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HubSpot CRM vs Salesforce: Which one is better? Blog Feature

Lexie Ward

HubSpot Trainer, 5+ Years Of Digital Marketing Strategy & Project Management Experience

July 7th, 2020 min read

If you were to ask your average sales professional about Salesforce, they’d probably say it’s a top competitor in the customer relationship management (CRM) space and they wouldn’t be wrong, considering Salesforce owns around 20% of the market.

Its dominance makes sense.

Salesforce offers heavy-duty, enterprise-level CRM capabilities, which brings it to rival long-term successful solutions from SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and Adobe.

That said, however, Salesforce certainly isn't the only good CRM out there.

While not quite at the same scale, the HubSpot CRM's piece of the pie has been growing since the release of its free version in 2014, and for good reason. 

Right now, it controls about 3.4%.

That may not sound like much, but that number is increasing exponentially as sales teams take advantage of the program and new features continue to be unveiled.

It's also free, making it automatically more accessible for many users. 

Most people using Salesforce know it’s practically everything you could want in a CRM, except it’s definitely not free.

As the HubSpot CRM gains popularity, it’s worth comparing the two to see where how it stacks up to what Salesforce has to offer.

And, given the difference in price between the two CRM platforms, some of you may be wondering, “Should I choose the HubSpot CRM over Salesforce at my business?”

First, let’s get back to (CRM) basics

In order to appropriately compare the two CRMs, first we need to go back to basics with an understanding of what a CRM is, and what success should look like if you have the right CRM and it’s doing its job.

What is a CRM?

Generally speaking, customer relationship management software is a set of tools that allows sales teams to organize contact information and manage relationships with current and prospective customers, clients, and other contacts.

Or, more to the point, a CRM is basically a Rolodex on steroids.

Unlike our old school address books, these platforms are all about emphasizing the “R” in CRM — “relationship.”

CRMs can help you build and maintain a cohesive and informed relationship with your contacts. They can help you find and group contacts who work for the same company, as well as keep track of any messages that have been sent throughout the sales or service relationship.

CRMs can also show you who on your team was in contact with them last, as well as what was discussed, so that everyone on your team is in the loop. 

All of this allows you to get the big picture of your contacts and helps you know exactly what to talk about the next time you meet or email someone so that it’s always relevant and useful.

A good CRM should also enable your team to:

  • Develop a sales-to-service handoff and relationship strategy
  • Automate the identification of the lifecycle stages of sales contacts
  • Track deals from discovery through a signed statement of work (SOW), providing an 80,000-foot-view of your pipeline at all times
  • Increase functionality and shared intelligence across your sales, marketing, and customer service teams

Okay, let's review: HubSpot vs Salesforce

While it might be tempting to sit back and simply compare HubSpot CRM features versus Salesforce CRM features against your needs — which is important — here are the critical categories of comparison you should also consider when choosing a CRM: 

Cost

HubSpot CRM is available for free. Their free CRM also comes with a set of free marketing, sales, and service tools. 

With the HubSpot CRM, you can have as many users as you need and up to a million contacts for free. This includes support from HubSpot’s free online community and resources

For many businesses, the free features will be enough. But for larger organizations or those that wish to take their sales efforts to the next level, HubSpot offers you the ability to upgrade to a paid version of the tool with HubSpot’s Sales Hub. If your team needs added functionality or wants to do more with your CRM, you can explore the paid tiers to see which makes the most sense for you. 

HubSpot offers three tiers in its sales hub; Starter, Professional, and Enterprise, each starting at $40 per month, $400 per month and $1200 per month, respectively.

Once you upgrade to the paid version, you will get access to 24/7 chat and email support.

With Salesforce, you begin by choosing from one of four licensing options

Essential licenses run for $25 per month each and offer the out-of-the-box software. Next comes Professional for $75 per month, Enterprise for $150 per month, and Unlimited for $300 per month.

So, for a team of 10 sales staff, running four Basic, three Professional, two Enterprise, and one Unlimited, your spend with Salesforce would be $925 per month billed at $11,100 annually.

Support is only included in the unlimited tier. Otherwise, added support can add 20-30% to your licensing costs.  

Hidden fees, costs, and add-ons

There are a few areas where cost can rise above the base user/support costs.

With Salesforce, here are some premium tools that can up your costs:

  • Offline access 
  • Live video chat support
  • Advanced social customer service
  • Customer and partner community access
  • Field services
  • Additional data storage

If you end up needing support from a Salesforce specialist for your onboarding, you'll need to pay for that, too. This is billed hourly or as a lump sum as part of your upfront cost for implementation.

With HubSpot, there aren’t really any added costs that come with using the free CRM. It stands alone as a CRM with relatively straightforward onboarding, but adding a CRM consultant (from HubSpot or a partner agency) is always an option with an added cost. 

If you are looking to do more with your CRM, however, you can always upgrade to HubSpot’s Sales Hub and gain access to a ton of more advanced tools like live chat, sales automation, and customizable reports.

That said, one thing to keep in mind about the HubSpot CRM is that there are fewer native integrations available, and building out custom HubSpot CRM integrations can be expensive. 

So, if you're an organization that will definitely require a lot of cross-functionality and integration between different platforms and your future CRM, that's a potential drawback you will want to investigate.

Onboarding

Getting your new CRM software up and running is not always an easy task — no matter which you choose — and your success with onboarding will depend on a lot of factors.

Just setting up Salesforce can be pretty costly, especially if your company is switching from another CRM and needs lead/customer data scrubbing, custom integrations, or a lot of added features.

There is more work to be done, and fewer out-of-the-box options that are ready to go when compared to HubSpot. 

This process alone can take months, especially for large companies.

The HubSpot CRM set up process isn't exactly a cakewalk either, but it does tend to be more straightforward.

You still may need to reformat or scrub your data. Some team members may require training on the new system, and you could have to build your own custom integrations.

However, the HubSpot CRM edge over Salesforce is that you probably won’t need to hire someone to make the switch to HubSpot — unless you're a larger company with many moving pieces or are investing in the paid version.

According to users, HubSpot CRM is simple to set up and use, self-explanatory, and relatively quick to get running.

For example, Adam, a new HubSpot user said:

“After years of using Salesforce, I welcomed the opportunity to test HubSpot's new CRM. Within minutes (and without training) [I] was able to navigate through the software and get a real feel for the product”

Customization

What "customization" means will depend on who you ask.

For the sake of today's conversation, we'll define customization of your CRM as what you can change and the level at which you can make changes.

For example, Salesforce offers more control when it comes to customizing your deal pipeline stages and process workflows. There are simply more options as to what you can customize. HubSpot offers additional customization options when you get into its paid sales features, but they’re still not quite as in depth as with Salesforce. 

Salesforce accurately markets itself as “the most customizable CRM." 

HubSpot is highly customizable for your business’ processes and structure, but not to the same extent.

Say you have a sales professional with pretty average technical knowledge. That person can customize HubSpot deal stages, pipelines, views, and a ton of other things easily within the CRM.

They may be limited when it comes to the options they have when setting up automated workflows, as you are limited to the properties HubSpot provides, which isn’t as many as Salesforce.

The HubSpot CRM also offers quite a few integrations, and the same average sales rep can probably set those up pretty easily, too.

They would, however, definitely need some developer assistance if they wanted to use HubSpot’s Open API to further customize and build integrations into the CRM.

A Salesforce user can also customize processes, workflows, and users without developer help, all within the CRM. It might take longer in Salesforce due to the sheer volume of features that the platform offers, but it is doable nonetheless.

Salesforce also has an entire industry of developers dedicated to building custom functions and apps in the Salesforce sandbox.

To sum up,  if you want fast, easy, simple adjustments to the software to fit with your internal processes, HubSpot is the right choice. If you want to customize your CRM to the moon and back again to masterfully sync your CRM with your company, Salesforce wins.

Usability

It’s important to factor in the time it will take your team to operate a software when choosing which is right for you. At the end of the day, a software should help your team to do its job more efficiently.   

According to the ISO, usability is defined as 

“The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”

Since this can be a subjective measurement, I’ll let the users speak for themselves.

According to customer reviews for each software from G2 (formerly G2 Crowd), Salesforce gets an average rating of 7.8/10 for ease-of-use.

On the other hand, the HubSpot CRM average rating clocks in at 8.6/10 for ease-of-use.

Integrations

Integrations allow you to connect a third party software directly to your CRM. This enables the two systems to talk to each other, and for data to be shared back and forth.

For example, if your team uses Slack, both HubSpot and Salesforce have a Slack integration available. This allows Slack to connect with your CRM and send messages based on certain actions that happen in your CRM.

Since HubSpot rolled out its CRM the company has grown the number of integrations to nearly 200, and the list is still expanding. Also, with the aforementioned Open API, companies can build their own custom integrations with the help of a developer.

Salesforce has an entire environment dedicated to the thousands of products and integrations it has called App Exchange

Basically, while you can do some custom development on both platforms, there's a higher volume of native development happening within the Salesforce community.

Finally, CRM support

With the lower-level Salesforce licenses, you get pretty limited support. At the enterprise license level, you get access to the Salesforce knowledge base, how-to guides, forums, training courses, and certifications.

Most of HubSpot’s CRM support is available for free online. With its extensive online community, knowledge docs, and HubSpot Academy, there is no shortage of helpful free resources.

If you upgrade to paid HubSpot starter level products, you gain access to 24/7 email and chat support.

So, which CRM is right for you?

Both Salesforce and the HubSpot CRM each have their advantages and disadvantages, so there's no simple "one-size-fits-all" answer we can give you.

Making the right choice between the two will come down to you knowing exactly what it is you need your CRM to do (and the budget you have available), instead of letting a third-party company like Salesforce or HubSpot — who, at the end of the day, are trying to sell you on their product — tell you what you need.

Also, keep in mind that more isn't always better.

What's the point of paying for bells and whistles you don't need or won’t use?  A CRM should not create more administrative work for your sales team — a CRM should save them time.

Thus, the HubSpot CRM's lightweight framework and low cost may just be what the doctor ordered. 

On the other hand, depending on your organization's goals, needs, and structure, the large community and expansive functionality offered by Salesforce might be the better choice.

If you do decide HubSpot is the best choice for you, IMPACT has a team of dedicated HubSpot trainers to offer you more guidance and help you to get the most out of the tool. 

We recommend this to organizations that are investing in the paid tools HubSpot has to offer. 

When you are investing in any software, it’s important to start off on the right foot.

Getting everything set up correctly in the beginning will help ensure that you see the best results possible in the long run.

HubSpot Training and Onboarding

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