Paid Media Specialist, 8+ Years Experience in Marketing Strategy & Data Analysis
September 20th, 2018
If you were to ask your average sales professional about Salesforce, they’d probably say it’s the “top dog” in terms of CRM market share. (They wouldn’t be wrong, considering they own around 31% of that market.)
Their dominance makes sense. Salesforce offers heavy-duty, enterprise-level CRM capabilities, which rivals long-term successful solutions from SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, and Adobe.
That said, Salesforce certainly isn't the only CRM out there.
While not at the same scale, the HubSpot CRM's piece of the pie has been growing since the release of their free CRM in 2014, and for good reason.
Right now, it controls a humble 0.45% slice. That may not sound like much, but that number is increasing exponentially, as sales teams take advantage of the free program, as well as the new features continue to be unveiled.
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 HubSpot’s CRM stacks up to the premium product Salesforce offers.
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 (CRM) software is a set of tools that allow sales teams to organize contact information and manage relationships with current and prospective customers, clients, and other contacts.
Or, more to the point, the foundation of a CRM is basically that it's a Rolodex on steroids.
Unlike our old school address books, these platforms are all about emphasizing the “R” in CRM -- “relationship.”
CRMs should help you find contacts who work for the same company and any messages that have been sent throughout the sales or service relationship.
They should 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. (This allows you to get the big picture of your contacts and help you know exactly what to talk about the next time you meet or email someone.)
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; and
Enable increased functionality and shared intelligence across your sales, marketing, and customer service teams.
There Are Even Those Who Don't Need a Paid CRM Platform (Really)
Even with all of those obvious benefits of a CRM, there are those organizations who shouldn't consider anything beyond a free CRM tool (like the HubSpot CRM) if they:
Generate very few leads (less than three per week);
Are a sole proprietor;
Have a very short or simple sales cycle;
Collaborate with a small number of people simultaneously; and
Have clients that are also very small, where they typically only communicate with one of their employees.
Basically, if you or your sales team is handling very little in the way of data throughout your sales process, you probably wouldn’t benefit from a premium CRM solution like Salesforce.
OK, Let's Review: HubSpot vs SalesForce
While it might be tempting to sit back and simply compare HubSpot CRM features vs Salesforce CRM features against your needs -- although that's important, too -- here are the critical categories of comparison you should also consider when choosing a CRM:
This is the easy part: HubSpot is free and Salesforce is not. Simple as that.
Digging into the specifics, Salesforce does offer a lot of different options so that you can customize what you need -- and what you don’t -- to stay within budget.
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. This excludes added support, which can add 20 to 30% to your licensing costs.
With the HubSpot CRM, you can have as many users as you need for as many contacts as you require, for free.
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:
Knowledgebase user license ($600 per year);
Offline access ($25 per month);
Live video chat support;
Advanced social customer service;
Customer and partner community access;
Field services; and
Additional data storage.
If you need 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 aside from the paid marketing and sales tools that are available.
It stands alone as a CRM with relatively straightforward onboarding, but adding a CRM consultant is always an option, too.
That said, one thing to keep in mind about the HubSpot CRM is, since there are fewer native integrations available with the CRM newcomer, building out custom HubSpot CRM integrations can quickly turn into a money pit.
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.
How Easy They Are to Use
Since ease-of-use is a totally subjective measurement, I’ll let the users speak for themselves.
Aggregating the scores for both CRM platforms across review sites like SoftwareAdvice.com, Capterra, and G2Crowd.com, Salesforce gets an average customer satisfaction score of 4.07/5.
On the other hand, the HubSpot CRM customer satisfaction score average clocks in at 4.4/5.
You should take these reviews with a grain of salt, however, since Salesforce’s score comes from around 22,000 reviews and HubSpot’s score comes from around 4,300 reviews.
OK, here is where the HubSpot CRM and Salesforce comparison gets tricky.
Getting your new CRM software up and running is not always an easy task -- no matter which you choose -- and your success with implementation will depend on a lot of factors.
Let’s start with Salesforce.
Just implementing 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.
This process alone can takes months, especially for large companies.
But the HubSpot CRM implementation process isn't exactly a cakewalk either, even if it is 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 massive company who should seek out professional change management support from your ultimate CRM provider.
According to users, HubSpot CRM is simple to set up and use, self-explanatory, and quick to get running (a few minutes).
For example, Adam 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”
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, the level at which you can make changes, and how easy it is to make those changes.
Salesforce markets themselves as “the most customizable CRM," which is accurate.
HubSpot is highly customizable for your business’s processes and structure, but not to the same extent as Salesforce.
This is a “work with what you have” kind of situation.
Say you have a sales professional with pretty average technical knowledge. He/she can customize HubSpot deal stages, pipelines, views, and a ton of other things easily within the CRM.
The HubSpot CRM also offers quite a few integrations (nowhere near to the extent that Salesforce does) and the same average sales rep can probably set those up pretty easily, too.
They would, however, definitely need some developer assistance if he 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 they offer, but it is doable nonetheless.
Salesforce also has an entire industry of developers dedicated to building custom functions and apps in the Salesforce Sandbox.
TL;DR: 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.
We've already covered this, but as a quick refresher, Salesforce has the clear advantage here.
The HubSpot CRM has a few internally-supported integrations. The list is expanding, and with the aforementioned Open API, companies can build their own integrations if they have access to a developer.
But Salesforce has an entire environment dedicated to the thousands of products and integrations they have, called App Exchange.
Basically, when it comes to integrations, Salesforce is to HubSpot CRM, as App Store is to Google Play Store. You can do some custom development on both platforms, but there's a much 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 to users who don’t even have the CRM, but free CRM users get access to HubSpot Academy, eBooks, downloads, user documentation, and 24/7 Live Support.
If you upgrade to paid HubSpot products, you gain additional access to 24/7 phone and email 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, is 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 either don't need or will ultimately create more administrative work for your sales team, when they should have a CRM at their fingertips that saves them time?
If that sounds like you, 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.