By Chris Thompson
You recognize the brand, you’ve seen the San Francisco takeover every year, but you’re still left with the question: what is Salesforce?
If you’re a prospective user of Salesforce, a newbie on the platform, or you’re looking to learn more about how the technology can optimize your business, this FAQs article should answer all of your queries about the world’s #1 CRM product.
What is Salesforce?
Salesforce is the world’s number one Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, used by more than 150,000 companies worldwide.
It is a completely cloud-based system, with standalone applications for sales, customer service, and marketing among Salesforce’s comprehensive product suite.
Salesforce is used by small and large businesses looking for a simple and secure way to store their customer data, generate more leads and sales opportunities, oversee marketing campaigns, and interact with customers throughout all stages of their journey.
What does Salesforce offer?
Salesforce is designed to service all aspects of the modern business, and houses several product trees underneath the Salesforce umbrella.
As Salesforce products are based in the cloud, they can be seamlessly integrated, as well as with external applications such as email, social media, Microsoft Office and content management systems.
Salesforce is also completely customizable, which allows users to build their own bespoke solution that perfectly services the needs of their business — no coming up short, but also no unnecessary applications taking up space.
Here are the core Salesforce products:
A sales team is only as strong as the database propping it up; Sales Cloud will oversee all aspects of the process, from lead generation to following through with a sale, to using that data to inform future activity.
Users can utilize detailed account and contact management to have a complete 360 view of their customer, and make informed sales decisions based on contact and purchase history, notes and documents shared internally by other members of the team, and insight gained from social media.
Salesforce’s Einstein AI module will track where a lead came from, score it, and use that to inform which products and services are the most appropriate. What’s more, Einstein will identify the opportune time to approach potential and repeat customers, ensuring users never catch the lead when it’s cold.
Sales data visualization has also never been easier, with a sophisticated dashboard that allows users to create custom sales forecasting reports as well as track the wider team’s performance.
Sales Cloud also extends to Salesforce’s mobile application, accessible via smartphone or tablet. This makes it simple to log, visualize, and utilize sales data, even when you’re on the go.
Modern customers want immediate solutions to their problems, which is why Service Cloud allows users to build self-service customer service portals, encourage speedy and efficient interactions with customers, as well as manage their reputation by tracking and responding to any mention of their brand online.
Direct contact from customers, whether queries or complaints, will be logged with a view to respond ASAP. The aim is to decrease the handle time for each case, and Service Cloud will suggest ways to do this, either through pre-preparing communication for certain outcomes, or introducing workflows for automated responses.
Through social customer service, users can monitor and respond to customer posts on all the major social networks. Service Cloud also boasts integration with telephony, which is particularly useful for large businesses that use contact centers for customer service.
Marketing Cloud is Salesforce’s solution to building and tracking customer journeys. Whether it’s liking a social post, opening a mailshot, or interacting with a particular piece of content, Marketing Cloud can analyze individual customer profiles to tell the user what kind of person they are dealing with and how to turn an interaction into a sale.
B2B marketing automation is made possible through the Pardot application, which combines sales and marketing data in one single portal; this makes visualizing and analyzing business data far easier.
Users can also customize their marketing efforts in detail via the various creation studios housed within Marketing Cloud. Social posts can be drafted, scheduled and analyzed through Social Studio, while mailshots can be created and cleverly distributed through Email Studio. Likewise, Advertising Studio will identify the most effective forms of digital advertising for the user and suggest ways to tailor campaigns to maximize return.
As is the theme with Salesforce products, data-driven insights are made possible through Marketing Cloud’s integration with other services in the Salesforce suite.
What are the (system) requirements for Salesforce?
Salesforce is a cloud-based CRM platform and so does not have minimum system requirements in the way that an on-premise CRM solution would. However, internet connectivity is required, and the Salesforce online application is only compatible with the following browsers:
What releases are currently available?
Salesforce commits to making a new release three times a year; this usually results in Winter, Spring, and Summer releases.
The Salesforce Summer ’18 release notes are available here. The emphasis of this version was on delivering more personalized and integrated customer journeys, with new levels of data insight across the many Salesforce products.
What certifications are available?
Salesforce certifications are globally recognized credentials that provide an immediate level of legitimacy to a Salesforce professional’s resume. Not only will these set the candidate apart from their peers, but also give them the opportunity to upskill in the process.
The following are active Salesforce certifications as of October 2018, with the registration and retake fee (US Dollars) listed alongside. These fees do not include local tax:
Check out our Salesforce Admin Certification guide HERE.
Check out our Salesforce Developer Certification guide HERE.
Those claiming to hold certifications can be verified by Salesforce. This is particularly useful for double-checking an applicant’s credentials.
How much do Salesforce certifications cost and how are they taken?
The cost of taking a Salesforce certification exam varies from path to path, but tends to reflect the complexity of the certification and the amount of training required to study towards it.
Registration for all Salesforce Developer Certification exams is available online, and professionals have the choice of where they take the exam, depending on their location.
Salesforce’s partnership with Kryterion makes it possible to take certification exams at any number of testing centers around the world, located in most major cities. Alternatively, the online proctored exam enables the professional to take their certification exam from the comfort of their own home. During the exam, an invigilator will monitor them through their webcam, as well as be able to view their computer screen.
Who uses Salesforce and why?
Salesforce can be used by all branches of a business to gain, retain, and appease customers. It is just as useful for effective data administration as it is for identifying new opportunities, which is why it’s such a popular CRM solution across a diverse range of industries.
If the lifeblood of an organization is sales, the insight, forecasting, and reporting features boasted by Sales Cloud will give every advantage to a sales team, regardless of its size. The platform is utilized by all roles within the sales spectrum.
Moving to a completely different area of business, Marketing Cloud allows marketing executives to draft, schedule, and tailor campaigns to offer custom content for new and returning customers. It is valuable for social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, B2B marketing automation, digital advertising, and organic search—virtually all roles across digital marketing.
The culture of customer service is changing, and Service Cloud empowers staff to keep track of customer interactions before highlighting the quickest and most effective resolution. Its integration with telephony also makes it a brilliant solution for contact centers.
How can it help businesses grow?
Salesforce is ultimately a conversion-centric platform, and so will help businesses grow by increasing sales.
a will generate a higher volume of sales leads through intelligent marketing, before managing and nurturing those leads until the opportune time to approach the customer. When the sale is made, Salesforce will use that information to inform future marketing and sales efforts — it is a constant cycle of sourcing and harnessing data to improve future processes.
Customer retention is also hugely important, and Salesforce supports this by offering exceptional customer service solutions. The emphasis is always on finding the quickest and most effective solution for customers, ideally through self-service portals. A positive customer service experience is extremely important for repeat business.
By streamlining business processes, Salesforce is also extremely valuable for increasing productivity. This allows staff to focus more time on their job role as opposed to data administration or analysis; resources can be invested in more sales staff or valuable people who will enrich the business, instead of hiring extra people to prop up the back end.
What is the difference between Salesforce and its competitors?
“Salesforce maintains its competitive lead due to its focus and direction on business applications for employees and end customers, engaged through sales, customer support and marketing.”—Gartner
Salesforce’s main competitors are Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, and HubSpot. Salesforce CRM is not a unique concept, as many of its competitors offer similar sales, marketing, and customer service solutions. Where Salesforce differs is that it is entirely cloud-based, which makes it much easier to navigate remotely, on mobile, or even when integrated with third-party products.
Read our Salesforce vs Microsoft Dynamics comparison guide HERE.
Read our Salesforce vs Oracle comparison guide HERE.
One of the largest distinguishing factors between Salesforce and its competitors is the depth of the Salesforce AppExchange. This is a market for Independent Software Vendors with available Salesforce integrations—the potential this offers the Salesforce platform is immeasurable. Salesforce says 83% of its 150,000+ customers have installed at least one app.
Instead of Salesforce trying to develop the best standalone solution for every feasible problem, it can rely on seamless integration with the market leader within a certain niche. Why would Salesforce try to develop the world’s best social network when it integrates so easily with Facebook and Twitter?
How much does it cost?
How long does it take to implement?
It’s impossible to give a definitive answer on how long a Salesforce implementation will take. It depends on whether a business is migrating from another CRM, how much source data needs to be profiled, cleansed and mapped, and also whether the business opts for an out-of-the-box Salesforce solution or a custom build.
While there is no blanket answer for how long a Salesforce implementation takes, this is something that prospective Salesforce users will find out very early in the implementation cycle. With the assistance of an implementation partner, businesses will outline an implementation roadmap, detailing what will happen at each stage of the process and what needs to happen before the system goes live. This can only be outlined after your Salesforce Partner assesses your data quality and the challenges associated with migrating that data.
What are the roles in Salesforce:
It doesn’t take a huge team to implement Salesforce CRM. You need to cover the following key roles (and the same person can cover more than one role):
Maintenance and support
The following information is from Salesforce Trailhead:
Salesforce Market Information
Thanks to the popularity of Salesforce Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Service Cloud, as well as the boost to functionality across the Salesforce product suite thanks to Einstein AI, the company pushed its revenue beyond $10 billion in 2018.
Salesforce also raised its revenue forecast for 2019 to approximately $12.65 billion, an increase of 21% year over year. It now has three CRM software lines producing revenue of over $1 billion: Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, and Marketing Cloud.
Salesforce enjoys more than 150,000 customers worldwide, and was named the #1 CRM provider in the 2017 International Data Corporation Worldwide Semiannual Software Tracker report, with 19.6% of the market share revenue worldwide (compared to its closest competitor, Oracle, at 7.1%). Salesforce’s individual sales, marketing, and customer service products were named the market leader in their respective fields.
In its 2018 Magic Quadrant report for digital commerce, Gartner named Salesforce as a leader for the third year running. It maintained its position based on the strength of Salesforce Sales Cloud’s functionality, the quality of improvement to Sales Cloud, and the growth of its installed base
The Gartner Magic Quadrant Report contains invaluable information about Salesforce and its competitor products, and is well worth a read.
Cloud security and data protection is a real hot topic at the moment, particularly with the introduction of GDPR.
Salesforce security specialist FairWarning recently released an industry-first cloud visibility report. It was designed to provide insights into users’ activity in the cloud, using data from nearly 50 companies monitoring over 18,000 users.
Key findings include:
Read more about FairWarning’s Cloud Visibility Report here.
Salesforce Marketing Automation and Pardot
As if its status as the world’s number one CRM wasn’t affirmed enough, Salesforce was recently positioned by Gartner as a Leader in its 2018 Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management. Salesforce was placed for its completeness of vision and ability to execute, with Pardot highlighted as a key offering in its product suite.
Salesforce Pardot enables marketing and sales teams to align better than ever with innovative lead management capabilities including AI-powered lead scoring, lead nurturing and lead routing—delivering a smarter and more personalized customer experience.
“A single platform across sales and marketing is crucial to delivering best-in-class lead management,” said Michael Kostow, SVP & GM, Salesforce Pardot. “Powered by artificial intelligence and marketing analytics—including multi-touch attribution—Pardot helps customers increase pipeline, sales and drive deeper relationships.”
Salesforce Pardot is a leading B2B marketing automation solution, delivering intelligent lead management, faster sales cycles and a smarter, more personalized customer experience. With innovative features including recently announced Einstein Campaign Insights and Einstein Behavior Scoring, Pardot empowers marketers to create more leads, increase pipeline and arm sales teams with personalized content at the right time. Pardot customers like VMWare have experienced a 20 percent increase in productivity, a 20 percent increase in additional revenue and an overall 641 percent increase in return on investment1.
Gartner defines CRM lead management as applications that facilitate a business’s inbound and outbound customer acquisition, online and offline. Lead management integrates business process and technology to close the loop between marketing and direct or indirect sales channels, and to drive higher-value opportunities through improved demand creation, execution and opportunity management. This critical connectivity facilitates business profitability through the acquisition of new customers and retention or upselling of existing customers.
What does Salesforce’s new strategic partnership with Apple entail?
What happens when two technology giants join forces? Beautiful things. Apple is the company behind the world’s most advanced mobile operating system, and its newly announced strategic partnership with Salesforce is no doubt set to make the number one CRM platform even more accessible to both users and customers.
These are exciting times, but what does this new partnership mean for Salesforce users?
A brand new Salesforce mobile app. Complete with exciting Apple capabilities such as Face ID and Business Chat, the redesigned Salesforce app also utilize Siri technology, which opens up a world of possibilities.
A Trailhead mobile app. Trailhead is arguably the world’s most sophisticated open learning portal, and is responsible for launching the career of thousands of Salesforce professionals. Trailhead arriving on iOS is fantastic news for both fresh and experienced members of the Ohana.
Salesforce mobile SDK. For Salesforce professionals, it will now be easier than ever to build and deploy bespoke applications on iOS using the Lightning Platform.
New developer Trails. To help developers get started on building iOS apps, Apple will be adding a new Get Started with iOS App Development Trail, which will teach users how to build apps in Xcode with Swift (Apple’s programming language).
Read more about the partnership HERE.
We hope this article has answered all of your burning questions about the Salesforce platform. If we haven’t quite satisfied your curiosity, feel free to ask a question in the comments below and we will get back to you as soon as we can with an answer!
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