In the 1990s the saying was “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” – now when you’re choosing a CRM the same could be said for buying Salesforce. It’s the industry leader, and is certainly the best solution for many organisations. However, it’s not the best fit for everyone. For smaller businesses, here are five things to think about before committing.

Salesforce starts as a blank canvas

Whilst you may have seen an impressive demo during the sales process, this likely involved many third party products and other Salesforce add-ons. When your SF Org is created you’ll be starting with a blank canvas. Some of the SF interface has had a lick of polish (Lightning) in recent years, but much of the UI is somewhat dated and clunky.

Whilst you’re on pre-sales demos with the Salesforce team, make sure to check that the features you’re being shown are native, and part of the basic price-plan.

You will need a Salesforce developer

The power of Salesforce is that it can be customised to your requirements. A reasonably technical user can quickly develop the necessary skills to be your in-house Salesforce Administrator – adding fields and custom objects, making reports, using process builder to create some automation. However, you can do all those things in many other CRMs, at a fraction of the cost. 

The reason to buy Salesforce is because it allows greater customisation for your internal processes and deep integration with external systems. However, to take advantage of that power you will need a Salesforce developer. Writing the code isn’t the biggest drama, their proprietary APEX is similar to Java. However, SF’s development tools are notoriously weak, and the need to engage software engineers can turn an agile sales and marketing system into a cumbersome endeavour.

Whether you use a third party consultant or hire someone direct, SF will quickly become another part of your tech stack to manage, deploy, and test against. If your internal processes are relatively static, it may be that after the initial implementation you don’t need long-term developer resource. However, the moment something breaks or needs updating your original implementation partner has you over a barrel!

Bluntly – if you are not using Salesforce deeply enough to require developer resource, you probably don’t need Salesforce.

There are hidden limits

It’s important to remember that Salesforce (the company) is a sales-oriented organisation. They have large teams dedicated specifically to targeting SMEs. Their sales culture can be an advantage – they are completely open to negotiation and discounting, especially at crunch times like the end of their sales quarters. However, it also means their product offering is structured to extract greater long-term revenue – with a focus on signing multi-year contracts.

As you start to use Salesforce, you’ll come up against other hidden costs. Your developer may need additional sandboxes, you could reach your data storage limit, or perhaps need more dynamic dashboards or more API calls.

Salesforce products don’t always play nice

Over the years SF has acquired many other companies and added them to their suite of products. Typically, these acquisitions already had an overlapping customer base and some sort of working integration with SF.

The Salesforce marketing team is very efficient at branding acquisitions as an integral part of the Salesforce suite of products, however, the engineering team are slow to provide deep integration to the core SF product. Despite the branding, the connection is often superficial, with the clear architecture of discrete products. This leads to unexpected barriers in how data and records interact.

Once you’re committed – you’ll never leave

Without a doubt you can export your data from SF, and in theory you’re able to move elsewhere. However, the only time you would realistically do this is if you had only been using it in a very basic way. As soon as you have invested in customising it deeply to your business requirements, you will be too embedded to seriously consider moving elsewhere.

With integrations to your other systems, automation and process layered upon the SF architecture, as well as the add-on products from the SF AppExchange eco-system, it will be near impossible to think about going elsewhere.

This is, of course, is part of SF’s stickiness and long-term success. However, it’s worth remembering when you take the plunge to invest in SF, this is a very long-term decision.