If we asked you to think of a CRM, there’s a high chance you’ll say Salesforce. They’ve been in the game the longest and are used by a wide variety of businesses. But they’re not the only customer relationship management system out there. And they are definitely not the right solution for everyone.
One of the best alternatives to Salesforce is HubSpot, which is consistently ranked a leader in CRM. Well known for ease-of-use, HubSpot now also offers a deeply powerful CRM. A combination that has made it an attractive solution for the enterprise businesses and a viable alternative to Salesforce.
When should a company use Salesforce or HubSpot? And how can you decide whether Salesforce or HubSpot is better for your business?
Nearly all businesses can benefit from a good CRM system (the exception: if your business has almost no data about leads, customers or sales to store). Here’s our comparison of two of the biggest players: HubSpot vs. Salesforce.
HubSpot’s CRM is a powerful platform where you can choose which of their Sales, Marketing and Service Hubs to add on top. Their Sales Starter plans are $25/month. After this, it’s $80/user/month for the Professional plan, and $120/user/month for the Enterprise plan (billed annually). See HubSpot pricing here.
How expensive is Salesforce? The short answer: expensive. Although they have a $25/user/month Essentials plan, this isn’t going to get you far. Like HubSpot, their basic plan for their Sales Cloud (the core CRM) is a “land and expand” tactic. To get the functionality you need, you’re likely to soon see yourself paying $150/user/month for their Lightning Enterprise plan for the Sales Cloud.
For their Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud and other automation and integration features, you'll need to add these separately to your package. See Salesforce pricing here.
The verdict? Salesforce has a lot of extra costs that add up over time (just check out this price comparison from HubSpot for an example). HubSpot’s pricing grows with your business, and its total cost of ownership (including implementation, support and training) is a fraction of Salesforce’s cost over time. HubSpot by far has a more transparent and scalable pricing model for large growing companies.
2. Overall feature sets
Salesforce deserves its reputation as a complex CRM for enterprise-level businesses. In terms of functionality, Salesforce’s CRM offers more customization than HubSpot’s. But for ultimate flexibility, you need specialized folks on hand who can make it work. HubSpot takes the opposite approach. They are uniquely focused on design, user experience, and usability. HubSpot is consistently ranked the most user-friendly CRM and B2B software, with rep adoption often cited as a key benefit among HubSpot users. And in the last few years, HubSpot’s CRM has added major enterprise power.
HubSpot offers a complete, powerful CRM. Their Sales Hub suite of tools delivers on contact management, sales analytics, sales automation, pipeline management, and much more. Thousands of growing mid-market B2B companies, enterprise brands, and high-growth unicorns trust Sales Hub products to scale with them as they grow.
HubSpot also pioneered the Flywheel Methodology, a new way for companies to grow their business. Their approach puts customers at the center of your business and helps you grow through the momentum that your sales, marketing, and service teams can generate by working together.
The verdict? Salesforce excels because of its breadth of features and customization. But there are many businesses that are better off with a CRM their reps are more likely to use. Also, if you’re a business that needs a strong link between sales and marketing and wants a CRM with easy-to-use features, HubSpot is better.
Automation is playing a more important role in businesses than ever before. It’s never been easier to let your tools work for you, especially when it comes to your CRM system.
Salesforce has Einstein, its own built-in artificial intelligence to help you work more intelligently. With the add-on, you can set up completely automated processes to take contacts from new leads to onboarded customers and beyond. According to their 2018 report, Salesforce Einstein now generates more than 1 billion predictions a day for their customers.
HubSpot has a comprehensive feature set for automation, including workflows that you can build around any contact, company, deal and ticket values. If you want to create internal or customer-facing “if this, then that” actions, HubSpot has your back. Some automation features are gated behind their Enterprise plan, including predictive lead scoring, recurring revenue tracking and custom event triggers.
The verdict? HubSpot now offers real, sophisticated, and powerful automation for large complex businesses.
4. Reporting and analytics
If you’re a mid-size to enterprise-level business, reporting and analytics will matter to you.
Analytics hasn’t always been HubSpot’s strong suit, but with their recent improvements to report building and the launch of revenue attribution reporting in Marketing Hub Enterprise, they have really caught up.
Salesforce is incredibly powerful with robust reporting that’s endlessly customizable. But this customization can take time to implement and require training to master. G2 crowd users ranked HubSpot above Salesforce in ease of setup.
The verdict? Salesforce wins on reporting and analytics for now. If HubSpot continues to improve their reporting capabilities, combined with their easier-to-implement solutions, they’ll eventually take over this category.
5. Collaboration between functions (sales, marketing, support)
Salesforce and HubSpot aren’t tools to be used in a silo. When you place them at the center of your business and ensure that everyone knows how to use them, you’ll get the best results.
Both HubSpot and Salesforce have the functionality for sales, marketing and service teams, and you can layer their features and plans to create the mix you need. HubSpot’s Sales, Marketing, and Service suites were all built by HubSpot in house. The result is a unified and consistent user experience where data, reporting, and individual tools are similar and work in concert with each other.
Salesforce offers more products and tools, but their breadth can come at the cost of usability and maintenance. Their platform has grown through acquisitions such as Pardot, which can create a less integrated user experience for customers.
The verdict? HubSpot’s ease of use, platform product strategy, and prescriptive Flywheel methodology will make it easier for companies of any size to better collaborate. Salesforce’s tools make this harder. HubSpot wins.
You need to know that your CRM can grow with you. That’s one of the best things about the HubSpot CRM system: you can start with a completely free plan, and upgrade when your business grows—in the specific areas where you need more functionality. Most users are unlikely to hit a ceiling if you’re willing to pay for top-tier enterprise functionality. Some specific use cases may eventually become problematic if you’re in need of high levels of customization.
With Salesforce, there is no end to the potential to scale and customize the software for your business. It’s designed for huge companies that have a long list of niche requests, including current known requirements and unknown future needs.
The verdict? both tools will grow with you. HubSpot offers flexibility and control that is easy to implement as you grow, and Salesforce offers endless customization as you grow.
7. Implementation & support
You can sign up and start seeing value from HubSpot immediately. Without needing a paid plan, you can import all of your contacts as a CSV, match their existing fields to standard and existing HubSpot properties (e.g. lifecycle stage, deal won date, renewal date, account manager), and start organizing your pipeline.
Salesforce offers a 14-day free trial, but it’s just that: a trial. Eventually, you’ll need to decide if you can afford a paid plan. With HubSpot, you can spend more time getting to know the tools. With Salesforce, you’re also likely to require an in-house Salesforce specialist or session(s) with one of their experts, adding to the total cost of ownership.
Everyone has access to HubSpot’s wealth of free content resources, from its blog to knowledge base. HubSpot also provides HubSpot Academy, a comprehensive library of video courses, to improve your business know-how. Salesforce has the comparative Trailhead e-learning hub, but with HubSpot’s inbound marketing ethos, it’s not surprising that they win on content.
As a HubSpot paid customer, you’ll have access to their 24/7 phone support and support tickets with email responses. They also offer live chat. Your problems will be listened to and solved by HubSpot.
Each Salesforce plan includes a Standard support package, with a two-day response time to your inquiries. For critical response times, you’ll need to pay extra for their Premier plan or above. You can see all Salesforce support plans here.
The verdict? HubSpot wins for providing the best quality and least costly customer support.
Most businesses are using a multitude of different tools and services, which can lead to scattered data and productivity loss if those tools aren’t well-integrated. This is especially true when it comes to your CRM, where the majority of your data is stored. Fortunately, both HubSpot and Salesforce have a great range of integrations.
HubSpot’s App Marketplace has 500-plus out-of-the-box integrations that are simple to set up with other apps you use often, like Jira, Mailchimp or Slack.
Salesforce users can find apps and integrations in AppExchange, the fast and easy way to extend Salesforce with over 3,400 apps and integrations
You can also hire developers to help you create custom integrations, but there are easier options. PieSync offers integrations between HubSpot, Salesforce and 200-plus apps, using a two-way contact sync to keep your data updated in real time. This makes integrating your tools much easier and straightforward.
The verdict? Both CRMs offer a great ecosystem of third party tools and integrations that should meet your needs. For both, PieSync makes streamlining your workflows much easier via two-way contact syncs between your business tools.
9. Adoption & reviews
As of July 2020, HubSpot has 78,700 users in 120 countries (according to their homepage). Salesforce, in comparison, has over 150,000 customers according to their 2018 Annual Report, with an estimated 25 subscribers (or individual users) per customer.
When we last updated this post in July 2020, HubSpot had a 4.5/5 rating for their CRM based on 2,588 reviews. HubSpot Marketing also has a 4.5/5 rating, this time based on 4,212 opinions. Salesforce, has more reviews: 14,573 with a slightly lower average rating of 4.4/5.
The verdict? Salesforce has more but in terms of reviews, we’ll call it a draw.
Our verdict: HubSpot vs. Salesforce
So, when should you choose Salesforce or HubSpot as your CRM?
As a rule of thumb, if you want power, without sacrificing ease of use, choose HubSpot.
Choose Salesforce if you need a highly customizable CRM solution.
Can HubSpot replace Salesforce? Absolutely. If you want the best CRM for your business, the choice is between HubSpot and Salesforce. And if you care about rep adoption, support, collaboration, and cost, we recommend HubSpot.
For some businesses, you might even want to use both HubSpot and Salesforce and set up the integration between the two tools. Though HubSpot and Salesforce are competitors and some features may overlap, some businesses can benefit from using both tools in their organization for different yet complementary purposes.
One Capterra review explains: “HubSpot integrates with our Salesforce CRM, and provides valuable information to our sales staff, which can help them better help our customers/potential customers. We assign leads that come through HubSpot and feed into Salesforce for personal follow-up”. Another review mentioned integrating their Salesforce API for accurate lead scoring.
For most businesses, however, it’s going to be a choice between HubSpot and Salesforce. Migrating CRMs isn’t easy, so aim to choose a system that you’ll enjoy using for years to come. Think about your plans for the next few years and if HubSpot or Salesforce can tick those boxes. Then, make use of the free trials available and assess the features that are really important to your business.