Salesforce is the largest CRM provider in the world, and the most popular. While it can be on the expensive side for small businesses, many users report that this is a case of getting everything you paid for and more. Salesforce is a cloud-based solution, which means that companies need fewer resources on the ground to get started. It offers more apps than any other Saas-based CRM solution, which allows users to fully customize their CRM experience. The software also supports all major browsers, adding to convenience.

Another feature that adds to the ease of use for small companies is that Salesforce needs no software to install, and there are no hardware requirements. Since there's no need to set up a complicated internal network, the CRM can be up and running in just a few days. Best of all, small- and medium-sized business users get the very same platform as enterprise users, with all of the functionality that the largest companies have.

Salesforce has made some predictions about what they and others think could change for small businesses in 2018. This is part of their ongoing efforts to stay ahead of trends and empower their users. To that end, they predict that advertising could change in subtle ways in 2018, following patterns that started years ago. For example, contextual advertising that delivers purpose-driven messages to consumers is a trend that has been accelerating in recent years. Some businesses are able to spend their advertising dollars more efficiently by targeting content to very specific consumers and making sure it aligns with niche interests held by this target audience.

Companies seeking to align their brands in this manner with larger purposes and outlooks will be well-served, according to Salesforce. This can be very important for a small business that is integrated into a particular community. More and more, according to Salesforce, consumers care about whether or not businesses are taking these sorts of socially responsible actions.

A number of features have strong appeal on the small business side. One of the best is Salesforce Mobile, which allows employees to access, create and update records from anywhere using a mobile device. Plenty of CRMs have a mobile app, but the Salesforce version has been rated as one of the best in the industry with a new user interface that makes it easier to update information on the go.

Branded email templates are another feature that can save time and help employees present a slick and professional image. Sales and customer service professionals repeatedly send similar emails to prospects and customers, and starting each new message from scratch can be time-consuming and frustrating. Customizable templates keep communications consistent and reduce the errors that can crop up when rushed employees start cutting and pasting. With a library of branded, scripted templates in place, communications will go out faster. In most cases, it's also possible to see whether the recipient has opened the message.

Another great feature in Salesforce is the Chatter function, which facilitates collaboration among employees. While many companies rely on various instant messenger systems, chats on IM take place outside the CRM system and aren't archived. Chatter offers features like threaded conversations, the ability to attach files, and use Twitter handles and hashtags, but it is housed within the CRM, keeping all the conversation on the record for future reference.

Companies that don't have the benefit of a CRM can spend inordinate amounts of time struggling to create sales reports and analyze data. Salesforce's database is overlayed with a dashboard that allows the user to aggregate, sort and analyze data in real time and present the results in a variety of useful formats. Sales metrics like pipeline health, velocity, leaderboards, win rates, new vs. existing business and more are at the user's fingertips, as well as support metrics and more.

Salesforce isn't perfect, but it certainly lives up to the hype as one of the best CRMs around. While small businesses may have to up their game to extract the maximum advantage from the system, the easy-to-use design and large number of features will start demonstrating their benefits from the get-go.

This article was updated March 12, 2018.

Editor's Note: Looking for CRM Software for your company? If you would like information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner, BuyerZone, provide you with information for free:

Editor's Note: Looking for CRM Software for your company? If you would like information to help you choose the one that's right for you, use the questionnaire below to have our partner, BuyerZone, provide you with information for free:

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