What is Salesforce?
Industry Specialties: Serves all industries
Salesforce delivers an end-to-end suite of products for managing customer interactions no matter what stage they occur in. With a dozen individual products that can be deployed alone or as part of an integrated environment, it offers extensive flexibility based on business needs. Prominent applications include Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud and Commerce Cloud.
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Benefits and Insights
Why use Salesforce?
Key differentiators & advantages of Salesforce
- Customize it to Fit Your Needs: Salesforce is extremely customizable, so you can tailor it to what your business requires. In addition to having a dozen individual products to choose from for creating the perfect ecosystem, you can perform deep customizations within any of the individual products.
- Work in an Intuitive Interface: Salesforce’s UI is user-friendly and easy to navigate. This extends to many areas, such as organizing data, managing customers, running reports, staying on top of conversations, locating information and emailing customers.
- Integrate With Any Other Tools You Use: Given the universal nature of the platform, the vast majority of popular apps can integrate with it, such as Outlook and QuickBooks. This ensures you can keep using the apps you love without complicated workarounds to connect them with Salesforce. The Salesforce AppExchange contains hundreds of third-party apps you can install with a couple clicks. You can search the marketplace based on industry, solution or product type. Or you can explore the various categories, which cover everything from IT and finance to project management and ERP.
- Run Reports on a Variety of Metrics: You can gain a 360-degree view into business performance thanks to the multitude of real-time reports you can generate. They can be standard or customized and used across Salesforce for insights in areas such as marketing performance and sales numbers. You can also create joined reports, which is useful for viewing data several different ways.
- Easily Track Information: The system makes it easier to keep track of critical information at each touchpoint with customers. For example, sales reps can track and follow up with contacts, as well as log details. It’s also easy to see what stage every prospect is in, improve data visibility and view records of how people have interacted with your company.
- Increase Productivity and Efficiency: The entire Salesforce platform can be tightly integrated. This allows you to work in a single UI rather than wasting time hopping among several applications. It also means database updates are smooth and seamless. The system supports automation across many tedious tasks to save users time and enable focus on more strategic work.
- Stay Organized: With Salesforce, you can store customer information in a central solution that provides a single source of truth. Whether you need to pull sales reports, view customer tickets or track a lead’s progress through your pipeline, you can do so all from within the system.
- Deliver Customer Service on Any Channel: Salesforce enables your company to deliver on customer expectations by providing customer service no matter how someone chooses to interact with your brand.
- Scale Based on Business Needs: Because of its flexibility, Salesforce can easily scale alongside your business as it grows. Its integrated nature allows you to add capabilities that work seamlessly rather than patching a number of point solutions together. Salesforce also implements new features based on user feedback and is continually enhancing functionality to better serve customers.
- Go Mobile: The Salesforce app is available on Android or iOS devices. It helps busy users be more productive while on the go by offering collaboration tools, real-time dashboards, meetings, tasks, notifications, sales stage views, lead tracking, document editing and more.
- Do More With Extensions: Salesforce has a number of Chrome extensions that allow you to work more effectively. The Gmail integration lets you perform activities from your Gmail account. The Lightning extension provides access to a features library. There’s also an extension for the Salesforce Inspector tool (also available on Firefox) for viewing data fields or importing/exporting records.
- Gather Feedback From Users or Customers: The Salesforce Surveys tool lets you capture sentiment internally or externally. This provides insight into improvements your company can make, either to better support employees or better serve customers.
- Maintain a Secure Environment: The platform allows you to set a two-step authentication process. Its robust customizations accommodate any type of security permissions you need to configure.
- Unify Your Brand Across Apps and Communities: Salesforce Mobile Publisher is a tool that lets you add your company’s branding to apps you design or Lightning Communities you build. This enables your business to maintain a consistent online presence. Mobile Publisher supports listing your apps in the Apple App and Google Play stores.
- Support a Partner Community: Sales Cloud is equipped with a partner relationship management (PRM) module that simplifies the process of managing your channel. A complete toolset enables your organization to onboard partners, automate channel marketing and sales, view analytics, and provide customer service. The PRM solution comes with two turnkey offerings — pre-built templates in Sales Cloud and Lightning Bolt configurations based on industry.
Salesforce is used by companies around the world, ranging from small businesses to global enterprises. It’s suitable for organizations in any industry, such as consumer goods, communications, media, manufacturing, retail, government, healthcare and life sciences. Salesforce’s more than 150,000 customers include AWS, T-Mobile, Unilever, Adidas, Farmers Insurance, Samsonite, Yeti and American Express.
For nonprofits or education institutions looking for a CRM, Salesforce.org offers products that encompass the unique needs faced by those in the nonprofit, higher education, K-12 education and philanthropy fields. For example, the Nonprofit Cloud includes program management and fundraising, while the Education Cloud for K-12 includes fundraising and grants management.
Salesforce CRM Basics: An Overview of Modules and Their Features
Salesforce is a massive solution. In fact, the Salesforce.com platform consists of 12 individual products, each of which can be deployed as standalone solutions. In this section, we’ll cover nine prominent applications to help you understand what you’d be getting with each.
- Sales Cloud
- Service Cloud
- Marketing Cloud
- Commerce Cloud
- Lightning Platform
- MuleSoft Anypoint Platform
- Einstein Analytics
The primary components of Salesforce Sales Cloud are:
- Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ)
- Sales performance management (SPM)
- An AI add-on (Einstein Analytics), which costs extra
The CPQ module is a complete quote-to-cash application that supports the full billing process. It offers a configuration tool for companies that sell configurable products. You can generate proposals and quotes, streamline the approval process, automate renewals, and incorporate upsell and cross-sell opportunities. There’s also a quoting tool you can use to create branded quotes with a single click.
With sales performance management, you gain a complete view of performance across individual reps and teams. It includes things such as forecasting, performance evaluation, quotas, goal setting, commissions and more.
Adding Einstein will give your reps the analytics tools needed to improve and streamline their selling. Here are some of the features specific to Sales Cloud:
- Lead scoring
- Opportunity insights
- Account insights
- Automatic activity capture
- Sales analytics
This product is an all-in-one customer service platform. It has tools for managing every interaction, whether in the office or out in the field. And it’s poised to gain even deeper capabilities, thanks to Salesforce’s acquisition of ClickSoftware in August 2019.
Field Service Lightning, one of the main elements of Service Cloud, was designed for companies with mobile workforces. It provides on-the-go access to customer info, optimal routes, data from IoT devices, visibility into mobile workforce operations, automated scheduling for appointments and more.
In addition to Field Service Lightning, Service Cloud brings a lot of other features to the table. Let’s take a look.
- Centralized console where agents can view all relevant case information
- Case management
- Knowledge management (including a knowledgebase)
- Service process automation
- Omni-channel routing
- Service analytics (via Einstein Analytics)
- Multi-channel support (Facebook Messenger, SMS text, etc.)
- Customizable customer self-service portal and help center
- Einstein Bots (chatbots that can automate common service interactions)
- Ticketing system
- Call center scripts
- Workflows and automation
With Marketing Cloud, you gain access to a fully comprehensive marketing platform. Key features include:
Audience Studio. This is Salesforce’s data management platform (DMP). It enables you to gather customer data from which you can create audience segments, and this toolset provides insights so you can better understand your target audience’s journey, touchpoints and data signals. You can also manage customer consent when it comes to use of their data, as well as automate compliance.
Pardot. If you need B2B marketing automation, this is the feature for you. Its suite includes email automation and campaigns, prospect activity data, real-time alerts, landing pages, lifecycle reporting, and event-based triggers. Pardot supports integrating SEO and SEM programs as well.
Journey Studio. This campaign management feature allows you to build customer journeys across any channel. You can map out journeys visually, analyze and report on data, and build branded content and journeys for extended teams like franchisees or international offices.
Email Studio. With this feature, you can build extensive campaigns or hone in on 1-to-1 messaging. It lets you segment contacts, automate tasks like data import and filtering, and deliver personalized content. Email templates and drag-and-drop tools make tasks fast and easy.
Mobile Studio. You can support interactions across SMS, MMS, chat and push notifications. It also supports mobile campaigns, including geofenced messages.
Social Studio. This feature lets you manage social media marketing — monitor interactions on your channels, publish content, conduct customer service and keep track of information via central dashboards.
Advertising Studio. Here, you can manage all your advertising campaigns. It works with other tools like Pardot, Journey Builder and Sales Cloud for a coordinated effort.
Datorama. Applicable to both B2B and B2C, this feature provides insights on your marketing data. Elements include AI, automation, API integrations, reporting tools, KPI tracking, customizable dashboards and sharing.
Interaction Studio. This interaction management tool allows you to track every interaction your audience has with your company, in real time. You can also orchestrate engagements across channels and awareness stages. Interaction Studio spans both digital and offline channels, and it offers user-friendly configurations.
Data Studio. This interaction management tool allows you to track every interaction your audience has with your company, in real time. You can also orchestrate engagements across channels and awareness stages. Interaction Studio spans both digital and offline channels, and it offers user-friendly configurations.
Google Analytics 360. Integration lets you bring Google Analytics 360 into Marketing Cloud. Features include Tag Manager 360, team workspaces, Optimize 360 and tests (A/B, multivariate, etc.).
Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud supports companies in B2B and B2C environments. Here’s how:
The B2B module incorporates buying recommendations, guided experiences, self-service buying and branded partner sites. It also offers tools specific to B2B selling, such as contract pricing, account hierarchies and custom catalogs. And it supports specific industries such as consumer packaged goods, manufacturing and even B2B2C. You can integrate data from other business systems such as ERP and provide self-service tools to customers.
On the B2C side, functionality includes mobile commerce, SEO optimization, page building, storefront creation and extensions like loyalty programs. You can use Einstein Analytics for things like search and product recommendations, shopping basket analysis, and predictive sorting of categories so each shopper has a customized experience. The B2C module also aids global business with multi-language support.
Another main feature of Commerce Cloud is Lightning Order Management, a full-fledged order management system. You can:
- Manage workflows visually
- Create code-free automations
- Integrate apps for warehouse management and other areas
- Fulfill orders
- Provide service reps with a central tool for handling issues like cancellations or returns
Finally, Commerce Cloud brings digital support into physical stores with its Endless Aisle feature. It includes mobile apps for store staff, real-time inventory, and a 360-degree view of customers across digital and in-person mediums.
Heroku is an engagement platform that allows you to build custom cloud apps so your brand can deliver better experiences for customers. It lets you:
- Offload intensive tasks from Salesforce for better system performance
- Use open-source programming languages to create scalable apps that sync relevant data from Salesforce
- Create an ecosystem where data flows easily between business systems and apps, such as Heroku and a legacy system
- Sync data bi-directionally between Heroku and Salesforce
Salesforce’s Lightning Platform, also known as Lightning Experience or LEX, is an application for designing apps.
It has extensive flexibility that caters to users of all technical levels. You can create apps without using code, thanks to pre-built components, plug-and-play features and a drag-and-drop builder. Or you can take advantage of professional-grade coding tools, including an open development environment, for more complex projects that require programming expertise.
The Lightning Platform also enables you to create apps from spreadsheets in a couple clicks and supports the creation of mobile apps.
MuleSoft Anypoint Platform
MuleSoft is the primary integration tool used in the Salesforce ecosystem. It supports processes within a range of other products (e.g., Heroku) and lets you accomplish a wide variety of integrations with Salesforce. You can connect with systems like Oracle and SAP via the hybrid platform, which supports both cloud and on-premise deployments.
- Reusable components such as templates and API designs
- Design center
- Security configurations
- Customizable dashboards that let you manage SLAs, transactions and other critical elements of your integrations
Einstein Analytics is a no-code AI tool that delivers business intelligence data to users. As a standalone product, it requires separate purchase from other products such as Sales Cloud. However, Einstein is part of the tightly integrated Salesforce platform, so it can be easily plugged into other products.
Einstein enables you to uncover data insights within Salesforce and uses visual tools like dashboards to make information easy to understand. It does this across all business systems, even those external to Salesforce, providing you with a single, centralized location for data analysis.
Here are some of Einstein’s capabilities:
- Connectors for database services, warehouse, enterprise applications and more
- Self-contained ETL
- Prescriptive and predictive analytics
- An app designer
- Pre-built templates
- Notifications and alerts
- Integration with workflow automation
- Mobile-friendly design
As mentioned, you can build dashboards, templates and other elements without code. This eliminates the need for IT help and simplifies the build process for quicker deployment.
Chatter is a collaboration solution that enables you to create a robust company social network. With it, users can easily share documents and connect with subject matter experts within the organization.
Here are some of the things you can do with Chatter:
- Store files in a secure, central repository
- Enhance collaboration across teams and projects
- Take your work anywhere with the mobile app
- Handle internal activities such as submitting support cases
- Build groups
- Keep track of information in social feeds
This helps you accomplish project management tasks more effectively. Chatter use cases range from customer service to sales.
Salesforce Drawbacks: Is the System Right for You?
Salesforce has a massive customer base and is the industry standard for CRM. However, it’s not for everyone and has limits for certain users. If you’ve done any research on it, you’re probably familiar with the dynamic that some people love it and some people loathe it.
Let’s go over some of the main issues people run into when using Salesforce.
As you’d expect, such a robust system comes with a hefty price tag — especially if you have a large number of users or deploy multiple modules. For many businesses, it’s difficult to justify the cost.
Mega companies may find the ROI worth the steep prices, but small businesses often can’t afford the hit to their budget. Salesforce does offer pricing plans specifically for SMBs, so if you’re a small business, you may want to investigate. But know that even the lightweight options won’t come cheap.
One of the things that make people sing Salesforce’s praise — its limitless customization — also happens to be an Achilles heel depending on who you ask.
Yes, you can customize and configure pretty much anything you want. But with that great power comes great complexity.
Unless you’re technically savvy or have an IT specialist on hand who can handle the job, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. And often, hiring a Salesforce developer is necessary for more complicated customizations.
If you’re considering Salesforce for your company, ask yourself how much customization you need and if that level of complexity will be worth the time and effort involved.
Because Salesforce is so complex, there’s a steep learning curve involved, especially for non-technical users. With so many options, it’s easy to get lost and confused. This can result in spending more time figuring out the platform and less time being productive.
While we cited ease of use as a top benefit of using Salesforce, many users find that navigating the interface is difficult.
Salesforce provides robust training via its Trailhead e-learning program, but even so, learning everything there is to know about the system can be tedious and take a long time. If you want a platform that isn’t hard to get accustomed to, you may want to look elsewhere.
Due to the complex nature of the platform, implementation help is often required in order to ensure the system is set up correctly. This can drive up the cost, and it removes the ability to get started using the system as quickly as with other CRMs.
There’s quite a divide over this aspect of the system. We’ve already covered what the Lightning Platform can do. But beneath the surface, many users find problems with it.
The main issue cited is poor speed (slow loading, unresponsive pages, etc.). Lightning, in contrast to its name, isn’t nearly as fast as the Salesforce Classic UI for a lot of customers. Salesforce has acknowledged the problems and is working on fixes, but the potential impact until the bugs are cleared up is something to consider for your company.
Salesforce Is the CRM Leader, But It’s Not the Only Choice
Salesforce is the most dominant CRM in the market, as confirmed by a Gartner report published in June 2019. It holds nearly 20% of the market share, more than double that of the next closest vendor, SAP, and was ranked the top CRM for the 6th year in a row.
This dominance shouldn’t come as a surprise. But that doesn’t mean Salesforce is the lone player. The CRM industry as a whole is booming. You don’t have to look far to find a host of solid alternatives to Salesforce. (Check out the relevant articles in the right sidebar for additional resources on this topic.)
In other noteworthy news, Salesforce acquired business intelligence vendor Tableau in a massive deal in June 2019. While analysts were split on whether the acquisition was a smart move, the fact remains that Salesforce is clearly seeking to strengthen its BI capabilities.
Our article Salesforce Acquires Tableau for $15.7 Billion: What It Means for Software Buyers, covers this topic in-depth if you want to understand how it might affect you.
Salesforce Suite Support
Salesforce offers a wide variety of resources to help users succeed. Some of the services, such as contacting support (as described below) and accessing success plans and features are only available upon logging in to an account. In addition, extended services such as developer support and access to a success manager, are only available with a Premier or Premier Plus plan. Adoption and Advisory services are also offered and include services like one-on-one coaching and technical guidance.
mail_outlineEmail: No support email is listed. Users can contact support after logging in to their account.
phonePhone: Users with Premier and Premier Plus plans can contact support via phone after logging in to their account.
schoolTraining: Salesforce has robust training options for users. It primarily delivers content via its Trailhead program. Training formats include self-paced e-learning as well as live workshops and classes. Certifications are available, as well as training to become a Salesforce Administrator. Trailhead also provides access to a large Salesforce community known as Trailblazers, where users can share tips, get answers and learn from one another. Besides the Trailhead program, Salesforce has an extensive knowledgebase, technical documentation and admin resources.
local_offerTickets: Users can create, submit and track cases from within the Help and Training section of their account. Salesforce’s website also has a Known Issues area, where users can sort through problems by status or tag.