It’s easy to think of today’s business technologies as digital substitutes for earlier, pre-Information Age processes and practices. Email has replaced snail mail and memos. PowerPoint and Google Slides have eliminated the need for slide projectors and printed presentation materials. In doctors’ offices, EHR/EMR systems are today’s version of a locked filing cabinet full of paper records. Sure, these tools are far more powerful than their predecessors, but too often businesses just swap out older applications for new ones on a 1-for-1 basis instead of allowing today’s technology to transform their way of thinking.
Take Salesforce, for instance. It’s a CRM, which means it’s essentially the 21st century’s take on a contact book/Rolodex/spreadsheet. Sure, it’s got all kinds of other features built in, but at its core, the platform is designed to help you and your team manage relationships. Right?
In my opinion, that’s not quite right. When implemented and used to its full potential, Salesforce has the ability to power the entirety of your business. It gives you everything you need to build and manage relationships, of course, but it can also function as your main tool for data analysis, project management, quoting and billing, communication and more. When I look back on the business processes of bygone eras, I’m not sure there’s an obvious metaphor for something so comprehensive. As a platform, Salesforce provides a new way to run your company.
A bold claim, for sure, but I can back it up. Below are five core elements of business, with thoughts on how Salesforce can function as your primary tool for each.
Business Element #1: Relationships
Yes, this is the one you already knew, since Salesforce is technically a customer relationship management platform. Sales Cloud, the company’s flagship product, is no doubt an essential tool for sales reps looking to convert leads into opportunities and existing customers into repeat customers. However, Salesforce isn’t only capable of managing relationships as they relate to the sales cycle. Businesses in all industries are pairing Sales Cloud with Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud to power their entire customer lifecycle. You can also use the platform to keep track of employees, competitors, vendors — anybody associated with your company, really. The more contacts you have in Salesforce, after all, the more insight you have into your business’ total ecosystem.
And speaking of insight…
Business Element #2: Data
These days, key business decisions must be data-driven. Your competitors aren’t doing anything based on a gut feeling, and that means you can’t afford to either — one wrongheaded move could put you behind.
Thankfully, Salesforce is an excellent way to gather and analyze data. With standard reports alone, you can easily see which reps are closing the most deals, which deals are most likely to close in the next 90 days, etc. And that’s just from a sales perspective. Marketers, customer service reps, project managers — whoever’s putting data into Salesforce can use reports and dashboards to analyze this information and make better decisions.
You can also use the data you have stored in Salesforce to keep your employees updated on important company initiatives. Here at Torrent, we have a dashboard that tracks progress to completion for our five quarterly priorities. This dashboard draws on data from a number of different teams, and we review it once a week as a company to make sure we all stay aligned and accountable. Without such a transparent, quantitative way to display our results, I’m not sure it would be so easy.
Business Element #3: Communication
According to projections from a recent study, about 235 billion emails are sent every single day. The number of useful, relevant emails sent every day? That data isn’t available, but I’d be willing to bet it falls far short of 235 billion.
That’s why, at least for internal communication, Salesforce Chatter is such a valuable tool. Because employees can comment on individual records, it’s easy to make sure each message stays attached to whatever contact/opportunity/campaign/task/etc. that it pertains to. This helps cut down on unnecessary clutter and makes individual messages much easier to find.
Of course, not all Chatter messages must be attached to a record. You can also create groups that allow teams to communicate quickly and effectively without the annoyance of long email chains. And because these conversations take place right in Salesforce, users don’t have to jump to another platform just to respond to one another.
Business Element #4: Project Management
This is where we start to see the value of third-party apps (which we’ve described before as “time-saving Salesforce-related products and solutions”). Salesforce doesn’t come with a standard project management solution, but add-ons like TaskRay more than fill the void. As its name might imply, TaskRay allows you to create and assign tasks directly in Salesforce, again eliminating the need for users to switch to another platform. These tasks can represent individual requests or components of a larger project. For instance, I use TaskRay to keep track of all my blogs, categorizing each as “Prioritized,” “In Progress,” or “Finished” based on its status. And because this information isn’t stored in a personal spreadsheet, my teammates always know what I’m working on and when they can expect certain posts to be finished.
And TaskRay isn’t the only app out there to help manage some of the more practical aspects of your business. Want to keep track of resourcing in Salesforce? Check out Precursive. Looking to pre-populate document templates (like contracts) with your Salesforce data? Try Conga. Need something else entirely? Salesforce’s AppExchange probably has what you’re looking for.
Business Element #5: Quoting and Billing
As my colleague has written, Salesforce CPQ is “pretty direct about what it does. It configures, prices and quotes things. It’s right in the name, like cufflinks.” As he suggests, CPQ is designed to help your company handle the different factors involved in those three processes, even when things get complicated. Cost-based pricing, multi-tiered discounting, customized product bundles — CPQ allows you to do it all, right in Salesforce. And, if you’re willing to pay a bit more, it also gives you access to advanced billing configuration.
No matter what your company sells, then, CPQ allows you to keep your financial transactions in the same platform you use to make sales. Given the time and energy this visibility will likely save them, this could prove a huge win for both your sales and finance teams.
A Quick Word on Integrations
While it’s true that Salesforce can handle pretty much everything you might want it to — hopefully I’ve made that point clear — I know it’s not always realistic to transfer 100% of your business to a single platform. Many manufacturing companies, for instance, likely won’t want to move away from their long-established ERPs, and healthcare organizations are legally required to maintain an EMR/EHR. In these cases, you should consider a platform integration. Because Salesforce features an open API, it’s possible to integrate with any sort of external tool or system. Taking advantage of this connective possibility means that whatever data you aren’t storing in Salesforce can still be viewed there without the time-suck of duplicate entry.
Okay, I’ve said a lot, and now it’s your turn. Got questions? Let us know in the comments, or drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.