Salesforce Review

An Independent CRM Evaluation

Salesforce is both the pioneer and poster child for the cloud CRM movement. Since its humble beginnings from a small San Francisco apartment, the company that was born from the cloud, and later reborn social, has become the category leader that other on-demand CRM software manufacturers seek to challenge. The company is the largest CRM software publisher in terms of annual revenues and market share.

In a competitive cloud CRM software market, here are advantages and disadvantages that separate this market leader from the rest of the pack.

Salesforce Advantages

  • The company is the clear market share leader and increasing its leadership distance over the rest of the pack.
  • It is also a proven innovator and industry disrupter. These strengths separate the company from most of its competition and provide increased application innovation for its customers.
  • The user interface maximizes social and consumer technologies to deliver a rewarding user experience. The application user interface is simple, intuitive and highly effective in achieving user adoption. This is an innovative application designed to satisfy users more so than IT or data management objectives.
  • Several CRM software competitors have been steadily copying or even improving upon the Salesforce user experience, however, few have surpassed the original.
  • The company promotes an active user community. It uses its Ideas application to solicit community input, actively monitor social networks and provide online venues for customers to make themselves heard. Too often CRM vendors do not actually practice the Customer Relationship Management they espouse in their marketing literature, however, this company clearly walks the walk.
  • The company's combination of Lightning, Salesforce1, Mulesoft, Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools, and AppExchange show technology leadership in areas such as integration, customization, third party extensibility and partner ecosystem.
  • The company's Tableau CRM and Einstein AI are extremely effective at transforming data into insights and delivering those insights to the right person at the right time.
  • The company's growth continues to impress. In addition to many years of significant revenue growth, the company has also achieved declining customer attrition rates in large part by achieving increased CRM software utilization and greater extensibility using integrated tools and the PaaS platform.
  • The company's CRM software functionality is not materially different than other cloud CRM solutions. The cloud CRM industry is over two decades old and many publishers have achieved feature parity. However, what makes this CRM software competitive and gives it differentiation in a crowded marketplace is its simple and rewarding user experience.

Salesforce Disadvantages

  • As Salesforce expands its product footprint from a cloud CRM software solution to a much broader cloud platform company, some CRM competitors have surpassed the leader's functions, features and capabilities.
  • Unlike top competitors such as Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics 365, SAP CRM, SugarCRM and others that offer choice in delivery (be it on-demand, on-premise or a hybrid combination) and choice in cloud platform (be it a proprietary vendor cloud, private cloud or public cloud), Salesforce does not support public clouds (such as Amazon EC2, IBM, Microsoft Azure or Rackspace.) This limits customer hosting options, prevents portability, threatens IT investment and increases exit costs. For example, customers who choose to extend their CRM software with custom development created with Salesforce tools (, Lightning, Salesforce1) and which only operate on Salesforce's cloud will likely not be able to transfer and protect that investment if they ever choose to leave this vendor.
  • The company's customer base is predominantly Business to Business (B2B). The CRM application is not as well oriented to the Business to Consumer (B2C) industry.
  • Small business customers opine that professional services options are few and extremely costly. For small businesses that need CRM consulting for implementation, customization, system integration or other technical services, the lack of channel options, combined with the lack of desire for smaller projects by the few partners available, leave this market segment without many good options.
  • When reviewing features to features its becomes apparent that Salesforce is the highest priced CRM software product in the cloud CRM industry.
  • Unlike direct competitors such as SAP, Oracle, NetSuite and Microsoft Dynamics 365, Salesforce does not offer enterprise-wide business applications. CRM buyers seeking broader business software suites, such as back office ERP, supply chain or HCM applications, will have to seek third party options and pursue a multi-vendor application portfolio.
  • The company operates fewer global data centers than some of its cloud competitors. This can impact system performance (latency, hops, jitter, etc.) for global companies and pose regulatory concerns with regard to data privacy and regulatory compliance.
  • Ironically, the CRM leader does not generally provide a Service Level Agreement (SLA). Getting an SLA requires a customer request and negotiation. Even then, SLAs are inconsistent across the customer base and fall below the uptime guarantees and financial remuneration of most other cloud CRM vendors.

Salesforce Bet Fit and Alternatives

The Salesforce Sweet Spot

Short list this solution when:

  • You desire a best of breed or CRM-only solution.
  • You want an easy to use CRM solution with tightly integrated social CRM tools.
  • Your company focus is SFA, your requirements are not difficult and you want a fast time to market.
  • You are a brand buyer with uncomplicated requirements and no special considerations.
  • Your company is in one of Salesforce's targeted industries, including communications, financial services, healthcare, high tech, manufacturing, media, non-profit, government and retail.

Alternative Solutions

CRM buyers may be best advised to consider other CRM products when:

  • IT or management desire multiple deployment options, including cloud, on-premise or hybrid.
  • You want an enterprise-wide, fully integrated, front-to-back office, business software suite.
  • You are a non-U.S. company with regulatory or cultural requirements which advocate data residing in an in-country data center where Salesforce does not posses a data center. This may apply to companies in the financial services, health care and government sectors.
  • Your top decision criteria include software acquisition cost and total cost of ownership (TCO).

Salesforce Review Final Thoughts

Salesforce is an innovator—a key strength that sets this industry leader apart from most of its competition. The company was the first to inject consumer technologies into business applications—and continues to do this faster than most of their competitors.

The company has accelerated the pace of platform as a service (PaaS), mobile CRM, social CRM, digital marketing and more, and shows no signs of slowing their creativity and momentum. In fact, it must continue to out-innovate its competitors not just for product superiority designed to attract market share, but to stave off the inevitable downward pricing pressures that are otherwise unavoidable as cloud CRM software becomes more commoditized. The online CRM software market is now plentiful with credible competitors, so Salesforce's innovation is far more about holding off price erosion than technology evolution.

Salesforce's core competencies are disruption, innovation, evangelism and marketing prowess. A powerful combination that can blind side the largest of competitors, create new category leadership and earn significant market share. However, in many ways, the company's future is less predictable now than when run from the bedrooms of a small San Francisco apartment well over two decades ago.