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Best Practices

Getting Started: Salesforce Fundamentals for Higher Education

Before you dig into your Salesforce trial, get acquainted with Salesforce terminology, your product(s), and the basics of using Salesforce.


What is CRM?

CRM stands for "Customer Relationship Management." CRM technology allows you to manage relationships with your constituents (including students, alumni, staff, parents, employers, and more) and track data related to all of your interactions with those constituents. It also helps teams collaborate, both internally and externally, gather insights from social media, track important metrics, and communicate via email, phone, social, and other channels.

A CRM app like Salesforce allows a Higher Ed institution to have visibility into every aspect of its relationship with a student – from financial aid information to courses and grade data. And as opposed to this information being locked away in various systems scattered across campus --- it’s all in one place. So at any point in time, staff and faculty have a holistic snapshot of a student’s standing with the school --- and can use that information to engage in personalized and powerful ways.

CRM is not new to higher education.  Many institutions have adopted departmental CRM solutions to aid in their recruiting and advancement efforts. However, many of these solutions are not integrated with one another and/or with other institution-wide systems therefore, making it more difficult to track and report on the institution's efforts. Increasingly, universities are moving toward a centralized CRM solution to fulfill the diverse needs of a complex academic community.



Salesforce is a single place to create, view and update your constituent data from anywhere on any device to drive lasting engagement with your customers. You don't have to install software to access Salesforce. You just need an internet connection and a web browser (or mobile App).

Of course, building a CRM system isn't just about choosing the right technology, but also having the right business plan in place for a successful implementation. Check out How to Craft a CRM Strategy for Higher Ed for more information.


How Salesforce Organizes your Data

Salesforce organizes your data into objects and records. Think of an object as a tab on a spreadsheet and a record like a single row of data.

Salesforce comes with standard objects already set up and ready for use. Salesforce was originally designed as a "Business-to-Business" (B2B) application to help companies improve their sales processes and maximize their sales. In the traditional B2B scenario, every company keeps track of their accounts (the other companies they are selling to). Each account has people associated with it (contacts), as well as other things like "deals" (opportunities), cases, tasks, and the like. How all of these things relate to and interact with each other in Salesforce is known as an account model. With Salesforce, the Account model is flexible and in the higher ed world, of course, we keep track of things a bit differently.

Translating the Salesforce Standard Objects


Leads = "Prospects" | The Leads object can be used to store data about any individual who might have an interest in your university, but who has not yet become engaged (in whatever way you define): student prospects, donor prospects, vendor prospects, etc.

Contacts = "Individuals" | The Contacts object can be used to store information about any individual who interacts with your university including students, alumni, parents, staff, athletic ticket holders, and other constituents.

Accounts =  In Higher Ed, Accounts can act as a container account for a single student and all their interactions with your school or they can add be used to relate groups of Contacts from companies, departments, athletic teams or other institutions.  In Salesforce, every contact must be connected to an Account.
Opportunities = "Transactions" | The Opportunity object can be used to manage financial transactions between contacts and accounts and your organization. This could include tuition or other payments, donations, grants, ticket and merchandise sales and lots more.

Campaigns = "Calls-to-Action" | The Campaigns object can be used to track any tactic where you are asking a contact for a response. Some common examples might include student recruitment events, fundraising campaigns, class enrollments, etc.


HEDA Account Model

In the Higher Education Data Architecture (HEDA) Account model, the standard Salesforce Account object acts as a kind of container account — referred to as the “Administrative Account” — with a single contact (often a student) associated with it. The relationship between the Account and Contact is 1-to-1. That is, for each contact you create in HEDA, you also have a unique Administrative Account. As part of the HEDA Account Model, HEDA offers two important custom objects that work in conjunction with your contacts: Relationships, which help you track relationships between contacts Affiliations, which help you track affiliations between contacts and other accounts. Learn more about the Higher Education Data Architecture (HEDA) .


HEDA Architecture

Understanding Salesforce Editions and Products

A Salesforce edition is a selected set of features and functionalities that also specifies the amount of customization possible, as well as the data and file storage capacity, and the API access available.

With the Power of Us license donation program, customers receive 10 Sales Cloud Lightning and Service Cloud Lightning Enterprise Edition licenses at no cost. A license is attached to a single user, so with 10 licenses, you could have 10 users logged on to your Salesforce org at one time. If you need additional licenses or products, you can purchase them at a deep discount from Get a quote for more licenses or review the features and functionality of the EE licenses.

In addition to your 10 Lightning EE licenses, you may have also chosen an App that will help you manage the student lifecycle. On the website, you can choose between three trials - the standard Enterprise Edition, the Nonprofit Starter Pack or the Higher Education Data Architecture (HEDA). HEDA is an "App" that sits on top of your Lightning Enterprise Edition and provides the basic foundation for a Connected Campus.

Knowing what edition and what app you are using will be vital information for you to know as you review Salesforce documentation, log a tech support ticket, or ask for help from the community.


Get Oriented in Salesforce


Navigating Salesforce

Learn at your own pace in "Getting Started: Navigating Salesforce" - a brief e-learning overview of some simple tasks for new Salesforce users. Or view the Trailhead trail: Salesforce User Basics.



Trailhead: Free, Interactive Learning Paths for Salesforce

Trailhead is a free, interactive learning path through the basic building blocks of the Salesforce Platform. Test your knowledge of the platform while earning points and badges to celebrate your achievements. Start with the CRM Essentials trail.


Your Support Team

Every Salesforce Foundation customer has access to a Sales Cloud Standard Success Plan which includes basic training to get you started. You also get access to community-based best practices and web-based support to help solve technical issues. Learn more about your Salesforce Support Team.

If you are interested in enhanced support, resources, and training to drive adoption, then you may purchase a Premier Success plan which is available at a deep discount to customers. If you are interested in pricing for Premier Success, please reach out to us via the Contact Me form.