Salesforce small-business CRM customers can tap into AI, too

Salesforce small-business faces heavy competition from more nimble, agile, less expensive boutique CRM vendors. Yet, the largest CRM platform woos SMBs like it does bigger fish with features for AI.

Salesforce competes against numerous boutique CRM, marketing and service-oriented cloud vendors catering to SMBs that don't have the overhead Salesforce requires to do business. It might be argued that many SMBs don't need all the bells and whistles Salesforce has to offer.

Marie Rosecrans, Salesforce's senior vice president who leads SMB outreach, discussed at Dreamforce 2017 how SMBs can capitalize on the rich app and feature choices, as well as free training materials, that only Salesforce small-business customers can access.

What are the main challenges Salesforce small-business customers face that you're trying to help solve?

Marie Rosecrans: One of the biggest challenges is just ... time. They don't have a lot of time. One of the things that we look to do as a technology vendor is save time by creating solutions that are easy to set up, easy to use and easy to scale. We get a lot of feedback from customers saying they want something they can set up immediately because they are so time- and resource-constrained.

With that simplicity in mind, and knowing that AI requires large data sets to derive usable insights, how can small businesses use Einstein, which is a complicated technology under the hood?

Rosecrans: One of the best tools we make available to all of our customers -- but is most valuable to SMBs -- is Trailhead. It's a fun, easy, interactive way to learn. It gives everyone access to a lot of information and knowledge, and I would use that as a starting point to get educated around what you need as a small business. It's not just for Salesforce; it's, 'What should I be considering as a small business around investing in CRM?'

Marie Rosecrans, Salesforce small-business leadMarie Rosecrans

Artificial intelligence is a topic that is getting a lot of momentum these days. I think small businesses feel daunted by the whole notion of AI. We launched a product called Essentials for folks just dipping their toe into CRM. We have incorporated elements of artificial intelligence directly into Essentials to help SMBs realize the benefits of that. As our customers work in email and calendars, all of that info is being captured into their CRM without data entry. That's AI at work for them, right away.

There have been some low-code/no-code do-it-yourself Salesforce app-building tools released earlier this year and more announcements here. Is that feasible for Salesforce small-business customers? At the same time, might that cut into longtime partnerships Salesforce has with app developers who connect with SMBs?

As our customers work in email and calendars, all of that info is being captured into their CRM without data entry. That's AI at work.
Marie Rosecranssenior vice president for SMB outreach at Salesforce

Rosecrans: Salesforce started as an SMB. SMBs have been core to our company, and so we keep that user experience top of mind. I absolutely agree that small businesses should be looking at low-code/no-code, declarative programing as a solution to accelerate their technology investments.

No two small businesses are alike. Each has its unique business challenges that they are looking to solve. One of the things that we look to make available to all of our customers is the AppExchange, the world's largest business applications marketplace.

Finding, winning and keeping customers aren't the only business challenges that small businesses have. So, by making the AppExchange available, we know there are going to be partner solutions out there that may more specifically fix or solve [those] business challenges. We want small businesses to use or embrace technology, because that will set them along that growth path.

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