The biggest name in the CRM world is Salesforce, which is about as close to a household name as a piece of specialized online business software can get. Still, Salesforce isn't the only game in town, and while the market leader might be the right choice for some, there are many Salesforce alternatives to choose from.
While we wouldn't rule out choosing Salesforce if you're running a larger enterprise, the best Salesforce alternative for smaller or growing businesses is Hubspot CRM. This is a feature-rich, user friendly CRM platform with an ace up its sleeve – you can get started with Hubspot for free. The free version of Hubspot can't match everything offered by Salesforce, but its premium plans introduce further features to help it compete.
Choosing a CRM platform is all about finding the right fit – something that offers the features you need and the customizability every business requires. Our advice is to always seek out a personalized quote for the needs and scale of your business – you can do this using our simple, no-obligation CRM quotes form. That way, you can make sure you're investing in a CRM solution that's fit for your purposes and budget.
Customer Relationship Management is a key part of any business strategy. With the right CRM platform, companies can keep better track of their customers, convert leads into recurring customers, and retain current customers with the right attention. If you're having trouble deciding which CRM platform to use, this article will help by running down the highlights of the biggest competitors for Salesforce, as well as a brief look at Salesforce itself.
It's tempting to think that all CRM platforms must be the same since they all have similar goals in mind, but nothing could be further from the truth. Each platform has its own focus and specialization, as well as various supporting services that will create a unique fit for each company. Here's a quick rundown of the Salesforce alternatives we'll be looking at in this article:
A great all-round CRM with a great, easy to understand dashboard
A ticket-centric customer support CRM perfecet fo
A robust CRM platform that embeds brilliantly with Microsoft products
An inexpensive, simple CRM tool that can combine with other plug-ins and apps.
Flexible, friendly and effective, Zoho also starts at low price plans
Stripped-down but a solid CRM platform
Intuitive and simple, AmoCRM is a CRM suite that impresses
Let's take a closer look at some of the best CRM brands to consider, including Salesforce itself:
The key appeal of Hubspot is also its biggest differentiation from Salesforce: it starts by offering the basic Hubspot CRM for free, with virtually no limits on users or features for the basic CRM for following up on leads, opportunities, and tracking your customer database. The company prides itself on offering a product that takes “minutes to learn”, and provides a dashboard with an at-a-glance view for all ongoing deals. It also integrates with Gmail and Outlook to easily pull in email data for better visibility of customer interactions within your organization. For any business that needs to go beyond the basic CRM, Hubspot offers additional CRM-related platforms called hubs for one-to-one marketing, sales (beyond the basic CRM), and customer service. All of these hubs have free tiers; however, the added features that most businesses would want require a monthly subscription.
SugarCRM isn't the biggest name in the business but it prides itself on being able to hang with the big boys. It has a simple, easy to understand interface with deep customisation options — making it incredibly flexible and adaptable. SugarCRM also has a range of tools to facilitate collaboration between different business functions, and works seamlessly across mobiles and tablets — great for mobile workers. SugarCRM is easy to integrate with your existing IT infrastructure offering SaaS and on-premise installations. Sugar also has no hidden fees, offering three standard pricing plans ranging from $40 to $150 per user, per month.
Freshdesk is the CRM bit of the broader Freshworks services portfolio. An advanced ticketing system is central to Freshdesk's system, so while it might not be the best fit for sales and marketing functions — it's perfect for customer support teams. It has a super-clean UI, making tasks easy to understand and work through. Freshdesk also makes collaboration a breeze, with chat-within-ticket functions and shared ticket ownership controls. Freshdesk utilizes AI to predict what sort of support a customer might need with canned responses, and the ability to proactively spot frustrated customers.
Anyone looking for a platform with the breadth of services of Salesforce without being Salesforce should take a hard look at Zoho CRM. Zoho doesn't offer quite the number of services that Salesforce does. Nevertheless, it still offers great functionality beyond a basic CRM, including one-to-one marketing and e-commerce. Zoho offers a free service with fewer features for up to three users, and then the prices go up from there based on your company's needs. The mid-range pricing tiers include an artificial intelligence feature called Zia that can “offer predictions on trends, anomalies, conversions and deals closing.” It can also analyze your emails for tone, offer suggestions for speeding up workflows, and search your records for data via voice commands.
Microsoft's newest mission is to bring its software to every platform with seamless integration between its various products, and the company's CRM, Microsoft Dynamics, is no exception. If your company already lives and breathes the Microsoft platform with products such as Office 365 and Outlook for email, then the Dynamics CRM can make a lot of sense. Microsoft also offers some unique tools that go beyond the CRM within the Dynamics umbrella of services, including platforms for finance and operations and talent recruiting, as well as services we've seen elsewhere such as customer service and marketing platforms. Dynamics is also a good platform if you've been wanting to try out Microsoft HoloLens as a business tool, since it integrates with that as well. Dynamics feels very much like a tool that is ideal for large enterprises and active medium-sized businesses, but may be overkill for smaller companies.
Zendesk is well known for its customer support ticket software, which is used on many popular websites. While Zendesk wasn't initially a full CRM solution, the company now offers a flexible, CRM-centric developer platform, Zendesk Sunshine, which operates with an open API that welcomes third-party or custom integrations. While Salesforce has argued that Zendesk is an ‘incomplete CRM solution,‘ this is no longer the case, plus any missing abilities can be supplemented thanks to its flexible API. Zendesk's features include a customer database view, and support tickets that are flexible enough to be used for tasks or for other CRM-like features such as opportunities or leads. Each support ticket is a flexible space for taking notes, assigning responsible agents, and sharing that data with others within the organization. If you need a full CRM and Zendesk is already a big part of your workflow, you have two options: integrate Zendesk with a dedicated CRM, such as Agile CRM, Zoho, or even Salesforce itself; or subscribe to Zendesk's Enterprise tier and make sure it offers all the CRM features you'll need.
Apptivo focuses on serving small to medium businesses, and is a great option for beginners because of its simplicity. Its primary categories are the calendar; tasks; call logs; a “Work Queue” that houses contacts, customers, leads, and opportunities; a section for follow-ups; emails; and notes. There's also a social-style news feed towards the top. Most people should find Apptivo very straightforward to use. It will lack some of the more advanced features that other services have, but it's a good option for novices finding their way around the world of CRM software. Apptivo also offers features beyond the core CRM, such as tools for invoicing, project management, expense reports, email marketing campaigns, and procurement.
The amoCRM software's main feature is a dashboard that segments the sales pipeline into different columns, letting users drag and drop individual lead profiles in order to track where they are in the pipeline, from initial contact to deal closed. It's an efficient, streamlined service, with an API that allows for third-party integrations which can address needs specific to your business. It comes with just three service plans (Base, Advanced, and Enterprise), with the Advanced option offering the most features for the least cost. The service's sales-oriented, easy-to-adapt interface make this a solid choice for businesses that need a CRM, but don't want to face a significant learning curve.
For the nitty-gritty on this CRM vendor, head over to our full amoCRM review.
TeamGram's CRM offers a condensed solution at a price that is under the industry average for CRM software. The features it offers are all useful: The most popular plan covers lets companies store up to 250,000 contacts on their contact list, hosts 150 GB of file storage, offers some limited customization options, allows email integrations and uses an intuitive sales pipeline that helps agents track their sales actions easily. If you're a fast-growing business with a large budget, this may not be the option for you. However, for a small business or startup that just needs an effective and simple way to keep track of customer data and the sales process, TeamGram is a solid and frequently updated solution.
And then there's Salesforce, a popular choice by businesses of many different sizes. The key with Salesforce is the absolute breadth of its services beyond the basic CRM platform, including services for running e-commerce, one-to-one marketing, customer service, and many others. Salesforce also has a robust application programming interface (API), allowing developers to create custom apps for Salesforce and integrate your Salesforce data with programs you might already be using. While Salesforce might have more services than a small or medium business might need, it can still be a useful platform for companies of any size. Plus, as the CRM platform in widest use, it's much easier to find support and tutorials on how to get the most from your subscription.
Many customer relationship management platforms offer free versions, but there are downsides to be aware of. Most are limited by the number of users, or require paying for upgrades beyond the core service. Our top-choice Salesforce alternative, Hubspot, has a genuinely impressive free CRM tier. However, to unlock the very best of Hubspot, it's likely you'll need to upgrade to the premium plans.
A free taster is still a great option for testing the various features and interfaces of multiple CRM platforms, or experimenting with a platform to see if it's right for you.
The reality, however, is that a free option is not a long term solution. Free CRM software, even from reputable companies, can be open to changes, downgrades, and offer far fewer options for customization and added features.
Conclusion – Should You Use Salesforce, or a Rival CRM Platform?
Deciding which CRM software is right for your business is really a judgement call based on your needs. This isn't just about pricing, but about the focus, interface, and features within the CRM platforms you're looking at. If you're a five person sales business, for example, an enterprise-focused CRM is probably too much. At the same time, a CRM for small business might not offer the depth of customer interaction that you need.
Salesforce is an industry leader for a good reason – it's genuinely brilliant CRM software, and a huge global brand trusted by companies worldwide. But, competitors are circling, and innovating fast to keep up, That can mean competition for customers and some attractive pricing bundles you can seek quotes for.
A great way to find the CRM that's right for you is to use our helpful form to get a bespoke quote from multiple CRM platforms. This process takes into account your business' needs, and lets you compare the different services. Click below to get started.
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Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has worked as a technology industry reporter and critic for more than ten years. He’s written for PCWorld, Macworld, TechHive, Yahoo, Lifewire, and The Huffington Post. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, security software, and browsers.