Salesforce CRM – Are there any hidden costs?

CRM edition costs

Many companies are using Salesforce’s CRM and most of them appreciate the highly flexible and customizable CRM service. One of the reasons is the fact that it allows organizations to use the standard functionalities and/or custom-built apps within the platform, and to adjust it to their specific business requirements.

Things seem quite easy at first sight: you decide to purchase user subscriptions for some of the available Cloud services (such as Sales Cloud or Service Cloud) and/ or flat-fee subscriptions (for services like Marketing Cloud or Pardot), alongside a few add-ons or managed packages that you find useful (such as Salesforce CPQ, Salesforce Engage, Service Analytics App etc.), to complement the core services. You budget a certain amount of money for this purpose and embark on the journey of implementing Salesforce CRM services within your organization. However, you may find out that some things don’t always go according to plan and unexpected high costs start adding-up to the initial amount that you budgeted.

This article explains several common hidden costs that are often overlooked, and which could easily turn into savings opportunities if managed correctly. If you want to assess your specific situation and find out if there are any costs that you can avoid or save, just give us a call.

Choosing the right Salesforce edition

Salesforce editions come in different configurations that enable users’ access to a certain range of functionalities.

  • The Enterprise and Unlimited editions are the most common. They extensively support the process automation and apps customization.
  • The Professional edition is suitable for organizations that plan to use the standard CRM functionalities more. This edition includes quite limited features that support customization, compared to the Enterprise and Unlimited editions.
  • The Essentials edition is available for small sized companies. It is limited to a number of 5 users and offers access to the standard CRM for Sales or Service Cloud, with no possibility for apps customization.

All editions come with certain advantages, but also restrictions which usually are not carefully considered at first, and which may trigger unreasonable extra-costs. Although Salesforce will always support you to easily upgrade from a lower-level edition to an edition with extended features and resources even during an ongoing subscription term, downgrading is more difficult.

For example, you may discover that your Unlimited Edition is not used at full capacity by your users and all the activities inside your org could be perfectly carried out by using a cheaper Enterprise Edition. For one, you are already paying more than you use and you will continue to pay until the end of your contractual term, since you are not entitled to any kind of refunds, as per Salesforce’s Master Subscription Agreement. Secondly, when you decide to downgrade, you must consider the complexity of migrating to a cheaper edition and the necessary resources in order to make this happen, as Salesforce doesn’t provide an automated process. Usually, you need to create a completely new org, re-create the customizations or metadata existing in your current org, and migrate all the data from the old to the new org.

Choosing the right license types

Another concern that organization often have is related to the multiple different licensing models available, including but not limited to:

  • user licenses
  • feature licenses
  • permission set licenses
  • usage-based licenses

Understanding what type of access each license grants and choosing the suitable ones for your users can make the difference between a hidden cost and a saving opportunity. For example, you might be tempted to purchase Salesforce licenses for all your employees when in reality, part of your users may carry out their work by having access to a cheaper Platform license, or to just a Chatter license for example. The choice for the right license model is depending on the cloud service you would like to deploy, and the use rights the different individuals within your company require.

Limited Use Features

Often, high unexpected costs might arise from surpassing the usage limits of several features bundled with the Salesforce editions, such as customizations (number of custom objects/ fields/ tabs), storage (data and file size), API-calls, Reports, Dashboards, and more. Additionally, user subscriptions (be it for a core service, add-on or managed package) may also come with limited-use features that you need to consider, such as the number of Automations, Contacts, number of Monitored Competitors and many others, depending on the selected Cloud service.

As Salesforce mentions in their agreements, many of these limits are only contractual in nature and not technically enforced. Continuously monitoring the use rights and restrictions as applicable for your specific Salesforce agreement of all these limited-use features is highly advisable. The large amount of (online) documentation provided by Salesforce (of which most of it is focused on services adoption rather than on licensing compliance and cost optimization) can make the process quite tedious and frustrating.

User Subscription Management

Not managing your user subscriptions proactively can mislead you into purchasing additional ones, while you may have users who no longer require access to the Salesforce CRM. Actively monitoring the user activity and re-assigning licenses from employees who no longer need them to new users can save you a good amount of money.

The discounts pitfall

It’s not unusual for Salesforce, as any other vendor, to provide eye-catching discounts, especially to first time buyers or large volume buyers. And let’s not forget about the discounts at the end of their financial year. Before signing what seems to be the deal of the year for your CRM services, we advise you to take a step back and first understand exactly what your real requirements are. You can be tempted to overbuy, especially when it comes to features and add-ons that will presumably enhance the experience and work within the CRM. Overbuying will not only result in unjustified costs at the moment of buying, but also over time, as the purchased subscription cannot be canceled during the subscription term. You could, of course, decide to terminate the extra-licenses at the renewal point, but Salesforce will enforce a re-pricing of the licenses that you still want to keep – meaning higher costs anyway.


With a clear plan of your current and future business needs, you can correctly leverage all the solutions and features offered by the Salesforce CRM at an optimized and fair price. Furthermore, by constantly monitoring your usage of the purchased subscriptions and limited-use features and restrictions will allow you to mitigate any potential non-compliance in time and thus, prevent you from spending more than needed. The first audits as performed by Salesforce are already a fact. Now the question is, will there come more in the future?

Putting all your efforts into tackling this process can be tough and lengthy. If you need assistance with your Salesforce license compliance position, feel free to reach out to us.

This article was published on 27-06-2019