How Salesforce Crushed Its Own Targets — Again (NYSE: CRM) has been on a roll the last several years, as the customer relationship management (CRM) specialist has used its artificial intelligence (AI) acumen and growing list of tools to entice more business to embrace its cloud computing services. The company has made it a habit of beating its own guidance and raising it even higher in a cycle that has continued to delight investors.

This quarter was no different, as the company again beat both its own ambitious forecasts, while also sailing past analysts’ expectations. Salesforce also raised its guidance for the full year, putting the company on track to achieve its goal of doubling revenue to $20 billion by 2022.

Image source: Salesforce.

Salesforce results: The raw numbers


Q1 2019

Q1 2018

Year-Over-Year Change


$3.01 billion

$2.397 billion


Operating income

$191 million

$4 million


Diluted earnings per share




Data source: Salesforce First-Quarter 2019 Financial Release. Chart by author.

What happened with Salesforce this quarter?

Salesforce generated revenue of $3.01 billion, up 25% year over year, surpassing the high end of the company’s forecast, and also exceeding analysts’ consensus estimates for $2.94 billion. Profits were also far better than expected, with adjusted earnings per share of $0.74, soaring past both the company’s guidance of about $0.44 per share, and analysts’ expectations of $0.46.

The company added another $6.2 billion to unearned revenue, up 25% year over year. Salesforce now boasts a massive $20.4 billion of future revenue from backlogged contracts, up 36% compared to the year-ago quarter.

Salesforce also completed the $6.5 billion acquisition of MuleSoft. The company’s ability to extract data from a variety of cloud sources ties in nicely with Salesforce’s Einstein AI platform. The company will now be able to analyze larger quantities of previously unavailable data, providing customers with even greater insight into their information.

“Salesforce delivered more than $3 billion in revenue in the first quarter, surpassing a $12 billion annual revenue run rate,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce. “Our relentless focus on customer success is yielding incredible results, including delivering nearly two billion AI predictions per day with Einstein.”

What the future holds

For the upcoming second quarter, Salesforce expects revenue in a range of $3.22 billion to $3.23 billion, which would represent 25% year-over-year growth at the midpoint of its guidance, and above analysts’ consensus estimates for $3.11 billion. The company anticipates a loss per share of between $0.08 and $0.09. On an adjusted basis, Salesforce expects earnings per share in a range of $0.46 to $0.47, which is slightly below analysts’ expectations of $0.52.

Based on the better-than-expected performance in the first quarter, Salesforce raised its guidance for the full year. The company is now expecting revenue in a range of $13.075 billion to $13.125 billion for fiscal 2019, which would represent growth of between 24% and 25% — a 3.75% increase from the forecast it provided just last quarter, and exceeding analysts’ expectations for $12.75 billion.

The company is guiding for earnings per share of between $0.49 and $0.51. On an adjusted basis, Salesforce expects earnings per share of about $2.30, much better than the $2.13 anticipated by analysts.

Salesforce continues to defy expectations, and based on this quarter’s results and the company’s momentum, there’s no reason to think that won’t continue.

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