Sell to Win

Salesforce alternatives: 6 feature-packed CRMs for busy sales pros

Jack Virag
Content and SEO Strategist, Nutshell
Jack Virag
Content and SEO Strategist, Nutshell

Salesforce offers multiple suites and its app market has more than 3,400 applications and plugins. It is arguably “the biggest CRM ever.”

But is a gigantic CRM really what salespeople and marketers need? Most CRM seekers are just asking for reliability, support, and just a handful of powerful integrations. And to buyers, Salesforce's promise of 3,400 apps really translates into about 3,395 things your team is never gonna use.

Keep in mind Salesforce began in 1999, back when technology was cumbersome, expensive, and difficult to pitch to enterprises. Salesforce was novel in that it was among the first few companies to provide software as a service (Saas) as opposed to installable software. It was huge.

☝🤖 Fun fact: Amazon’s original user interface, a web page with multiple tabs, helped inspire Salesforce’s early design.

The idea behind Saas was that, rather than having to install software onto a computer (like Outlook or Excel), customers could visit the software provider’s website and interact with it right there (like Gmail or Sheets). No downloads necessary.

Needless to say, the Saas model was profoundly successful, and continues to be the model that most CRMs follow to this day.

Salesforce continued to grow, and very shrewdly launched AppExchange in 2006, which allows developers to create applications that plug into Salesforce, bolstering its functionality and allowing “the free market” to innovate and create their own apps that directly increase Salesforce’s value. Salesforce, plus all the possible apps, is simply a monstrous suite of software.

Unfortunately, using a monstrous CRM also comes with a monstrous price tag.

Salesforce CRM features

Starter: $25/mo

Full package: $300/mo

  • Workflow customization tools
  • Analytics
  • Marketing leads management
  • Sales team communication

Summary: Salesforce is a CRM that is supported by its “cloud platform” of apps and integrations. With enough add-ons, configuration, and customization ($$$), Salesforce can do just about anything.

Typical Salesforce customers require the hyperconfigurability to handle things like adaptive customer journey-related workflows, plugin application builders, and tracking the exact dollar amount a webpage view in a specific location at a specific time is worth.

Watch out for: Salesforce charges double their enterprise price ($150/user) for the version with unlimited support.

According to user theories, this is because the software is extremely difficult to use and frequently requires support interactions.

Furthermore, the basic setup fee starts around $5,000, but if you want the above-mentioned functionality, your setup will start at $50,000.

Not every app on Salesforce's App Exchange is worth bragging about. Why does this bulk delete app even exist? Is this not something users can already do?

Salesforce alternatives

The problem with Salesforce is that it’s so very expensive. Sure, they’ve got an enormous web of applications, and some ridiculously complicated features. But for the small-to-medium businesses who don’t need “custom object data modeling” and building schema tags into their contact databases, there are better CRMs to choose from.

Plus, not everyone has tens of thousands of dollars to spend on setup, or the development resources required just to maintain the CRM. 😬

Nutshell CRM

Starter: $19/mo

Full package (Pro): $35/mo

Notable features:

Summary: Nutshell is an award-winning, “sneaky powerful” CRM combined with a versatile email marketing platform to serve salespeople and marketers alike.

Nutshell is solid enough to support any element of your business, yet simple enough to set up and configure in less than a day. Nutshell is favored among small to medium-sized companies who know better than to overpay for software they’ll never use.


 

Plus, Nutshell partners with about 50 other companies to provide integrations for:

And Nutshell connects with Zapier for custom integrations with just about any other software.

The more information we put into Nutshell, the more valuable it becomes.

Bennett Moe, CyberWire

Watch out for: Users indicate that the feel of the mobile application doesn’t match the PC interface with which they are familiar.

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Pipedrive CRM

Starter: $12.50

Full package: $99/mo

Notable features:

  • Email sync
  • Email automation
  • One-click calling

Summary: Pipedrive has a skimpy cheap version for $12.50 per month, which lacks most of the features salespeople are looking for in a CRM. In order to actually get anything done, users need to jump for the $50 version at a minimum.

The expensive version has good reviews, portraying the product as a well-rounded and easy-to-use CRM, with a straightforward user interface and a small learning curve.

Watch out for: Customers indicate that phone support and reporting features still leave something to be desired.

HubSpot

Starter: Free starter version

Full package: $120/mo (Sales Hub)

Notable features:

  • Website landing page builder
  • Customer journey-based workflows
  • Sales and marketing email template builder
  • Sales and marketing management tools

Summary: HubSpot’s free version is referred to as a non-starter. It provides just enough of a taste for the product to get users to open up their wallets. And when they open them, they need to open wide.

The paid version of HubSpot is a CRM with built-in marketing and customer support features. HubSpot allows users to create custom web pages, forms, and emails, and tie them into its CRM with its workflow automation capabilities.

HubSpot is a good option for sales and marketing teams who can afford the big spend and don’t have the time, knowledge, or resources to integrate their CRM with other, cheaper tools.

Watch out for: The free version is basically an editable Excel workbook. If you want to use all of HubSpot’s features, it’s going to cost a small fortune. Even worse, those who aren’t HTML pros will need to hire a developer when they want to change things.

Zoho

Starter: $12/mo

Full package: $100/mo

Notable features:

  • Integration with other Zoho apps
  • In-CRM emailing (limited #/user)
  • Dashboards and reporting
  • Integrates with Microsoft and Outlook
  • Workflow management

Summary: Zoho CRM is one of many applications in Zoho’s application ecosystem, which is similar to Salesforce’s appexchange. The reporting in Zoho’s CRM is solid, allowing users to report across products, locations, and applications.

Watch out for: Zoho’s apps are sold in bundles, which makes the purchasing process confusing and dubious. The bundle approach makes it difficult for potential buyers to figure out exactly which bundle they need, how much it’s going to cost, and if it’s even going to support all of their needs.

Insightly

Starter: $29/mo

Full package: $99/mo

Notable features:

  • Integrates with Gsuite, Microsoft, Mailchimp, and more
  • Custom dashboards
  • Custom pipeline builder
  • Opportunity reports

Summary: Insightly is designed for companies with a straightforward sales process. It supports the creation of custom pipelines, and also provides a host of tools and functions to manage them. Users love Insightly’s filtering features, allowing large lists to be sorted into smaller, more manageable segments.

Watch out for: Insightly’s onboarding and support plans are very expensive, but customers are often unable to get started without them. Users also report crawling load times, dropped email attachments, and lackluster or unusable sales reports.

Copper

Starter: $19

Full package: $119/mo

Notable features:

  • A CRM that “sits on top of” Google
  • Hangouts-based chatbot
  • Chrome extension, Gmail inbox, and other Gsuite app support

Summary: Copper CRM is an innovative approach to customer relationship management. Describing itself as a “relational CRM” as opposed to a “transactional CRM,” its focus is to exist solely in the Gsuite space to facilitate faster and more effective use of the Google app suite.

Its Chrome extension comes in handy for scheduling meetings and creating follow-ups over email without going out of the way.

Watch out for: Copper’s onboarding is expensive and is only included in their most highest-cost package.

In summary

Salesforce is a big, expensive commitment for companies to make. If one expenditure deserves extra scrutiny before buying, it’s Salesforce CRM. In some cases, where extreme customization is required, Salesforce and it’s developer-friendly platform might be the best way to go.

Here are the things Salesforce doesn’t tell you:

  • Your subscription price can significantly increase on renewal
  • Salesforce can terminate your contract and delete your data with only a few days’ notice
  • Salesforce won’t let you change your seat-count during a term
  • Your integrations could be canceled at any time

Read more: Salesforce contracts, explained: 7 things you didn’t know were in your Salesforce user agreement

Another potential pitfall is that customers shopping for CRMs are easily hypnotized into believing that Salesforce is the only one with customizable automation. It’s not, not by a longshot, but it feels like it because Salesforce is everywhere.

More than 150,000 organizations use its software. The company employs 35,000 people and brings home 20 billion dollars annually. It’s truly hard to escape the Salesforce craze.

They should quit playing and make this their slogan.

So how are customers supposed to choose the best CRM for their business?

The best way to choose a CRM

The only way to make a well-informed decision is by attending demos. Each of the seven CRMs outlined in this post has representatives on standby to walk you through their products.

Attending a demo will also give you an opportunity to ask unique questions about how your business specifically can benefit from the CRM, which is much more informative than trying to ascertain it through support articles.

Free trials are great, but they simply don’t explain it all. So register for those demos, ask all the questions you can think of, and compare and contrast accordingly, because purchasing a shiny new CRM is a big deal. Especially if it has a Salesforce-sized price tag.

And, of course, you are invited to register for our demo 👇 below. We’d love to have you.

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