Review of Salesforce Sales Cloud — impressive feature set & extensive network of business partners

Salesforce is more than just one of the pioneering customer relationship management (CRM) solutions; it is the gold standard that other companies, both established and up-and-coming, measure themselves against. The expansion of Salesforce’s functionality beyond customer relationship management (CRM) and into back-office applications has contributed significantly to the company’s success. Salesforce is in the lead in the market because of its forward-thinking features and its rapidly expanding ecosystem of partners and add-on functionality. Additionally, Salesforce has won the hearts of its customers by actively engaging them and assisting them in finding solutions to the challenges they face at various stages of the development of their businesses. An Editor’s Choice award is bestowed upon Salesforce, Apptivo, and Zoho CRM in our comprehensive review of CRM software. Salesforce’s extensive feature set and rock-solid foundation are the primary reasons for this.

Although the CRM product can be found in the Sales Cloud, we tested the Lightning Professional tier, which has a cost of $75 per user per month. This tier is also known as the Lightning Professional version. This tier is offered as a cloud service and is equipped with Salesforce Lightning technology, which enables greater levels of customization based on the specific workflows of each individual customer. The Lightning Professional tier provides enhanced functionality for drag-and-drop dashboards, instant alert pop-ups, lead management features, and best practice recommendation pop-ups, in addition to streamlining the sales pipeline and lead management functions.

Data entry, lead scoring, and forecasting are just some of the time-consuming tasks that can be automated with the help of artificial intelligence (AI), which is utilized in the product known as Salesforce Einstein Analytics offered by the company. Einstein is an optional add-on that comes with a monthly subscription fee that can be purchased for a Salesforce Lightning implementation.

All of these factors contribute to the platform’s high quality; however, Zoho CRM, another excellent choice, provides many of the same customization options and even some of the more advanced features at a price that is significantly lower. Keep in mind that the customer relationship management (CRM) space is large enough that it may be beneficial to look around if you don’t require all of the features that Salesforce offers. This market has a lot of room for growth, whether you want to sell CRM software as a stand-alone product to smaller companies or as a platform-facing component that drives other business functions.

For its more complex features, Salesforce offers a wide range of configuration options, as well as possibilities for effective social collaboration and a market for third-party apps. Although it offers great workflows and consistent performance, it can be expensive and difficult to understand at first.

Pricing for Salesforce

It was originally a customer relationship management (CRM) company, but Salesforce now also provides numerous Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, which can make it difficult to get started with the platform. We put Sales Cloud, Salesforce automation, and CRM software through their paces for the purpose of this review. Service Cloud is a separate product that was developed with the purpose of managing a help desk for customers. Community Cloud enables customer self-service, Marketing Cloud provides email marketing and campaign management, and Einstein Analytics provides business intelligence and analytics. Marketing Cloud also manages customer campaigns and emails. Building apps on the Salesforce Platform does not require any prior experience with coding. In addition, Lightning Data cleans up leads and contacts, and Pardot provides marketing automation. Last but not least, the social network for the organization is called Chatter.

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Salesforce Essentials, Lightning Professional, Lightning Enterprise, and Lightning Unlimited are the different tiers that are available within Sales Cloud. Up to ten users can participate in sales and marketing under the Essentials plan, which costs $25 per user per month when billed annually. Included in the package are features such as guided onboarding, account and contact management, opportunity monitoring, lead scoring and assignment, email and event tracking, as well as mobile access and fully customizable reports and dashboards. If this is all you require, you may want to look into less expensive and more user-friendly alternatives, such as PipelineDeals or Zoho CRM, which offer similar functionality at a lower cost.

The Lightning Professional plan that we examined costs $75 per user per month with an annual subscription. This plan has no user limit and provides users with access to mass email, campaigns, products, quotes, and orders, as well as role-based access for users. This plan is the one with the most advanced features, such as collaborative forecasts, and it is the one that is best suited for use by smaller businesses. On the whole, however, I find it to be quite pricey in comparison to other software. Although, once you dig in, you’ll find that there are some behind-the-scenes reasons that more than justify paying more for Salesforce, the price difference between Zoho CRM and Salesforce is only $12 per user per month, so it’s still tempting to go with Zoho CRM just because of the price.

The Lightning Enterprise plan is the most popular offering from the company and demonstrates why Salesforce is still at the top of the heap. The cost of the plan is $150 per user per month with an annual subscription. In addition to all of the features that were discussed previously, this tier grants access to the web services API as well as more extensive workflow and approval automation, report history tracking, enterprise territory management, profile pages, and the ability to develop custom applications. In addition, the Salesforce Identity and Salesforce AppExchange platforms are included in the Enterprise plan. The former facilitates a single sign-on across all enterprise applications, while the latter enables the establishment of a company-wide app store.

The Lightning Unlimited plan costs $300 per user per month with an annual subscription and enables unlimited customizations, multiple sandboxes, bespoke applications, round-the-clock support at no additional cost, and unlimited training. You can obtain Service Cloud with the Unlimited edition if you find that you require it.

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Getting Up and Running

We believe that all software providers should follow Salesforce’s lead and offer a free trial period of at least 30 days like they do. Because of the potential complexity of the sales process, you will want to allot sufficient time to go through each stage in order to ensure that you are familiar with the way the software functions. You don’t need a credit card to sign up for the trial, just like with Insightly CRM; however, you will need to export your data if you decide not to purchase a plan at the conclusion of the trial. This procedure can be made much more straightforward by using Salesforce’s powerful import/export tool. In order to terminate your account, you will need to get in touch with your account manager via phone. The fact that there are no cancellation fees and that you get a refund for the portion that was not used is a positive development.

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After you have registered for the free trial, you will see a prompt asking what your role is in the organization. This could be anything from a sales representative to an owner of the business to an IT expert or a sales manager. By providing Salesforce with an answer to this question, users are able to customize the product tour, which is a straightforward yet effective method for getting users started with Salesforce. You should complete the activities that are specified in the Walkthrough tray, which is located on the left-hand side of the screen. Creating a custom dashboard, integrating with other apps, and managing your pipeline are all helpful pathways for new users to take. You can also access a video tutorial and a PDF version of the user guide through the Getting Started tab, in addition to links that take you to the App Store and Google Play, where you can download the mobile app.

The Lightning dashboard features a well-organized tabbed interface, with menu options prominently displayed at the very top. The Home tab presents the news feed, which includes updates and notes contributed by other users, in addition to lists of tasks and activities that have been scheduled. The bottom half of the screen displays a dashboard that you can manipulate by dragging and dropping its various components. Graphs displaying your pipeline, the number of open activities, and closed sales are displayed automatically for you to view.

The tasks you have to complete and your calendar with upcoming appointments are displayed in the section at the bottom of the page. You have complete control over the appearance of this page and have the ability to reposition elements, add widgets, and otherwise fashion an independent shopping experience for customers. The interface makes it much simpler for business users to navigate Salesforce and consolidates all of the steps involved in the contact, lead, sales, and deal processes into a single location.

The remaining items on the menu are fairly standard and include Chatter, Files, Products, and Forecasts. Contacts, Accounts, Leads, Opportunities, Reports, and Dashboards are also included. If there are certain pages that you frequently visit, you can make use of the ability to create new tabs to bring specific tasks to the top level. This is helpful. At the very top of the screen is a search bar that can be used for any kind of search. Because it is unobtrusive, it does not give the impression that it is occupying valuable real estate.

Users and Contacts

On the page for new users, it is specified whether or not the user can access data when they are not connected to the internet, use mobile devices, or view forecasts. This is a company that is thinking about the most effective way to provide data to all of its users, as evidenced by the Color-Blind Palette on Charts checkbox, which is particularly clever. You have the ability to define roles in order to place restrictions on the types of data and tasks that a given user is able to view and carry out. The administrator also has a straightforward method for sending a group email to all of the users. This is a helpful feature to have if, for example, you need to inform all employees about a system outage.

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You, as the administrator, are responsible for adding new users via the Setup menu. In order to accomplish this, you will need to supply the user’s name, email address, username, and the role that they play in the system. The number of users that your Salesforce license allows you to have is simple to keep track of with Salesforce’s user management capabilities. The ability for admins to create users who use only Chatter and do not count toward the number of paid Salesforce users is an excellent detail for saving money. This means that you can have personnel who are not involved in sales and marketing use Chatter without driving up licensing costs. It is helpful to have a page that allows bulk editing so that multiple users can be created at once with the same basic information.

When you click on the Contacts tab, you will see a listing of all of your contacts if you have integrated your account with Google Workspace or Microsoft Exchange. If you want to create a new contact manually, you can use the straightforward New Contact button; alternatively, you can import data from other sources using a file that is separated by commas.

Salesforce Sales Dashboard

You can view the contacts that belong to everyone in the organization by selecting All Contacts, or you can view the contacts that are specific to you by selecting My Contacts. Users can be added to new opportunities by simply clicking on them in this interface. When you view a contact’s record by clicking on the contact’s name, you are presented with the contact’s details, as well as any open activities, activity history, emails, and files that are attached to the record. Additionally, you are able to add notes regarding the contact by using the status update box that is located on the news feed.

To view all of the available activities, you do not have to scroll to the bottom of the record; rather, you can see this information by hovering over the quick links that are located at the top of the record. The appearance of this page, along with the dashboard and everything else on this platform, is completely modifiable. Zoho CRM is the only other CRM software that comes close to matching the level of customization offered by SugarCRM, which is the only other CRM software that we’ve tested.

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Einstein Activity Capture, Einstein Email Insights, Einstein Lead Scoring, Einstein Opportunity Scoring, and Einstein Forecasting are all components of Salesforce’s Einstein artificial intelligence platform, which is one of the company’s primary areas of concentration. Activity Capture will automatically retrieve customer interactions from a user’s email and calendar in order to ensure that all entries are current. Additionally, it possesses a calendar manager, which enables simple scheduling without the need to switch between different software. Email Insights makes use of natural language processing in order to surface emails, recommend responses, and significantly speed up the process of bringing customer service representatives to “inbox zero.” In a similar vein, the Lead and Opportunity Scoring tools both make use of machine learning in order to help users prioritize their time. Finally, Forecasting analyzes the data in your Salesforce account to provide your business with a glimpse into the future.

Under each tab, you will have the ability to track accounts, leads, and opportunities. After getting past the initial learning curve, using Salesforce is quite simple because of the platform’s standardized user interface for the creation of accounts, leads, and opportunities. A nice touch is that each tab directs you to detailed reports so that you can get an overview of the current situation at a glance.

Quality Lead Management

Salesforce also provides excellent lead management services. When you create a new lead, a task will automatically be generated for you; however, you are free to generate additional tasks and activities as needed. You could also automate your workflow in such a way that it always assigns particular leads to the same user or that it creates tasks automatically whenever you add new opportunities.

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Although Sales and Lead Generation are two separate apps, the user interfaces are sufficiently similar to make it simple to switch between them. These similarities were mentioned earlier. You also have access to the same data; for example, in the Sales app, a listing of leads, accounts, and so on will be reflected in the Lead Generation app. The distinction can be found in the features of the tabbed interface that are made available. For instance, the Sales app has tabs for Notes, Tasks, and other types of activities, whereas the Lead Generation app, which focuses more narrowly, has a tab for Campaigns.

It is absolutely necessary to have the capability of filtering your view in order to prioritize leads. In addition, you can view your list of leads in either the conventional list table format or the Kanban table format, which makes it simple to move leads along the pipeline.

The Sales Cloud Einstein Lead Scoring feature is an important source of analytics because it employs the Salesforce Einstein Analytics Platform to assign a score to each lead. In order to identify patterns of success, it analyzes the historical data from your company. (Sales Cloud Lightning is required in order to use the Lead Scoring feature.) In order for lead scoring to be effective, Salesforce suggests that a minimum of 1,000 leads should have been generated over the course of the previous six months by the company, along with a minimum of 120 conversions. Businesses are able to create individualized activity sequences with the help of sales cadences, which then serve to direct sales representatives through the prospecting process.

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The scoring of leads is especially helpful for large businesses because those businesses have the ability to automatically send leads with higher scores (which indicate a higher likelihood of conversion) to salespeople with more experience. The ratings can be used by smaller businesses to organize their lists of leads (which are available as part of Sales Cloud) and decide who they should get in touch with first.

In a similar manner, Einstein Opportunity Scoring ensures that sales representatives are aware of opportunities that are not performing well. The Einstein Opportunity Insights tool provides sales representatives with an in-depth analysis of profitable and high-risk opportunities.

Third-Party Integration and Reporting Options

You are given the ability to use multiple dashboards with Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional, each of which can be assigned to its own data set. The dashboard for the Sales Executive can display the current pipeline broken down by product family, recent sales activity, the largest deals on the board at the moment, as well as neglected accounts. The Marketing Executive dashboard can focus on marketing dollars that have not yet been spent as well as the current pipeline organized by account type. Users have the ability to sort the top three marketing channels according to the total value opportunities presented by each and the number of leads brought in by campaign for the most recent quarter. In this section, you will be able to generate personalized reports in the form of summaries, tables, or matrices.

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Pipedrive CRM, on the other hand, provides a workflow-based dashboard that is aimed specifically at the sales pipeline. This dashboard demonstrates a straightforward way to track deals and activities, but it does not include as many pre-built features or reporting options. Zoho CRM does a good job of customizing the dashboard in order to display data analytics as well, although not to the same extent that Salesforce does.

No Shortage of Add-ons

One of the most extensive third-party app marketplaces is hosted by Salesforce. It is highly likely that you will be able to integrate the CRM with all of the business applications that you currently make use of, such as QuickBooks, RightSignature, and Zendesk. The Salesforce AppExchange was first introduced in 2006, and it currently has more than 5,000 different apps available for download. According to Salesforce, it has helped facilitate more than 6.5 million different business app deployments.

In addition, there is a vast selection of additional functionality that can be added on top of the business CRM experience that is available at the Professional, Enterprise, and Unlimited tiers of the product. Users are provided with a suite of mobile and desktop productivity apps by the SalesforceIQ Inbox. These apps include email and calendar integrations, as well as intelligent reminders of urgent deals and leads. Through its pipeline trending functionality, Einstein Analytics provides additional business intelligence (BI) to the sales process. This is accomplished by providing natively integrated dashboards that display quarterly and year-over-year performance, risk indicators, and forecast metrics.

An additional helpful add-on is known as Salesforce CPQ, which stands for “Configure, Price, Quote.” This add-on is an automated quote-to-cash engine that allows users to configure products and pricing for up-sells, cross-sells, contract and proposal generation, and billing processing of invoices and payments. Salesforce Billing makes it possible for subscription renewals, contract renewals, and flexible invoicing to be processed without any problems.

The list of available add-ons is virtually endless, and the base functionality of each one costs somewhere in the range of $25 and $75 individually. In spite of the fact that these costs can quickly add up on top of the premium that you are already paying for Salesforce, the add-ons can be an extremely helpful addition to your CRM capabilities in certain circumstances.

Chatter, Salesforce’s social networking platform, serves as the company’s answer to social media. You can set up a profile on Chatter and keep your coworkers informed of your current status by clicking the Share button, which is located on the top right hand side of the main page. You can use Chatter to give other users notes on leads, opportunities, or accounts, as well as update other users on the status of a project.

The fact that almost everything that can be done on the website can also be done on Salesforce’s mobile apps for Apple iOS and Android places it in a category all by itself and puts it ahead of the other options. For example, the Insightly app for mobile devices is the only place where you can look up contact information.

The support options provided by Salesforce are also excellent. There is a form that can be filled out on the website, you can call the toll-free phone number, or you can look at the help tips that are scattered throughout the software. You also have the option to log into Salesforce Success, a support portal that provides you with access to user forums, training videos, and webcasts in addition to articles from the knowledgebase.

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Powerful CRM for Small Teams

The price of Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional is higher than that of comparable products because it is the market leader in CRM solutions that offer a comprehensive set of features and multiple layers. Small and medium-sized businesses, on the other hand, are investing in comprehensive CRM platform solutions rather than simply purchasing standalone solutions that can meet their fundamental CRM requirements. Instead of having to adapt to an already established user interface, businesses can modify Salesforce to better suit their requirements and workflows thanks to the platform’s high degree of adaptability. Considering the immense amount of power that lies beneath the surface, utilizing the service has a surprisingly fluid feeling to it. Although it does not have an appearance that is quite as cutting edge as that of some of its more compact rivals, the Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional’s feature set is exceptional, which is why it is an Editors’ Choice product.

The Bottom Line

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For a very long time, Salesforce has been the CRM solution to beat. This innovative platform excels with a stellar feature set, as well as an ever-widening set of innovations, including artificial intelligence, and the ease of interoperability with a large number of Salesforce partners.

Techexplains Team

Techexplains Team

We are a team of digital marketing experts with years of experience in website builders. CRM tools, project management software helping businesses of all sizes achieve their marketing goals. We are writing about benefits of using SaaS for businesses, and sharing our top picks for the best tools currently available on the market. Whether you are a small business owner looking to streamline your marketing efforts or a larger enterprise seeking to improve your marketing efficiency, we hope that you will find this useful and informative.