What Is Salesforce? What Does Salesforce Do?

I was surprised to learn that a large number of people don’t know what Salesforce is, or what it’s used for. I found this out today when doing some research for my next blog article. Apparently over 20,000 people go to Google, every month, to answer the question “What is Salesforce?”. Being a Salesforce consultant I’ve just always taken it for granted that Salesforce was a known thing. It just goes to show you how easy it is for your knowledge and experience to blind you. However now that I’m aware that so many people have this question I figured I’d help out, and do my best to shed some light on the wonderful thing that is Salesforce.

So What Is Salesforce You Ask?

Salesforce was originally built, and marketed as CRM (customer relationship management) software. It was designed to help companies streamline and manage their sales operations, and to empower their sales teams. Salesforce was one of the first software companies to build and deliver web based software for businesses that was distributed over the Internet. It’s now the fourth largest software company in the world. Although initially focused on CRM, Salesforce has since evolved into a full suite of business applications that enable organizations to sell, service, and market all from the cloud (aka your web browser).

Even though Sales Cloud (CRM) is still its flagship product the current Salesforce offering now includes:

Salesforce Product Offering

  • Sales Cloud - "Sell smarter and faster with the world's #1 CRM solution." Think leads, opportunities, accounts & contacts.
  • Service Cloud - "Support every customer. Anytime. Anywhere." Think service delivery, customer support, field services, IT helpdesk, and call centers.
  • Marketing Cloud - "The future of marketing is 1-to-1 customer journeys." Think marketing automation.
  • Community Cloud - "Reimagine customer, partner, and employee engagement." Think customizable web portals that sit on top of your sales, service, and marketing data.
  • Analytics Cloud - "Get analytics on any data, from any device." Think business intelligence, and robust reports & dashboards.
  • App Cloud - "Build apps fast. Build businesses faster." Think Microsoft Access, but web based and way more awesome. This is my favorite "cloud" as I can literally build anything a client might need.
  • IoT Cloud - "Rethink the Internet of Things." Think a platform to connect smart devices. i.e. Equipment deployed to customer locations that connect to a centralized hub, through which, you can now manage and report on.

Keep in mind that, while Salesforce does have a board offering, when most people speak of Salesforce they’re typically referring to the Sales Cloud CRM product.

What Does Salesforce Do?

So what can Salesforce be used for exactly? Well as you can see from the lineup above Salesforce can do just about anything. It’s the primary reason I decided to build a consulting practice focused exclusively on a single technology; with Salesforce, I’m able to meet nearly any client need. Now while Salesforce does support a wide range of use cases, spanning from sales management to running a fortune 100 enterprise, I typically experience the following common uses while out in the field.

Common Salesforce Uses and Activities

  • Campaign Tracking - Out of the box, Salesforce supports tracking marketing campaigns. This helps you keep track of where leads are coming from, and how campaigns are performing. The most common uses for campaigns are tracking leads generated from pay-per-click advertising campaigns or from events such as webinars, or conferences. Campaigns let you report on ROI, and help you double down on what's working, and throw out what's not.
  • Capturing Leads - It's really easy to connect nearly any lead generation source so that new leads automatically flow directly into Salesforce without any manual entry from sales reps. The more common lead sources are website form submissions, website chat, inbound calls and text messages, and events; webinars, conferences, seminars, etc...
  • Assigning Leads - Salesforce lets you set up robust assignment rules so that new leads are automatically distributed to your sales reps based on logic you decide.
  • Lead Nurturing - Not all leads are fired up and ready to go; some need additional nurturing to warm them up. Salesforce allows you to keep in touch with cold leads automatically via lead nurturing rules.
  • Working Opportunities - Once you realize a lead has some potential you simply convert it to an opportunity. From there Salesforce gives you a slew of tools to execute on your sales process/cycle and take a deal from start to finish.
  • Generating Quotes & Proposals - Easily generate quotes and proposals, from data stored in Salesforce, then send to prospects with the click of a button. Additionally, with the Steelbrick CPQ addon (now owned by Salesforce), you can take things even further supporting the most complex quote-to-cash needs.
  • Managing Contacts & Accounts - Salesforce provides a centralized place to store all your contacts and accounts for customers, vendors, partners, etc... With the Salesforce for Outlook/Gmail app, you can sync your contacts with Outlook or Gmail. And with the Salesforce mobile app, you can sync Salesforce contacts with your smart phone or tablet.
  • Customer Support - Salesforce Sales Cloud comes with a "cases" feature that enables you to track and resolve customer requests. If your customer support needs are more robust, or you operate a services company you'll probably want to look into the Salesforce Service Cloud for service delivery and support.
  • Reporting - As you work within Salesforce, day in and day out, your company will begin generating lots of useful data. Salesforce comes with an awesome user-friendly reporting tool to help you extract crucial insights from that data.
  • Custom Apps - One of the most important and useful features of Salesforce is the ability to build custom apps. Whenever we come across a requirement, for a client, that we can't handle with Salesforce out of the box we'll build a custom app. Custom apps live right within Salesforce alongside the standard sales, service, and marketing apps. This ability to build custom apps is what makes possible the Salesforce AppExchange; an app store for business apps.

Although not native to Salesforce, you can achieve the following common activities with add-ons from the Salesforce app store (App Exchange).

Addon Supported Uses and Activities

  • E-Signing Agreements & Contracts - Salesforce supports most major e-sign services such as Adobe EchoSign or Docusign. This enables sending orders, proposals, contracts, etc... for e-signature, from within Salesforce, with the click of a button. The best parts are being able to merge data from Salesforce into an agreement, as well as, updating Salesforce from information entered into an agreement by a signer. Lastly, you can also automate activities once a document is signed. Imagine automatically creating and sending an invoice once a customer signs a deal, or automatically generating and sending purchase orders to vendors once a customer signs an order. Powerful stuff.
  • Processing Payments - For many clients, we'll install one of the payment processing add-ons which enables you to process credit card, and bank payments right from within Salesforce. This is especially helpful for software companies, or those who bill for their products and services on a recurring basis. Salesforce will let you schedule recurring jobs to process payments automatically.

Who Uses Salesforce?

Despite having seen Salesforce used in just about any type of organization. Salesforce is typically used by sales reps and sales managers within for-profit companies from many different industries. Surprisingly enough though you’ll also find Salesforce powering many of the world’s higher-ed and non-profit organizations; both small and large. Salesforce.org, the non-profit arm of Salesforce, actually builds and maintains a specific non-profit version of Salesforce called the “Non-Profit Starter Pack”. This start pack provides the unique feature set needed by most non-profits to streamline day-to-day operations.

To help give you a better idea of who uses Salesforce here’s a few of the, more well-known, organizations using it.


  • Google
  • Cisco Networks
  • ADP
  • Coca-Cola
  • Western Union
  • Philips
  • Herman Miller
  • TOMS Shoes
  • Virgin America
  • American Expres

Non-Profit & Higher Ed

  • American Red Cross
  • Susan G. Komen
  • DonorsChoose.org
  • Code.org
  • Kiva
  • Georgetown University
  • Harvard Business
  • Teach For America
  • QLife
  • Columbia Business School


In summary, for those of you just finding out about Salesforce, I hope this article was helpful in getting you up to speed on the phenomenon that is Salesforce. At the very least, however, I hope it answered your “What is Salesforce?” question. And for those who are currently considering Salesforce for your company; just do it. I know you don’t know me yet, but trust me on this. You can’t go wrong with Salesforce. Unlike many other software vendors out there it’s popularity is not fueled by hype. Salesforce is the number one CRM solution in the world because it truly is great software.

I’d love to hear from those of you who weren’t familiar with Salesforce prior to reading this article. I’m interested to know what you thought it was if not sales software. If you’ve enjoyed the article please leave me a comment below. And if you didn’t enjoy it then definitely leave me a comment. Feedback is encouraged and always appreciated. Until next time; take care!

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field