by Stephanie Miles
Published on 1 August 2013
Through the power of the cloud, Salesforce has been serving the needs of small, medium and large businesses. The CRM and sales application is able to take the security and big data needs of large enterprises and deliver those through a scalable and affordable monthly subscription model that works extremely well for small business owners. Local merchants can now use the platform to connect with customers, close more deals, and ultimately grow their businesses without relying on outside marketers or consultants.
In this Salesforce review, I will look at the platform through the eyes of a small business owner. I will pay close attention to the setup process, which can sometimes be burdensome for business owners with little technical experience, and I will decide which features could be most useful for SMB clients. Based on my research, I will offer my opinion as to whether business owners can expect a strong return on their investment when they utilize the Salesforce platform.
Salesforce provides small businesses with customizable CRM, contact management and customer service software. Rather than searching through email archives for client contact information, past meeting agendas, and contracts related to previous deals, savvy business owners can now bring all their most important data together in Salesforce.
In addition to its powerful CRM tools, Salesforce also provides small businesses with a number of features that are useful for in-house collaboration. Managers can assign tasks or accounts to certain employees (for example, assigning a sales rep the task of following up on a new lead). Managers can then follow the status of that account from within Salesforce's Chatter tool, tracking which employee is responsible for taking the next step at any given time.
Because Salesforce is a cloud-based system, the platform is available on any device with an Internet connection. Business owners do not need to maintain hardware and software and can instead focus their energy on their own business, staff and routes to market. Another benefit of the cloud, is that business owners can keep a close eye on their companies on their mobile devices or laptops, when they're working from home, traveling for business, or spending vacation time with their families.
As a CRM and contact manager, Salesforce primarily functions as a tool for centralizing important business data. By adding projects, clients, accounts, sales deals, meeting agendas, spreadsheets, presentations, and other vital documents to their Salesforce accounts, business owners decrease the likelihood of important tasks falling through the cracks.
Business data is organized by account. Managers can search for a client or account by name, and Salesforce will pull up a complete dossier that includes every file, status update, and related note. Customizable charts show what's new with each account, what the next step is, when that step needs to be taken, and which employee is responsible for taking it.
Salesforce provides business owners with a broad view of their companies, including customizable reporting and dashboard creation to get an easy view of trends across the business. Managers can see how many new leads have come in over the past week or month, and they can compare that data to previous time periods. Real-time updates ensure that the information Salesforce provides is always accurate and up-to-date. The platform's task and calendar sections are helpful in showing business owners where they should be focusing their time and energy in any given day.
Salesforce serves as a backbone for its clients, and empowers small business owners to run their businesses faster and smarter. Every detail about every client is accessible from any computer with Internet access, including mobile devices. Employee interactions can be logged in the Salesforce system, providing a clear map that shows how each business relationship got to its current point.
Businesses that use Salesforce are more likely to operate as a team than as separate individuals. By using Salesforce to create a centralized database and information hub, small businesses are able to work more efficiently. Employees can build on the work their colleagues have already put in when developing client relationships. Salesforce is an especially useful tool for eliminating redundancy among companies with more than five employees and maintaining knowledge about accounts and contacts when people leave a company as all the data is maintained in the cloud.
Log in to your Salesforce account and visit the dashboard for a clear overview of everything going on at your company. At the top of the dashboard, you'll find tabs that allow you to quickly access files, leads, accounts, contacts, reports, and other pertinent business data.
Click on the Chatter tab, and you'll be able to communicate with employees in real-time about real business related events and activities. Post comments, files, links, and polls for other people at your company to check out. You also have the option to follow specific business information that matters to you, based on your role within the company. By keeping communications internal, rather than corresponding via email, you increase privacy and security. Having these conversations attached to important business objects makes it easy for new people to get up to speed on projects, picking up where other's left off.
The Tasks and Calendars sections show everything you've got coming up in the near future, providing you with a detailed list of everything that needs to be accomplished so you can decide where to spend your time. Salesforce allows you to sync all this information with Outlook or Google Calendar.
For a broader view of everything that's going on at your business, click on the Accounts tab and have a look at the most recent accounts. You can view accounts that are new this week, and add status notes to particular accounts based on any previous experiences you've have with a client. Accounts and contacts can easily be imported in a number of formats.
Salesforce provides small businesses with the same award-winning service as its large enterprise clients. The Help Portal offers hundreds of articles, which can be searched by keyword or browsed by topic, along with information on best practices. Salesforce offers a number of online courses and trainings, along with personal support by phone or online. The Salesforce community is also an excellent resource for new users who are hoping to get basic questions answered right away.
Salesforce offers three editions for small businesses. Businesses who opt for the Group plan can expect to pay $25 per user, per month, for up to five users. The Professional plan, which happens to be the most popular, costs $65 per user, per month, for an unlimited number of users. Finally, the Enterprise plan costs $125 per user, per month, for an unlimited number of users. The Enterprise plan also offers a bevy of advanced features, including call scripts, business workflows, advanced analytics, and the ability to integrate systems with the API.
The only way that small businesses can compete with large corporations in today's global economy is by utilizing the right tools. Salesforce has adapted its CRM and contact management tools for small business clients, and created three pricing plans that local merchants can afford. Businesses that use Salesforce are better able to track new leads, as well as ongoing deals. The platform operates in real-time, and it automatically handles mundane tasks like updating the status of projects and optimizing account profiles to decrease company redundancy.
Ratings: ease of use 4/5, features 5/5, value 5/5