Salesforce is a leading enterprise customer relationship manager (CRM) application.
(pricing quoted for Salesforce Sales Cloud; similar pricing tiers for Service Cloud)
Last updated September 19, 2014. Please visit the official site for the most up-to-date information.
When you think of CRM apps today, you’ll mostly think of hosted web apps. Most CRMs of today are run on the vendor’s servers and paid for on a monthly basis. If there’s one industry where Software as a Service has taken hold nearly entirely, it’s the world of CRMs. Salesforce is a big part of the reason why.
The ’90’s and its tech boom brought the CRM out of its early roots as advanced contact databases, and cemented names like Oracle and SAP in the world of CRMs. These CRMs were huge applications run on in-house servers. With the growth of the internet, though, there was another way that a number of former Oracle executives capitalized on: cloud computing.
Salesforce was first launched in early 2000 as an online CRM where you could keep track of all of you sales info with your team from anywhere with a web browser. It was designed to be simple with no fluff, similar to Amazon’s website. And, it was one of the first online applications with an API, so you could send information to Salesforce from any other app—the beginnings of what would make apps like Zapier possible.
Thus Salesforce was born as one of the first major Software as a Service products. Use it today, and both its origins from a team of people from a databasing company and its long legacy as an online application are both readily apparent. These both give it versatility to be useful for almost any need and the deep industry recognition and support to be common among most large enterprises, but they also give it a dated feeling compared to other web apps.
Today, Salesforce is more than just a CRM. At the core, there’s the Salesforce1 Platform, a CRM-centric online database platform that you can use to power your own apps. If you’re using Salesforce’s default apps, you’ll be picking between different features that are all powered by the same platform. There’s the default Sales Cloud, a customizable CRM with all the contact tracking, reports, automation, and email integration you’d expect from a CRM. There’s also the Service Cloud which uses the same contact database to help you provide support to your customers and more.
You’ll also find the Marketing cloud, numerous other apps on the AppExchange, and other smaller apps like Desk.com for simple email support, Chatter for team chat, RelateIQ for simple email CRM, and Heroku for hosting your own web apps. Chatter comes default with most of the Salesforce apps, while the others typically are stand-along subscriptions.
But the main Salesforce apps are still the primary focus. They’re all built on the same online database system, and each let you customize them for the features you need. Their web apps look quite dated, but the companion mobile apps feature a far more modern design. Plus, thanks to API integrations, you’ll use Salesforce as the place to keep all your data, but will likely only use certain parts of the app yourself since there’s so much in Salesforce.
You’ll find detailed analytics with customizable reports on anything you need to keep tabs on, along with forecasting that’ll help you plan the future of your company based on your recent sales and growth. There’s customizable permissions and workflows, marketing automation to help you pick out the best leads automatically, and special consoles and dashboards for each of the different parts of your team so everyone can work the way that makes the most sense to them. All of that’s built off the same contact database, so you can find anything manually whenever you need.
Salesforce will take you time to learn and customize to your needs, and it’ll likely be less “fun” to start using than other newer CRMs. But if you need a powerful sales tool that’s been part of the enterprise world for over a decade and a half, there’s little better to choose from than Salesforce. And while it can be expensive, it also has approachable basic plans that can help your team get started, then let you upgrade as you need more features, something you can’t do with an app that simply doesn’t have this breadth of features.
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