Salesforce Is Not a CRM.

Green Irony

Say what?

Salesforce is not a CRM.

This fact may be somewhat surprising to you. After all, it has “Sales” in the title and in many circles is thought of as the clear-cut number one option in the space. If you open Gartner’s Magic Quadrant report on CRMs, it sits in the driver’s seat, head and shoulders above the rest of the pack with no other vendor even coming close to catching it. If the Gartner CRM report were a race, Salesforce would be Usain Bolt running the 100 meter dash at an 8th grade track meet. So how in the world is it not a CRM?

Well what we mean is…

Allow us to clarify. Salesforce is not just a CRM. Clearly it is the undisputed leader of the pack in the world of customer relationship management software, but thinking of it as only a system for managing leads and sales pipelines is a huge mistake. Under the guise of creating a (world class) CRM product, the company has been able to create much, much more.

The approach that Salesforce took as a software development company has many parallels to Amazon, intentional or not. Amazon’s storefront required a great deal of behind-the-scenes services to operate at the scale necessary for being the world’s biggest marketplace. The company continually invested in these services, and, as a result, became one of the market leaders in cloud technology platforms. AWS now holds a 45% market share in the Infrastructure as a Service market, more than Microsoft, Google, and IBM combined, all a very convenient byproduct of the need to power a very needy e-commerce business.

Salesforce’s story is similar. Their vision was to create a cloud-based CRM, but they didn’t merely create software to drive sales processes; they created a platform. Think of the CRM as an app running on top of the Salesforce platform, similar to how Apple’s iPhone has a Messages app for texting that runs on top of its iOS platform. In order to develop a CRM like Sales Cloud, Salesforce also needed a world class SaaS platform with enough flexibility to allow the complex configurations that each unique CRM implementation requires. Just like Amazon, as a result of building their core deliverable with great technical foresight, they created a powerful platform capable of doing much more.

The Force platform is robust yet flexible, capable of running any app imaginable. And since the CRM was the first on the platform and the platform was designed to easily allow data access to other apps running within the same organization, each and every one of these new apps that’s created has access to data that is the lifeblood of every organization: its customer data.

The possibilities for apps on this platform are nearly limitless. Here is a list of useful business functionality that impressed us, but this list really only scratches the surface of the potential of the platform:

  • Plugging into automated marketing solutions like Pardot for full marketing-to-sales visibility and automation
  • Creating a custom application that sends text-messages to customers with order delivery status updates, all in real time
  • Automating generation of commonly used documents like proposals, purchase orders, and invoices with tools like Drawloop, saving countless person hours per month
  • Rolling in accounting or automating professional services project management workflows with FinancialForce
  • Allowing field technicians like towing dispatch units and their managers to stay in sync with up-to-the-minute coordination on the status of their jobs and intelligently coordinating teams of technicians to work in the most efficient way possible

You get the idea. The possibilities are limited only by the quantity of business problems you encounter and your imagination. As a group of technologists who have all spent our careers in technology, this platform is beyond impressive. The amount of time spent integrating data with traditional platforms is immense in scale. Creating a series of purpose-built apps on the same platform with easy access to data allows technologists like us to concentrate on the real problems and accomplish the real goal: adding value to our customers.

Wrap up

Ok, maybe the title was a little misleading and meant to grab your attention. Salesforce’s Sales Cloud is the clear-cut number one CRM in the market and the gap continues to widen. However, thinking of Salesforce’s offerings as purely confined to the arena of sales tools is capping its potential value to your business. It has much, much more to offer, and there are easily attainable returns on investment for those willing to take the leap.

Want to dive deeper?

Since this post was published the Saleforce platform has continued to expand capabilities, yet we continue to encounter this misconception day-after-day in the field. So, we dove deeper into this topic and included non-CRM use cases that we’ve encounter. Read on: Salesforce is still not a CRM