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Your Search for Salesforce CRM Tools Ends Here (Our Top 9 Picks)

August 3, 2020
Lillie Beiting
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Salesforce is a revolutionary cloud platform that allows businesses to integrate and manage their customer care through a variety of services, products, applications and integrations. 

Calling itself the world’s No. 1 customer-relationship-management (CRM) platform, Salesforce is more than just a glamorous phone book. Tools within the Salesforce product and solution suite can handle a wide variety of business automation and data needs. From order quoting and order tracking to marketing and reporting, Salesforce and its application store, AppExchange, boast a large selection of native or easily integrated solutions for businesses to choose to extend the capabilities of the Salesforce Sales Cloud and Service Cloud platforms.

Fair warning: Finding an appropriate solution sometimes can be overwhelming and confusing. Also, there’s a high possibility of purchasing third-party software with redundant features to solutions you already have in your tool kit. Before you go through the journey of purchasing and implementing a third-party tool, consider looking at options that may be available already to your organization.

Here are the top 9 native or Salesforce-owned platform tools you can quickly leverage for common business uses:

  1. Native Salesforce Reporting
  2. Einstein Analytics
  3. Tableau
  4. Datorama
  5. Salesforce Process Builder
  6. Salesforce Lightning Flow
  7. Salesforce Maps
  8. Salesforce CPQ
  9. Salesforce Surveys

Before Diving In: Keep It in the Ohana If Possible

Before you begin scoping out a solution for your enterprise, it’s crucial to deeply understand your requirements and business needs. Run a full assessment of features and functionality critical to your requirements, and be extremely mindful of existing enterprise software and integrations. 

We’ll explore why it’s a best practice to stay in the Salesforce Ohana system of software when possible, but your business requirements, technical architecture or legacy software may preclude you from utilizing Salesforce features.

Wherever possible, first consider native Salesforce functionality or a Salesforce product before immediately reaching for a new product or third-party tool. Staying within the Salesforce suite of products is generally advisable for the following reasons:

  • Your solution may be as simple as an automation or native feature within Salesforce, and leveraging an existing tool will eliminate the need for additional software expenditure and product management.
  • Sticking to Salesforce platform tools minimizes the risk of breakage within your existing Salesforce services, as Salesforce products are designed and developed to integrate seamlessly with Salesforce Sales Cloud and Salesforce Service Cloud.
  • Salesforce products all follow the same release schedule, making release management and security maintenance much easier for an organization.
  • Salesforce releases often include enhancements that can leverage tools across other Salesforce products, allowing organizations that stay with Salesforce product architecture the ability to leverage supported features earlier.

However, don’t be dissuaded from using a third-party tool that brings value to your organization, as there are some incredibly useful third-party tools that work impeccably with the Salesforce CRM. For example, Salesforce AppExchange has several excellent options for project management solutions for Salesforce, such as time-tracking and project-management tools FinancialForce and Mission Control.

The greatest use case for adopting any Salesforce product as a business solution is the ability to report on the data it houses.

The Best Salesforce Reporting and Analytics Tools

The greatest use case for adopting any Salesforce product as a business solution is the ability to report on the data it houses. Salesforce has acquired several external analytics solutions as the company has grown, fitting a wide variety of simple to complex enterprise and integration needs.

1. Native Salesforce Reporting

Many companies using only Salesforce products can fulfill their reporting needs by leveraging native Salesforce reporting and dashboard features. Native Salesforce reporting can access all standard objects and designated custom objects within your Salesforce org, allowing users to tailor reporting to their specific data and visual needs. Exportable and sortable, Salesforce native reporting allows for common data filtering and summary techniques.

Salesforce native reporting includes Salesforce dashboards, giving users and administrators the ability to create interactive data visualization. Salesforce Native Reporting and Dashboarding respect sharing rules within Salesforce, and permit users to subscribe to reports relevant to their business needs.

Before considering any of the paid analytics options, assess the complexity of your reporting needs--you may find that Salesforce native reporting covers your requirements. 

2. Einstein Analytics

Einstein Analytics, the Salesforce Reporting tool formerly known as Wave, is the big leagues of Salesforce reporting, allowing for a large range of customization and complex data management. Einstein Analytics has much wider applications and capabilities than Salesforce Native Reporting and Dashboards, and boasts a variety of features and customizations.

Whether it’s leveraging Einstein Discovery, the native data analysis artificial intelligence (AI) built into Einstein Analytics, or analyzing imported third-party data sets, this tool offers a number of features for analysis and customization. Additionally, Einstein Analytics is heavily supported in the Lightning Component Framework, meaning Salesforce is building Einstein Analytics into more of its user interfaces and for immediate use at the record level.

While Salesforce Einstein can create some of the most complex and intricate visualizations inside Salesforce, it requires some specialty skills to manage effectively, such as a working knowledge of Json. Additionally, Einstein Analytics requires additional license purchases for administrators and viewers, so be sure to consider specialized operator maintenance and additional license costs during your purchasing decision.

3. Tableau

Enterprise analytics classic Tableau is an excellent option for organizations with separate data analytics, business intelligence or data visualization teams to leverage and integrate Salesforce data. Much like Salesforce itself, Tableau is designed around easy data integrations, and it is often used in other enterprise divisions for data visualization and synthesis. Tableau can be a great Salesforce analytics tool choice for organizations that already have multiple software connections into Tableau, but not into Salesforce.

Salesforce actually acquired Tableau in 2019, and the company has been heavily gearing development of Tableau for further integration work with Salesforce Customer 360. Tableau continues to expand its AI offerings, giving organizations instant access to sophisticated natural language processing (NLP) that allows users to interact dynamically with their data and obtain new insights.

4. Datorama

Datorama is a deep marketing analytics and AI platform service acquired by Salesforce in 2018. With a focus on integrating third-party marketing and client data to provide a single source of truth marketing attribution and analysis solution, Datorama can take much of the legwork out of unifying third-party communications channels and marketing data sources.

If Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) is a key performance indicator (KPI) for your organization, or if your organization is heavily communication-focused or operates a complex omnichannel and paid online marketing strategy, investing in Datorama could be a good solution for you. Datorama can offer deep insights into marketing channels that are converting best for your business while helping your organization identify areas for campaign improvement.

Best of all, Datorama has committed to continuing the development of AI technologies for marketing analytics data applications for better insights.

The Best Salesforce Automation Tools

The Salesforce CRM platform is known for its declarative architecture and automation capabilities. Indeed, many products within the Salesforce product suite are designed to build upon the core tools and functionalities found within Salesforce’s sales and service clouds.

Whether it’s a product such as Salesforce CPQ that expands on the transactional standard objects or one of the various Salesforce-owned marketing products designed to work with the person objects, many Salesforce tools and products often already perform the job a third-party tool claims to tackle. Below are some of the best Salesforce automation tools to explore before considering third-party software.

5. Salesforce Process Builder

Salesforce Process Builder is a revolutionary automation tool that can power complex automations within Salesforce and operate with little to no Apex code. Process Builder is Salesforce’s next automation tool iteration after Workflow Rules, an existing automation solution within Salesforce that is no longer being enhanced.

Process Builder is an astonishingly robust tool that can power several automations both within Salesforce and to integrated solutions via application programming interface (API) call. (Admittedly, some of the Process Builder API calling capabilities do require Apex code). Consider some of the automation capabilities of Process Builder before you look for an external third-party software: It may be much simpler and more manageable to build automation within Process Builder than to manage a new software.

6. Salesforce Lightning Flow

Salesforce Lightning Flow (formerly known as Visual Workflow) may be a viable native Salesforce feature for user interface (UI) customizations, or even for use as a Salesforce training tool. If you are looking for custom user experiences as well as a guided experience for a user regarding how to submit data, Lightning Flow may be an excellent solution for you, potentially replacing custom Visualforce code or the need for Vlocity pages.

Salesforce Maps can help field representatives determine optimal sales routes and appointment planning.

The Best Salesforce Mapping Tool

7. Salesforce Maps

If your organization has a field-service component, specific geographic-tracking needs or is extremely region-sensitive in its business operations and sales model, Salesforce Maps may be an excellent addition to your Salesforce technical stack.

Salesforce Maps can help field representatives determine optimal sales routes and appointment planning, navigate to a client’s location without ever leaving Salesforce or notify clients of their planned arrival.

Salesforce Maps can be an excellent way to introduce your organization into integrating geographic information system (GIS) data into your central customer database. Overlaying geographic territories with financial data sources can provide business leaders new insights into sales tactics and territory performance while allowing field personnel the ability to better organize and prioritize their workload.

The Best Salesforce Quoting Tool

8. Salesforce CPQ

If you are a business with a complex sales process, multiple price books and product catalogs, or intricate contract needs and service offerings, take a look at Salesforce CPQ. An acronym for “configure, price and quote,” Salesforce CPQ simplifies the configuration of a product catalog and deal structure for your end users, allowing an end user to easily create, quote and scale their sales process.

CPQ also can alleviate the pain of recurring sales models and subscriptions by automating contract renewal and contract billing processes, allowing for the combination of invoices so a customer only sees one final bill. By allowing for the possibility of product upsell and potential cross-selling while centralizing billing, Salesforce CPQ can minimize your customer attrition while delivering a seamless customer experience tailored to your business needs.

The Best Native Survey Tool

9. Salesforce Surveys

While there are many digital survey solutions in the marketplace — as well as several that directly integrate with Salesforce marketing tools — the Salesforce Surveys can be a great use case for organizations looking to survey their clients after a service case was opened or after another customer experience.

Be advised that Salesforce Surveys can sometimes require a fair amount of automation set up to have them communicate data to different Salesforce objects. You may need to set up some email alert workflow rules and marry them to a select set of process builders to get an individual survey response to appear at the contact or case record level, for example. 

An important consideration in the usage of Salesforce Surveys is that they may incur additional costs above your existing master service agreement, so be sure to meet with your Salesforce Account Executive to discuss your financial commitments before enabling surveys in your Salesforce org. Additionally, be sure to evaluate how many responses you anticipate and how many API calls required if your set up involves complex integrations, as those also may cause unintended additional costs.

Expand Your Company’s Automation with Salesforce Tools

Salesforce has several native options for common business needs, and you may be surprised how easy Salesforce makes it to include features such as Reporting, Mapping, Surveys, Quoting and complex automations into your CRM. While many excellent third-party Salesforce Tool Solutions also exist, consider looking within the immediate Salesforce product or capability suite before purchasing a redundant or excessive third-party tool.

The possibilities for integration and deeper insight into your customer base and your business operations are infinite with Salesforce, so be sure to carefully research your business needs and include new products and clouds into your business solution roadmap.


Lillie Beiting

Lillie Beiting is a digital Innovator, Pardot trailblazer, database marketer and Salesforce engineer who takes the clutter out of highly technical and complex digital marketing systems to analyze and maximize digital ROI.

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