Wed. Apr 14th, 2021

Customer relationship management involves collecting relevant data about a business’s customer interactions in one place to help managers understand their clients and improve customer satisfaction. Given how important customers are to any business, having employees who have completed CRM software training and certification is becoming increasingly beneficial.

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“In these current challenging business conditions, it’s more important than ever for businesses to remain laser-focused on the customer,” says Andy Swansburg, chief product officer at TSG Computer Software in New Zealand and the founder of BrandBot, a CRM for fitness studios.

This means more than designing products and services to meet their needs. Businesses also need to engage with customers how and when they want. “So businesses need to really understand their customers and make sure they’re engaging with them when it’s both relevant and timely, and only about news that’s meaningful to them,” Swansburg says.

Most companies must increasingly digitize to compete effectively in the world economy, says Jeff Pigatto, vice president and global head of the Salesforce practice at Saggezza, a global IT consultancy. Implementing a modern CRM platform that makes customer data easily accessible and usable is a critical component of that transformation.

“As a result, CRM skills are in huge demand and offer lucrative and fulfilling careers,” Pigatto says. “Getting certified makes you competitive with other employees vying for those jobs.”

Business and Sales Professionals

Business and sales professionals rely on CRM software to help track and follow up on leads. They also use customer data to improve marketing and advertising campaigns. CRM software lets these teams easily analyze customer data and disseminate it through sharable reports. This can help them identify new sales or product and service opportunities and shorten the sales cycle on existing leads.

IT Professionals and Developers

“As CRM solutions become more sophisticated and deliver a broader range of capabilities across sales, service and marketing, it has become increasingly important that IT teams play a larger role supporting and enhancing these systems,” says Prithvi Mulchandani, vice president of IT business applications at Deltek, an enterprise software company based in Virginia. “The IT team can add value by understanding and supporting the entire CRM solution, working in partnership with the functional teams who have expertise in their specific areas.”

Chelsea Basilotta, senior manager of partner alliances at San Francisco-based software company Skedulo, says internal system administrators and system architects, developers and consultants are the IT professionals most likely to work with CRMs.

“Internal system admin is using it to set up, maintain and support the use of the internal CRM system, and the system architects/developers/consultants are interfacing with it to build, set up and conduct maintenance of customer implementations and environments,” she says.

CRM certification is considered an industry standard for both of these roles, she says. “Hiring managers do sometimes look for these certifications, and depending on the level of role, additional certifications could be expected or required.”

Marketing and Digital Marketing Professionals

CRM is fundamental to marketing of any kind, says Sandra Schanzer, a certified Salesforce.com consultant and president of New York City-based Dorset Consulting. “CRM lets a company know its customers, its business, its strengths and weaknesses and make marketing decisions,” she says.

CRM underpins many marketing decisions and forms the basis of a company’s outreach efforts, Schanzer says. However, as important as CRM is for marketing professionals, Schanzer says they could be better served by pursuing other credentials, such as a digital marketing certificate.

Businesses need different things from their CRM software, and each software offers unique certification and training tracks.

Here are the various certifications from some of the most highly sought after CRM software providers.

Salesforce Certification

Salesforce is one of the most recognizable names in the CRM industry. The company offers 30 certifications and more than100 learning resources through its Trailhead Academy. Classes can be taken self-paced online or in-person.

Certification tracks are separated by job function, with different courses and certifications for administrators, architects, consultants, developers and marketers. Within each role, there are several certifications, each with different requirements.

Certifications are “really significant in the Salesforce world,” Schanzer says.

Pigatto suggests employees just starting out opt for either a Salesforce Administrator or Salesforce Platform Developer certification.

“Salesforce Administrator would be for a more functional role, while Salesforce Developer would be more technical,” he says.

Here are some of the most popular certifications in each track.

Administrator certifications include:

Administrator is a certification for those with experience working as a Salesforce Administrator. Requirements:

  • Six to 12 months recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 115 to 125 hours to complete.
  • No certification prerequisites.

Platform App Builder is aimed at those who use the Force.com platform to create and implement custom apps. Requirements:

  • Three to six months recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 60 to 70 hours to complete.
  • No certification prerequisites.

Advanced Administrator may be useful for those with advanced Salesforce Administrator experience. Requirements:

  • 12 to 24 months recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 55 to 65 hours to complete.
  • Prerequisite certification: Administrator.

Architect certifications include:

System Architect is for individuals who “focus on factors such as testing, governance and integration to other external systems.” Requirements:

  • More than five years recommended Salesforce experience.
  • More than 100 hours to complete.
  • Certification prerequisites: Development Lifecycle and Deployment Designer, Identity and Access Management Designer, Integration Architecture Designer, and Platform Developer I.

Application Architect for individuals with a deep understanding of the features on Salesforce’s platform and can “model a role hierarchy, data model and appropriate sharing mechanisms.” Requirements:

  • More than five years recommended Salesforce experience.
  • More than 100 hours to complete.
  • Certification prerequisites: Data Architecture and Management Designer, Sharing and Visibility Designer, Platform App Builder, and Platform Developer I.

Technical Architect is a more advanced credential in the architect track aimed at those who possess broad knowledge across multiple development platforms. Requirements:

  • More than eight years recommended Salesforce experience.
  • More than 200 hours to complete.
  • Certification prerequisites: Application Architect and System Architect.

Consultant certifications include:

Sales Cloud Consultant is a credential for individuals who have experience designing and executing applications for the Sales Cloud in a customer-facing role. Requirements:

  • Two to five years recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 40 to 50 hours to complete.
  • Certification prerequisites: Administrator.

Service Cloud Consultant is a credential for individuals experienced in designing and executing applications for the Service Cloud in a customer-facing role. Requirements:

  • Two to five years recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 30 to 40 hours to complete.
  • Certification prerequisites: Administrator.

Community Cloud Consultant is for individuals with “experience implementing and consulting on the Salesforce Communities applications in a customer-facing role.” Requirements:

  • Two to five years recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 30 to 40 hours to complete.
  • Prerequisite: Administrator.

Developers certifications include:

Platform Developer I is aimed at individuals with experience building custom apps on the Force.com platform. Requirements:

  • Three to six months recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 75 to 85 hours to complete.
  • No certification prerequisites.

Platform Developer II is the next step for those who already have the Program Developer I certification. Requirements:

  • Two to four years recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 35 to 45 hours to complete.
  • Prerequisite: Program Developer I.

Marketing certifications include:

Marketing Cloud Email Specialist for individuals well versed in email marketing best practices. Requirements:

  • Six to 12 months recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 15 to 25 hours to complete.
  • No certification prerequisites.

Pardot Specialist is for individuals with experience creating and carrying out marketing workflows through the Pardot platform. Requirements:

  • Three to six months recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 20 to 30 hours to complete.
  • No certification prerequisites.

Marketing Cloud Consultant for individuals who can set up and deploy Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email app tools. Requirements:

  • 12 months recommended Salesforce experience.
  • 40 to 50 hours to complete.
  • Certification prerequisites: Marketing Cloud Email Specialist.

Preparing for the Salesforce CRM Certification Exam

The Salesforce certification exam formats and length vary by course. Exams are generally delivered in an online proctored environment or in-person at Kryterion testing sites, although some testing centers have been closed due to COVID-19.

Trailhead Academy provides various ways to prepare for each certification exam, including exam guides, practice tests and curated content for your learning track. Third-party providers, such as CertifyCRM.com and Learning Tree International, also provide test preparation resources for the Salesforce CRM certification.

“In order to maintain your Salesforce certification(s), all certified professionals must successfully complete Trailhead maintenance modules specific to their certification,” Basilotta says. “Starting with (the) spring ’20 release cycle, all certifications now require completion of one maintenance module per year.”

Marketo Engage by Adobe

Part of the Adobe Experience Cloud, Marketo Engage is designed to help marketing professionals create, manage and carry out personalized engagement online.

Adobe offers two levels of Marketo Engage CRM certifications: one for entry-level practitioners and another for more experienced marketing professionals. Training courses are available to help you prepare for the certification exam, but they aren’t required. Adobe notes that the training is not enough to prepare. Candidates also should have applicable on-the-job experience before attempting to get certified.

Marketo Certified Associate – Entry Level

The Marketo Certified Associate track is designed for entry-level Marketo users who want to demonstrate their knowledge of marketing concepts and automation and basic email marketing.

Before seeking certification, candidates are expected to have an introductory knowledge of marketing automation, at least three to six months of general marketing experience and three months of hands-on experience with Marketo.

The exam is approximately 60 multiple-choice and multiple-select questions taken in 90 minutes. It costs $95.

Marketo Certified Expert – Advanced Level

More experienced marketing automation professionals, like marketing managers, media automation managers and email automation specialists, can pursue the Marketo Certified Expert credential.

Candidates should have one to two years of general marketing experience and at least one year of experience working with Marketo. It’s also recommended that you complete the Marketo MCE Prep Course.

The exam is 75 multiple-choice and multiple-select questions to be taken in 150 minutes. It costs $225.

Preparing for Adobe Marketo Engage CRM Certification Exam

Adobe provides a study guide along with details on the topics covered in the exam and sample questions. You can take free self-paced online courses or purchase instructor-led Core Concepts courses that cost $375 to $1,500.

If you plan to take a lot of Marketo’s instructor-led courses, you might consider purchasing a Learning Passport subscription, which grants you unlimited access to all of the Marketo courses. Contact Adobe directly for Passport pricing.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft’s CRM, Microsoft Dynamics 365, integrates with Microsoft Teams and lets users identify and prioritize leads and track customer records through the lead process.

Microsoft offers several certifications with its Dynamics 365 CRM software. If you’re a new user, consider starting with the beginner-level Dynamics 365 Fundamentals certification before pursuing more in-depth certifications that are specific to your role.

CRM training in preparation for the exams is free, but exam fees are $99 for the Dynamics 365 Fundamentals certification and $165 for all other certification exams. Exams are typically taken at a Pearson VUE testing site, but many testing centers have been closed due to COVID-19. Online at-home proctoring is available instead.

Dynamics 365 Fundamentals

This beginner-level certification demonstrates your understanding of Microsoft Dynamics 365, including Dynamics 365 security, integrations and reporting. It also tests your knowledge of the Power Platform, cloud concepts and security, artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and cloud deployment. The exam costs $99.

Dynamics 365 Field Service Functional Consultant Associate

This intermediate-level certification is intended for functional consultants, those who design and oversee CRM software processes and perform the functional tasks required for CRM implementation. Applicants “configure the Field Service application, implement solutions that manage the field service lifecycle and deploy the Connected Field Service solution.” There are two exams: the Microsoft Power Platform Functional Consultant and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Field Service. All exams cost $165.

Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management Functional Consultant Associate

This intermediate certification for financial consultants demonstrates your ability to streamline supply chain elements for clients, including cost accounting and inventory and warehouse management. The two required exams are the Microsoft Dynamics 365: Core Finance and Operations exam and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management exam, both of which cost $165.

Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing Functional Consultant Associate

This intermediate certification for functional consultants demonstrates your ability to “integrate digital and physical systems; improve visibility, manufacturing efficiency and flexibility; and lower costs for clients.” The two required exams are the Microsoft Dynamics 365: Core Finance and Operations exam and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing exam. Both cost $165.

Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations Apps Developer Associate

This intermediate-level certification is designed for developers who work with the Finance and Operations application in Dynamics 365. You will be tested on skills such as your ability to use common functionality and implementation tools; to configure security, processes and operations; and to develop and test code. You must pass two exams: the Microsoft Dynamics 365: Core Finance and Operations exam and the Microsoft Dynamics 365: Finance and Operations Apps Developer exam, each of which cost $165.

Dynamics 365 Finance Functional Consultant Associate

This is an intermediate-level certification intended for financial consultants who want to demonstrate their ability to “unify global financials and operations, automate tasks and workflows and streamline customer ordering, selling, invoicing and reporting.” There are two certification exams: the Microsoft Dynamics 365: Core Finance and Operations exam and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance exam, each of which cost $165.

Dynamics 365 Marketing Functional Consultant Associate

For intermediate functional consultants, this CRM certification tests your ability to implement ways to attract and convert leads, build brand awareness, and complete other marketing tasks. To earn the certification, you must pass two exams: the Microsoft Power Platform Functional Consultant exam and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Marketing exam, both of which cost $165.

Dynamics 365 Business Central Functional Consultant Associate

This intermediate certification tests functional consultants’ ability to help small and medium-sized businesses set up processes for core applications. Certification requires passing the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central Functional Consultant exam, which is currently in beta, meaning it is not scored immediately. Instead, test-takers typically wait two to three weeks for results, although it could be up to 16 weeks after taking the exam. You do not need to retake the exam when it is made available in its final version.

Test-takers can get an 80% off code for beta exams from announcements on the Microsoft Learn Blog or by being a member of the SME Profile database. The exam costs $165 before the discount.

Dynamics 365 Customer Service Functional Consultant Associate

This intermediate-level certification is for functional consultants who want to demonstrate their ability to find ways to improve customer experience using AI. There are two exams: the Microsoft Power Platform Functional Consultant and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service exam. All exams cost $165.

Dynamics 365 Sales Functional Consultant Associate

This intermediate certification for functional consultants tests your ability to implement solutions for connecting with customers, managing deals and using data analytics to improve sales performance. It requires two exams: Microsoft Power Platform Functional Consultant and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Sales exam. All exams cost $165.

Dynamics 365: Finance and Operations Apps Solution Architect Expert

This advanced certification is intended for functional consultants and solutions architects who help teams implement Dynamics solutions. Candidates must complete one of four prerequisite certifications: the Dynamics 365 Finance Functional Consultant Associate; Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management, Manufacturing Functional Consultant Associate; Dynamics 365 Supply Chain Management Functional Consultant Associate; or Dynamics 365: Finance and Operations Apps Developer Associate. You then need to pass the Microsoft Dynamics 365: Finance and Operations Apps Solution Architect exam, which costs $165.

Dynamics 365 + Power Platform Solution Architect Expert

This is an advanced certification intended for solutions architects. You must already have at least one of these five certifications: Power Apps + Dynamics 365 Developer Associate, Dynamics 365 Sales Functional Consultant Associate, Dynamics 365 Marketing Functional Consultant Associate, Dynamics 365 Customer Service Functional Consultant Associate or the Dynamics 365 Field Service Functional Consultant Associate certification. You can also meet the prerequisite requirement by earning the Power Platform Functional Consultant Associate and the Power Platform Developer Associate certification. The certification exam costs $165.

Preparing for Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM Certification Exam

To help users prepare for their CRM certification exams, Microsoft provides a suite of training materials and certification learning paths, including free, self-guided learning paths as well as paid instructor-led training.

Each certification has a downloadable exam skills outline that details the percentage of the exam devoted to each skill category tested. There are also exam replays, which allow you to retake the exam within 12 months of purchase. Microsoft provides certification support forums with moderators available Monday through Friday.

HubSpot Certification

HubSpot offers a variety of certification courses on its proprietary CRM. Courses are available entirely online and are free, but some certifications require you to complete exercises that call for the Pro or Enterprise version of HubSpot.

After watching the online course videos and taking corresponding quizzes, you need to pass a certification exam and complete practical exercises. Course times vary from just over one hour to nearly 6.5 hours. Most are designated as beginner level. Here are some of the certifications available.

HubSpot Marketing Software

Intended for marketers, this certificate gives participants an introduction to the HubSpot Marketing Hub and its marketing tools. It includes 14 lessons, 71 videos and 11 quizzes. It takes about three and a half hours to complete.

HubSpot CMS for Marketers

This course teaches marketers how to use the HubSpot CRM in conjunction with your content management system to optimize and personalize your website. While the course is free, you will need a CMS Hub Professional account or above to complete it. The course includes seven lessons, 33 videos and eight quizzes. It takes nearly two hours to complete.

Sales software certification teaches participants how to use the HubSpot CRM and Sales Hub to create and execute an inbound marketing strategy to attract customers. Each class concludes with practical exercises to help you apply what you learned. To get certified at the culmination of the course, you’ll need to pass a 50-question multiple-choice test. The course includes three lessons, 17 videos and three quizzes. It takes just over an hour to complete.

The HubSpot Reporting certification track teaches how to use HubSpot’s reporting tools to make data-driven decisions. In addition to HubSpot’s tools, you’ll also learn about the fundamentals of data use in business. The course includes nine lessons, 29 videos and eight quizzes, plus a 60-question multiple-choice final exam and hands-on practice to get fully certified. It takes nearly five hours to complete.

Geared toward marketers, CMS Software certification teaches users how to create and optimize a website with the CMS Hub. You’ll also learn how to optimize your content strategy and track your website’s performance. The course includes seven lessons, 33 videos and eight quizzes. It takes nearly two hours to complete.

HubSpot CMS for Developers

Intended for web developers, this certification course teaches how to build and manage websites using HubSpot CMS and how to use aspects of the CMS, including HubL, HubDB and custom modules. The course includes six lessons, 30 videos and six quizzes. It takes nearly two hours to complete.

Preparing for the HubSpot CRM Certification Exam

In addition to completing the training and passing the exam, you may need to complete practical exercises, such as creating a buyer persona or posting a social media update. If you don’t complete the exercise before taking the test, you must do so before your exam results expire. Certifications are valid for 13 or 25 months.

Zendesk Certification

Zendesk Support Administrator

This certification is geared toward sales professionals who want to demonstrate their ability to implement, configure and manage an enterprise account of Zendesk Support. In addition to completing Zendesk training or an equivalent program, candidates should have a least three months’ experience consistently using Zendesk Support Administrator. The exam is 78 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 105 minutes. It costs $350.

Designed for experienced administrators or developers with in-depth knowledge of Zendesk, this certification shows your ability to develop scalable Zendesk apps and use REST APIs to extend Zendesk using web programming skills. Candidates should have at least one year of professional web development experience and knowledge of a web development program such as HTML or JavaScript. The exam is about 65 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 95 minutes. It costs $350.

Geared toward Zendesk Guide Enterprise users, this certification demonstrates your ability to use Zendesk’s self-service and ticket deflection engine called Guide. Candidates should be familiar with Zendesk Support, have at least three months’ experience as a Zendesk Guide Administrator, and have completed the Zendesk Guide I and Guide II courses. The exam is 30 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 45 minutes. It costs $199.

Passing the Chat Specialist exam demonstrates your ability to configure workflows, manage queue volume and serve chats effectively. Zendesk recommends that candidates have at least four to six months of hands-on experience as a Zendesk Chat Admin and at least two to three months of experience with Zendesk Support. The exam is 31 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 45 minutes. It costs $199.

Zendesk Explore CX Analyst

This certification is intended for Zendesk Explore users who want to demonstrate their ability to use the tool’s pre-built dashboards and build custom queries. The exam has 67 questions to be completed in 90 minutes. It costs $350.

This certification tests your ability to configure workflows, manage queue volume, and effectively handle calls and texts in Zendesk. Ideally, candidates should have spent at least six months working as a Zendesk Talk user and have at least two to three months of experience with Zendesk Support. The exam is 31 multiple-choice questions to be completed in 45 minutes. It costs $199.

Preparing for Zendesk CRM Certification Exam

Zendesk offers on-demand and live online training. It also provides exam guides that include recommended training and resources as well as sample questions to help you prepare for your certification exam. Credentials need to be recertified either annually or every two years, requiring an additional exam fee. Zendesk will let you know when your certification is due for renewal.

CRM training and certification is specific to the platform involved. So the first step is to identify the platform you’ll be using. Once you know that, you can choose the appropriate certification.

If you aren’t sure which CRM software to get certified in, the most frequently mentioned certification on current ZipRecruiter job openings is Salesforce Administrator. Many employers also call for HubSpot, Dynamics 365 and Zendesk CRM certifications.

You also should weigh the program cost and time commitment in your choice of platform. Will your employer cover the cost of certification? If not, how much are you willing to invest in CRM training and certification yourself? Before you commit to a program, spend time on the provider’s website learning what’s required for certification.

“It takes time, effort and patience to acquire many core CRM certifications,” Pigatto says. “You need to be prepared to fail on your first attempt.”

Pigatto adds that studying alone is not a guarantee you’ll pass. “Hands-on experience and working knowledge of the CRM platform will drastically improve your chances of passing certification exams,” he says.

You should only attempt a CRM certification exam after you’ve determined how the certification will benefit you and are certain you can put in the necessary time and money to complete the training.

CRM certifications can cost as much as $350 and may take years to complete. The financial and time commitment may have you wondering whether getting certified is worth it.

“Getting certified opens doors that might otherwise be closed, and the money spent is well worth it,” Pigatto says. “I have taken employees who have been out of the job market or found themselves in dead-end careers for years, gotten them certified on CRM platforms such as Salesforce, and created completely new career opportunities for them.”

However, topics covered in some of the certifications may not apply to every job. Schanzer considers CRM certification and training worthwhile for developers but not for business users. “It might be useful as a short course in vocational education or a community college, something concrete to put on a thin resume, perhaps for a first job or someone with no business experience,” she says.

Before getting CRM certified, make sure you know how the specific certification you’re pursuing will impact your career opportunities.

CRM Skills Are in High Demand

CRM skills are in increasing demand. Job postings listing CRM skills as a requirement were growing at a rate of about 5% per year before the pandemic and have recovered more quickly than average since the pandemic, according to ZipRecruiter. CRM is the sixth most frequently selected skill requirement among employers who posted jobs on ZipRecruiter in 2020 so far, behind customer service, communication skills, entrepreneurship, “detail-oriented” and collaboration.

Hiring managers view certifications as a sign a candidate is “committed to building their CRM expertise, and gives us assurance that they are highly competent,” particularly if the candidate has obtained more difficult certifications to pass, Mulchandani says.

That said, he doesn’t consider certifications as a “must-have” but instead a bonus for candidates who also have relevant prior experience.

CRM Certification Could Help You Land a Job

“Employers view certifications as a summary of an employee’s skills and experience in particular areas, and they make it easier to vet people,” Pigatto says.

If an employer is trying to choose between two candidates with comparable experience, all else equal, he or she will pick the candidate with the certifications.

CRM certifications also can increase your compensation potential, Pigatto says. “Some rare, harder-to-obtain certifications net employees thousands of dollars in additional salary and bonus pay,” he says.

But certifications are only one factor employers consider. While certifications are becoming increasingly important, Pigatto says, “hands-on experience delivering CRM solutions is the most important factor when evaluating CRM talent.”

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