There is a saying that, “What is right is not always easy, and what is easy is not always right.” That sums up Salesforce pretty well. It is not an easy platform, but it may (or may not) be right for you.
What is Salesforce?
We should talk about what Salesforce is before we talk about whether it is right for you. The company started as an online platform to help businesses to convert potential customers into actual customers. Basically, it is a CRM. Today, Salesforce has configurations to help manage everything from the software development process to biomedical trials. Salesforce is so adaptable because it is a relational database, so it can make itself work for nearly any type of situation. That gets us to the pros and cons.
Pro #1 – Salesforce is Adaptable
Salesforce is set up for business-to-business sales. So it defaults to concepts like customers and accounts, but what if you are in real estate? In that case, you can create custom tables (Salesforce calls them objects), which are basically like extra spreadsheets to track things like properties and potential buyers. You can even add a fancy Google Map to the Properties page to help people locate it.
Pro #2 – Salesforce is Teachable
That example about the real estate company actually comes from one of Salesforce’s own tutorials. Not only can you customize Salesforce, but Salesforce will show you how! It truly has one of the best training programs that you can find when it comes to using and configuring a customizable CRM platform.
Pro #3 – Salesforce is Mobile
Like, very mobile. Most teams need to be able to work on the go, but few have the resources (or need, really) to invest in a ground-up custom built mobile app. The Salesforce mobile app connects to your Salesforce environment, and it is not that difficult for an admin to set up special pages that are customized for phone or tablet devices.
Pro #4 – Salesforce is Simple (Sometimes)
Just because Salesforce can be customized to fit your unique business situation does not mean that it has to be. If your operations are fairly “typical,” then one of Salesforce’s free “packages” might cover all of your use cases. You can also purchase various add ons and integrations in their AppExchange. Of course, most of these will still need to be customized and configured, which brings us around to the cons.
Con #1 – Salesforce is not All That Simple
If you can install Salesforce and have it work perfectly without any customization, then you probably want to take up gambling, because you are an unusually lucky person. Either that, or your team is not innovating or setting itself apart from the competition. (The product reflects the process, after all.) To get the most out of Salesforce, you really are going to need to dig around under the hood, and it takes time to learn how to do that.
Con #2 – Salesforce is Almost Too Robust
Robust is generally a good thing, but if you are a small team, trying to use Salesforce can feel a bit like trying to drive a tank to the grocery store. It is bigger and more expensive than you need, and it makes everything take longer. Just because a product has a lot of features and can do a lot of things does not mean that that is the right product for you. In fact, the features can become distracting.
Con #3 – Salesforce Training Takes Time
While Salesforce trailheads deserve high praise for being so thorough, it would be unwise to underestimate their difficulty. The Admin Beginner trail takes just over 9 hours to complete, but those are a looong 9 hours. It is not something you are going to be able to knock out in one sitting, and expect to need to go back to it again and again. There is a reason companies hire people whose only job is to manage Salesforce. Using something well takes a sustained commitment. Such is life.
Con #4 – Salesforce Can Be Costly
A small business can sign up for Salesforce at $25/user per month (paid annually), but that is sort of like buying a Ferrari with bicycle tires. You are going to want to spring for the next level up to make it worth your while ($75). That is a bit much for tiny teams. Also factor in lost productivity learning to use and manage the platform as well as any potential developer costs for work that is beyond your team’s expertise and/or bandwidth.
From a raw technology standpoint, Salesforce is an incredibly powerful product, but it can be almost too powerful for a small team. There are companies who hire people whose only job is to manage Salesforce. So think about that before you make the plunge. Nonprofits should be especially cautious here as well, not because Salesforce is not a good fit for them. Many nonprofits use it very well, but in our experience, they are the exception. Salesforce offers free licenses to nonprofits (and good for them), but many small nonprofits who adopt it end up having to spend a great deal of money in development costs. Nonprofits have lots of unique processes, and B2B sales platforms are not necessarily well suited to them. So, as with anything, let the process drive the product, and always shop around!