Which Salesforce edition is right for me?
The decision of which CRM to go with is among the most important a fast-growing small business needs to make. The right CRM can make or break productivity, customer experience, and ultimately revenue and profitability. However, in the day of subscription-based cloud software, companies not only need to decide which CRM to purchase but also which edition of said software makes the most sense for them.
In my years as a Salesforce customer at a startup and almost 4 more as a Solution Engineer at Salesforce, I’ve had to make this decision myself as well as helped thousands of other small and medium businesses do the same. Here are some of the key questions and principles I recommend considering while making this important decision.
What are my options?
Of course, Salesforce isn’t the only CRM in town, but I’m proud to say based on my experience it is far and away the best, so this article is focused on choosing a Salesforce edition. There are two main options: ProfessionalEdition (PE) and Enterprise Edition (EE). EE comes with more features and functionality but at a higher per-user cost. Those aren’t the only options, but in my experience, 99% of new Salesforce customers should start with PE or EE. Keep in mind that you can upgrade editions at any time, but you cannot downgrade. If you haven’t already, take a look at the official edition comparison sheet, but don’t freak out! I know it’s a lot to take in! My job today is to help simplify and make sense of it.
So how do I choose?
Obviously, budget is no issue, so you pick the edition with the most features and functionality and the decision’s made, right? Ah, to live in such a world... In reality, we need to balance the cost of each edition against the value they’ll add to our organization. That’s why the absolute most important concept in this decision isn’t a feature/function checklist, it’s Return on Investment (ROI). In a nutshell: how much will each additional dollar you spend on CRM bring back into your business? This return can come in many forms but often boils down to cost savings or increased revenue. If a given feature (say, automating certain tasks) is going to save each of your 10 reps 30 minutes per week, and you pay them an average of $50/hour, it’s going to save you 10 (reps) x 0.5 (hrs/week) x 50 ($/hr) x ~50 (weeks/year) = $12,500 per year in increased productivity. If that feature were going to cost you $100/year, it’s an easy decision, right? If it were going to cost you $50,000/year, it’s also easy (“no way!”). Of course, the numbers will all vary based on your business, but this value-based framework is how I recommend making the decision of which edition to choose. At the end of the day, we can compare the increased value of all the additional features in EE and decide if it’s worth the additional investment over PE. So, with our framework introduced, let’s talk about some of the most important features that differentiate the value offerings of PE and EE!
Automation, Integration, and Security
As you saw in the edition comparison sheet, there are a lot of features to consider. However, for the sake of brevity and sanity, I usually group EE’s benefits into 3 main categories:
Automation: One of Salesforce’s most valuable features is the ability to easily build out complex automated processes. This can not only save huge amounts of employee time, freeing your team up to close more deals, it also reduces the room for human error, a major factor in many lost sales and poor customer experiences. EE comes with point-and-click tools like Approval Processes, Workflow Rules, and the Process Builder, as well as the even more powerful code-based Apex Triggers. PE allows limited access to the Process Builder, with up to 5 Processes included, but in my experience automation is like potato chips: if you start with one, you’re quickly going to want more than just 5! The other automation tools, which are often simpler and/or more powerful than the Process Builder, are only included with EE. If process automation is important to your goals, EE is likely the right choice for you.
Integration: A core of Salesforce’s success has been the company’s understanding that no business processes exist in isolation. This is why integrating CRM with other software systems—finance and accounting, warehouse and inventory, engineering, support, internal systems, the list goes on—is often at the top of client requirements. Salesforce offers a powerful suite of APIs that allow you to build your own integration with other systems, or take advantage of the hundreds of pre-built connectors on the AppExchange. Access to these APIs is only included on EE and higher editions.
Security: The data you keep in your CRM is mission-critical, and trust is Salesforce’s #1 value. At the startup I worked at, our small team had a “fishbowl” security model, meaning every user could see all the data. That worked fine for us, but if you need robust control over who can see and access which data in Salesforce, EE provides all the tools you need to fine-tune your security model to fit your needs. This includes features like Roles, Custom Profiles, and Record Types, that allow you to control access to data on the object, row, or even field level. Don’t worry if those terms don’t mean much to you now, just know that if detailed control over access to the data in your CRM is important to you, EE may be your best option.
If the three categories above are not on your list of top CRM priorities, then PE sounds like a perfect fit for your organization. If any of them are, we need to break out the ROI calculator to determine if the extra value they’d add justifies the additional spend.
Go slow and grow?
As I said earlier, you can upgrade from PE to EE at any time, so a natural decision for many small businesses is to start with the lower edition and upgrade as necessary. Often, this is a great approach. However, one thing to be aware of is that upgrading from PE to EE can often come with significant reimplementation costs, and there is also the danger of companies learning to cope with “workarounds” on PE that aren’t in their long-term best interest. As a rule of thumb, I advise that if you’re planning on upgrading within around 6-12 months, you may be better off starting out on EE, even if you’re not going to take advantage of every feature on Day 1. If you think your upgrade is 1-2 years or more down the line, starting with PE and upgrading when you feel the need is probably the right call.
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