Is Salesforce the right CRM for a Startup?

An evaluation of Salesforce benefits for startups, Salesforce pricing for startups, and things to consider when deciding how to select a CRM tool.

Updated
September 19, 2022

Benefits of CRM for Startups and Small Businesses

If you're reading this article, there's a good chance you know that every startup and small business needs a CRM to manage their entire Go-to-Market (GTM) organization.

But looking at the reasons you are evaluating a new CRM will help you identify the right tool for your business - whether that is Salesforce or not.

Data Strategy

For starters, it's a question of which teams within the company you plan to use this tool. Are you looking at solutions that just provide CRM functionality for your Sales team? Are you looking at a CRM in addition to Marketing Automation platforms that will be integrated with your CRM? Perhaps you are looking at bringing every GTM team into a single application, which would include Customer Support, Account Management, and Client Services as well as Sales and Marketing.

The reason this matters is because some vendor can only provide a tool that addresses one of these areas, which will leave you looking at multiple vendors to fill the gaps.

Regardless, you want to think about the company's data strategy. This is the process by which you move customers through every touchpoint with your business, from Marketing activities during lead generation, to sales activities during prospecting and demos, through post-sale retention activities with Customer Support teams.

You will manage and build better relationships with your customers by using a single source of truth for all of your interactions with the ultimate goal of increasing revenue for your business.

Scalability

Using a CRM like Salesforce helps with the scalability of your GTM operations. And Salesforce does it better than pretty much any other vendor on the market. Since Salesforce spent so many years catering to Enterprise organizations, they understand the complexity that comes with scale - tools like Hubspot and Zendesk can be great in the early days because they are easy to setup and simple to use; however, companies often outgrow these tools when they need more functionality.

Workflow Automation

Thousands of powerful tools exist specifically for B2B organizations that want to automate workflows and increase the productivity of Sales, Marketing, and Support teams.

Regardless of which CRM you select for your startup, you will absolutely integrate other tools that add powerful features and functionality not available in the core CRM offering. This is a benefit that all CRM vendors will offer, whether it's Hubspot, Salesforce, Zendesk, or Pipedrive.

Why Startups use Salesforce

Reviewing the primary reasons a company selects a CRM in the first place, it's hard not to give Salesforce the edge in every category. (After all, they do have 25%+ CRM market share for a reason.)

Unified Data and 360 Degree Customer Views

If you compare the products available from Salesforce (more on that below) with the suite of products offered by a competitor like Hubspot, it doesn't even compare. Salesforce has the most robust ecosystem of tools that easily integrate and provide a single source of truth for every single customer interaction. This allows for extremely powerful data insights that Revenue Operations teams can use to devise the most effective Sales and Marketing strategy for their specific organization.

Salesforce Pricing for Startups

Starting at $25 per user per month, Salesforce is able to offer customers both Sales and Service tools at the same price that other vendors charge just for the suite of CRM applications. This is an intentional part of their strategy, as they look to increase market share with SMBs and Startups, which means new customers in that space are winning with the current pricing model.

As you start to layer on additional tools in the Salesforce arsenal, you can evaluate monthly licenses on an as-need basis - meaning, if you have 20 users in your Sales team, you can start using a tool like CRM Analytics and only pay for 1 license within that new platform.

Once you get started with Salesforce, the whole suite of applications is available to you with flexible pricing options depending on how you plan to use it.

AppExchange Ecosystem

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits to Salesforce is their ecosystem of 3,000+ B2B applications that all integrate with ease.

The suite of tools range from simple scheduling add-ons like Calendly, to commission planning tools like Spiff, robust sales automation platforms like Outreach, back office applications for contract management like Ironclad, and anything else you could need to automate workflows and drive productivity.

Since Salesforce is the largest CRM vendor, these vendors will always build a Salesforce integration as step 1 on their product roadmap, while it may take them time to eventually build an integration to Hubspot, Zendesk, and some of the smaller competitors. It's worth keeping this in mind as you see the world of tools that Salesforce opens you up to.

Salesforce Products For Startups

Let's take a quick look at the most common Salesforce Products used by startups. It's common for an organization to start with the necessities for their Sales and Service teams, before beginning to evaluate the full suite available and migrate off other tools.

Salesforce Sales Cloud

Sales Cloud is the flagship CRM product used for managing the end-to-end Sales process. These are the features that will be used by your Sales and SDR team to manage their workflows as well as the tools that Sales Management and Revenue Operations groups leverage for reporting, metrics, and territory or GTM planning.

Salesforce Service Cloud

Salesforce Service Cloud is used for managing all Customer Support or Call Center Operations. In early stage startups, this team is often pretty small with a low ticket volume, so the features don't need to be very complex. However, considering the value of a connected customer journey and personalized experience typically motivates customers to look at Service out of the gate.

Salesforce CPQ/Revenue Cloud

Salesforce’s CPQ/Revenue Cloud includes CPQ and Billing tools that enable Reps to provide accurate pricing on deals, automate the custom quoting process, and remove a ton of manual work from your Billing and Finance teams. Many small companies won't leverage Revenue Cloud immediately but as the operation grows and revenue increases, it's a relatively simple productivity gain for both your Sales Reps and back office teams.

Salesforce Pardot

Pardot is the B2B portion of a Salesforce's Marketing Cloud offering. It's a simple e-mail automation platform to build highly engaging lead generation campaigns to drive top-of-funnel prospects for your Sales team. You can easily automate tasks like tracking customer behavior and automating touchpoints throughout the Sales journey, so companies that use Sales Cloud and Service Cloud see big benefits with leveraging that data in Pardot for more targeted campaigns.

Salesforce Consultants For Startups

Typically, the Revenue Operations team at a startup is responsible for implementing, managing, and supporting Salesforce.

It's likely this team will need a Salesforce Consultant when deciding to implement Salesforce, given that it is a significant workload upfront and often requires more specialized knowledge of the platform. While you can hire a Salesforce Consulting Partner to handle this work, you don't typically need more than 1-2 Consultants to implement Salesforce initially and there are huge benefits to using a Salesforce Freelancer instead of a Consulting Partner.

The right Salesforce Consultant for your startup should have knowledge of growth stage SaaS revenue models, expertise of Salesforce’s core products, and knowledge of tools like Outreach, Gong, Seismic, and any other non-Salesforce platforms you already have implemented.

If you're exploring a Salesforce implementation and want to discuss options with hiring a Salesforce Consultant, reach out to us at Found HQ to talk through options, typical hourly rates for Salesforce Consultants, and start meeting the right team.

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