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Updated Oct 20, 2023

How Salesforce Essentials Differs From Other Salesforce Plans

Salesforce Essentials offers small businesses affordable access to one of the largest and most powerful CRMs on the market.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Verified Check With BorderEditor Reviewed
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Editor Reviewed
This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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For years, Salesforce has led the customer relationship management (CRM) software industry and priced its products at rates too high for many small businesses. With its Essentials platform, Salesforce has solved the latter problem while further strengthening its industry leadership. If you run an extremely small business that has limited resources – both with people and money – Salesforce Essentials might be what you’re looking for.

What is Salesforce Essentials?

Salesforce Essentials, released in 2017, is Salesforce’s small-business-focused service. While the software as a service giant has offered products geared toward small businesses in the past, such solutions were typically best suited for medium-size and larger businesses. Salesforce Essentials, on the other hand, only supports up to 10 users and was built with very small businesses in mind. And, importantly, the price of Salesforce Essentials caters to the budget of a small business. On every level, it’s made for the little guy.

You may see Salesforce Essentials referred to as Salesforce Lightning Essentials. This second name may prove confusing, as a separate product called Salesforce Lightning also exists.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Salesforce Essentials is a feature-heavy CRM that allows, at most, 10 users and tailors its prices to suit the budgets of small businesses.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right CRM for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

What is Salesforce Lightning?

Salesforce Lightning is the newest version of Salesforce’s platform. It’s an upgrade to Salesforce Classic. Salesforce says that Lightning allows CRM users to work more efficiently and productively through improvements to many Classic features.

Did You Know?Did you know
Salesforce Lightning is designed to substantially shorten the process of customizing Salesforce. Its innovations include the introduction of Salesforce Essentials – Essentials, too, is geared toward efficiency and empowering the user.

Who is Salesforce Essentials for?

Salesforce Essentials is for small businesses that need affordable CRM software. You’ll pay substantially less for Essentials than with other CRM platforms – including Salesforce’s other offerings – for tracking, reporting, dashboards and support tools. However, you are limited to 10 users.

Consider Salesforce Essential when choosing CRM software if you’re a small business that wants to get into the Salesforce ecosystem. Salesforce is the industry leader for a reason. While you won’t have access to all of what Salesforce has to offer, you will get an idea of whether the other, more expensive plans are right for your business when the time comes. [Want to learn more about Salesforce? Take a listen to one of these top Salesforce podcasts.]

How Salesforce Essentials differs from other Salesforce Lightning packages

Here’s how the Essentials plan differs from other Salesforce packages.

Faster and easier implementation

Salesforce has simplified the implementation process for Salesforce Essentials by giving users access to Trailhead, a “free, gamified online learning platform” that guides users through the quick setup process. Since there are fewer features in this streamlined version of the CRM, there’s less to do to get up and running, and you can do it all in-house without extensive tech skills.

Affordable pricing

Salesforce Essentials is priced to entice small business owners to use Salesforce. The hope is, presumably, that small business users will sign up for Essentials and gradually upgrade to more sophisticated levels of service. In fact, the reason why Essentials is so easy to upgrade is that it’s not an entirely new product; it’s just a lower-tier option in Salesforce’s Lightning line.

For $25 per user per month, small business users get access to Sales Cloud Essentials and Service Cloud Essentials for up to 10 users. This rate applies if you opt into annual billing. Should you choose month-to-month billing, you’ll pay $35 per user per month.

However, the 10-user cap on Salesforce Essentials can backfire if you’re not careful. The next tier up, Professionals, is $75 per user per month. This means that if your business is growing rapidly and you anticipate having more than 10 users, you might pay more for a CRM sooner rather than later. Plan your budget accordingly.

While the price of Salesforce Essential is appealing, remember, you're limited to 10 users. If you anticipate that your business will grow beyond 10 users in a short amount of time and you don't want to pay $75 per user per month, you might want to consider another CRM that costs less and supports more than 10 users.

Extensive features

Salesforce Essentials doesn’t offer all the functionality of Lightning, but it offers a lot of features for the price point. Here are a few of the most popular CRM features Essentials offers small business users:

  • Easy contact and account information addition and management
  • Automatic customer data sync from email through the Einstein Activity Capture tool
  • Customizable sales process and detailed sales funnel stages
  • Deal value projections
  • Comprehensive tools for receiving and answering customer questions
  • Task management and activity feed
  • Free, prebuilt configurable reports and dashboards
  • Collaboration tools
  • Case management, also known as customer feedback management
  • Tools for providing customer support via email, phone, live chat and social media
  • A mobile app, which has all the functions of the Essentials desktop version
  • Remote contact management
  • The Lightning app builder and app exchange
  • Integrations with DocuSign, Dropbox, HelloSign, Nicereply, CodeScience, ActiveCampaign and Zapier
  • Email optimization (web and email case capture and autoresponse)

The limitations of Salesforce Essentials are its limited analytics/forecasting tools, the lack of workflows (you can’t build in approvals), the lack of roles and permissions, and a lack of built-in billing and price-quoting functionality.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Salesforce Essentials differs from other Salesforce products in its implementation, affordability and features.

Bottom line

Salesforce Essentials offers small businesses affordable entry to one of the largest and most powerful CRMs on the market. If you keep an eye on costs as you grow and stay within your limit of 10 users, this small business edition of Salesforce is worth a try.

Mona Bushnell contributed to this article contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

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Max Freedman, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
Max Freedman has spent nearly a decade providing entrepreneurs and business operators with actionable advice they can use to launch and grow their businesses. Max has direct experience helping run a small business, performs hands-on reviews and has real-world experience with the categories he covers, such as accounting software and digital payroll solutions, as well as leading small business lenders and employee retirement providers. Max has written hundreds of articles for Business News Daily on a range of valuable topics, including small business funding, time and attendance, marketing and human resources.
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