By Tom Wong, Liz Kao, Matt Kaufman

Salesforce wasn’t the first customer relationship management (CRM) system to hit the market, but it’s dramatically different than the other CRM systems you might have used (spreadsheets and sticky notes count as a system, too!).

Unlike traditional CRM software, Salesforce is an Internet service. You sign up and log in through a browser, and it’s immediately available. Currently this is called cloud computing, where the customers access “the cloud” (that is, the Internet) for their business needs, and are not required to install any traditional software on, presumably, Earth.

As long as you have an Internet connection, you can be anywhere in the world and have access to the clouds. Some of you may already be at companies that use cloud-based applications, as salesforce.com’s success has spawned a whole new marketplace full of business applications done “in the cloud.” Others may just be entering the workforce but are very familiar with the use of Internet-applications in their personal life (think Facebook).

For other readers, this is your first foray into cloud computing, and you might be taking a first step by yourself or with the rest of your company. Don’t worry — your company made the right choice by picking Salesforce.

Salesforce customers typically say that it’s unique for three major reasons:

  • Fast: When you sign on the dotted line, you want your CRM system up and running yesterday. Traditional CRM software can take more than a year to deploy; compare that to months or even weeks with Salesforce.

  • Easy: End user adoption is critical to any application, and Salesforce wins the ease-of-use category hands down. You can spend more time putting it to use and less time figuring it out.

  • Effective: Because it’s easy to use and can be customized quickly to meet business needs, customers have proven that it has improved their bottom lines.

With Salesforce, you now have a full suite of services to manage the customer life cycle, divided into three product families: Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Service Cloud. These services include tools to pursue leads, manage accounts, track opportunities, resolve cases, and more.

Depending on your team’s objectives, you might use all the Salesforce families from Day 1, or you might focus on just the functionality to address the priorities at hand.

The more you and your team adopt Salesforce into your work, and you determine how you want your business process to be reflected within the technology, the more information you’ll have at your fingertips to deepen customer relationships and improve your overall business.