Home / Definitions / Salesforce


Lucas Ledbetter
Last Updated May 19, 2022 11:37 am

Square Salesforce logo.

Salesforce is a SaaS company and cloud customer relationship management (CRM) software platform. It includes an ecosystem of applications for customer service, marketing automation, data analytics, and application development services that integrate with CRM, each other, and a wide variety of third-party applications.

Salesforce cloud CRM applications are used in a variety of industries, including sales, customer service, finance, marketing, HR and recruiting, supply chain management, business development, and more. Due to its scalability, breadth of features, and cost, it is mainly used by growing businesses and large corporations.

As of 2021, Salesforce has the largest share of the CRM market at 19.8%, more than its four leading competitors combined.

What are Salesforce’s key features?

Main services offered by the Salesforce platform include tools for tracking customers and sales accounts as well as recording, storing, tracking, and processing the case, task, and issue management of an organization.

A primary offering by Salesforce is Customer 360, a CRM platform that brings together customer data across sales, marketing, customer service, and other customer touchpoints. Customer 360 utilizes Mulesoft, which connects to customer data points and displays data in a single view; Einstein AI, which is used to automate tasks and to offer predictive analytics; and Tableau, which is used for data visualization and insights. It also includes Salesforce Digital 360, which provides Salesforce users with customer-facing marketing, commerce, and online experience tools.

Beyond Salesforce Customer 360, Salesforce services are clustered into groups of applications based on use, including Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, App Cloud, Analytics Cloud, IoT Cloud, Experience Cloud, and Chatter. The respective clouds each function more like SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS depending on the particular combination of application integrations they comprise.

Each cloud platform provides a different array of services for users, but key applications that are integrated into the various cloud platforms include Salesforce Einstein AI, Salesforce Lightning, Heroku, Mulesoft Anytime Platform, Quip, Pardot, Salesforce AppExchange, and Tableau.

  • Salesforce Einstein AI provides AI-driven predictive analytics and task automation.
  • Salesforce Lightning Platform or Force.com is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that provides developer tools for the creation of add-on applications that integrate with the main Salesforce applications. These add-ons increase the customizability of Salesforce by enhancing the main applications with business process automation, custom business logic, custom UI, integration with third-party applications, and responsive layouts.
  • Salesforce AppExchange is an online cloud-computing application and consulting services marketplace for applications that run on Lightning Platform.
  • Heroku is a cloud container-based PaaS with tools for simplifying the deployment and management of applications.
  • MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform is a hybrid integration platform (part cloud-based, part local software platform) that enables the integration of applications, data, and devices across SaaS, SOA, and APIs with Salesforce Customer 360.
  • Quip is a content collaboration platform that facilitates document workflow between departments and teams by embedding live Salesforce CRM data and automatically updating it to ensure collaborating parties are all using current information.
  • Pardot is a cloud-based marketing automation platform that provides lead and customer management, marketing analytics, personalized marketing reporting, and website and social marketing tracking. It also automates digital marketing campaigns and syncs data with Salesforce CRM.
  • Tableau is a platform that offers business intelligence analytics and data visualization.

Salesforce also offers services such as myTrailhead, a customizable online training platform; Salesforce Blockchain aids with the construction of blockchain networks and apps to integrate with the CRM; and Work.com, a social performance management platform.

Advantages of Salesforce

Scalability is achieved through the software’s multi-tenant and metadata architecture. Industry-leading customization is achieved through plentiful configuration options as well as integration with other applications and platforms in the Salesforce ecosystem, user-developed applications, and third-party applications.

Salesforce CRM’s core functionality is related to lead management. However, its deep customizability and broad integrative capability allow it to gather, display, and analyze comprehensive business and customer data in order to generate reports and predictive analytics. Additional features also include automation and workflow tools to help make business operations more efficient.

Compared to other CRMs on the market, Salesforce provides the most scalable, comprehensive, and customizable cloud-based CRM solutions. This makes the Salesforce platform appeal to growing businesses and large enterprises.

Disadvantages of Salesforce

Some of the same features that are the basis of Salesforce’s advantages also give rise to its disadvantages. The scalability, comprehensiveness, and customizability of Salesforce all lead to complexities in pricing and implementation.

Salesforce pricing is per user and depends on the service level agreement. However, the sheer breadth of features and customizability of Salesforce products create additional costs of implementation, both up front and over time.

While higher service levels provide more features, not all applications and integrations available on Salesforce platforms are included in subscriptions at any level. Add-ons, integrations, licenses, and products may need to be purchased or subscribed to in order to customize Salesforce services for individual business needs.

Due to the complexity of configuring and integrating multiple applications and add-ons and Salesforce’s highly customizable design, it is often not preconfigured for any particular business out of the box and requires significant technical expertise to set up and implement the software. This may require the hiring of in-house staff or a third-party vendor that specializes in Salesforce implementation. Staff may also require training to learn how to utilize Salesforce in business operations.

Storage limits can also have complex rules. Many organizations require additional storage, but predicting when storage limits will be surpassed, triggering additional storage fees, can be difficult.

In the end, if such costs and challenges are not planned for, CRM adoption can result in high costs, loss of productivity during long implementations, and possible implementation failure. Even with successful implementation, return on investment for such a complex system can be difficult to measure.

Alternatives to Salesforce

Alternatives to Salesforce include other CRMs with comprehensive features and that integrate with a wide range of applications, such as:

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