Salesforce Professional Edition is a great tool, suitable for, and aimed predominantly at, small businesses. It has many of the features of the full Salesforce suite, but also has some notable limitations.
In this article, I will shed some light on Salesforce Professional Edition, what it is, what it’s not, and if it is worth the price. Specifically, I will compare it with the Enterprise edition and as a bonus, I’ll discuss how it compares to Essentials at the end of this article.
What Is Salesforce Professional Edition?
As Salesforce states on their website, Professional edition is a “Complete sales solution for any size team”. It has many of the features of the full Salesforce suite (Enterprise edition), but lacks some important features, so it’s important to assess fully to see if it can meet your requirements.
Let’s first check out why you should consider using Salesforce Professional edition.
Why Should You Consider Professional Edition?
First things first, if you own or manage a small or medium business that is looking for a sales management tool (or a consultant who wants to sell Salesforce to its customer), you most likely would want to start with Salesforce Professional edition. Here’s why:
Affordability Combined with Scalability
Professional edition is one of the examples of how marketing and product teams have analyzed the market and rolled out products that in my opinion features all (yes, all) of the features most businesses need.
By most I mean at least 90% of businesses on the planet. If someone wants more features, most likely they have failed to analyze and fully understand what their business operations are doing on a daily basis.
Reach in Functionality
You could buy Professional Edition and stay on this edition for life if you have no ambitions to digitize your business end-to-end. But not all companies are looking for that. Most of the time managers want to see the pipeline, its value, and forecasts for the next quarter. At the same time sales reps just want a simple quoting solution. Professional edition offers all that. On top of it, it offers:
- Internal communication tool (chatter)
- Mobile app
- Great customizability
- Security tools (Permission Sets and Profiles)
- Automation tools (Flow and Process Builder)
- Email integration (Einstein Activity capture)
- Web-to-Lead forms
- Person accounts
- Next Best Action Recommendation Engine
The price tag of $75 is difficult to ignore. With no restrictions on the number of users (compared to essentials edition) it’s easily one of the best offers on the market.
How Does Professional Edition Compares to Other Editions
To start with, I’ve prepared a detailed comparison table of features. Salesforce is constantly tweaking its plans for new customers, but the table below gives you great visibility over what features are available in which plan. Later, I’ll deep dive into the details of the most critical features that Professional edition is missing.
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How Does Professional Edition Compare to Enterprise Edition in Real Life?
Not all limitations are made equal. Some of them don’t matter at all, yet some prevent you from implementing mission-critical business processes and require a lot of creative thinking. It took me almost a year to define Professional Edition’s most critical limitations. I have my own top three limits which would make me want to go with Enterprise edition in most cases and these are:
- Lack of API (and lack of Data Loader as a result)
- 5x flows per type limitation
- Approval processes
To understand what these limitations mean for the business, you will have to take a deep dive into each of them.
API stands for Application Program Interface. Think of it like clicking buttons in the system – not with a mouse but with another computer and remotely. It means you could not integrate your Salesforce with other systems, like your ERP, accounting software, billing app, or any other apps.
There is a workaround, however; if your app or third-party software offers a managed package from the AppExchange, it means that you could potentially integrate it. But it also means that you should forget about any custom scenarios of using your Salesforce and your third-party app – it is a trade-off you should account for.
Inability to Use Data Loader
Even though the inability to use Data Loader is a direct result of the lack of API in the Professional edition, it deserves a separate paragraph. I could not think of any business without its data. You have your customers, orders, invoices, and much more. It’s likely that sometimes you have to make mass updates of this data. Or maybe you want to upload your data to a third-party system.
Data Loader is a tool that allows you to manipulate large amounts of data. Upload, download, and update records in your system. With the Professional edition, the only option you have for mass data editing is dataloader.io – a paid tool with significant limitations. In case you have areas of business requiring large amounts of data (for example, a big product catalog), this is a no-go for Salesforce Professional edition.
10 Permission Sets
Permission sets are like door access cards. You have access to some doors, but some doors are for more senior staff only. Permission sets allow you to granularly control which parts of the Salesforce a user has access to. The Professional edition allows for only ten permission sets, which is fine for small teams (depending on what you call a small team). But as the team grows, you will start to see that it is not enough.
3 Record Types per Object
Record types in Salesforce define how data is organized and what fields are available for each type of record. For example, you have corporate customers and private customers. You want to have a different set of fields for them, but do not want to create a separate custom object, since it will not be compatible with existing relations across the system (lookup fields).
The Professional edition features only three record types per object. It might seem sufficient, but if you have more than three business lines in your company, this limitation will be a dealbreaker for going with the Enterprise edition, because only record types allow you to have a different set of stages for opportunities with different types.
5 Flows per Type
Salesforce Flow is the ultimate low-code automation tool; it allows you to do most things you can think of. Back in the day, companies required APEX programming (programming with Salesforce-specific programming language) to do automation. Recently, Salesforce updated its Flow feature to the extent that it now eliminates the necessity to code most small automations.
Before we go any further, I need to explain some basics about Salesforce Flow. There are five types of Flows available within Salesforce:
- Screen Flow: A set of screens where users can provide input for automation. Usually triggered with a button or on a lighting screen.
- Schedule-Triggered Flow: Automation that allows you to create a schedule for your automation. For example, create a task to say happy birthday to your customer on the right date.
- Autolaunched Flow: Usually called a subflow. You would want to use this kind of flow to reuse it in other flows. Useful when you are making calculations or updating the same set of records using different flows.
- Record-Triggered Flow: Launched when the record is created, updated, or deleted. Most commonly used type of flow, simply because it is the most commonly used scenario. It does something when something happens with the record.
- Platform Event-Triggered Flow: Flow for hardcore users, launched via events. You wouldn’t want to use this unless you know what you are doing and are familiar with how Platform Events work in Salesforce.
Professional edition, in theory, allows you to have five flows of each type – that’s 25 flows in total, which is a lot. But as always, the ‘devil is in the details’.
First of all, Platform Event-Triggered Flow is useless in the Professional edition, since this does not allow you to use Platform Events. It simply does not have this feature, which means there is no possibility of creating Events and no mechanism to launch this flow.
This leads us to the conclusion that we can only use 20 flows per the whole org. This is fine. But in practice, it means that you will be able to implement only a few processes. For example, if you are actively using at least six objects within Salesforce, there is no way you can automatically update all six of those objects because you only have five record-triggered flows.
This limitation is really the biggest limitation of the Salesforce Professional edition. You will have to create very few large flows to manage your process. It creates an extra burden for administering your instance, increasing the number of errors and preventing you from complying with Flow best practices.
5 Process Builders
As per Salesforce to Retire Workflow Rules and Process Builder, Process Builder is due to be retired. Starting with the Spring 23’ release, you will be unable to create any new Process Builders (similar to Workflow Rules with the Winter 23’ release). Therefore, the limit of five process builders per Professional edition org isn’t as important as it once was.
100 Custom Fields per Object
Another limitation in the Professional edition is 100 custom fields per object. It might seem a lot, but if you heavily rely on one object it means you will hit this limit. For example, if you have three different business lines, you would want to have three different record types in Opportunities with a different set of fields. In reality, it means that you are limited to 33 custom fields per your line of business, which is not a lot.
50 Custom Objects
On paper this is a limitation, but in reality, it is too much considering the other limitations. Professional edition offers 50 custom objects per org, but considering your limitations in the automating side of things, it’s likely that you’ll never hit this limit.
If you are just starting with Salesforce, most likely you do not need APEX (a way to customize your Salesforce with a code). It has much more allowance than Flow in terms of the number of records and other things processed at the same time. The Professional edition doesn’t have this option. Period.
No Approval Processes
Last, but not least in my list of top Professional edition limitations is the lack of approval processes. Salesforce has been long known for its great feature of managing non-standard cases. For example, you do not usually want to give your customers discounts over 10%. However, there may be times when you want to do exactly that with prior approval from someone more senior than a sales rep.
This is where approval processes jump in. They lock the record until it is approved based on the rules you define. Not having this feature limits you to the number of users you have in the system. Simply put, the more personnel there are in the company, the higher the likelihood that you will need approval processes to make sure things do not spiral out of control.
How Does Professional Edition Compare to Essentials Edition?
Recently (and silently), Salesforce has updated its Essentials edition, which is a version for companies just starting in CRM. It made the edition so good that for most basic use cases, it would be more than enough and would beat any other CRM on the market for the given price of $25 per month per user (in my honest opinion). However, there are a couple of serious differences between the two. Let’s take a deep dive into them.
Products & Quotes
Essentials lacks Opportunity Products and Quotes. This means that you won’t be able to create quotations, report on them, or even use them; you won’t be able to use Essentials edition as your ultimate business operating system, but instead, only as a sales and service tracking tool. Did I mention that Essentials also includes a Cases object, which allows you to track customer complaints, support requests, or whatever your customer service process includes?
If you are just starting with Salesforce (or any other CRM), you won’t know how important it is to have a custom object. Let’s say you want to create an invoice. This would be called an object and every time you create a new invoice, you would create a record inside this object. Essentials edition will not allow you to create custom objects, which limits your ability to implement mission-critical business processes.
Number of Users
Another major limitation when it comes to the Essentials edition versus the Professional edition is the number of users. You can’t have more than ten users per your whole Salesforce organization on Essentials edition. Instead, you will have to upgrade to professional.
Ability to Use CPQ
Another not-so-obvious advantage of having a Professional edition is the ability to add CPQ (Configure, Price, Quote). If you’re not familiar with this kind of software, read this article which describes the difference between CPQ and Products and Price books. In Salesforce Essentials, you do not have the ability to extend your CRM’s functionality with CPQ.
However, there are advantages that are not explicitly documented anywhere in the Essentials edition. These are Sales Inbox and Salesforce Chat. You can get them for the same price of $25, while on Professional or Enterprise editions you’ll end up paying for them per user. Also, you are able to implement WhatsApp for Business with Essentials at no extra cost – a dealbreaker for smaller companies who just start with a CRM and are desperately looking at how to track their first customers.
Salesforce Professional Edition is a great CRM, but it’s overkill in terms of functionality for most companies. If you are just starting in CRM, I suggest you go with the Essentials edition first. Make sure to reach its limitations before upgrading – that way you will become more familiar with the system in general, and will understand better what you are paying for the moment you decide to upgrade.
I hope this article has helped your understanding. If you need help with Salesforce implementation, let me know in the comments.