just knowing all of these things and all of these relationships that exist out of the box without having to reconstruct them is a huge benefit.

And I remember early days of being an admin, you don’t necessarily know all of those things, and that’s where you make those mistakes. “Oh, we need one other thing, so let’s build it all custom.” But I think a big part of it for me in my journey is getting to the point where you just understand all of the connections that are made available for you when you use that standard architecture, and you understand how an account relates to an opportunity, and all the great stuff you can do with that, and how a contact and account are related, and how all of the other, there’s all this great new AI stuff that’s coming out that supports some of the custom stuff that’s out there, but when you’re using the standard architecture, it understands what you’re looking to do already. And that’s so important. And sometimes you learn it the hard way, but we do our best to explain those things, and teach others and newer users about the benefit.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, no, absolutely. In fact, well, and so I’ll use it as a jumping off point, thanks for setting me up, to teach the other users. Trust is also when you roll it out. I mean the trust factor, they get you in the door and you’re listening to them, and I’m going to build a puppy pipeline report, which has to sound fun. The amount of paw prints and puppy knows things that must exist in this app. I can only envision your Google search results right now are up there.

But the second part is also rolling it out. I mean, I’ve sat in weeks and weeks of discovery, and apps, and building, and then user testing. And then you go to roll it out. And this is a small company that has to sit and say, “Okay, so then how are we going to support this?”. How did you build trust when you also rolled it out?

Brandon Walton:
Yeah, so we meet regularly. In fact, we met earlier today and had a working session together. So we do these working sessions where we talk about what the business objectives are, “Okay, what do we need to do? How are we going to make this experience better for,” maybe it’s a family breeder that they’re working with or an applicant that they might be working with, because now we have all this great data in Salesforce, we can take a look at these kinds of things.

And I’ll tell you what is the most exciting thing for me, is when we are talking about making an update to part one in the puppy pipeline, which is a puppy application. And Sydney, who started out on this thing, never using Salesforce before is like, “Oh, that sounds like a checkbox. I understand how check boxes work on a lead. And yeah, I can map that over to it.” So for me, that’s always the yes, the slam dunk home run moment, if you will, when we’re talking about these concepts that when we first got started, it was still intimidating for them, but under understanding, “Oh yeah, that’s going to be a pick list. And not only that, once we make the pick list here on the lead, let me go and add this to the lead mapping, so it’s going to just move over to the contact when I hit that convert button.”

And so the first question, how we get there is just regular working sessions. Let’s go through, let’s talk about the business objectives here. Let’s talk about what’s been created and how it’s all going to work. That’s probably the most instrumental piece. So it’s not Brandon going and locking myself in a room for three weeks, and now there’s all these new fields and buttons, and let’s teach you how it’s done. It really has been collaborative the whole way through. And the discussion really is led by the business. So it’s not necessarily Salesforce feature driven. We don’t go in here with an objective of, “Oh, you know what? There’s a lot of great new AI stuff, so let’s just add all this AI stuff, whether we know what we’re going to do with it or not.” It has to be driven by the business first. And when the business users are able to say, “Yes, this makes sense, because when I check this box, I understand what that means versus when I’m checking this pick list or this, dare I say it, multi-select pick list, which some”-

Mike Gerholdt:
Oh, I was just going to ask. They clearly aren’t to reporting yet, or they’d understand the fallacy of multi-select pick lists.

Brandon Walton:
Well, going back, that’s one of the things that I am able to bring to the table, and why they want to avoid it.

But the fun part in it for me is when those users are in the platform and they understand what the platform is doing, so more than just, “Oh, I have to go in and enter my data.” I’m here to work with puppies, not enter data. But when Sydney and Peter understand why they’re adding that, and it’s not a burden for them, but they see the benefit because I think it really starts with them being involved in that process, so they feel like they were heard, they feel like their input was heard.

And with larger organizations that might not be an entire puppy management portal or puppy pipeline, or some of the fun things that we’re doing. Some larger organizations, it’s a lot more work just to get small changes made. Just like with trust, when people feel heard, and people feel like they’re part of something, and part of the creation of something, there’s that bit of ownership. I found that those are the folks that are going to adopt it a lot more. “If my say was included when we were coming up with the sales process, because yes, it’s important. On this step we need to make sure that we understand how they’re going to pick up their puppy. And Brandon knows that I contributed to step five. Well, now Brandon’s pumped up and excited because I was part of this thing, and so now I’m more excited to adopt the technology,” versus something that was set up and it’s a burden. It’s maybe an extra step. I think that’s a big differentiator I see in working with, especially small teams.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah, I’ve always said when I’m doing training, is this is how you do your job, not another thing to do your job. And it sounds like a small word change, but it’s part of the job to get it complete. Ensuring in this case that the puppy has a great home, putting good data in and keeping track of that is part of that journey. It’s not another thing to do. And when people look at data input, or data collection, or data reporting as another thing to do, then it feels superfluous to their mission and they get off track. So yeah, I can completely understand that.

You’ve seen a lot, not only with this company, but in general. You brought up the AI thing, so I’ll kind of wrap on that. If you were to start brainstorming, we’re obviously not going to ask Einstein to draw us a puppy. I think I spend my countless hours making poor ChatGPT draw different versions of dogs. But how would you see, based on what you’ve built, that AI layer starting to come into what this organization uses Salesforce for?

Brandon Walton:
Yeah. And we’ve already started having those conversations as well, starting out with some of those Einstein features that have been around for a while. We’re looking at things like Einstein recommended next actions, things like that.

And what’s great about those is it’s data driven. So going back to users adopting the importance of entering information, understanding how family breeder A, how Mike’s pups is working compared to Brandon’s pups, and being able to understand, okay, when I am entering the data on vaccines, and health of these puppies, and all of these other details, that’s going to allow us to leverage this platform to assist our team in making better decisions, then data entry isn’t a burden, it’s a necessity. And we’re very, very clear on the benefit.

If we know that puppies from this family breeder are getting a certain type of worm, we know that we can work with that breeder. And that’s the beauty of what Family Bred Puppies do, because they’re working family to family, it’s not a situation where their breeders aren’t working with them. So they’ve got these great relationships already. And using the technology to improve the relationships and be better partners to their breeders, match families, whether that’s getting through the adoption process quicker, what have you. It’s, how can we drive business outcomes through this platform? Not, well, we have to put it in there because my boss says we’re using this tool and we have to put it in there.

Mike Gerholdt:
The number of times I’ve heard that.

I’ll end on a fun question. Oftentimes when you sit down, even in organizations that I’ve worked for, but as a consultant, you get to learn the business and fun facts. Was there something fun or interesting that you learned about puppies during all of this that you didn’t know heading in?

Brandon Walton:
Oh, there’s so much. What’s one thing I can summarize? I think, well, this might tell a little bit more about the kinds of things that I find fun and interesting. But you assume it, or I assume it, you assume that there’s a lot of production that goes into raising breeding puppies. But the amount of planning that goes in… So where we did do some custom objects is we have a custom puppies object with litters. And so we are able to track the genealogy of the puppies through some custom objects. It was more than what opportunity products could do. We’ll say that. So we started, can we do it from the… But-

Mike Gerholdt:
I don’t think opportunity products were ever envisioned to be used that way.

Brandon Walton:
Yeah. So that was one place where we did go a bit custom, but it’s just a couple of objects that have relationships to each other.

And again, I didn’t come in there as the puppy breeding expert, but being able to understand what those timelines are, what’s happening at one week, what’s happening at two weeks. And I think all the orchestration that goes into that is what was just really fascinating. And it’s more than just shots, but it’s, are the puppies, how much time are they spending with their mom? And then when you move them from indoor to outdoor facility, all these details that go in.

And what’s been really cool is, of course, we track those details on the platform. And so now it exists as part of the PMP, the Puppy Management Portal. But I think that was one of the takeaways that I thought was really interesting, is just how calculated that process is, just to make sure that, again, the mission is that the puppies are raised in a nurturing environment, that they’re healthy when a family receives them. I would say that orchestration and seeing all of that come together was one of the coolest things for me.

Mike Gerholdt:
Wow. Yeah. No, very cool.

Brandon, thanks for coming on the podcast, oh let’s talk puppies. This had to have been easily one of the most fun projects to work on.

Brandon Walton:
Oh, for sure.

Mike Gerholdt:
Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing it with us, and keep on keeping on with helping puppies in the world.

Brandon Walton:
Will do, Mike, will do, Mike, I’ll keep doing my part.

Mike Gerholdt:
See, again, I told you that was a fun discussion. Also, tell me how quickly you wouldn’t sign up to build a puppy pipeline report. If I saw that in my list of requests for things that needed to be built in Salesforce, a puppy pipeline report would definitely top the list. Also, I might take a little bit too long doing that. But I enjoyed that conversation. That was fun talking with Brandon.

Now, if you enjoyed this episode and you’re listening on iTunes or another app, go ahead and click the three dots in the upper right-hand corner or see if there’s an arrow. You can share the episode, and you can post it on social, you can text it to a friend, you can DM it. And of course, if you’re looking for more great resources, the entire transcript, all the links are in the show notes, and everything can be found at And until next week, we’ll see you in the cloud.

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