Salesforce alternatives for enterprises and niche players

04.01.2021
11 min.

Salesforce started as a cloud-based CRM pioneer and continues disrupting the CRM market by constantly innovating and being among the first who offer solutions most suitable for the current situation. To grow rapidly and conquer new niches, Salesforce went for acquiring Slack, Tableau, MuleSoft, Demandware, and other promising companies.

Each year Gartner recognizes Salesforce as a leader in multiple categories. For instance, in 2020 Salesforce was named a leader in the Sales Force Automation Magic Quadrant for the 14th consecutive year and in the CRM Customer Engagement Center Magic Quadrant for the 12th consecutive year.

Gartner 2020 CRM Customer Engagement Center Magic Quadrant

In spite of the CRM market dominance, Salesforce faces tough competition as other CRM players offer rivaling functionality paired with more flexibility, and new platforms provide easier-to-use and cheaper solutions. Considering this, if you plan to adopt a new CRM, it’s a good idea to compare available options and find the best match for your company.

To provide you with a shortcut, our team of Salesforce consultants gives a heads up regarding some Salesforce drawbacks and suggests Salesforce alternatives that might match specific business needs.

Why go for a Salesforce alternative?

Salesforce seems so powerful and fully-functional that one could wonder: why should anyone consider an option other than Salesforce implementation? At times, though, the very scale of the platform becomes a disadvantage.

Beyond reach for SMBs

Salesforce is the gold standard of enterprise-grade CRM, which sets the bar too high for smaller businesses. In turn, this gave rise to a great number of companies that offer CRM solutions designed specifically for SMBs. Such products are usually more accessible in terms of implementation and cost-efficiency.

Heavy-code customization

Salesforce’s out-of-the-box features are easy enough to configure by users with minimal technical experience. However, when it comes to more advanced customizations for giving the platform a unique look and feel, companies need to hire a dedicated team of certified developers and assign a Salesforce admin.

Integration hiccups

Salesforce can be integrated with almost any third-party source and it has hundreds of pre-built integrations. However, such an excessive reliance on external systems creates certain limitations. For example, multiple integrations can slow down the developing pace as setup and testing eat up the project time and money. Default integrations tools can require custom upgrades to overcome technical limitations, like API request limits, and data audit to avoid data exchange problems.

A steep learning curve

Although Salesforce offers an array of learning resources, users frequently feel rather overwhelmed when they start using the platform. For this reason, Salesforce adoption always requires pre-deployment feedback collection, onboarding, and role-based trainings. What’s more, each major update can require additional training.

Heavy investments

One of the main reasons why Salesforce is viewed as the platform for enterprises is its high license fees (billed per year and per user) paired with a high implementation cost.

When you purchase a certain plan, it implies respective limitations. It’s possible to upgrade the limits, but it would come at an additional fee. It means that any scale-up will require more money invested. Plus, as mentioned earlier, advanced Salesforce customization requires a dedicated developer team.

Top Salesforce alternatives

Salesforce has quite a few counterparts that can boast almost the same robust functionality. There are also dozens, if not hundreds, of products that can address less demanding yet vital needs. Let’s overview viable CRM alternatives fit for businesses of different scale, budgets, and plans for growth, along with their advantages and limitations compared to Salesforce.

Best for enterprises

There are a few giants that share the market and place on Gartner’s Magic Quadrants with Salesforce and are just catching up when it comes to innovations such as AI, voice-first technologies, big data, and more.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a cloud-based intelligent platform for larger businesses that combines CRM and ERP capabilities and provides apps for sales, marketing, service, commerce, finance, operations, and HR management.

A Microsoft Dynamics 365 dashboard
Advantages

Microsoft’s CRM has a simple UI that’s friendly to less tech-savvy users. Users also rate it high for the tight integration with Microsoft products, such as Office 365 and Power BI, offline access, multiple dashboards, built-in marketing and automation tools. As Microsoft owns the business social platform LinkedIn, it makes it possible to use LinkedIn data to generate leads, provide personalized engagement, and bolster sales with social selling capabilities.

Some products can be purchased as a purely cloud edition, while in some cases users can choose between on-premises and cloud versions.

Limitations

The platform is infamous for its extremely high pricing. Additionally, its marketplace of add-ons, AppSource, is less populated than Salesforce’s AppExchange, and it’s much more difficult to integrate with sources outside of the Microsoft ecosystem.

Oracle

Oracle is a comprehensive suite of fully integrated cloud apps and platform services that tie finance, supply chain and customer experience management features within a unified cloud platform.

Oracle and Salesforce are long-standing rivals—when one releases an innovative feature, the other offers it in a few months, but with extended capabilities.

An Oracle Sales Cloud dashboard
Advantages

Oracle requires less integrations within its suite as its products share a common codebase, enabling users to reuse code for customizations and in-house integrations, be it cloud apps or on-premises systems.

Oracle has an extensive training program for different user categories, consisting of both free and paid resources. It provides preparatory courses to get certified in different Oracle technologies and products. The vendor also opens innovation hubs all over the globe to harvest new ideas and recruit high-end professionals.

Limitations

Oracle doesn’t share the pricing publicly but provides quotes on request. To get started with the platform, it’s not enough just to sign in; instead, it’s necessary to contact a sales representative. Speaking of the functionality, Oracle doesn’t yet have AI embedded in all of its products.

Best for mid-size businesses

Mid-size businesses that have intentions to grow but are not ready to adopt Salesforce can consider the following options that offer a simpler but still powerful tech stack.

Infusionsoft by Keap

Infusionsoft by Keap is a centralized cloud-based platform for handling sales, marketing, and commerce.

An Infusionsoft dashboard
Advantages

Infusionsoft is rated high for being a comprehensive user-friendly toolset with the automation capabilities to streamline marketing, billing and project management processes for smaller B2C businesses. It has built-in lead capture, drag-and-drop tools to easily customize dashboards, tagging tools for powerful segmentation, and tools to create custom storefronts and shopping carts. Keap offers personalized trainings as well as migration and integration assistance.

Limitations

Though Keap doesn’t offer pricey add-ons, it is still not a low-budget option. Plus, all new users are required to pay for an onboarding program.

Insightly

Insightly is a cloud-based unified platform for mid-size companies that want marketing tools coupled with sales management capabilities.

An Insightly dashboard
Advantages

Insightly has a clear-cut, well-organized dashboard that makes user experience smooth and intuitive. The software has the in-built contact and project management functionality that allows managing leads, deals, and project milestones. Its relationship linking feature lets users build rich profiles by connecting contacts, records, social media accounts, and interactions.

Insightly has a forever-free basic tier and a free trial for each tier. Additionally, the company offers excellent customer support available via an array of options, such as tickets, calls, and email.

Limitations

Insightly lacks such features as lead scoring and product analytics, which makes it a poor fit for retailers and businesses otherwise needing to manage their inventory. What’s more, Insightly offers only preconfigured reports.

Best for small businesses

A wide range of affordable options populate the CRM market, even with Salesforce having something in store for small businesses.

Salesforce Essentials

Salesforce Essentials is a special Salesforce edition created specifically for teams with up to 10 users.

A Salesforce Service Cloud Essentials dashboard
Advantages

The edition with simplified Sales and Service Clouds comes at an affordable price for small companies. It has a much easier setup powered by in-app support. The solution allows managing leads, contacts, and deals, creating workflows, and managing pipelines. Users can also take advantage of the built-in AI to automatically collect and sync data across channels, assign cases, and track emails, calls, and meetings.

Users have access to prebuilt apps available on AppExchange specifically for small businesses as well as to low-code customization and app building capabilities.

Limitations

To minimize the edition price, Salesforce limited the Essentials capabilities compared to full-scale editions, particularly when it comes to analytics and custom rules, permissions, objects, etc.

Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM is a unified cloud-based platform for managing sales, marketing, and customer support.

A Zoho CRM dashboard
Advantages

Implementing Zoho CRM doesn’t require a dedicated IT team. It is a straightforward and easy-to-use platform that still offers a range of customization options to tailor the tool to unique business needs. It can be integrated with familiar third-party sources, including major social media platforms. It has a free version, while the paid plans come at a fraction of Salesforce’s cost.

Limitations

Bug fixes and updates are usually slow to roll out. The Zoho plans provide limited storage, with additional storage packages at an extra fee. The free plan is limited to three users.

Best for rapid implementation

Even though you can start with Salesforce just by signing in via a browser, sometimes it takes months to implement and adopt the platform. Users, however, crave easier options.

HubSpot

HubSpot is an all-in-one platform for inbound marketing, sales, and customer service.

A Hubspot dashboard
Advantages

HubSpot suits small, mid-size and enterprise-level businesses. It’s quite simple and offers clean, straightforward dashboards, which ensures the platform’s swift adoption by admins, reps, and managers alike. Consequently, although it’s comparable to Salesforce functionality-wise, it doesn’t require hiring consulting agencies or developer teams.

It offers a forever-free plan that includes popular CRM features, such as lead generation, contact and deal management, email marketing, and more. Paid plans include implementation, support, and training.

Limitations

The free plan has limited automation and customer support functionality, and the paid plans don't allow for extensive customization. All of the plans lack advanced reporting capabilities.

Best for cost-saving

Almost any CRM is better than no CRM at all. Companies with tight budgets can choose from a range of simpler yet useful solutions.

Freshworks

Freshworks is a set of cloud-based tools for sales and customer support with automation capabilities.

A Freshworks dashboard
Advantages

Freshworks is a go-to option for companies with a limited budget and/or little experience with CRMs. The software focuses on sales automation that saves time and resources while completing common CRM tasks, such as lead management, customer data collection, contact and task management, sales pipeline tracking, and more. Freshworks has AI built into its products that helps with predictive contact scoring, profile enrichment, deal insights, meeting scheduling, and next-best action suggestions. It offers free plans complete with a mobile app and customer support.

Limitations

Freshworks lacks such features as order and quote management and doesn’t provide insights into product statistics, so it’s not an option for businesses that need to manage their inventory.

Less Annoying CRM

Less Annoying CRM is a simple CRM built for small businesses.

The Less Annoying CRM workspace
Advantages

Less Annoying CRM is such a straightforward solution that it has only one plan priced at $10 per user per month, making it one of the most affordable options on the market. A free trial is also available.

The software aims for simplicity and flexibility and allows managing an unlimited number of contacts, tracking leads, taking care of follow-ups, and managing sales pipelines. It offers a great customer support and free onboarding assistance.

Limitations

Low cost means limited functionality. For instance, the software offers only basic reporting features.

Best for ecommerce

In this category we offer two alternatives, one being a comparable rival to Salesforce and the other a more affordable option.

SAP Commerce Cloud

SAP Commerce Cloud is a part of SAP Customer Experience. It’s a single platform for managing products, content, and orders and providing omnichannel customer experience.

An SAP Commerce dashboard
Advantages

SAP Commerce is a great option for enterprises. It comes with basic ecommerce features, like order management, shopping carts, checkout options, promotion generation, and more. The platform provides OOTB features, modules, as well as SAP B2B accelerators for easy and swift storefront setup.

SAP Commerce can be easily integrated with other products from the SAP ecosystem, letting users tap into customer data and analytics. It also offers a wide range of headless options that allow building omnichannel experience independent of backend configuration. SAP Commerce allows users to work in both online and offline modes.

Limitations

The platform is pricey. It requires professional implementation and customization and entails a steep learning curve.

Pipedrive

Pipedrive is a cloud-based sales and pipeline management software.

A Pipedrive dashboard
Advantages

Pipedrive is an easy-to-use platform with a simple and organized dashboard created for small ecommerce businesses. One of its strengths is sales pipeline visualization and management. Users can track and manage deals, view stats per each deal, drag and drop prospects and customers from one stage to the next, and apply heavy customizations to their pipeline if needed. Pipedrive offers 24/7 support for an even smoother user experience.

Limitations

The tool lacks lead assignment, scoring and routing.

The bottom line

The CRM market is extremely crowded, offering solutions meeting any business requirements. It’s not surprising then that there are countless Salesforce alternatives that are ready to offer almost the same range of possibilities while being more accessible in terms of adoption and pricing.

However, when reviewing Salesforce CRM’s competitors, it becomes clear that Salesforce has a rare combination of powerful capabilities, flexibility to fit any business, and an innovation-driven spirit. This helps the platform keep and reinforce its status of one of the most attractive and useful CRM solutions.

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