Demystifying Salesforce Licenses: Choosing The Right Salesforce License Type For Your Business Needs

Choosing a Salesforce License blog post image

Salesforce is a globally renowned Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that empowers businesses to manage customer relationships, streamline operations, and drive growth. Salesforce is a powerful tool, but selecting the proper licenses is critical to harnessing its full potential. Salesforce offers a range of license types, each tailored to specific user needs and functionalities.

This article will serve as a guide to help businesses understand the nuances of Salesforce licenses, the different license types available, and how to make informed decisions on which licenses to choose.


Understanding Salesforce Licenses

Salesforce licenses are permission-based access rights that define the level of access and functionality a user has within the Salesforce ecosystem.

These licenses grant individuals— employees, partners, and customers— the ability to interact with and utilize Salesforce’s suite of applications and features. The type of license assigned to a user dictates what they can do within the platform, from viewing data to creating, editing, and managing records, and may also specify access to particular functionalities or apps.

Salesforce licenses are crucial in regulating data security, user roles, and responsibilities and ensuring that the right people have the appropriate access to perform their tasks efficiently.

It’s essential for businesses to thoroughly evaluate their budget and requirements when selecting Salesforce licenses and to consider the additional costs to ensure a complete and accurate understanding of the total investment involved in implementing and using Salesforce effectively.


When is Each Salesforce License Type Useful?

Salesforce Editions

Salesforce offers different editions— or types of databases— to address specific business needs.

Salesforce Essentials is designed for small businesses getting started with CRM to boost sales or service productivity. It includes a setup assistant and administration tools to customize your deployment as you grow.

Salesforce Starter is for businesses who want to get started with sales, service, and marketing functionality all at once. With out-of-the-box tools and built-in guidance, Salesforce Starter is the fastest way to get started with the Salesforce CRM suite. It’s perfect if you’re a first-time user who wants to find, win, and keep customers and build stronger relationships from day one.

Salesforce Professional is designed for businesses requiring full-featured CRM functionality. It includes straightforward and easy-to-use customization, integration, and administration tools to facilitate any small to midsize deployment.

Salesforce Enterprise meets the needs of large and complex businesses. It gives teams advanced customization and administration tools and all the functionality available in Professional Edition to support large-scale deployments. Enterprise Edition also includes access to Salesforce APIs, so you can easily integrate with back-office systems.

Salesforce Unlimited allows bussinesses to maximize their success and extend it across the entire enterprise through the Lightning Platform. It provides new levels of platform flexibility for managing and sharing all information on-demand, and includes:

•  All Enterprise Edition functionality

•  Premier Support

•  Full mobile access

•  Unlimited custom apps

•  Increased storage limits

•  And more!

Developer provides access to the Lightning Platform and APIs. It lets developers extend Salesforce, integrate with other applications, and develop new tools and applications. Developer Edition also provides access to many of the features available in Enterprise Edition.

Check out Salesforce Pricing for each edition, here.


Types of Salesforce User Licenses

Standard Salesforce User Licenses

Salesforce – Designed for users who require full access to standard CRM and AppExchange apps. Users with this user license can access any standard or custom app.

Each license provides more storage for Enterprise, Unlimited, and Performance Edition users.

Available in all editions.

Knowledge Only User – Designed for users who only need access to the Salesforce Knowledge app. This license provides access to custom objects, custom tabs, and the following standard tabs: Articles, Article Management, Chatter, Files, Home, Profile, Reports, Custom objects, Custom tabs.

The Knowledge Only User license includes a Knowledge Only profile that grants access to the Articles tab.

•  To view and use the Article Management tab, a user must have the Manage Articles permission.

•  To view articles, a user must have the AllowViewKnowledge permission on their profile. But this permission is off for default profiles.

•  To give a user the AllowViewKnowledge permission on their profile, activate the permission on a cloned profile and assign the cloned profile to the user.

Available in Enterprise and Unlimited Editions. 


Identity Only – Provides extra licenses for employees to access only identity services, such as single sign-on (SSO). For example, some of your employees only need access to some of the solutions included with a Salesforce license, but these employees need to sign in to a custom Your Benefits web app directly from your Salesforce org using SSO. You can purchase the Identity Only license for these employees. This license provides access to the same identity services included with your other paid licenses in the Enterprise, Unlimited, and Developer Editions.

Available in Enterprise, Unlimited, and Developer Editions.

Ten free Identity user licenses are included with each new Developer Edition org.


External Identity – Grants access to Salesforce Customer Identity, which enables customers and partners to self-register, login, update their profile, and securely access web and mobile apps with a single identity. Additionally, you can customize Customer Identity to your specific business process and brand using the power of the Salesforce Platform.

Available in Enterprise, Unlimited, and Developer Editions

Five free External Identity user licenses are included with each new Developer Edition org.


Salesforce Integration – Grants access to Salesforce data and features only through the API. This license is designed for system-to-system integrations. It can be used by those who need to access Salesforce data or features through any user interface.

Available in Enterprise, Unlimited, and Developer Editions.

Five Salesforce Integration user licenses are included in each Enterprise and Unlimited Edition org. One Salesforce Integration license is included in each Developer Edition org.


Lightning Platform User License Types

Salesforce Platform license – Designed for users who need access to custom apps but not to standard CRM functionality. Users with this user license can use custom apps developed in your organization or installed from AppExchange, as well as core platform functionality such as Accounts, Contacts, Reports, Dashboards, and up to 10 custom objects. These users aren’t entitled to the Standard Objects Leads, Opportunities, Campaigns, Forecasts, and more. Users with this license can also use Connect Offline.

Available in Enterprise, Unlimited, and Developer Editions. Subscription – Grants users access to a Lightning Platform Light App or Lightning Platform Enterprise App. CRM functionality is not included.

A Lightning Platform Light App has up to 10 custom objects and 10 custom tabs, read-only access to accounts and contacts, and supports object-level and field-level security. A Lightning Platform Light App can’t use the Bulk API or Streaming API.

A Lightning Platform Enterprise App has up to 10 custom objects and 10 custom tabs. It has the permissions of a Lightning Platform Light App, and it supports record-level sharing, can use the Bulk API and Streaming API, and has read/write access to accounts and contacts.

Assign users with this license to a profile or permission set that allows access only to 10 custom objects and 10 custom tabs.

Users with this license can only view dashboards if the running user also has the same license.

Each license provides 20 MB more data storage per user for Enterprise Edition and 120 MB more data storage per user for Unlimited and Performance* Editions, as well as 2 GB of file storage regardless of the edition.

Available in Enterprise and Unlimited Editions


Company Community User – This license is an internal user license for employee communities. It’s designed for users to access custom tabs, Salesforce Files, Chatter (people, groups, feeds), and an Experience Cloud site.

Company Community users have read-only access to Salesforce Knowledge articles. They can also:

•  Access up to 10 custom objects and 10 custom tabs

•  Use Content, Ideas, Assets, and Identity features

•  Use activities, tasks, calendars, and events

•  Have access to accounts, contacts, cases, and documents.

Available in Enterprise, Unlimited, and Developer Editions

Along with these Salesforce Editions and Salesforce User Licences, Salesforce also offers Experiences and a variety of Experience licenses. Experiences are a portal or external extension of your internal Salesforce database that can be designed for a customer or partner authenticated experience based on their relationship to your organization.

*Stay tuned for our next blog post explaining the differences between Internal and External Licenses, and the difference Experience Licenses.

Chatter User Licenses

All standard Salesforce licenses allow free Chatter access for everyone in your organization. Salesforce also offers Chatter-specific licenses:

Chatter External – This license is for users who are outside of your company’s email domain. These external users, also called customers, can be invited to Chatter groups that allow customers. Customers can access information and interact with users only in the groups they’re invited to. They have no access to Chatter objects or data. Chatter External users can view user profiles, but they can’t edit them.

Chatter Free – The Chatter Free license is for users who don’t have Salesforce licenses but require access to Chatter. These users can access standard Chatter items such as People, Profiles, Groups, and Files, but they cannot access any Salesforce records.

Salesforce administrators can upgrade a Chatter Free license to a standard Salesforce or Lightning Platform Starter license at any time.

Chatter Only (Chatter Plus) – The Chatter Only license (aka Chatter Plus) is available only to existing Chatter Plus customers. The Chatter Only license is for users who don’t have Salesforce licenses but must have access to Chatter and some additional Salesforce objects. Chatter Only users can be Chatter moderators and have access to standard Chatter people, profiles, groups, and files pages.

Additional Salesforce products like Marketing Cloud, Account Engagement (Pardot), CPQ, and more are add-ons for Salesforce customers to purchase separately. Contact The CRM Firm for help reviewing your organization’s current licensing selections and matrix!


Cost Considerations

When it comes to Salesforce licensing, cost considerations play a pivotal role in the decision-making process as licenses are an annual investment made by your organization.

This section will delve into the various factors that can impact your organization’s budget when choosing and managing Salesforce licenses.

•  Licensing Costs: These are the fees associated with procuring Salesforce licenses. It’s important to note that these costs can vary significantly, depending on the license type and the chosen subscription term— monthly or annual.

•  User Counts and License Types: The number of users you plan to have on the platform influences your licensing costs. Simply put, the more users you have, the more licenses you will require. It’s crucial to carefully assess each user’s role and select the appropriate license type for their specific needs, as different types come with varying price points. For example, a Salesforce Enterprise Sales Cloud license is more costly than a Platform.

•  Scalability and Growth: An often overlooked aspect of cost consideration is scalability. As your organization grows, so do your licensing costs. To avoid sudden spikes in expenses, ensure that your chosen licensing strategy can easily accommodate your future growth plans.

•  Data Storage Costs: Data storage costs are often overlooked but are a key consideration. Exceeding your licensing matrix’s allotted data storage limits can lead to extra charges. The volume of data your organization needs to store will impact the overall cost of licensing.

To gain a comprehensive view of your financial commitment, consider calculating the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This holistic assessment includes licensing fees and all related costs— encompassing implementation, customization, support, third-party integrations, professional services and support, and internal overhead related to enhancements that align with growth.


Licensing Best Practices

Optimizing your Salesforce licenses goes beyond just selecting the right ones. Here are some best practices to effectively manage and streamline your licensing:

•  Regular License Audits: Regularly audit your organization’s Salesforce licenses to ensure they align with your current needs and user roles. Identify any inactive or underutilized licenses that can be reassigned to other users who require them.

•  Monitor User Activity: Continuously monitor user activity to ensure that users are consuming only the necessary features or resources. Use Salesforce reporting and analytics tools to track user engagement and identify potential overprovisioning or underutilization.

•  License Optimization: Optimize your Salesforce license allocation by matching the license type to each user’s specific roles and responsibilities. Avoid over-licensing users with features they don’t need, which can result in unnecessary costs.

•  User Onboarding and Offboarding: Establish a well-defined, clear process for onboarding and offboarding. Ensure licenses are assigned and revoked promptly when employees join or leave the organization. Implement automation for managing user access.

•  License Governance Strategy: Create a license governance strategy to oversee licensing management within your organization. Appoint a dedicated administrator or team responsible for license allocation, monitoring, and compliance. Document processes and procedures for managing licenses and train relevant staff on these practices.

•  Regular Vendor Communication: Maintain open communication with Salesforce or your Salesforce consultant. Stay informed about changes in licensing options, pricing, and updates to ensure your organization remains cost-effective and up-to-date.

•  Scale as Needed: As your organization grows or evolves, adjust your Salesforce licenses to match changing requirements. Ensure your licensing strategy aligns with your business’s current and future goals.

•  Education and Training: Provide education and training for your Salesforce users to help them maximize the value of their licenses. Well-trained users are more likely to utilize Salesforce effectively.

•  Stay Informed About Updates: Regularly check for updates and new features within the Salesforce ecosystem. Some updates may affect how licenses are used. Staying informed ensures you’re leveraging the latest functionalities.

By following these best practices, organizations can ensure that their Salesforce licensing is cost-effective and aligned with their operational needs. Effective license management optimizes costs and enhances data security, user productivity, and overall CRM efficiency.

In conclusion, Salesforce licenses are a pivotal component of your CRM journey. Making informed choices about the right licenses, controlling costs, and adopting best practices in license management can empower your organization to harness the full potential of Salesforce, ultimately driving growth, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. By following these guidelines, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the complex world of Salesforce licensing and steer your business toward CRM success.


*Performance Edition – Salesforce Edition that is no longer sold

This edition was designed for customers who want to drive growth, increase customer satisfaction, and maximize sales and service success in the social and mobile world. Performance Edition orgs include all Unlimited Edition functionality plus clean, targeted lead and customer data from, coaching and feedback tools from WDC, trusted identity services from Identity, and more.

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