HomeBlogSmall BusinessIs Salesforce worth it for small business?

Is Salesforce worth it for small business?

If you are reading this, than it is highly likely you are looking for CRM solutions for your business and you are comparing multiple different systems, their features and you also, probably are overwhelmed with the amount of information available out there.

Well, you are not alone. I’ve been where you are now more than ten years ago, now let me share my story with you.

How I discovered Salesforce

My first office where I started discovering CRM world

At the age of 18, I was a novice working at my parents’ company, confined to an inexpensive office desk and chair, the wheels of which squeaked over the laminate floors. The dreary spring season in the North, where day and night were both marked by darkness, set the backdrop to my everyday routine.

My primary responsibility was to identify potential clients, make cold calls, and invite them to our showroom. My parents ran a fashion business, and we were continuously on the lookout for boutique stores interested in showcasing our latest collections. It was during this endeavor that I encountered the complexities of managing and remembering numerous conversations, promises, and contact details.

Being young and inexperienced, my lack of knowledge turned out to be an unlikely advantage. Without the burden of knowing what was deemed impossible, I started my quest for a solution, a means to keep track of all my interactions.

I chanced upon Salesforce relatively early in my search since it’s a very popular customer relationship management software. I signed up and was immediately taken aback by the intricate array of features it presented. However, as an ambitious youngster yearning for simplicity, I sidelined Salesforce in search of a less complex tool with an easier learning curve.

After a long journey of five years, testing out hundreds of business tools, I finally found myself circling back to Salesforce. With the perspective I gained over the years, I can confidently say that settling for Salesforce felt like a match made in heaven.

Why Salesforce wasn’t a good deal for small business?

Many people online believe that Salesforce, the famous Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, was initially designed for big companies with big budgets. This was somewhat true about ten years ago when Salesforce was mainly for larger, more complex businesses.

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    However, things have changed over time. Salesforce has evolved from being seen as a bulky, user-unfriendly software to a versatile set of applications today, all built on the same platform. This shows how Salesforce has adapted to meet different market needs, providing salesforce CRM software solutions that work for businesses of all sizes.

    To understand why Salesforce small business CRM is beneficial for small and midsize businesses too, it’s important to look closely at what the software offers. Salesforce has unique features and services that can make processes simpler, improve productivity, and help small businesses grow. It’s clear that Salesforce has transformed to not only a cloud based solution to serve big companies but also smaller businesses.

    History of Salesforce

    Just to illustrate the fact that Salesforce was here for quite a while

    Salesforce was founded in 1999 by a visionary group comprising of Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff, and Frank Dominguez, with the aim of revolutionizing the way enterprise software was delivered and used. Conceived as a cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) solution, Salesforce was originally designed with large enterprises in mind. The goal was to eradicate the need for businesses to purchase, install, and maintain their own software and hardware infrastructure. Salesforce quickly distinguished itself in the market and became synonymous with enterprise-level cloud based software solutions, launching a suite of powerful products catering to these large corporations.

    However, recognizing the growing potential and unique needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Salesforce began a strategic shift in focus a few years back. They understood that SMEs needed similar tools and capabilities as large enterprises but without the complexity or hefty price tag. Salesforce started to adapt and scale their offering, creating packages and tools designed specifically to cater to the needs and budgets of smaller businesses. Salesforce Essentials, introduced in 2017, was a key milestone in this transition, providing an affordable and simplified CRM solution aimed squarely at small and midsize businesses only.

    Despite this evolution and commitment to serving businesses of all sizes, some still perceive Salesforce as a tool designed solely for large enterprises. This is largely due to Salesforce’s initial 23 years of focus on these big entities, which left a legacy impression of Salesforce as a large, complex system. However, today’s reality is different. Salesforce has been intentionally restructured to suit the needs of small and medium-sized companies, without losing the rich feature set and capabilities that made it a leader in the enterprise space. So, whether you’re a small startup or a growing SME, Salesforce’s diverse range of solutions can now support your business needs effectively and efficiently.

    Why you don’t need to look at features

    Kid looking at the candies in the store. Illustration of the vast choice of features in Salesforce.

    Before I jump into outline all the bells and whistles salesforce has to offer, I need to share one important thought which came to me with sweat and tears of my customers. If you are just starting with implementation of CRM software, reality is that you don’t need even half of those features. You HAVE to start with few, very basic features depending on your need, like Opportunity tracking or logging a case every time the customer calls your company.

    The reason why I’m saying that is because I’ve seen tens if not hundreds of projects, where companies are trying to reinvent the wheel and “customize” CRM system to their hypothetical needs. Unfortunately, the day company first time starts using the system show (after go-live) that 90% of developed and customized features are simply ignored by users and not adopted. You should accept the fact that it will take approximately 7 times more time to adopt the feature versus how much you spend developing it

    A good consultants (like us) will guide you through the implementation process and will prevent you from developing distructive habit of building tones of bells and whisles. But let’s deep dive into the topic.

    What Salesforce has to offer for Small business?

    A man offering watermelons, just like salesforce offering product to small business.

    Salesforce, a renowned CRM solution, offers a variety of features specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of small businesses. Beyond providing small business solutions an abundant set of features, Salesforce’s starter editions are thoughtfully designed to ensure a smooth and simple implementation process, empowering smaller organizations to leverage a powerful salesforce CRM system without unnecessary complexity.

    Email Integration – Simplify your Emails

    Imagine being able to neatly catalog all your customer communications in one place. Salesforce’s email integration does precisely that. Plus, it lets you craft email templates that you can repeatedly use, ensuring uniformity and saving you precious time. It’s like having a personal assistant who keeps track of all customer interactions, helping to nurture those relationships.

    Lead Management – Never Miss a Lead

    Remember those potential customers who showed interest through your website? Salesforce’s lead management feature ensures they’re never forgotten. It allows automatic responses, keeps track of these prospects, and prepares insightful reports on their behavior. It’s like having a superpowered net capturing all potential business, ensuring no opportunity slips through.

    Opportunity Tracking

    Keeping tabs on contacts, potential deals, status changes, sales forecasting and related tasks can be daunting. But Salesforce’s opportunity tracking feature feels like having an eagle’s view of your sales landscape. You can see where to focus your efforts, make strategic decisions, and drive your sales more efficiently.

    Campaign Management

    At first glance, Salesforce’s campaign management feature may seem rudimentary, but for small B2B companies, it’s like having a marketing manager at your disposal. It helps create, oversee, and track marketing campaigns, giving you valuable insights into their performance and potential returns.

    Sales Inbox with Einstein Activity Capture: Your Mobile Command Center

    The Sales Inbox feature (part of Salesforce plethora of mobile apps), boosted by Einstein Activity Capture, takes email integration a step further. It’s like having a command center right in your pocket, giving you access to crucial emails and tasks anytime, anywhere. This paid feature in the more advanced Salesforce editions comes included in the starter editions, which is a great boon for small businesses. I should say it’s very handy for sales team on the go.

    Customer Service

    The customer service feature in Salesforce (which in fact is called salesforce service cloud) lets you log and allows implementing efficient customer service. This way, your customers’ concerns get the attention they deserve, leading to improved customer satisfaction.

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      Integrations

      While API integrations might not be a part of all Salesforce SME plans, you have a world of apps ready to bridge that gap. From Mailchimp to free PDF generation apps, you can choose from a plethora of integrations to enhance customer data between different systems. It’s like accessorizing your Swiss Army knife to fit your needs perfectly.

      Applications

      With AppExchange, Salesforce’s enterprise cloud marketplace, you get access to numerous free apps ready to extend Salesforce’s functionalities. These compatible apps are like additional gears in your business machine, making Salesforce an even more adaptable and powerful tool for managing your business.

      What Salesforce for small business can’t do

      Woman with hand on the side illustrating that Salesforce can't offer everything.

      PDF Generation

      Let’s picture this. You’ve just had a fantastic meeting with a potential client, and you want to send a detailed proposal as a PDF straight from your salesforce or CRM tools, now. You’ve heard Salesforce can do wonders, but hold on! The starter and essentials editions are like a fantastic novel, they offer a great story but they don’t include footnotes. Yes, direct PDF generation isn’t part of the package. But don’t worry, you can find several AppExchange apps to cover that chapter for you.

      Quotes & Price Calculations

      Imagine you’re on a call with a potential customer who is very interested and asks for a quick quote. You turn to Salesforce, ready to dazzle them with your speed, only to remember that Salesforce’s starter editions don’t have the quote and price calculations feature. It’s like wanting to whip up a soufflé but you don’t have an oven.

      Approval Processes

      So, you’ve got this fantastic marketing campaign that you want to run by your team for approval. You hope to set it up in Salesforce, but the starter editions don’t have the approval processes feature. It’s a bit like trying to organize a surprise party without a group chat. You can still manage it though, you just have to communicate and coordinate manually. And with all the other communication and management tools Salesforce offers, it’s still a win-win.

      Complex Automations

      You’re looking to set up a complex, automated follow-up sequence in Salesforce. It feels like you’re about to set up a Rube Goldberg machine, only to find out that the starter and essentials editions don’t support complex automations. It’s kind of like wanting to record a symphony but only having a ukulele. However, remember that even with a ukulele, you can still make beautiful music. Salesforce still offers plenty of streamlined, simple automation options that can still help save you time and energy.

      No Custom Code

      Think of trying to customize Salesforce starter editions using your own coding skills. It’s like trying to perform your own stunts in a superhero movie. While it might sound exciting, Salesforce’s starter editions aren’t equipped for custom code. But, much like the movie has a team of stunt experts, Salesforce provides a wealth of pre-configured options and integrations, so you can find most of the functionalities you need without writing a line of code.

      So, is Salesforce worth the investment?

      Let’s delve into the numbers, which are surprisingly straightforward. Salesforce offers two primary plans for small and medium enterprises – the Starter and the Professional. The Professional edition, designed for larger teams and equipped with advanced customization options, is impressive. But for the sake of simplicity, let’s kick off with the Starter option. Before diving into the specifics of pricing, though, it’s crucial to shed some light on an aspect of Salesforce for small business plans that often introduces a dose of unpredictability – the variation in base level editions.

      The flavor of Salesforce’s basic editions

      Unbeknownst to many, Salesforce’s basic editions come in different flavors. The version you land on can vary based on your geographical location and the timing of your account creation. For instance, if you’re based in the US, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself looking at one of the salesforce for small businesses or business-specialized plans like the “Shell” edition. This version allows for several hundred users and even includes quoting – a feature not typically available out-of-the-box in the standard Starter edition.

      However, if you’re operating out of Europe, you might opt for the Essentials edition, which comes bundled with some automation options. The Essentials edition I’m using to track this blog, for instance, offers these automation options. Ultimately, the edition you receive depends on Salesforce’s understanding of the small business landscape at the time of your account creation.

      Pricing and Value Proposition

      The pricing for both the Salesforce Essentials and Starter editions stands at $25 in the US and €25 in Europe. But what does this cost translate to in terms of value? Well, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Every company needs to evaluate its unique needs and how tracking customer data like opportunities or cases could enhance their operations.

      To put things into perspective and help you calculate the potential value, consider the number of opportunities you might currently be missing due to lack of visibility or transparency in sales processes. Now, imagine having all those opportunities in a single place – the result is a much more streamlined process where no opportunity slips through the cracks.

      While it’s impossible to provide a universal formula that fits all businesses, hopefully, this gives you an idea of what to consider. If you’re still unsure about how Salesforce can help boost your business, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our consultants can provide personalized insights into sales process and what your business strategy and potential gains could look like. Investing in Salesforce is about more than just adopting a CRM tool; it’s about empowering your business to become more efficient, customer-centric, and ultimately, more successful.

      How salesforce compare to other CRM systems?

      Scales illustrating choice

      Zoho CRM

      Zoho CRM platform presents itself as an attractive option for many, primarily because of its rich feature set and reasonable pricing. But as a few colleagues and I have discovered, it lacks stability and scalability in the long run. Zoho’s system on paper seems fantastic, teeming with functionalities that could potentially revolutionize your business processes. But when you try to tailor it to your specific needs, the cracks start showing. Customization in Zoho often turns into a frustrating endeavor due to frequent system bugs and a customer support team that, unfortunately, often falls short of expectations.

      Further, the lure of Zoho’s plentiful features can be deceptive. The truth is that implementing even a fraction of these features proves challenging, owing to the previously mentioned stability and customization issues. So, while Zoho might initially appeal to many businesses with its feature-rich offering, my personal experience and that of several colleagues suggests you tread carefully.

      Pipedrive

      Pipedrive is a great springboard into the world of CRM, offering a clean interface and a feature set that covers the basics for small businesses. However, it lacks the robust architecture needed as a company grows and expands its digital strategy.

      Pipedrive doesn’t scale as gracefully as one would hope when businesses start to demand more sophisticated functionalities. I’ve found that Pipedrive offers the best value for money for very small teams, but the stories of companies migrating to more flexible systems like Salesforce after a few years of Pipedrive usage are far too common. The refrain is often the same, “We lack the ability to customize.”

      Microsoft Dynamics CRM

      Microsoft Dynamics CRM, on the other hand, is a choice I find particularly puzzling. It’s certainly enticing for many small business owners, who are already immersed in the Microsoft ecosystem, as the idea of adding another product to their existing suite seems convenient. Moreover, Microsoft’s promise of seamless integration with their Office suite might seem like a winning proposition. However, the reality is far less appealing. Dynamics CRM often comes across as clunky and not particularly user-friendly. It feels like a piece of software that was designed for a bygone era of on-premise deployment and then later repurposed for the cloud. The experience it offers feels outdated, making it, in my opinion, one of the least attractive options on the market.

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        So, Is Salesforce worth it for small business?

        Man sitting at the conference room with hands together and thinking

        Taking into consideration the varied features, the scalability, and the customizability Salesforce offers, I’d say it’s a robust choice for small businesses. But like any tool, it’s not just about possessing it but how you wield it that makes the difference. the Salesforce platform provides an extensive range of capabilities that can be tailored to your business needs. However, understanding those needs, aligning them with the Salesforce platform’s potential, and then implementing the system effectively is a task that requires a certain level of expertise.

        That’s where our consultancy comes into play. We bring to the table years of experience in implementing Salesforce for businesses of all sizes. We understand the complexities of the tool, and we know how to customize it to unlock its full potential for your unique business requirements. More than a vendor, we serve as your strategic partner, ensuring Salesforce serves as an engine to propel your business forward rather than just another software tool.

        In conclusion, yes, Salesforce is absolutely worth it for small businesses. But, its value will be truly realized when it is paired with expert guidance and strategic implementation. So, I’d encourage you to get in touch with our team. Let us walk you through how Salesforce can be the cornerstone of your business’s digital transformation journey, simplifying your processes, and driving growth in ways you might not have imagined. The tool is powerful, but the right craftsman can make it truly transformative.

        System Thinker, Technology Evangelist, and Humanist, Jeff, brings a unique blend of experience, insight, and humanity to every piece. With eight years in the trenches as a sales representative and later transitioning into a consultant role, Jeff has mastered the art of distilling complex concepts into digestible, compelling narratives. Journeying across the globe, he continues to curate an eclectic tapestry of knowledge, piecing together insights from diverse cultures, industries, and fields. His writings are a testament to his continuous pursuit of learning and understanding—bridging the gap between technology, systems thinking, and our shared human experience.

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