Zendesk Sell vs. Salesforce: which CRM tool is best?

salesforce vs zendesk sell

Zendesk Sell vs. Salesforce… what’s the best customer relationship management software for your business?

The past decade has seen customer relationship management (CRM) software evolve from simple contact management to performing a wide variety of critical business functions. It’s now a core area of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and the fastest growing software market of all.

The major CRM vendors are now investing heavily in cutting-edge technologies, such as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). Together with tried and tested features and functions, these innovations are transforming marketing and sales by enabling teams to run their internal processes more efficiently while empowering customer success.

While CRM promises an entirely new and more efficient way of working for teams that have only been using spreadsheets and other manual processes up until now, there are still many options to choose from.

Introducing Salesforce and Zendesk Sell

If you’ve been shopping around for a new CRM, you’ve probably heard of the industry leader Salesforce already, which hit a market share of 19.5% back in mid-2019. Along with other major vendors like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, it’s one of the obvious choices for growing and enterprise businesses.

Still, more than half of businesses are relying on one of the multitude of lesser-known CRMs. In this post we’ll be looking at Zendesk Sell as a Salesforce alternative.

Founded in 2007, Zendesk is best known as being a customer service software company, and it’s also an industry leader in that area. Headquartered in San Francisco and listed on the New York Stock Exchange, it recently branched out into various other areas of business software.

In 2018, Zendesk acquired Base CRM, an all-in-one sales platform for email, phone dialing, sales forecasting and pipeline management. It has since been renamed Zendesk Sell and is now an integral part of Zendesk’s ecosystem. But can it keep up with a giant like Salesforce?

In this post, we’ll give you a head-to-head comparison of Zendesk Sell vs. Salesforce to help you decide which CRM is best for your business.

When to choose Zendesk Sell

Zendesk Sell might come across as simplistic compared to Salesforce, but that’s exactly what many smaller businesses need. Zendesk Sell also offers enterprise plans, which make it ideal for future-proofing your organization.

If you’re already among the thousands of businesses using Zendesk for customer support, then it makes sense to at least try out their CRM as well.

Zendesk is also ideal if you only need a CRM for your sales team, since that’s where its focus lies, rather than on marketing and other departments.


When to choose Salesforce

Salesforce is one of the most feature-rich solutions out there and, along with its status as the undisputed industry leader, it’s the obvious choice for many businesses.

However, it can also be overkill for small teams, especially given its complexity and the huge range of features you have to choose from.

It’s also more expensive than many rival products, especially when it comes to the mid-range service tiers.

Ultimately, Salesforce is better for larger companies that have fully staffed sales and marketing departments.  

An in-depth comparison of Salesforce vs. Zendesk Sell


Both Salesforce and Zendesk Sell are cloud-based offerings with a similar set of key features. These include lead and contact management, integrated reporting and analytics, and sales automation.

Owing to its relatively small market share, business leaders might be skeptical about using Zendesk Sell for fear of a lack of future support and integration. However, Zendesk Sell has one of the biggest enterprise software vendors behind it, so its future is bright, and it’s shaping up to be more than just a viable alternative to Salesforce.

Both are very solid options with similarly positive reviews, but let’s look at how Salesforce and Zendesk Sell compare in several key areas.  

Deployment and ease of use

Both Zendesk Sell and Salesforce Cloud are entirely cloud-based, and neither have any on-premises components. However, they do offer mobile apps for Android and iOS devices, but you’ll still need a reliable internet connection for accessing your data and enjoying maximum functionality.

Almost all CRM solutions are now cloud-based, meaning that they can accommodate remote workforces and that deployment and maintenance are much easier, since you don’t need your own servers for hosting it. All you need to do is choose your pricing plan, and you can start accessing your tools right away.

Zendesk Sell prides itself on quick deployment and ease of use. Using the online Quick Start guide, new users can get up and running with minimal effort. Further help is also available in the form of user guides, tips and training resources.

zendesk sell contact record  

Another notable advantage of Zendesk is that you can pull existing client data from Salesforce and other rival products in VCF or CSV format. This makes it much easier to migrate from one to the other.

Salesforce has a steeper learning curve, which is partly because it has a wider range of features. Getting the most out of what it has to offer requires some training, but there are plenty of materials to help out. Salesforce also takes longer to deploy, since it’s made up of multiple suites and studios that need to be activated individually depending on requirements.

salesforce contact record  

Many businesses using Salesforce have a dedicated CRM administrator, while others go down the managed services route and have a third party deploy and maintain everything for them.  

Features and functions

To get the most out of your CRM, it’s best to start with a set of objectives for what you want to achieve. You can then translate these objectives into necessary functions and, in turn, into the feature requirements.

Whichever CRM you choose, you’ll want to avoid software bloat, which is what happens when you end up with a lot of features you don’t need. This can hinder productivity and cause confusion among users.

While both platforms provide a similar range of core functions, Zendesk Sell is lighter when it comes to features. It has two main sections for managing leads and contacts, and records can be viewed in tables or indexes and filtered based on various criteria.

zendesk sell contact list  

Placing the emphasis on sales, rather than marketing, the Zendesk Sell platform also has a Deals section where users can associate new acquisitions with new or existing contacts. You can also manage your entire pipeline from incoming sales to closed deal.

zendesk sell dashboard  

By comparison, Salesforce offers a much wider range of features and functions, which can be overwhelming in many cases. However, features can be selected with ease from the dashboard. Here's a glimpse of Salesforce's social media management with social listening:

salesforce social media management  

Salesforce's CRM tools include a customer journey builder, integrated email marketing, customer profiling, social media management, mobile marketing features and much more. Here's the Salesforce Journey Builder in action:

salesforce customer journey builder  

Salesforce truly is an all-in-one platform with a focus on both sales and marketing and, with the addition of Salesforce Service Cloud, customer support as well.  

Reporting and analytics

One of the most important benefits of using a CRM is that it gives your business access to a single, centralized database containing customer information and more. Combined with powerful analytics and reporting tools, your teams can derive insights from the customer data and continuously improve their marketing efforts.

Zendesk Sell lets you track every interaction with every customer by transforming the data into user-friendly visual reports. On the sales dashboard, you can get an instant overview of your performance, including forecasts based on previous results.

zendesk sell analytics  

The dashboards provided by Zendesk Sell are also drag-and-drop, which means you can choose the metrics and visualizations that matter most and simply pop them into the reports builder.

Salesforce takes a much more in-depth approach to analytics and reporting, particularly when it comes to sales forecasting and engagement scoring. This is largely because it has its own proprietary AI, Einstein. This helps automate workflows and make informed predictions based on the data generated across the customer journey.

salesforce analytics dashboard with einstein  

Salesforce offers an all-in-one analytics platform that covers just about every area of sales and marketing, from email to social media and more. But, as with other aspects of the CRM, this might also be overkill for smaller teams.

Team collaboration and integrations

To prevent your business breaking down into information silos, you’ll need a CRM that works well with your other applications. This will help keep productivity up, as well as reducing human error by eliminating the need to enter information manually into multiple apps.

Zendesk Sell is part of a wider cloud software ecosystem which includes the industry-leading Zendesk integrated customer support. Zendesk Sell can also be combined with Support with the Duet subscription.

Other tools in Zendesk’s portfolio include live chat and messaging, call center software, business intelligence and community forums.

zendesk product family  

Zendesk also integrates with many popular third-party apps, such as Mailchimp and Pandadoc. You can also develop your own apps and integrations using the Zendesk Apps framework or, for a much simpler solution, use PieSync to connect your software stack two-ways.

Salesforce Cloud is also part of a larger software ecosystem, which includes customer service solutions, business intelligence and more. The CRM is easily expandable by purchasing extra services and features and managing them all through a centralized administration dashboard.

salesforce product family  

Owing to Salesforce's status as the industry leader, there are also hundreds of third-party integrations available and developers can make their own using the API provided. You can also seamlessly connect Salesforce to your other apps two-ways using PieSync.  

Pricing and support

Both platforms have four service tiers and, being entirely cloud-hosted, they offer almost limitless scalability. Zendesk starts at $19 per user per month, while Salesforce starts at $25 per user per month.

Both vendors also have free trials available, so you can try before you buy.

Zendesk also offers its Duet bundle option, which includes both Sell and Support with prices starting at $59 per user per month. These subscriptions are billed annually, but you can change your plan at any time if your business circumstances change. However, Zendesk Sell also offers monthly plans.

Given its background in customer support software, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Zendesk Sell comes with highly responsive support. There are also plenty of training materials available, as well as a quick start guide to get you started. However, to enjoy premium customer support, you’ll need to upgrade to the Elite plan, which costs $199 per user per month if billed annually.

salesforce pricing  

With Salesforce, every license includes a basic level of support with a two-day response time and access to the customer support community, webinars, events and other materials. Higher support tiers come with additional fees, but this includes additional value such as 24/7 support and administrative assistance. Salesforce also offers adoption, advisory and self-guided services.

Summary: When to choose Zendesk Sell vs. Salesforce


Here’s our quick summary of when to choose Zendesk Sell vs. Salesforce for your CRM tool:

When to choose Zendesk SellWhen to choose Salesforce
You have a small businessYou have an enterprise-level or fast-growing business
You want a simpler CRM that's easier to get started withYou're looking for advanced CRM features and aren't scared of complexity
You're already using Zendesk for customer supportYou're already using or interested in other Salesforce products
Your top CRM priority is to manage your sales pipelineYou want the widest and most advanced CRM feature set

How to sync Salesforce or Zendesk Sell with your other apps

Since your CRM is such an important part of your business operations, it's essential to connect your CRM data with your other business tools. PieSync bridges the gap between your CRM and hundreds of other business apps, making sure you're always working with integrated and up-to-date data.

Some of the most popular syncs with Salesforce are:

Alternatively, popular syncs with Zendesk Sell include:

  • Shopify + Zendesk Sell: when contacts have lead status 'New' in Zendesk Sell, update their Shopify contact details.
  • ActiveCampign + Zendesk Sell: when Mailchimp contacts are from a certain region, apply tags to them in Zendesk Sell or remove them too.

To enable your teams to work together with more up-to-date data and less silos, get started with a PieSync free trial.

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.