What is Salesforce?
Salesforce Inc. is a cloud computing and social enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider based in San Francisco. Founded in March 1999 by former Oracle executive Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff and Frank Dominguez, the company started off as a customer relationship management (CRM) platform vendor.
The concept behind Salesforce is software as a service (SaaS), where instead of client software installed on each user’s computer, they access the service through a web browser. This spares the end-user the hassle of upgrading and managing their client software beyond the browser. All software and user data is in Salesforce data centers and transmitted over the wire to a user’s browser.
Since its launch in 1999, Salesforce has grown to become the leading SaaS powerhouse over time, offering multiple cloud platforms that serve specialized purposes. For its most recent fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2023, Salesforce reported revenues of $31.3 billion -- an 18% increase over the $26.5 billion in revenue from the previous fiscal year.
What does Salesforce do?
Salesforce offers a diverse infrastructure of software products designed to help teams from different industries -- including marketing, sales, IT, commerce and customer service -- connect with their customers. For example, by accessing the Salesforce Customer 360 app, teams across an entire organization can connect and share a single view of customer data on an integrated platform.
Salesforce CRM provides helpful insights into customer behavior and needs through customer data analysis. By bridging the gaps between data silos from different departments, Salesforce provides a holistic view of every customer interaction with a brand.
Why is Salesforce used?
Salesforce enables organizations of every size and industry to better understand and connect with their customers at a deeper level and grow their customer base. Businesses typically integrate Salesforce into their ecosystem so employees can share customer views from any device, regardless of their department or location.
Salesforce provides a 360-degree view of the customer lifecycle with streamlined workflows, centralized cloud-based data management and real-time tracking of customer analytics. According to Salesforce, more than 150,000 companies -- from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies -- use its secure and scalable cloud platform.
For example, Pardot, which was renamed Marketing Cloud Account Engagement in April 2022, is a Salesforce business-to-business (B2B) marketing automation tool that's designed to help organizations accelerate their sales with better sales intelligence, generate high-quality leads with powerful marketing tools, automate lead qualification and nurturing, and track campaign performance.
Salesforce cloud services
Salesforce offers a diverse portfolio of products and services -- from CRM software and marketing and sales management options to advanced analytics. Of its cloud platforms and applications, the company is best known for its Salesforce CRM product, which is composed of the Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, Experience Cloud, Commerce Cloud and the Analytics Cloud.
Other Salesforce cloud offerings that address specific applications and industries include the App Cloud, IoT Cloud, Financial Services Cloud, Health Cloud, Integration Cloud, Manufacturing Cloud, Education Cloud, Nonprofit Cloud and the Vaccine Cloud.
The following list examines Salesforce cloud services and their prominent features.
1. Salesforce Sales Cloud enables sales teams to focus on the sales components of CRM in addition to customer support.
The main features of the Sales Cloud include the following:
- helps track customer information and interactions in one place;
- automates complex business processes;
- provides pipeline and forecast management;
- helps keep all information up to date;
- nurtures leads; and
- helps monitor the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
2. Salesforce Marketing Cloud combines all marketing channels in one place and automates the marketing processes.
The main features of the Marketing Cloud include the following:
- personalizes email marketing at scale;
- engages with mobile messaging and mobile apps;
- connects social to marketing, sales and service;
- helps manage ad campaigns to increase customer acquisition;
- delivers personalized and efficient web content;
- automates the export of marketing data into databases; and
- creates one-to-one customer journeys across channels.
3. Salesforce Service Cloud provides a fast, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven customer service and support experience to customers and enables businesses to scale their operations efficiently.
The main features of the Salesforce Service Cloud include the following:
- enables service teams to communicate in real time with customers through the Live Agent tool;
- offers seamless collaboration with customers and faster query resolutions with the integration of Slack-First Customer 360;
- enables customers to reach across multiple digital channels, including mobile messaging, AI-powered live chat, social media and email;
- helps set up a self-service center for customers that includes communities and convenient options for booking appointments, paying bills or checking account balances;
- uses omnichannel routing to automatically deliver cases and leads to certain employees based on their skill sets or availability;
- helps turn insights into actions with the Salesforce Wave analytics app; and
- provides a comprehensive view of workforce management -- including order placement, delivery, scheduling, installation and tracking -- through the Salesforce Field Service option.
4. Salesforce Experience Cloud enables organizations to create connected digital experiences so they can expand their reach across multiple digital channels while maintaining their brand identity. It was formerly known as the Community Cloud, which only enabled users to build communities, whereas the Experience Cloud enables users to create mobile apps, landing pages, portals and help centers.
The main features of the Experience Cloud include the following:
- helps deliver personalized content based on a customer's expertise, interests or other demographics;
- enables the infusion of data from various digital experiences and third-party platforms under one roof;
- provides endless customization options for creating experiences. For example, the Lightning App Builder enables a quick setup of mobile responsive forms for gathering customer information and feedback; and
- provides options to recognize and reward active members of the community by dispatching scores, ranks and recognition badges.
5. Salesforce Commerce Cloud unifies the way businesses engage with customers over any channel. It offers a suite of apps and software services that focus on the e-commerce business.
The main features of the Salesforce Commerce Cloud include the following:
- offers a personalized and engaging shopping experience on websites;
- provides highly relevant product recommendations to customers through the Salesforce Einstein AI predictive intelligence platform;
- offers real-time reports and dashboards for analytics;
- enables businesses to manage digital commerce with integrated options for commerce, point of sale and order management;
- helps launch new sites and create new customer experiences; and
- brings stores online and integrates partner technologies.
6. Salesforce Analytics Cloud, or Salesforce Wave Analytics, is a business intelligence platform that enables organizations to instantly get answers and start making data-driven decisions. Powered by Einstein Analytics and Tableau tools, this platform enables medium and large-sized organizations to extract and analyze huge amounts of data efficiently and quickly.
The main features of the Analytics Cloud include the following:
- enables users to act on data instantly;
- connects easily to Sales and Service Cloud data;
- enables users to view, filter, group, measure and share data from their mobile devices through the mobile-first analytics app;
- analyzes data for better insights and uses analytics apps for every function, including sales, service, marketing, human resources and IT;
- provides a dynamic visualization engine for data builders and business users; and
- offers multiple dashboards to accept both structured and unstructured data from tools including enterprise resource planning, CRM, RFID sensors, websites and social media.
7. Salesforce App Cloud is a collection of development tools that enable developers to quickly and intuitively create applications that run on the Salesforce platform without writing code. App Cloud provides native integration, eliminating the need for IT. It enables users to build apps that integrate customer data for more engaging customer experiences. It helps automate business processes and extend powerful APIs for added security.
Tools in the App Cloud include the following:
- Salesforce Platform, formerly known as Force.com, is a platform as a service (PaaS), which enables admins and developers to create websites and applications with Apex that integrate into the main Salesforce.com application.
- AppExchange is a custom application building and sharing platform for third-party applications that run on the Force.com platform.
- Heroku Enterprise gives developers the flexibility to create apps using preferred languages and tools.
- Salesforce Shield protects enterprises with data encryption tools that enhance transparency and compliance across all apps.
- Salesforce DX enables users to manage and develop Salesforce apps across the entire lifecycle.
- Salesforce Identity provides a single, trusted identity for employees, partners and customers that enables users to manage apps and data.
- Salesforce Trailhead is a series of online tutorials that teaches various level developers how to code for the Salesforce platform.
- Salesforce Sandbox enables developers to test ideas in a safe and isolated development environment.
- Salesforce Connect enables users to connect and access data from other Salesforce organizations and external sources without leaving the native Salesforce environment.
8. Salesforce IoT Cloud uses the power of IoT to turn data generated by customers, smart devices, partners and sensors into useful customer data.
The main features of the IoT Cloud include the following:
- enables users to process massive quantities of data received from different processes, locations and network devices;
- builds orchestration rules with intuitive tools to provide a low-code approach;
- engages with customers in real time;
- uses Einstein Analytics to provide advanced analytics gathered through a variety of sources, including sensors, hardware components and portals; and
- records and evaluates previous activities and actions through the customer context tool to make real-time decisions.
9. Salesforce Financial Services Cloud is powered by Lightning and is a combination of Sales and Service Clouds plus a managed package that's useful for the financial services industry.
The main features of the Financial Services Cloud include the following:
- provides real-time access to critical data;
- offers visibility into unique customer journeys with helpful insights throughout the customer lifecycle;
- helps deliver experiences that drive client loyalty through personalized tools;
- provides more visibility into existing household opportunities and the ability to track referrals;
- enables instant access to all client data in one central location; and
- addresses regulatory compliance.
10. Salesforce Health Cloud 2.0 enables businesses and government agencies to offer better safety and health for their employees, communities and customers. Its mission is to improve patient care during each step of the healthcare process -- from the first point of contact to medical billing.
The main features of the Health Cloud 2.0 include the following:
- creates a profile for each member that includes demographics, communications and other pertinent information in one location;
- monitors cases and prioritizes tasks based on levels of importance;
- enhances electronic health record systems by unlocking them and incorporating apps in a secure and flexible platform;
- enables patients to track progress toward health goals, care plans and post-acute care; and
- helps track patient itineraries and detect system loopholes.
11. Salesforce Integration Cloud provides a single view of customer data for large businesses and enterprises. This cloud helps users connect large amounts of data spread across the various cloud platforms. It is built on the MuleSoft integration platform, which Salesforce acquired in 2018.
The main features of the Integration Cloud include the following:
- provides the Lightning Flow feature, which enables the creation of personalized customer experience across all units including sales, service and marketing;
- enables customer service reps to transform service interactions into cross-selling and upselling opportunities, without ever leaving their console through the Lightning app builder feature;
- provides easy integration with third-party apps to optimize business and development processes; and
- helps with smart decisions and data optimization as data is pulled from all sources.
12. Salesforce Manufacturing Cloud is geared toward manufacturing companies and enables them to view and collaborate between the operations and sales departments. Workers can also access customer information through sales agreements and account-based forecasting.
The main features of the Manufacturing Cloud include the following:
- provides a sales agreement feature that offers visibility into all customer negotiations and contract terms;
- offers native lead management that can be modified for any business needs;
- enables manufacturers to view the current business as well as identify future opportunities for improvements through the account-based forecasting feature; and
- enables account managers to customize permissions and different settings for each position on the team and for each workflow.
13. Salesforce Education Cloud combines Salesforce Lightning with the Education Data Architecture to provide student management and engagement, academics, admissions and other support functions. It delivers the technology required to manage the entire student lifecycle, from kindergarten to graduation.
The main features of the Salesforce Education Cloud include the following:
- maps student journeys and provides budget tracking, campaign management, social marketing and personalized messaging through the marketing automation feature;
- provides a sales automation feature that offers easy enrollment from the pre-lead stage to final enrollment;
- automates the grant concepts, funding, budget tracking, sponsor updates and loan applications for both internal and third-party vendors. This cuts down on the communication and follow-up involved in student loan processing;
- offers easy recruitment and outreach to prospective students by consolidating data in one single place; and
- provides a collaborative experience for students across the campus by connecting multiple departments.
14. Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud helps nonprofit organizations, such as fundraising organizations and educational institutions, expand their reach digitally and enhance their connections with people. It aligns fundraising, marketing, program management and technology teams and offers a consolidated view across all activities and operations.
The main features of the Nonprofit Cloud include the following:
- comes with a fundraising feature that provides a holistic view of partners and donors by streamlining communications between both entities;
- connects with potential donors, regardless of their geographic location, through the digital-first fundraising strategy to help establish viable donor relationships across various channels; and
- offers built-in templates that enable companies to engage with their constituents, supporters and partners through personalized messages and email marketing.
15. Salesforce Vaccine Cloud was introduced in early 2021 to help healthcare organizations, nonprofits and schools operate safely by building and managing vaccine programs at scale quickly and efficiently.
The main features of the Vaccine Cloud include the following:
- consolidates all data sources into a single view for easy accessibility;
- provides vaccine inventory management that helps organizations maintain adequate vaccine doses, syringes and personal protective equipment stock levels as well as provides a forecast of demand;
- helps screen vaccine registrants and gather digital consent;
- helps with analysis of communitywide vaccine results; and
- provides contactless visits through quick response codes, on-demand appointment scheduling and self-service options.
16. Salesforce AI Cloud is the newest initiative from Salesforce, launched in June 2023. AI Cloud is specifically designed for Salesforce customers to add generative AI functionality to their applications and services.
The core of AI Cloud is Salesforce Einstein. Einstein is generative AI aimed at improving productivity across sales, service, marketing and commerce departments while enforcing an enterprise’s data security and compliance requirements. No data preparation or generating of models -- both time-consuming tasks -- is required.
In addition to the generative and trusted AI elements, AI Cloud is open and extensible, allowing companies to integrate it with their existing systems and workflows and is designed to be easy to use by nontechnical business users.
It supports many business processes, including sales, customer service, personalized marketing campaigns, personalized shopping experiences, automating IT tasks, troubleshooting problems and improving security.
Salesforce AI Cloud is still under development and functions are being rolled out in stages through November 2023.
Salesforce offers several innovative technologies that help connect customers, companies, developers and business partners.
Apex is an object-oriented programming language that enables developers to execute flow and transaction control statements on the Salesforce platform. Apex is integrated, easy to use, data-focused, hosted, multi-tenant aware, automatically upgradeable, easy to test and versioned.
Visualforce is a framework that enables developers to create dynamic, reusable interfaces that can be hosted natively on Salesforce. They can create entire custom pages inside a Salesforce organization or associate their logic with a controller class written in Apex. Developers can use Visualforce pages to override standard buttons and tab overview pages, define custom tabs, embed components in detail page layouts, create dashboard components, customize sidebars in the Salesforce Console and add menu items.
Lightning is an improved version of Salesforce Classic. Its component-based framework enables developers to build responsive SaaS applications for any device. It enables business users with minimal or no coding skills to build third-party user applications on top of Salesforce apps.
Salesforce Einstein is a comprehensive AI technology for CRM developed for the Salesforce Customer Success Platform. Einstein is designed to give sales and marketing departments more complete and up-to-date views of customers and potential clients. It's designed to make Salesforce Customer 360 more intelligent and to bring AI to trailblazers everywhere.
Benefits of Salesforce
Salesforce products are designed to help organizations meet customer expectations and enhance customer satisfaction. The following are popular benefits of using Salesforce:
- Time management. Salesforce offers comprehensive customer information and planning resources in one centralized location. Organizations can save time, as they don't have to search through logs and other important files. The built-in calendar tool helps them visualize the daily, weekly, monthly or yearly schedules, which helps with setting meetings, planning projects and staying on top of leads so they can be quickly transformed into customers.
- Increased revenue. Salesforce helps organizations sort through vast amounts of data, which if done manually can take a lot of time and effort. By incorporating Salesforce, organizations can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time building successful customer relationships.
- Easy accessibility. Salesforce enables organizations to safely access important files and client updates anywhere with an internet connection. The Salesforce app is supported on various mobile platforms and devices, including Apple iOS and Android OS. This provides great flexibility for business owners who are always on the go or travel frequently.
- Enhanced collaboration. Salesforce Chatter provides swift and easy communication between team members. It enables team members to collaborate individually or within groups regarding work-related tasks, and members from different teams can be added to accounts or activities that require extra attention.
- Business scalability. Salesforce's underlying architecture can rapidly scale to accommodate the needs of businesses and their customers.
- Seamless integration. Salesforce can be easily integrated with most third-party apps, such as Gmail or accounting software. Some of the third-party apps that Salesforce integrates with include Google Cloud, WhatsApp, QuickBooks, LinkedIn, Mailchimp, Dropbox and Heroku.
- Trustworthy reporting. Salesforce keeps track of pertinent business data from all business channels -- social media, app information, website analytics, business software -- and keeps it organized. This feature is designed to sort and analyze vast amounts of data with accuracy.
Salesforce use cases
PayPal. The PayPal online payments platform is growing exponentially with over 400 million business and consumer account holders. Managing such a massive number of accounts is challenging without a unified system. PayPal uses Salesforce products to help improve data quality and visibility across departments by uniting several separate CRM systems, teams and processes into one.
American Express. American Express, one of the leading organizations specializing in payment card services, is a long-standing user of Salesforce. The partnership that started with Sales Cloud in 2010 has grown over time and now American Express delivers rich customer experiences using real-time connectivity offered through the Salesforce Customer 360 Platform.
Canon. The Japanese multinational company invested in Salesforce to track the activities of its ever-growing sales staff and to better understand its employees and customers. Canon also needed an option that would gauge how its products and services were being perceived. By incorporating Salesforce, Canon sales representatives were able to update their supervisors on customer engagements in real time and gather insights through customer activity.
Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS shares a well-aligned collaboration with Salesforce and a variety of Salesforce products run on the AWS platform. Salesforce customers can also build on AWS to extend their Salesforce potential. For example, Amazon Connect and Salesforce Service Cloud Voice have extended their partnership. This integration provides contact center agents with a full set of tools so they can deliver improved customer service experiences.
Certification and training
Salesforce certifications are in high demand and employers are always looking to hire Salesforce-certified individuals. Per Artisan Hub, there were over 76,800 Salesforce certified professionals in 2020 and this number is growing.
Salesforce offers an online library of training classes and content through a gamified platform known as Trailhead. Individuals can use the Trailhead platform to learn in-demand Salesforce skills, connect with the Trailblazer community and earn globally recognized credentials and certifications.
Catering to all skill levels, the Trailhead courses target a variety of job functions, including administrators, architects, developers, marketers and consultants. The training is designed to prepare users for taking the Salesforce certification exams. Currently, there are more than 40 Salesforce certification exams listed on the Salesforce website.
The divide between software and cloud-based CRM offerings can make it challenging for businesses to select the right option. Follow these five steps to ensure a smooth and eventless CRM adoption process.