Salesforce - how to make CRM sexy?

salesforce tech
7 minutes read

Customer Relationship Management systems. Sounds boring enough? You could ask virtually anyone about current hottest and most in-demand tech in the IT industry and I could bet a hefty sum the majority of responses would be one of: AI, Machine Learning, Blockchain or Virtual Reality.

This would suggest that CRM systems which handle customer data and interactions are far from being labeled as the sexy tech. Well, it turns out this thinking is completely wrong. According to Forbes, CRM is the largest and fastest growing enterprise software market in the world. Worldwide spending on CRM software reached 48.2 billion dollars in 2018 and surpassed those of the database systems. The industry’s growth prospects are amazing and there are no signs of slowing down.

Currently one major company stands out from the crowd of Customer Relationship Management systems - Salesforce. The industry leader is based in San Francisco and it proudly occupies the tallest skyscraper in the city skyline - Salesforce Tower. To let you visualize the size of the corporation I will bring some numbers: Salesforce is worth 120 billion dollars, it owns almost 20% percent of the entire CRM market and is used by 83% of the Fortune 500 companies. Numbers don’t lie, but numbers without context don’t mean anything. That is why in this post I will try to briefly explain Salesforce popularity and share my views on it which are based on my own extensive usage and development of the platform.

Who needs CRM?

What is the most important for any business? Clients. Without clients, there is no money and without money there is no business. It is relatively easy to handle all of customer data in the beginning. Excel spreadsheet or even a notebook would do. But as any venture grows, it gets harder to track who actually are your clients and what do they buy. At some point virtually every business must implement some CRM system because otherwise the lack of data organization will result in noticeably lower profits.

At higher level of business lifecycle you will want even more. Storing contact data of individual people within companies, tracking potential clients in order to effectively convert them to your customers or having all deals and contacts related to a single company in one place. The real life needs can get very complex. Meeting each one of those needs can result in profit increase and in the end, which CEO does not want it? That is where Salesforce comes in.

Run it

One important thing to notice is that every business is different. At any given company there can exist different sales processes, particular recruitment strategies and distinct ways of dealing with clients. That is why it’s crucial for any CRM system to offer extensive flexibility when it comes to defining the organizational structure. What is also worth noting - usually businesses also have common features such as database of clients, contacts or deals with a specific company and an internal system of tracking orders from suppliers.

What makes Salesforce really stand out is the fact that it can efficiently meet both the custom and standard requirements. When a company decides to implement Salesforce and buy a license, it gets a full-featured CRM system that right away provides management of:

and that is only a fraction of what you get at once. You can imagine that even just those functionalities would be enough to run a company and have all the necessary data in one place. Each one of those management systems are something which in Salesforce world is called a Standard Object. Every existing object comes with a database table so we are able to add, edit, view and delete our records with ease. Additionally, Salesforce tracks relationships between objects and automatically presents us a list of related information. As an example, upon viewing particular Account, we are greeted with Cases and Opportunities related to this record.


But of course those standard features are not everything. They are just the beginning.

Customize it

Customization is the beauty of Salesforce. Ability to modify CRM according to your specific needs is what makes system really useful for any business. Apart from Standard Objects, you are able to define Custom Objects. What are they? Well, these are the objects that you create to store information that’s specific to your company or industry. Using Custom Objects you are able to prepare the entire data model for your business which translates to actual database of information that you might just need. Let’s bring some examples:

What might be astonishing to some, all of this customization is done simply by clicking through the system. There is no need for any particular programming skills. Basically anyone is able to create all of required custom objects by hand and define the data model. What is left is to start filling up the data and inserting actual records into you org.

Automate it

Automation is the strength of Salesforce and there are many examples how it can enrich your business processes. Start with the simplest one: entering data. How can we minimize the effort needed to process user input and at the same time avoid tedious work by automatically updating certain fields? Salesforce offers a few ways. Validations make sure that the data you enter is correct and meaningful - no more phone numbers without missing digits or badly formatted emails. Rules help you identify duplicate records and ensure that you always work on the most accurate data. Every time you create or update a given record, those rules provide warning in case of potential duplicates in the system. Triggers are a powerful tool which can be used to automate data management and avoid unnecessary manual work. A clear example would be an Update Trigger which upon editing a single Contact, updates all of Accounts which are related to this Contact with the new data. Triggers can be also defined to provide additional actions upon any data action such as: inserting, updating or deleting. Workflows and Processes are high level mechanisms which can provide complicated functionalities and automate long processes. One example would be a Process where upon entering a Contact, first the Account is created and pre-filled with certain data and later an email with custom template is sent to the Contact. The possibilities are countless. It is hard to even list all of functionalities that Salesforce offers in the automation topic but I hope you already feel that the platform really values your time and wants to make your life easier.

Code it

The majority of Salesforce customization can be done without writing a single line of code. This makes it perfect and easy for non-technical users of the platform. However it is possible to create more complex logic and even write custom applications - Salesforce provides an extensive set of tools if you need to handle your complicated business cases properly. One of those tools is Apex - a strongly typed, object-oriented programming language with Java-like syntax. Salesforce Consultants use Apex to add business logic to most of system events, including button clicks, related record updates and custom views. Speaking of views - another tool comes in: Lightning Component Framework. It’s an UI framework for building single-page applications with dynamic, responsive user interfaces. Sounds fancy but in fact Lightning should be very easy to learn for anyone who had some experience with AngularJS or even just Javascript. Lighting uses JavaScript on the client side and Apex on the server side. I’ll cover an example of Lightning Component app in one of my future blog posts since the topic is a little too broad to cover it now.

Make it mobile friendly

Since we are amidst mobile revolution, it’s crucial for any business to be mobile oriented. Salesforce took this approach very seriously - their mobile app is included with every CRM license for free. The app is plug-and-play so it works out of the box with no setup required. If it’s not enough, the app is also cross platform (it runs on Android and iOS operating systems) and has offline capabilities. Just imagine what possibilities open in front of any business that use Salesforce - they can free their employees from their computers and use one thing they always carry anyway - phones. Now whenever you need quick access to your company data or want to insert some new info that just came in, you can do it comfortably using just your smartphone.

Bring it to the Cloud

Some of you might remember that life before the Cloud era wasn’t bliss. Software had to be installed manually on each computer. Large servers, dedicated IT support, limited geographic access or information loss were our daily bread. But luckily those days are long gone. Thanks to the Cloud, businesses don’t have to worry about managing hardware or software, they can pay other companies for what they need and have hassle-free experience. Not to mention the automatic upgrades of software and scaling up or down. Salesforce was a pioneer in delivering cloud-based software. Thanks to this effort anyone can now access their CRM from anywhere because applications and data are not tied to any device. Leveraging Cloud makes Salesforce fast, secure and cost-effective. It’s hard to imagine anyone would choose hosting their own CRM system and dealing with all issues related to this laborious task over simplicity that comes with Cloud based CRM like Salesforce.

Future is bright

I hope that after reading this article you already have a clear vision about what can be accomplished with such a versatile tool as Salesforce. Customer Relationship Management systems might not be as sexy as AI powered robots or neural networks that beat human players in all kinds of difficult games. Nevertheless CRMs do one thing and they do it very well - they bring value to your business. It might mean more deals, less data loss or better client handling - either way it translates to more money which in the end is what every business owner wants. The main reason Salesforce is so successful is the fact that by using it, companies can effectively increase their turnover. Without any doubt money is a very strong driving force. I am sure that when it comes to CRM systems and especially Salesforce, the future is looking very bright with more and more customers joining the game.

Salesforce is constantly growing and continues to launch new products every year to enhance its offering. In 2012 it started offering Marketing Cloud which is a suite of tools for digital marketing automation. In 2016 Einstein Analytics was launched that added a layer of AI-powered analytics across the entire Salesforce stack. Last year, in 2018, the company entered a new branch of business with a CRM designed specifically for healthcare industry — Salesforce Health Cloud.