CRM chief Mike Rosenbaum on how Salesforce Essentials puts SMBs ahead

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright March 12, 2018
CRM chief Mike Rosenbaum tells us how Salesforce Essentials puts SMBs right at the heart of the cloud giant's sales and customer service products

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There's a new $25-per-month price point to sign up as a Salesforce user today as Salesforce Essentials goes live in 18 languages. This new entry-level offering for small business customers marks a return to Salesforce's original mantra of serving every size of customer from a single platform, and company veteran Mike Rosenbaum, Executive Vice-President of CRM Applications, is mighty pleased about it:

This is us putting our best foot forward for small business and making sure we're giving them exactly what they need — no more, no less.

We like to say it's future proof. It will get better with each of our three major releases a year, and it's going to scale as they grow because it's the same platform.

It is Salesforce packaged specially for small business, with out-of-the-box capability that enables them to get started really quickly.

Today's roll-out is a follow up to the initial launch of Salesforce Essentials at November's Dreamforce conference, when the Sales Cloud component of the product became available, and has since acquired 2,000 customers. Today, Service Cloud completes the product. Both components come as part of the Salesforce Essentials package, but the company is marketing each of them separately, says Rosenbaum, as prospects will likely start with one or the other.

We think small businesses want to focus on discrete products. They have a problem they want to solve in sales, or in service.

Everything on Salesforce is on the Salesforce platform, so you will get both products when you buy a license of one or the other.

End of SalesforceIQ and

In tandem with today's announcement, Salesforce is retiring two products that it previously marketed for SMBs but which ran on their own separate platforms. SalesforceIQ and were each the result of acquisitions, and there was no easy upgrade path for customers who had outgrown them to move to the core Salesforce platform. Customers on these platforms now have until March 2020 to find a new home, and Salesforce is providing migration tools to help them move across.

Both products provided valuable learning experiences for Salesforce, which have been incorporated into Essentials, says Rosenbaum.

We've learned a ton from the Desk and the IQ acquisitions. This almost manaical focus on getting started, being easy to setup, simple to scale and grow — our goal has been to take as much as we could and put that directly into the Salesforce platform.

In the past two to three years, several changes within the Salesforce platform have helped get it ready to provide those characteristics. The keystone was the transition to the sleeker user experience of Salesforce Lightning, which is much easier to set up and use than the previous generation.

Online learning and AI

The introduction of the interactive Trailhead online learning environment was the next step, and is especially important for small businesses who often don't have time or resources to spare for training, says Rosenbaum.

Trailhead is core to everything that we are doing at Salesforce. People come to Salesforce with the intention to change and innovate and transform their business — and its incumbent on us to teach them how to do that. Trailhead does that.
They're looking for a path, a guide, training, how to do that the best they possibly can do it and Trailhead is our mechanism for accelerating that.

The final ingredient was the development of Salesforce Einstein, which brings artificial intelligence and analytics to the platform. This made it possible to replicate the data entry automation from SalesforceIQ, as Rosenbaum explains:

One of the key characteristics of the IQ product line is something called automated activity capture. That enables a small business to connect their email to Salesforce and capture all that interaction that's going on, and then we can use that to make better predictions.

That deep machine learning capability is now packaged specifically for Essentials and for small business to leverage this very powerful capability built within the core of Salesforce.

Adding enhancements

Running on the core Salesforce platform also means that Essentials customers — subject to licensing constraints — have access to the full range of third-party products available from the AppExchange ecosystem, rather than being limited to a dedicated marketplace tailored to the specific technology of the SalesforceIQ or platforms. Says Rosenbaum:

AppExchange is part of the Essentials launch and is one of the numbers of things that we're able to apply to this product suite now that it is part of the core Salesforce platform.

One of the most important characteristics of the value proposition is that [customers] can choose to partner with Salesforce with the confidence that anything we're doing to help our 150,000 Salesforce customers is going to apply to them.

This is a two-way street, Rosenbaum notes, in that the enhancements that have made the platform palatable to an SMB market are also of benefit to larger enterprises:

Our focus on small business makes us a better company. It helps us make a better product and that makes the product better for all our customers. If I can make it simpler to use out-of-the-box, that makes it better for every customer.

That emphasis on ease-of-use helps reduce hurdles to getting started, but sometimes SMBs are going to need specialist help. Rosenbaum says the company is looking at ways of extending the market for Salesforce Essentials via channel partners.

Our goals when we think about the design of the product is that it works straight out of the box. They can sign up and away they go. But often they'll need help with implementation services.

We will be very innovative in terms of our partners. We want to cast as wide a net as possible for making sure every small business in the world knows about and can find Salesforce Essentials.

My take

As I wrote when Essentials was first announced at Dreamforce, this is an important landmark and a welcome restoration of the original vision that a single cloud platform can scale to serve the needs of every business, from SMB to enterprise.

[Updated to note licensing constraints on access to AppExchange apps, per reader comment below].

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