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6 Salesforce Hacks for Small Businesses

image for Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Implementing a new customer relationship management system (CRM) system is no small task, but small business owners are flocking to CRM systems because they offer SMBs the automation, analytics and accountability that enterprises have been relying on for years. Salesforce, the gold standard for CRM systems, started as an enterprise-focused software company but has expanded into offering SaaS solutions that are affordable for small businesses. In fact, in 2019 we named Salesforce the Best CRM for Small Businesses.

If you're a small business owner and a Salesforce user, make sure you take advantage of these invaluable features and small business CRM strategies.

Email integration is a key aspect of nearly any CRM system. One major benefit of choosing an established CRM like Salesforce is the bevy of click-ready integrations.

Using Salesforce Lightning, you can easily integrate Salesforce functionality into your Gmail or Outlook inbox. Syncing with your email application automatically syncs not only your Salesforce inbox with your email client but also pulls in your contacts and events.

Once synced, Sales Cloud users can manage their contacts (and remove duplicates or dead ends) and view your contact's social media feeds without navigating out of your CRM. [Interested in adding a CRM to your small business? Check out our best picks first.]

Most business owners don't adopt CRM software specifically for email templates, but Salesforce's template customization options can seriously streamline your customer communication.

Users can easily create text emails and custom letterhead emails, and if you want to get your hands dirty, you can create custom HTML templates. Templates can be saved into communication pipelines as automated responses, preaddressed with a future send date (perfect for marketing) or saved and accessed at will by your team. You can also add images to custom templates, program your own templates from scratch using Visualforce and use merge fields (similar to mail merge in Word) to send out large batches of emails.

In addition to saving money (which might otherwise be spent on hiring freelance designers), utilizing Salesforce templates can unify your company's brand through common fonts, formats, and images, and decrease the amount of time your staff spends composing and sending emails by hand.

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) is an excellent tool for small businesses that want to fully track all client/staff communications, improve customer service, and measure employee performance. Phone integration is one of those features that's not found in a lot of lightweight CRMs, but Salesforce is set up for CTI.

Depending on your in-house tech skills you may or may not be able to integrate your phone systems with Salesforce yourself, but even if you shell out for pro implementation services from the CRM company, it's probably worth it. When your CTI is complete you'll be able to route incoming calls, log and record calls and automatically store them with customer data, gaining valuable insights into how communication with customers is happening. CTI with Salesforce also gives sales agents live pop-ups during calls, with relevant information about the caller. Associates can also dial clients directly from Salesforce using VoIP or PTSN, as well as auto dial and click-to-dial within the CRM. All this tracked communication will also allow upper management to easily compare the performance of different employees and maintain a high level of accountability.

Editor's Note: Looking for CRM software for your business? If you're looking for information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our sister site, BuyerZone, provide you with information from a variety of vendors for free:

Salesforce offers users drag-and-drop workflow and approval building functionality, making it easy for approved managers to implement business processes into the CRM. If you're early in the adoption process, it's advisable to define business processes and approval hierarchies very clearly before building workflows.

While a system such as Salesforce makes it easier to automate workflows and establish clear guidelines for staff, if there isn't buy-in from departmental leads, or if the process creates additional work for support staff (and they aren't properly informed on why changes are taking place), you won't get the full benefit of the software. Having meetings early and often, especially regarding future processes, is key to harnessing the full functionality of workflows and approvals. 

Most customer relationship management systems have some compatible extensions to help users further customize their CRMs and expand its functionality. Salesforce, however, offers far more extensions than any other small business-friendly CRM on the market. The software giant even has its own Salesforce store called AppExchange, where users can peruse extensions based on Salesforce recommendations, top-rated and reviewed extensions, or category. AppExchange has both paid and free extensions, and some of the best add-ons are free, like LinkedIn Sales Navigator, MapAnything (for mapping out routes), Slack, Salesforce CRM dashboards and more.

Since Salesforce is one of the most widely used CRM systems on the market, and since it's been around for almost 20 years, there is a huge user base that's very active online as well as loads of official documentation.

Before you make a call to outsource an aspect of the implementation, check out the documentation, because odds are, there's a step-by-step guide available online. Salesforce also posts how-to videos on YouTube, and if all else fails, you can always ask community members for help.

With thousands of small businesses using Salesforce CRM, the odds are pretty good that someone out there has successfully done whatever you're trying to do.