Salesforce CRM Explained, for Beginners

Many people have heard of Salesforce but aren’t exactly sure what it is or why they’d ever need it.  I have been working with Salesforce for over eight years now.  I am a certified Salesforce administrator and work full time as a Salesforce Marketing Cloud administrator for a large insurance company with nearly 2000 employees and millions of customers.  In this article, I’ll try and explain Salesforce CRM and give examples to help those who are less technical understand what it is and what it can do.

Salesforce is actually the name of a company, headquartered in San Francisco, that was founded back in 1999.  The company provides customer relationship management (CRM) software and a suite of enterprise applications focused on sales, customer service, marketing automation, and much more.  Salesforce is a system or platform for your business and is designed to help you sell, service, market, analyze and connect with your customers.  Because it lives in the cloud, Salesforce will help you run your entire business from anywhere.  It doesn’t matter if you own a small bakery or a large construction company.  If you need a system to manage your business from start to finish, consider Salesforce. 

What products can you buy from Salesforce?

Now that we’ve identified Salesforce as a company, let’s discuss some of the products that they sell.  From my experience, this can be a bit confusing.  All of their services must be purchased as standalone items or individual products, but they can also all integrate with each other to further enhance your “system”.  I’ll explain that a bit more, but first, here’s a list of just some of the products you can purchase from Salesforce:

  • Sales Cloud:  Grow your business with ease, from anywhere.
  • Service Cloud:  Provide industry-leading support to your customers.
  • Marketing Cloud: Automate your marketing communications.
  • Commerce Cloud:  A commerce platform to sell your products.They say “When work flows, orders grow.”

There’s much more.  You can find a full list of Salesforce’s products in the diagram below, or on their website –

How Do You Know if Salesforce is Right for Your Business?

In my opinion, the answer is simple.  I started using Salesforce in 2013 after being hired to work at a small hospitality company in Las Vegas.  When I started, the company had a good amount of business but had no system(s) in place.  They were using Excel spreadsheets to manage and track invoices (clearly leaving money on the table) and sticky notes for reminders of upcoming reservations.  I had to find a solution – one system to manage it all.  That’s when I discovered Salesforce CRM.

Here are a few key points you can use to identify if you need Salesforce or any CRM in your life:

  • Your customer information is all over the place.  You have information on your customers in spreadsheets, on sticky notes, on your phone, and elsewhere.  In doing so, it’s hard to see a complete picture of your sales and potential sales.  When a customer calls, you have to scramble to find their information and your notes on previous conversations.


  • You’re losing important information.  When important information is all over the place or simply in your head, its easy to get lost or misplaced.  It’s even worse when a team member leaves and takes that information with them.


  • Reports are tedious or nonexistent.  Trying to analyze your sales or expenses is something you dread.  You have no quick way to view the data you need without spending hours researching and plugging it into spreadsheets.


  • You need your computer to conduct business.  Most of your information is stored on your computer somewhere.  You are unable to view information, send contracts, or close deals from your mobile device.


  • You don’t think you can scale.  The thought of more business is frightening because your internal processes are a mess.  You’re not sure you can handle an increase in business on your own.

How Can I Use Salesforce For My Business?



At the core of Salesforce, you have leads, accounts and contacts. 

A “lead” is a potential customer or someone that can turn into a paying customer eventually.  As a business owner, it’s important that you keep track of and follow up with any leads or people who are interested in your products or services.  How many times has someone emailed or texted you inquiring about your service and you forget to follow up?  It happens all the time.  But each time can result in a loss of revenue and future referral business.  The system allows you to convert a lead into a contact in the event that you end up obtaining their business.

A “contact” is just that – a contact.  In most cases a contact is a point of contact that works at a particular company.  Within a contact’s record, you can store their phone number, email address, conversation history, email history and much more.  You can add different types of fields to any record.  For example, I have a date field called “birthday” on my contacts page and have my CRM setup to automatically send contacts a personalized email on their birthday.

An “account” in Salesforce is usually a company that you’re doing business with.  For example, one of the services that we offer here at Project Golbourne is web design.  One of our customers is a company called Selhorst Woodworks.  In our CRM, we have an account for Selhorst Woodworks.  The account record has the company’s phone number, website, hours of operation and a brief description of services.  Attached to the account are all of the contacts that work at the company.  If I ever wanted to get in touch with the owner of Selhorst Woodworks, I could easily pull up the account and look at a list of related contacts that I added.


Opportunities are a great sales tool.  Think of it like an “opportunity to make money.”  You can create an opportunity record and input the details of a potential sale.  From there, you can track the status and progress of the opportunity and use it to forecast and better run your business. 

Going back to the web design scenario, let’s say Selhorst Woodworks is a new customer interested in a new website.  I can open up the account for their company and create a new opportunity.  In this opportunity record, I can lay out the details, the status of the opportunity and the price (ie: $5,000).  Now, as a business owner, I can use something called a “list view” or a report to quickly see all of my open, won, closed or lost opportunities.  If I have $12,000 worth of open opportunities, for example, that means that I have the opportunity or potential to make $12,000.  This will help me forecast, budget, and know what’s in the sales pipeline.  The opportunity status can be whatever you want it to be – new, pending, negotiating, in contract, etc.  This will help you track and manage the status of each opportunity.  If you have a sales team, you can use opportunities to see who your lead sales reps are.  Salesforce even allows you to use “Kanban,” a visualization tool to review deals organized by stage.  Using drag-and-drop functionality, sales reps or other team members can move deals from one stage to another and get alerts on key deals as needed. The opportunities are endless (get it?).


List views are different views, in the form of a list, to view data inside your CRM.  They allow you to quickly see records that are important to you.  Using filters, you and your team members can create customized lists views for accounts, contacts, opportunities or other records in Salesforce.  For example, if I want to see a list of all of the leads that have a status of “new”, I can create and save that list with the appropriate filters for easy access in the future.  You can create lists for anything – upcoming birthdays, VIP customers, upcoming reservations, pending orders, opportunities over a certain dollar amount, failed opportunities, etc.  List views are a quick way to view important data without needing to create reports or use a spreadsheet.


Reports and dashboards are a necessity for any business owner.  Just like list views, reports and dashboards will let you view any data that’s in your system using filters.  Let’s say you want a report of successfully closed (won) opportunities by month.  Since the information is already in your system, you can filter the data, group data together (by month, for example) and even add charts to your reports if you desire.  You only have to build a report once, and it will automatically update in real time as you add more data to your system.  If you like visuals, you can create a dashboard with charts from multiple reports, giving you a simple screen with all of your favorite information.


Automation is one of my favorite things about Salesforce.  I won’t get into the details as this can get more complicated, but in Salesforce you can use something called “Flows” or “Workflows” to automate processes.  For example, let’s say you run a hospitality company.  You can use the Flow builder in Salesforce to automatically email customers seven days prior to their arrival and two days after their departure with custom pre-built email templates.  You can get creative and use this for many things – like updating a “status” field if certain things happen or checking a “VIP” box if a customer generates a certain amount of revenue.  Using automation saves a ton of time when it comes to manual labor.  It also reduces the change of error or forgetting to do something since it’s done automatically for you.  Use Salesforce to automate your mundane and repetitive business processes.


Some of the standard features I mentioned in this article barely scratches the surface of what this CRM can do.  I’ve probably covered 5% of it.  Salesforce allows you to fully customize and personalize the experience for your customers, partners and employees.  You can use custom objects to create completely customizable “sections” of your system then use relationships to connect those sections to one another.  You can work with a Salesforce administrator or developer to customize everything from the look and feel to different automations.  You can install 3rd party applications from Salesforce’s app exchange.  Really, there’s no limit to the things you can do.

Salesforce is amazing and I recommend it for anyone and everyone.  It can be a bit pricey for new businesses and unfortunately, they only offer annual subscriptions (no month to month).  However, I always tell people that I genuinely believe that’s is worth the expense and should be considered a cost of doing business.  Whether you decide to try Salesforce or another CRM, you can not successfully run a business without a system of some sort and process.  If you’re considering Salesforce for your business, contact us and we can give you real-life examples of how the CRM can be customized to benefit your business.  As a certified Salesforce administrator, I can also help fully customize and automate your system to help you get the most bang for your buck (shameless plug).

If you’ve used Salesforce for your business, I’d love to hear your feedback.  Leave a comment below.