In 1999, Salesforce began in an apartment in San Francisco with a specific vision: The founders wanted to run “A World-Class Internet Company for Sales Force Automation.” At the time, Sales Force Automation, or SFA, was a burgeoning technology that salespeople could use to keep contacts organized and work together to close deals. Sales software helped sales teams keep their potential and current customers in one central database. These salespeople could more effectively manage their relationships with customers because, even as the number of leads and customers grew, they had all the information they needed at their fingertips.
SFA was a subset of a new technology category: customer relationship management, or CRM, a term coined in 1995. While SFA was focused on sales and the attainment of new customers, CRM referred to all front-office systems that were used for the organization and management of customer relations.
By 2006, the internet was changing, and so was CRM technology. As the internet became ubiquitous, companies needed more advanced technology to keep up with marketing, sales, and customer service demands. Customer relationship management changed. Every employee had to be dedicated to the customer experience because customers now had more choices when it came to their purchases.
During this time, CRM providers, including Salesforce, expanded into supporting other departments and offering additional tools. Providers built separate, dedicated platforms for sales, marketing, customer service, and even digital commerce. Without a shared infrastructure and single relational database, however, integration and data sharing among applications remained challenging.
To work together effectively, especially as digital channels proliferated at breakneck speed, employees needed to understand customers in a whole new way. If marketing and customer service team members could tap into the CRM software the sales team used, for example, they could have greater insights into how best to market and serve their customers. Companies needed a better way to give employees a hub for their data.
It wasn’t until Salesforce introduced cloud-based CRM in 2007 with the launch of Force.com, a custom application platform where customers could build and run new applications from a single cloud-based platform, that the vision of fully integrated CRM came into view.
In the years since, Salesforce has moved far beyond the original vision of being “A World-Class Internet Company for Sales Force Automation” into a company that can unite all of your departments and customer data on one integrated CRM platform. Now, as we move through 2020 and beyond, the future of CRM is a continuation of this trajectory to connect traditionally siloed departments around a single, shared view of every customer. With that single view, companies can provide a better holistic experience for their customers and prospects.