CRM and Data Platforms

Why Is Salesforce So Expensive? 12 Ways To Keep Your Costs Down and Maximize Your Return on Investment

As a premium CRM goes, Salesforce leads the marketplace in its ability to be tailored to virtually any industry or process. After decades of implementing and assisting Salesforce clients, the initial wave of jubilation that comes with having a 360-degree view of the customer and improving your business comes with some sticker shock after the platform rolls out and is utilized effectively by your staff. While pricing for seats and storage is affordable, usage and fees can quickly grow beyond your organization’s expectations.

This, of course, is something that’s core to the business model of Salesforce. Once you’ve integrated Salesforce into every process of your organization, it isn’t easy to undo the issues that can quickly ramp up the costs of the platform. I’m not knocking Salesforce… it’s a great business model and a superior platform.

Despite its higher cost, many businesses find the value offered by Salesforce, including its scalability, reliability, and the potential for improved business processes and customer relationships, well worth the investment. Additionally, Salesforce’s widespread adoption and popularity create a vast community of users, developers, and partners, which can lead to increased collaboration and opportunities for businesses using the platform.

How To Manage Salesforce Costs

The return on investment (ROI) on Salesforce is three-fold. Providing your internal staff with a platform that can be highly customized, automated, and optimized can reduce the human resources necessary to operate your business. Managing all of the intelligence of your leads and customers in a central platform instead of your employees owning the intelligence is essential to the future security of your business. And, Improving your customer experience (CX) externally can also improve lead generation, customer acquisition, customer retention, and overall customer value.

For the sake of this article, we will focus on actionable items that directly impact the cost of the Salesforce platform. Here are some specific tips to achieve cost savings:

  1. License Optimization: Regularly review user licenses and roles to ensure that employees have the appropriate level of access needed for their job functions. Remove unused or unnecessary licenses to reduce costs.
  2. Contract Negotiation: While Salesforce is pretty transparent on its pricing, you’d be surprised at how much room that Salesforce reps have to negotiate. And the pricing gets even better if you add additional products, add years to your contract, or manage your contract negotiation around the sales team’s goal cycle.
  3. Storage Management: Salesforce charges based on data storage usage. Regularly clean up and archive old data, remove duplicates, and optimize data storage to avoid unnecessary expenses. Integrating external storage vendors can significantly decrease those costs as well. The upfront development may make it worthwhile in the long run.
  4. De-duplication Efforts: Implement data cleansing and de-duplication processes to avoid overpaying for redundant records. Many users are surprised that this isn’t core to the platform. Duplicate record issues don’t just lead to unnecessary costs; it has a downstream impact on user frustration and data issues leading to customer experience problems.
  5. Usage Analysis: Track user activity and adoption patterns. Identify underutilized features and modules to discontinue or retrain users, avoiding unnecessary expenses. Keep track of API calls to avoid unexpected overage charges. Optimize integrations and limit excessive API usage.
  6. Automate and Optimize: Utilize Salesforce’s automation capabilities to reduce manual labor and associated costs. Automate repetitive tasks, workflows, and approvals wherever possible. Review and optimize complex workflows to reduce the steps and rules involved, streamlining processes and improving efficiency.
  7. Evaluate AppExchange Apps: Instead of building custom solutions, explore pre-built apps on the AppExchange that can fulfill business requirements, often at a lower cost. There are thousands of well-built apps and integrations outside of AppExchange as well. While you want to ensure a well-built and well-supported solution, don’t make the mistake that these are only available within AppExchange.
  8. Outsource Administration: Consider outsourcing non-core functions like system administration, maintenance, or support to specialized Salesforce partners or managed service providers, which can be more cost-effective than hiring full-time employees. This is not only more cost-effective, a partner with great experience can often deploy robust and innovative solutions far quicker than an internal resource.
  9. Minimize Customizations: Excessive customizations can lead to higher maintenance costs and potential complications during upgrades. Prioritize standard Salesforce functionality and reserve customizations for critical business needs. Be wary of consultants and partners that would always have you build custom solutions over licensing other solutions. Third-party solutions are often well-supported and updated without additional costs.
  10. Regular Audit: Conduct periodic reviews of Salesforce usage, costs, and return on investment. Include your staff, their training, subcontractors, consultants, and third-party licenses. Identify areas where costs can be optimized and take necessary actions. Regularly assess your organization’s needs and scale Salesforce resources accordingly. Avoid overprovisioning or underutilizing resources.
  11. Consolidate Instances: If your company has multiple Salesforce instances, consider consolidating them into a single instance to reduce licensing and maintenance costs.
  12. Track and Control Custom Development: Keep a close eye on custom development costs. Balance in-house development efforts with the potential costs of hiring external consultants or implementing third-party solutions. External solutions architects with years of experience can provide a far better return than the costly mistakes of an internal, inexperienced staff.

By implementing these actionable strategies, companies can directly impact the cost of the Salesforce platform and achieve substantial cost savings over time.

Is Salesforce Really So Expensive?

I do want to go back and defend Salesforce here as well. I often use the analogy of Salesforce as a race car. You can’t just buy a race car and win races. You have to have the team, the driver, the parts, the maintenance, etc., to take a race car off the trailer and expect to compete. While other platforms are significantly less, they aren’t race cars. They’re absolutely solid vehicles for many companies… but lack many of the features and innovation that Salesforce continues to invest in.

Here are ten differentiators that Salesforce provides that make an investment worthwhile:

  1. Feature-Rich Platform: Salesforce offers a comprehensive suite of tools and features that cater to various business needs. This robustness comes with a price, as the platform is designed to handle complex sales, marketing, customer service, and other business processes.
  2. Scalability: Salesforce is built to scale with growing businesses. While this is a benefit, it also means that the platform is priced to accommodate businesses of all sizes, including large enterprises.
  3. Frequent Updates and Innovations: Salesforce consistently releases updates and introduces new features to stay competitive and meet evolving market demands. However, this level of innovation requires significant investments, which can contribute to the platform’s cost.
  4. High Demand and Market Position: Salesforce is one of the most popular CRM platforms globally, with a large customer base. The high demand and strong market position give Salesforce the leverage to maintain its pricing.
  5. Customer Support and Services: Salesforce provides its users with extensive customer support, training, and consulting services. While these services are valuable, they also contribute to the overall cost.
  6. Integration and Customization: Integrating Salesforce with other systems and customizing it to fit unique business requirements often requires additional resources and increases costs.
  7. Data Storage and Usage: Salesforce charges based on the volume of data stored and the number of users accessing the platform, which can lead to increased expenses as the business grows.
  8. Enterprise-Level Security and Compliance: Salesforce prioritizes robust security measures and compliance with industry standards, which adds to the cost of providing a secure environment for customer data.
  9. Ongoing Maintenance and Upgrades: Regular platform maintenance, upgrades, and backups are necessary for optimal performance, and these activities require investment.
  10. Extensive AppExchange Ecosystem: While the AppExchange is a valuable resource for accessing third-party applications, utilizing certain apps may entail additional costs.

A Note On Salesforce Partners

The partner ecosystem is incredible within Salesforce, but you should keep in mind that Salesforce rewards partners that drive more revenue to Salesforce. Seek out an independent partner rather than having them recommend one to you. As an independent consulting firm, we look out for our clients well-being… Salesforce will be just fine.

If you’re looking for a partner to accomplish any of the above, our firm is ready to assist – from helping you negotiate a great contract, to outsourcing administration, to integrating third-party solutions that keep your Salesforce costs down.

Schedule a free consultation today via our site or submit the following information so we can give you some assistance!

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Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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