Salesforce automation tools: everything you need to know

The world's number one CRM, Salesforce, became the industry leader with four strong pillars at the foundation – the four Salesforce automation tools. These tools streamline sales, optimize lead and opportunity tracking, and nurture prospects and marketing.

Salesforce automation tools: everything you need to know
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Salesforce and its automation tools eliminate the manual and monotonous tasks associated with customer relationship management. But what are these tools? How do they differ? Which one should you pick for different tasks?

In this article, you'll learn about the four Salesforce automation tools and how these tools can supercharge your sales and CRM processes.

What are Salesforce automation tools?

Salesforce automation tools are the backbone of the Salesforce platform, designed to automate CRM processes. Automation results in reduced manual efforts, minimized errors, and optimized efficiency of sales and marketing processes.

Salesforce automation tools operate on the philosophy of smart work rather than hard work. Their key objective is to simplify and enhance CRM operations. These tools help you precisely manage leads, contacts, opportunities, and customer data, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.

Along with various automation, the Salesforce CRM automation tools also allow you to set up rules and trigger actions, enabling a more responsive and efficient workflow. Now, let's take a closer look at the four crucial Salesforce automation tools:

  1. Workflow rules
  2. Process Builder
  3. Salesforce Flow
  4. Apex.

These automation tools can automate tasks like customer segmentation, lead qualification, accounts, and contact management, etc.

The four Salesforce automation tools

Companies use Salesforce to automate their sales processes, increase efficiency, manage sales pipelines, and integrate data. The automation offered for these processes is divided into two categories:

  • Process automation (workflows): Create automated workflows to simplify tasks like task assignments and notifications. Functions include updating records, sending emails, moving records, and generating reports
  • Data operation (loading and cleansing): Integrate data, eliminate duplicates, conduct quality checks, and schedule updates to maintain data integrity. Accurate data is essential for sales analysis and strategy development.

Workflow rules

Salesforce workflow is a core automation tool for automating routine workflow processes and data-driven rules. Although it has the most minor functionalities among the tools on our list, it is fast, easy to use, and very reliable.

Workflow rules are best for automating tasks such as sending notifications and emails and creating events and assignments. One advantage of workflow rules is that they can be set up and paused whenever needed without causing data loss.

However, it operates on true-false conditions. If a criterion is valid, the actions will only execute then. This nature of workflow rules makes it a lousy choice for complex scenarios.

How it works

Workflow rules are defined using 'if/then' logic. When a record meets the criteria, it triggers actions, including field updates, email alerts, and task creation.

Key features

Workflow supports time-dependent actions, where actions are scheduled to occur at specific times after rule evaluation.

Use cases

Workflow is excellent for automating lead assignments, task creation, and email notifications in response to various events. It also helps maintain data integrity and consistency.

Process Builder

The second Salesforce automation tool, Process Builder, allows you to work on multidirectional processes. It operates through a point-and-click, drag-and-drop interface. Process Builder is like an extended version of workflow rules with better flexibility and functionality.

With Process Builder, you can create actions that update fields on related records to the one that triggered the process. In contrast, traditional workflow rules are limited to updating fields on the same record that initiated the rule.

As Process Builders work on multiple decisions and generate more outcomes, they raise the bar exponentially. However, with the exponential rise in cases handled, Process Builders become more prone to hitting upper limits.

How it works

Process Builder uses a visual flowchart-style interface to define processes. When specific events or conditions are met, actions are triggered.

Key features

Process Builder offers immediate and scheduled actions, including creating records, updating fields, sending email alerts, and launching Flows. It can also evaluate complex criteria.

Use cases

Process Builder is ideal for automating lead qualification, opportunity management, and onboarding processes. It allows you to design intricate processes easily.

As of Winter '23, Salesforce no longer supports workflow rules and Process Builders. Salesforce has encouraged organizations to migrate their existing automations to Flows.

Salesforce Flow

Salesforce Flow is the most versatile automation tool. It enables you to create complex, multistep processes using a visual, low-code interface. Also known as Visual Flow, both Admins and Developers use it to create sequential automation processes.

Salesforce Flows allows you to work on data operations, integration, and other Salesforce-related processes without writing code. Flow is more potent than workflow rules and Process Builder combined and can handle more complex tasks.

Flow creates a sequence of steps, including screens, decisions, actions, and loops. Users define these steps visually on a canvas. A Flow guides users through the predefined steps and automates actions when activated.

Different types of Flows:

Screen Flows

Interactive Flows guide users through screens, where they can input data, make selections, and view information.

Schedule-Triggered Flow

Flows scheduled to run at specified times or intervals, automating tasks without user interaction.

Record-Triggered Flow

Flows triggered by changes to records in Salesforce enable automation based on record data.

Platform Event-Triggered Flow

Flows triggered by platform events enable real-time responses to specific events or data changes.

Auto-Launched Flow

Flows that run in the background – triggered by an event or process – without requiring user interaction. They are often used for automated processes.

Key features:

  • Visual automation: Flow is a low-code tool with a drag-and-drop interface, making it accessible to those without extensive coding experience.
  • Guided experiences: It allows you to create guided user experiences, leading users through tasks with clear instructions and options.
  • Data collection: You can use Flow to collect user data, validate and manipulate data, and even make decisions based on user input.

Flow is well-suited for creating guided onboarding processes, data collection forms, complex approval workflows, and multistep processes.

Do you want to learn about Salesforce Flows in detail?

Transitioning from workflow rules and Process Builder to Flow

Salesforce offers a straightforward way to convert your workflow rules and Process Builder processes into Flow using the "Migrate to Flow" tool. This transition offers enhanced capabilities and flexibility. Here's how you can do it:

Step 1

Begin by identifying all the workflow rules and processes in your Salesforce organization that need migration.

Step 2

Review your existing processes and understand their requirements. Consider how each process can be replicated or improved using Flow.

Step 3

From "Setup," go to the "Quick Find" box, enter "Migrate to Flow," and select "Migrate to Flow."

Step 4

Select the process you want to convert to a Flow using the tool and click "Migrate to Flow."

Step 5

Choose the criteria you want to migrate and click "Migrate to Flow."

Step 6

After you migrate a process or workflow rule, thoroughly test the new Flow in Flow Builder to ensure it works as expected.

Step 7

Activate the Flow and deactivate the converted process or workflow rule.

Before moving your new Flows to production, you must start migrating and testing in a sandbox environment to avoid disruptions to your live processes.


Salesforce Apex is a robust, Developer-friendly programming language designed for the Salesforce platform. You can always turn to Apex when you can't navigate the other three Salesforce automation tools.

Like Java, Apex is an object-oriented and strongly typed programming language. It is tailored for advanced customization and provides the highest degree of flexibility but requires coding expertise.

The versatility of Apex allows Salesforce Developers to add custom code logic Apex's versatility allows Salesforce Developers to add custom code logic to events such as record updates, button on-clicks, Lightning pages, etc.

  • How it works: Apex allows you to write custom code to execute specific actions or manipulate data. It's perfect for highly tailored automation and complex business logic.
  • Key features: It includes triggers, classes, and web services for extensive customization and integration capabilities.
  • Use cases: Apex is essential for custom automation, complex data manipulations, and integrations with external systems, APIs, and other advanced use cases.

Comparison of Salesforce automation tools


Workflow rules

Process Builder

Salesforce Flow


Automation complexity



Medium to high


User-friendly interface

Yes (rule-based)

Yes (point-and-click)

Yes (visual and low-code)

No (requires coding)

Triggering mechanism


Event and criteria-based

Record-driven and event-based


Immediate and scheduled actions





Customization flexibility




Extremely high

Use cases

Standard task automation

Simple to moderate process automation

Multistep processes and data collection

Complex customization and integration

Data manipulation





Integration capability





Code-free solution





Next steps

This article established a foundational understanding of the four Salesforce automation tools, their functions, and their mechanics.

The next step is for you to watch them in action. The best way is to start with Trailhead training on these tools, understand how they work, and pick up hands-on training by solving available exercises. Here are a few resources for you:

Another way to understand the differences in capabilities is to pick a set of scenarios and try working through all the tools. You just need to learn and practice more to get a better grasp. Ultimately, it's all about what suits your business needs and expertise.