Salesforce CRM for Training Providers - What You Need to Know

  in  Training Management Systems

What is Salesforce?

From the Salesforce website:

"Salesforce is a customer relationship management solution that brings companies and customers together. It's one integrated CRM platform that gives all your departments --- including marketing, sales, commerce, and service --- a single, shared view of every customer."

  1. Salesforce is a market-leading cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) platform.

  2. It's a suite of applications - a collection of related products that together cover all the phases of the customer journey from initial lead to loyal customer. There are products for different departments in your organisation - but they all sit on top of the same underlying data.

  3. Applications in the Salesforce ecosystem include Sales, Marketing, Commerce and Service.

  4. You can extend Salesforce with your own apps - there are Salesforce platform solutions that non-techy people can use to build apps on top of their Salesforce data.

What does Salesforce cost?

The Salesforce pricing overview page is here:

Not surprisingly, the answer to the question 'what does Salesforce cost?' depends on the products you want to use and the size of your organisation. For example, Saleforce's small business offer (Essentials), suitable for up to 10 users, is priced at £20 per user per month. The Enterprise version of Salesforce is £120 per user per month.

What can Salesforce do out of the box?

The Salesforce Sales product is where you find the CRM functionality. It's the core product in the Salesforce family. The 'Essentials' small business edition of Sales includes:

  1. Account, contact, lead and opportunity management.
  2. Email integration with Outlook and Gmail.
  3. The Salesforce mobile app.

Go for the popular 'Enterprise' edition of Sales and you also get:

  1. Lead registration and rule based scoring.
  2. Collaborative forecasting.
  3. Workflow and approval automation.

How do I adapt Salesforce to my training business?

Trailhead is the Salesforce resource centre/learning platform. It contains examples of how to configure Salesforce for your business. You should go to Trailhead and read some of the articles about how to get started with Salesforce. There are resources for Salesforce beginners, more experienced Salesforce admins and expert Salesforce developers.

There are really two routes into adapting Salesforce:

  1. You - or your in-house Salesforce admin - configure Salesforce to be a better fit with your organisation.

  2. You use an external consultant - a Salesforce developer - to make more significant changes.

The Salesforce Platform Basics module in the Trailhead learning platform is a good place to start if you are a complete beginner who wants to know more about basic Salesforce admin and customisation. As a Salesforce admin you can do things like:

  1. Create custom objects - your data tables that sit in the Salesforce database.

  2. Customise the Salesforce built in objects - for example you could add your own custom checkbox to the contact object.

  3. Run reports that use your custom objects.

In a training company context you might:

  1. Create a learner object - a learner table in the Salesforce database that holds detailed information about learners.

  2. Create a object - containing information about the courses you offer.

  3. Link the two objects - use Salesforce to track enrolments across courses.

You can create more bespoke and sophisticated solutions within Salesforce by developing your own apps on top of the Salesforce platform. Again, Trailhead is the place to go to find out more. Developers work with Salesforce software development tools to code apps that use the Salesforce platform APIs.

For example, a training company might:

  1. Build a custom learner enrolment app that sits within Salesforce. Training admins use custom forms to capture learner data when a learner is enrolled on a course.

  2. Develop a custom Salesforce app for trainers. Trainers use the app to track session attendance and view their training schedule/diary.

Give me 5 good reasons why I should use Salesforce in my training business

Salesforce is an industry leading CRM platform. There's extensive online documentation and resources, there's a big Salesforce consultant network and will continue to grow and develop as new features are added.

  1. You can start simple - 10 users on the Essentials Sales app.

  2. Salesforce's resources and learning platform (Trailhead) is seriously impressive. There's a Salesforce community where you can get more support from other users.

  3. There are high quality Trailhead learning pathways that lead to recognised credentials and certificates. You can make Trailhead part of your own staff development programme - your staff become experts and gain qualifications.

  4. With time and effort you can adapt Salesforce to fit even the most niche business processes.

  5. Salesforce is mobile friendly - there's a Salesforce mobile app and you can quickly build your own apps on the Salesforce platform.

Give me 5 reasons why Salesforce might not be the right solution for my training business

The reasons for not using Salesforce are similar to the reasons for not using Microsoft Dynamics 365.

  1. You are locked in early and the costs go up as your business grows. Over time your sunk costs make it harder and harder to switch to another platform.

  2. It's more than you need. You want a simpler solution, but you still want to support more than just a few users.

  3. You want to build a commercial offer around an online learning software as a service solution. You want your back office CRM functionality to be part of that wider solution and you don't want to pay for third party user licences as your service grows.

  4. Salesforce can be customised to fit your business, but you think you'll need a lot of support from expensive third party consultants. That tips the balance in favour of a bespoke solution.

  5. You want a bespoke solution because it gives you more control.

What should I do next?

I think a complete Salesforce beginner who wants a quick overview of what Salesforce might be able to do for their training business should do the following:

  1. Start a free trial and watch some of the Salesforce demo videos.

  2. Spend a bit of time - maybe a few hours over the course of a week - reading some of the materials on the Trailfinder site (training companies can learn a lot from Trailfinder).

  3. Talk to an existing Salesforce customer. Try to get a feel for the time and effort needed to customise Salesforce to fit your business.

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