SugarCRM vs. Salesforce: which CRM tool is best?

salesforce vs sugarcrm

Trying to choose between Salesforce and SugarCRM? They're two of the best CRMs on the block – but it takes a bit of research and testing to decide which one is the best tool for you.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools have become a vital tool for enabling business growth and overcoming the challenges of scaling.

These are just some of the reasons why CRM has become one of the biggest software markets in the world. Today, almost 50% of businesses use CRM software to drive sales and track, manage and analyze customer interactions across a multitude of touchpoints.


Introducing Salesforce and SugarCRM

If you’ve been shopping around for a new CRM solution, you’ve probably already heard of the popular Salesforce platform. With a market share of 30%, it’s one of the largest. But while it’s the go-to option for many businesses, it’s by no means the only one, and neither is it best suited to every situation.

SugarCRM is one of the many lesser-known Salesforce alternatives. Though it has a much smaller market share, it includes a suite of tools for marketing, sales, support and business intelligence teams. SugarCRM goes beyond being just a CRM and describes itself as a customer experience (CX) platform handling sales automation, marketing automation, account management and customer relationship management.

In this post, we’ll explore the options to help you determine whether Salesforce or SugarCRM is best for your organization.

When to choose SugarCRM

SugarCRM is the underdog out of the two tools, but it’s a worthy competitor providing excellent usability and scalability.

For businesses that want to keep their data in-house, it’s also the only option of the two, since Salesforce has no on-premises component.

SugarCRM is intended for use in organizations of all sizes, but it’s especially suitable for small companies that want to keep costs down and avoid paying a high premium for additional support.

Using just SugarCRM's customer experience tool, businesses can keep up with customer relationship management, sales and marketing automation, and account management.

The training materials are also intuitive, and the interface is very easy to use.

When to choose SugarCRM


When to choose Salesforce

Salesforce is the obvious choice for larger businesses and enterprises that prefer to stick with the industry standard when it comes to third-party integrations and support.

It’s one of the most comprehensive and complete CRMs out there, but it does come at a premium.

Salesforce is also the best option for companies that already use SAP, Oracle or NetSuite, thanks to out-of-the-box integrations with those platforms.

When to choose Salesforce


An in-depth comparison of Salesforce vs. SugarCRM

Owing to its popularity, Salesforce might seem like the obvious choice, but what really counts is the ability to align with the unique needs of your business.

If you’re not already using a CRM platform, either option can yield a substantial return on investment, but choosing the most suitable one can make a world of difference.

Important considerations include:

  • How easy the platform is to deploy
  • How it will work with your existing systems
  • Whether it can scale with the anticipated future needs of your business.

Here’s an overview of what each platform has to offer:

Deployment and ease of use

Salesforce is entirely cloud-based, which means it runs through a browser and your data is stored online. This is ideal for most customers, since it lets remote teams access the tools and information they need for work no matter where they are or which device they’re using. By working with an accredited Salesforce partner, your entire solution can be managed for you.

salesforce ease of use


One thing that sets SugarCRM apart is that it’s also available as an on-premises solution, but this typically requires having a fully-equipped IT department to deploy and maintain it, as well as the high capital expenses involved in having your own servers to host it. Most SugarCRM users use the SugarCloud platform instead, but some businesses will appreciate the on-premises option.


SugarCRM ease of use

From an end-user perspective, both platforms have a fairly steep learning curve, but that’s because they’re powerful, feature-packed solutions. SugarCRM users can choose from many free courses at the Sugar University, but there are several advanced courses which come at a high premium.

Salesforce also offers extensive training materials, including both online and in-person workshops and seminars, but they all come at a hefty premium, sometimes running into thousands of dollars.

Features and functions

Both platforms offer many of the same capabilities, though Salesforce offers the wider range of features. SugarCRM is a suite of four different products: Sugar Market, Sugar Sell, Sugar Serve and Sugar Discover. Here’s an overview of what they have to offer:

  • Sugar Market lets marketing teams create personalized campaigns and collect data at various customer touchpoints for tracking performance and making improvements.
  • Sugar Sell is designed for sales teams to collect information about their customers and refer to visual overviews of customer journeys and sales cycles.
  • Sugar Serve is the customer service component, which lets support teams create self-service portals and open tickets when they need some extra help.
  • Sugar Discover helps business decision-makers derive insights from the data collected across the previous three tools.

Salesforce offers a similarly integrated range of features and functions to those of Sugar CRM, but it takes things a step further by allowing businesses to create and manage membership sites. Features can also be added or removed to serve specific business needs, which makes the platform the more customizable of the two.

SugarCRM used to have a Community Edition, which was open-source, and therefore extremely customizable, but this was retired in the end of 2019.

Marketing automation is another key priority in CRM. Both platforms let you send out targeted emails to groups of leads and contacts, and they include customizable email templates. They also offer web-to-lead forms, which you can embed into your website to collect leads whenever someone completes the form.

Here's a glimpse of what automation looks like with Salesforce's workflow builder:

Salesforce marketing automation


Reporting and analytics

An analytics and reports dashboard is a core component of any decent CRM, since it allows users to track the cost of the marketing campaigns against the profits generated. Teams can act on these data-driven insights to make adjustments that continually improve performance over time.

Salesforce users can organize campaigns into hierarchies for easily viewing related marketing tactics. Analytics data includes key metrics such as the total number of responses, leads, and conversions.

salesforce analytics reporting


Similarly, SugarCRM offers real-time reports where users can specify their key performance indicators (KPIs) and link opportunities to campaigns for tracking ROI. Both offer sales forecasting, customizable reports, and visualization of sales pipelines.

SugarCRM analytics reporting


While Salesforce generally offers more powerful and customizable reporting and analytics, SugarCRM includes the dedicated Sugar Discover tool, which provides automated alerts and historical overviews of your past marketing campaigns.

Collaboration and integration

When choosing a CRM, one of the most important considerations is how it will work with your existing toolset. Without the right integrations, collaboration between sales, marketing, support and other core business functions can be severely hindered.

There’s also a higher risk of human error due to having to manually enter data into multiple systems. A dependable CRM should provide a centralized database that integrates seamlessly with every other application you’re using.

Fortunately both Salesforce and SugarCRM offer a wide range of out-of-the-box integrations, although Salesforce has the edge with native support for SAP, Oracle and NetSuite as well. Salesforce also has a website for third-party apps and plugins, although there are several hundred more owing to the platform’s high popularity. Many are free, though some are paid. Others are available for specific editions of Salesforce, such as the Professional tier or higher.

SugarCRM customers can visit the Sugar Exchange website to choose from dozens of extra plugins conveniently organized by category. Each plugin has to undergo a 90-day certification program to ensure it meets quality control guidelines.

If what you need is a two-way, real-time sync between your CRM and other tools already in your tech stack, you can quickly connect both Salesforce and SugarCRM to all of your other key business tools with PieSync.

Scalability and pricing

Although pricing generally shouldn’t be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing the right technology for your business, it’s still important. You also need to think about the likely future needs of your organization to ensure your solutions and budgets can scale with demand. Both SugarCRM and Salesforce are subscription-based offerings, with rates varying depending on the apps and functions you need.

Salesforce subscriptions start at $25 per user per month for the Essentials package, rising to $1,250 per month for the entire suite of marketing automation tools. All subscription tiers come with a starting user count of 5.

salesforce pricing


SugarCRM has a starting user count of 10 for all subscription tiers. Prices start at $52 per user per month for the on-premises version of Sugar Professional. Their highest product tier, Sugar Market, starts at $1,000 per month and includes unlimited users, emails, landing pages and phone support.

SugarCRM pricing


With plans that scale with your team, upgrading your subscription or adding a new feature or product is fairly straightforward with both options.

Customer support

A CRM is one of your most important business tools, so you’ll need access to a dependable support service. For SugarCRM users, every account comes with access to a self-service support portal. However, due partly to its open-source origins, a lot of the documentation is highly technical. Fortunately, higher subscription tiers come with full support from a dedicated account manager.

Salesforce has an extensive self-service and peer-to-peer support infrastructure in the form of Trailblazer Communities. Since all deployments are hosted in the cloud, they’re proactively maintained and managed, but this does mean you may have a hard time transferring your data if you want to migrate to a new CRM later on. Salesforce also offers success plans and advisory services at an additional fee.

Summary: When to choose SugarCRM vs. Salesforce

Here’s our quick summary of when to choose Salesforce vs. SugarCRM for your business:

When to choose SugarCRMWhen to choose Salesforce
You want excellent usability and scalabilityYou want the industry standard for enterprise-level CRM
You have a small businessYou have a larger business
You want to keep costs downYou want the most comprehensive and complete CRM on the market
You want to avoid paying a high premium for additional supportYou already use SAP, Oracle or NetSuite

Still on the lookout for other CRMs to test? Here are some other popular CRM platforms to add your software shortlist as alternatives to Salesforce and SugarCRM:

No matter which CRM platform you choose, it's important to make sure it seamlessly connects to the rest of your app stack. The best way to guarantee this is with a two-way sync between all of your key apps.

Both Salesforce and SugarCRM can connect with hundreds of other tools to ensure that your data is always up-to-date, free of duplicates and reliable.

Find out how to connect Salesforce or SugarCRM to your other tools and sync your app stack fast.

About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.