Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff could sit back and rest on his laurels — his CRM customers run an average of nearly 3.7 billion transactions on Salesforce.com every business day. And last week the company reported a record $1.63 billion of quarterly revenue, a 24 percent gain year-over-year.

But Benioff believes it's important to "constantly rethink and re-conceptualize" yourself and your company.

And today he demonstrated that by introducing a redesigned version of the company's flagship CRM product.

While we’ll see some less traditional CRM news come from the house that Benioff builds between now and next month's Dreamforce, Salesforce’s star-studded user conference in San Francisco, the company seems determined to make one thing very clear.

The cloud that started it all is as shiny, slick and new as anything else that comes after.

Fresh and Modern

Salesforce Lightning is a major refresh of the Salesforce Sales Cloud, complete with a streamlined, mobile friendly user interface.

Its promise is to maximize sales rep productivity through enhanced analytics, workflows and in-line intelligence to drive sales precision.

Salesforce described it as the CRM it would have built back in 1999 if it had all of today's technology at its disposal.

But since the "Salesforce Automation” service first came to market 16 years ago, times, technologies and workforce expectations have changed.

Selling today focuses less on managing contacts, knowing who to call and what script to read and more on creating relationships and experiences.

The updated Sales Cloud reflects that seismic shift, based on Salesforce's presumption that its 150,000 customers and millions of users all wanted a new, more modern user experience. .

Salesforce Sales dashboard

Though some Lightning capabilities were already available on the Salesforce 1 platform, the combination of the new Lightning Experience, the new Lightning Design System with Lightning Components and the Lightning App Builder empowers anyone to easily create modern enterprise apps, Salesforce said.

In other words, the company claims, Sales Cloud becomes so easily customizable that users will be empowered to sell the way they want (versus forced into a process that’s written into the software). They'll also be able to sell smarter by leveraging analytics and sell faster by being able to get to data via more access points and with fewer clicks.

How's It Work?

Salesforce home page

Salesforce boasts the new Sales Cloud Home page aggregates everything a salesperson needs to know to start their day. That includes Account Insights, which highlights relevant news for top accounts and prospects, and Assistant, which recommends actions to keep opportunities moving forward.

Emails and files (i.e. Microsoft Office, Adobe PDF) can be sent to contacts from within Salesforce to save salespeople time and speed the sales process. And as we mentioned, Lightning Experience has a responsive design that works on any screen.

The Proactive Sales Intelligence Platform assists with proactive sales intelligence and surfaces the right information when and where it is needed.

Its Pipeline Board visually represents all active deals which enables salespeople to drag-and-drop opportunities like digital sticky notes as deals progress through the selling cycle.

The platform also surfaces information via hover-overs giving salespeople the information needed in a clean way.

The new Activity Feed lets sales reps see everything happening in a deal and the key next steps in one simple view. In addition, collaboration tools powered by Chatter make it easier to share information, reflecting the trend of sales organizations moving to team-based selling.

The Sales Cloud can also be customized to fit the needs of the organization. Dashboards can be configured and charts can be relocated on the fly.

In addition, processes like Sales Path can also be customized to meet the needs of each organization, ensuring that every company can use their own best practices and selling processes to move deals through the pipeline efficiently.

Existing customizations are brought forward seamlessly to the Lightning Experience. Additionally, because this is built on the Salesforce1 Platform, sales organizations can use App Builder, Components and the Salesforce AppExchange to easily build any app they can dream up to help grow sales.

Fueling Actionable Insights

Certain features, like a responsive, consumer-like UI across devices, are a given for any application today.

What Salesforce claims sets its Lightning Experience apart is its data-driven capabilities to improve productivity. Take the Activity Feed, for example.

“Salespeople want to know two things, what just happened in an account and what they need to do next, “explained Lynne Zaledonis, Salesforce’s Product Marketing manager during a demo. Those actionable insights are, reportedly, easy to eyeball in the Lightning Experience.

Account Executives and managers also want to make sure that they and their employees spend their time wisely. That's the purpose of the Opportunity Board tool. This new, visual feature provides a complete picture across all of your deals. You can drag-and-drop deals from stage to stage like digital sticky notes.

These are but a few of more than 55 "re-imagined" Sales Cloud pages and 25 new features launching with this release.

The Lightning Experience for Sales Cloud is available in preview today. The full version will be available Oct. 17 with the next release of the Salesforce Customer Success Platform.

Users can choose when they want to migrate to the new Lightning Experience and sample select features before they fully migrate.

Bold Prediction

At the end of the day, much of Salesforce’s success is about sales. In that regard, Salesforce must be doing something very right.

Benioff predicted that by this time next year it would be the fourth largest software company in the world.

“Look, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP they're selling millions of dollars of CRM, that's with an M. We are selling billions of dollars of CRM that's with a B and that is the difference between us and the competition,” said Benioff on the earnings call.

Title image by Sean McAuliffe.