Salesforce Business Model: Demystifying An Ecosystem Player

The Saleforce business model is based on an ecosystem of partners who develop complementary app developers. Salesforce orchestrates the ecosystem.

Gary Fox

Salesforce Business Model Canvas

Salesforce Business Model: Demystifying An Ecosystem Player

The Salesforce business model transformed the landscape of customer relationship management with its groundbreaking cloud-based CRM solutions. As a trailblazer in the industry, the company has equipped businesses of all sizes with the tools to optimize their sales, marketing, and customer service operations, fostering growth and success. Diving into Salesforce’s business model offers a fascinating look at how this company has risen to the top of the CRM sector and continues to shape the trajectory of business technology.

How Does Salesforce’s Business Work

Salesforce operates as a cloud-based software company, providing a comprehensive suite of CRM solutions to businesses worldwide. The company’s core offering is its Salesforce CRM platform, which enables organizations to manage their customer interactions, sales processes, marketing campaigns, and customer service activities in a unified, cloud-based environment. Salesforce’s business model is based on a subscription-based revenue model, where customers pay a recurring fee to access and utilize the company’s software solutions.

Key Facts About Salesforce

. Company name:



Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff, and Frank Dominguez

Launch date:

March 1999

Year founded:


Company CEO:

Marc Benioff


San Francisco, California, USA

Number of employees

79,390 (2023)

Ticker symbol


Annual revenue

$34.86 Billion (2023)

Profit | Net Income

$0.208 Billion

Market Cap

$289.58 billion

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A brief historyof Salefroce

Salesforce was founded in 1999 by Marc Benioff, Parker Harris, Dave Moellenhoff, and Frank Dominguez. The company was born out of a vision to revolutionize the traditional enterprise software industry by delivering CRM solutions through a cloud-based model. In 2004, Salesforce went public on the New York Stock Exchange, raising $110 million in its initial public offering (IPO).

Key milestones and dates:

  • 1999: Salesforce is founded in San Francisco, California
  • 2000: The company launches its first CRM product, Salesforce Automation
  • 2003: Salesforce introduces its innovative AppExchange platform, allowing third-party developers to create and sell apps that integrate with Salesforce
  • 2004: Salesforce goes public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: CRM)
  • 2005: The company expands its offerings with the launch of Salesforce Sandbox, a testing environment for customizations and integrations
  • 2007: Salesforce reaches $500 million in annual revenue
  • 2013: The company acquires ExactTarget, a leading marketing automation platform, for $2.5 billion
  • 2016: Salesforce introduces its artificial intelligence platform, Einstein, to provide predictive insights and recommendations
  • 2018: The company achieves $10 billion in annual revenue
  • 2020: Salesforce acquires Slack Technologies, a popular workplace collaboration platform, for $27.7 billion

Who owns Salesforce

As of August 2023, Salesforce is a publicly traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “CRM.” The company’s ownership is distributed among its shareholders, which include institutional investors, mutual funds, and individual retail investors. According to the most recent proxy statement, the largest shareholders of Salesforce are institutional investors such as The Vanguard Group, FMR LLC (Fidelity Investments), and BlackRock Inc. Marc Benioff, the company’s co-founder, and chairman, holds a significant stake in Salesforce but does not possess a majority ownership. The diverse ownership structure reflects the company’s status as a major player in the enterprise software industry.

Mission statement

“We believe the business of business is to improve the state of the world.”

How Salesforce works

Salesforce business model is centered around providing cloud-based CRM solutions to businesses of all sizes. The company’s core offering, the Salesforce CRM platform, is designed to help organizations manage their customer interactions, sales processes, marketing campaigns, and customer service activities in a unified, cloud-based environment. By leveraging the power of cloud computing, Salesforce enables businesses to access their CRM data and functionality from anywhere, at any time, using any device with an internet connection.

One of the key aspects of the Salesforce business model is its subscription-based revenue model. Customers pay a recurring fee, typically on a monthly or annual basis, to access and utilize the company’s software solutions. This model provides Salesforce with a predictable and stable revenue stream, as customers continue to pay for the service as long as they find value in it.

The Salesforce business model also heavily relies on its ecosystem of partners and developers. The company’s AppExchange platform allows third-party developers to create and sell applications that integrate seamlessly with the Salesforce CRM platform. This ecosystem enables Salesforce to offer a wide range of industry-specific and custom solutions, catering to the unique needs of different businesses and verticals.

Furthermore, the Salesforce model emphasizes innovation and continuous improvement. The company invests heavily in research and development, regularly introducing new features, products, and services to its portfolio. This focus on innovation helps Salesforce stay ahead of the competition and maintain its position as a market leader in the CRM industry.

The Revenue Model of Salesforce

The Salesforce model makes money through several key revenue streams:

  • Subscription revenue: The primary source of revenue for Salesforce comes from the recurring subscription fees paid by customers to access and use the company’s cloud-based CRM solutions.
  • Professional services: Salesforce generates revenue by offering implementation, customization, and training services to help customers successfully adopt and utilize the company’s software solutions.
  • AppExchange: The company earns a percentage of the revenue generated by third-party applications sold through its AppExchange platform, which serves as a marketplace for Salesforce-integrated apps.
  • Vertical-specific solutions: Salesforce offers industry-specific CRM solutions, such as Financial Services Cloud and Health Cloud, which provide additional revenue streams catering to the unique needs of different sectors.
  • Cross-selling and upselling: As customers grow and their needs evolve, Salesforce generates additional revenue by cross-selling and upselling complementary products and services to its existing customer base.

What is Salesforce’s Business?

Salesforce model operates in the enterprise software industry, specifically focusing on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions. The company differentiates itself from competitors through its cloud-based delivery model, which allows businesses to access powerful CRM functionality without the need for extensive IT infrastructure or upfront investments. Salesforce’s competitive advantages include its comprehensive suite of CRM products, its strong brand recognition, its robust ecosystem of partners and developers, and its continuous innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. By consistently delivering value to its customers and staying at the forefront of technological advancements, Salesforce has established itself as a global leader in the CRM market.

Key Features of Salesforce’s Business model:

  • Cloud-based CRM solutions for businesses of all sizes
  • Subscription-based revenue model with recurring revenue streams
  • Extensive ecosystem of partners and developers through the AppExchange platform
  • Continuous innovation and investment in research and development

The Salesforce Business Model

Salesforce Business Model Canvas
Customer Segments Of The Business Model Canvas

Customer Segments

The company’s CRM solutions are designed to meet the needs of businesses across various industries and sizes. The Salesforce business model customer segments include:

  • Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs): Seeking scalable, cost-effective CRM solutions
  • Large enterprises: Requiring comprehensive, customizable CRM functionality
  • Industry-specific customers: Needing tailored CRM solutions for their sectors
  • Developers and partners: Building apps and integrations on the Salesforce platform
  • Value Proposition Of The Business Model Canvas

    Value Propositions

    The Salesforce business model has a specific set of value propositions:

  • Cloud-based accessibility: Access CRM data anytime, anywhere, on any device
  • Comprehensive functionality: Manage sales, marketing, customer service, and more
  • Customization and scalability: Tailor the platform to specific business needs
  • Robust ecosystem: Leverage a wide range of third-party apps and integrations
  • Continuous innovation: Benefit from regular updates and new features
  • Channels


    The Salesforce business model leverages various channels to reach and serve its customers. The company employs a combination of direct and indirect channels to market, sell, and deliver its CRM solutions. Salesforce’s main channels include:

  • Direct sales: Dedicated sales teams engaging with customers
  • Partner network: Resellers, consulting firms, and system integrators
  • Online presence: Company website, social media, and digital marketing
  • Salesforce events: Conferences, workshops, and webinars for customer engagement
  • AppExchange marketplace: Platform for discovering and distributing third-party apps
  • Key Relationships Of The Business Model Canvas

    Customer Relationships

    The Salesforce business model emphasizes building strong, long-lasting relationships with its customers. The company focuses on providing exceptional support, resources, and community engagement to ensure customer success and loyalty. Salesforce’s customer relationships are characterized by:

  • Customer success teams: Dedicated support for onboarding, adoption, and growth
  • Trailblazer Community: Active user community for learning, sharing, and networking
  • Salesforce University: Training and certification programs for skill development
  • Account management: Personalized guidance and strategic partnership for key accounts
  • User events and conferences: Opportunities for learning, networking, and best practice sharing
  • Key Activities Of The Business Model Canvas

    Key Activities

    The Salesforce business model involves several essential activities that drive its value creation and delivery. These activities ensure that the company consistently meets customer needs, innovates its offerings, and maintains its market leadership. Salesforce’s key activities include:

  • Product development: Continuous improvement and innovation of CRM solutions
  • Sales and marketing: Attracting, acquiring, and retaining customers
  • Customer support: Providing exceptional assistance and resources for customer success
  • Partner management: Cultivating and supporting a thriving partner ecosystem
  • Research and development: Investing in new technologies and market opportunities
  • Key Resources Of The Business Model Canvas

    Key Resources

    The Salesforce model relies on several critical resources to create and deliver value to its customers. These resources form the foundation of the company’s competitive advantage and enable its continued growth and success. Salesforce’s key resources include:

  • Cloud infrastructure: Robust, scalable, and secure platform for CRM delivery
  • Intellectual property: Proprietary CRM technology, features, and innovations
  • Human capital: Skilled and experienced workforce across all functions
  • Brand reputation: Strong, trusted brand in the CRM industry
  • Customer data: Valuable insights and intelligence from customer interactions
  • Key Partners Of The Business Model Canvas

    Key Partners

    The partnerships enable the company to expand its reach, enhance its offerings, and create additional value for its customers. Salesforce’s key partners include:

  • Consulting partners: Firms providing implementation, customization, and advisory services
  • Independent Software Vendors (ISVs): Developers creating apps and integrations for AppExchange
  • Resellers: Partners selling Salesforce solutions to their customer bases
  • Technology partners: Companies providing complementary technologies and services
  • Strategic alliances: Partnerships with major industry players for joint solutions and go-to-market strategies
  • Educational institutions: Universities and schools offering Salesforce training and certification programs
  • Revenue Streams Of The Business Model Canvas

    Revenue Streams

    The company’s primary revenue source is its subscription-based CRM offerings, complemented by additional services and solutions. Salesforce’s main revenue streams include:

  • Subscription revenue: Recurring fees for using Salesforce CRM solutions
  • Professional services: Fees for implementation, customization, and training services
  • AppExchange: Revenue share from third-party app sales and subscriptions
  • Vertical-specific solutions: Subscriptions for industry-tailored CRM offerings (e.g., Financial Services Cloud)
  • Cross-selling and upselling: Additional revenue from existing customers adopting new products
  • Cost Structure Of The Business Model Canvas

    Cost Structure

    The Salesforce model incurs various costs to maintain and grow its operations. The company must manage these costs effectively to ensure profitability and long-term sustainability. Salesforce’s main cost components include:

  • Research and development: Investments in product innovation and new technologies
  • Sales and marketing: Costs associated with customer acquisition and retention
  • Customer support: Expenses for providing exceptional customer assistance and resources
  • General and administrative: Costs related to overall business operations and management
  • Business Model Patterns Used by Salesforce

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