It’s the software showdown you’ve been waiting for—Hubspot vs Salesforce!
In this blog, two of the biggest and best players in SaaS CRM will be put to the test to see if their impressive reputations are deserved and who each is best suited to.
G2 rates Salesforce and Hubspot as the #1 and #2 CRM platforms available in 2022, respectively.
Their comparison grid puts Salesforce ahead on Market Presence and Hubspot ahead on Satisfaction. But combining both factors, Hubspot and Salesforce are way out in front of third-placed ActiveCampaign and the rest of the pack.
But when we dig in, Hubspot seems to outperform Salesforce on six out of seven key measures. The gap on Ease of Setup (across around 2,200 reviews each) is particularly wide, with Hubspot scoring 8.4 and Salesforce 7.2.
Our research approach to arriving at an objective comparison
What entitles us to compare the two CRM platforms and offer an objective/unbiased perspective? Great question! And a very valid one too!
We at Avoma are a SaaS organization ourselves and strongly believe in being useful and helpful to the SaaS community with our Modern SaaS initiative. We’ve gone through the CRM evaluation phase multiple times ourselves.
This blog aims to share what we’ve learned and observed from our evaluation journey and to add in the points of view of other evaluators and customers—past and present—of both these CRM platforms.
Here’s the seven-step process on how we arrive at our comparative information in an unbiased manner:
- Schedule a demo with both the CRMs.
- Trial the free version of the software to get a feel of the platform.
- If we’ve evaluated the platform for ourselves in the past—refer to the notes on why we decided to go through or not-go-through with the platform.
- Reach out to at least 15 existing and past users of both platform’s users to understand their first-hand experience.
- Interview the current and past users to understand the nitty-gritty of the features that are a must-have, good-to-have, and what’s missing.
- Aggregate a minimum of 100 reviews across G2, GetApp, TrustRadius, FinancesOnline, and all relevant SaaS review sites to understand the customer sentiment at scale.
- Run polls on social media (if applicable).
The key difference between Hubspot and Salesforce
Both Salesforce and Hubspot have ambitions to be more than just your business’ CRM provider of choice.
How do they differ?
Scope is one differentiator.
Another is the target audience for the CRM platform. While Hubspot is an effective solution for companies ranging in size from the very small to the very large, Salesforce is in its element servicing the biggest businesses.
As we’ll see, smaller firms may struggle to get enough value for money from it.
Hubspot—A nerve center for GTM activities
Hubspot began as and remains best-known for its marketing automation products, adding CRM to its portfolio later on. Today, it provides a wide range of SaaS tools that cover all aspects of go-to-market strategy.
That’s pretty broad, but it doesn’t compare in overall scope with Salesforce—which can genuinely claim to be an ecosystem for 100% of many businesses’ total activities.
Takeaway: Hubspot offers an exceptional free service with powerful tools across various GTM activities. The Sales Hub CRM package enhances this considerably and scales up some of the marketing and customer service elements simultaneously. It’s easy to use, reasonably priced and has a large app and integration ecosystem.
Salesforce—The operating system for entire enterprises
Salesforce has been a CRM company since day one (way back in 1999) and was one of the original SaaS companies, if not the very first. CRM remains at the heart of its diverse offerings across sales, marketing, customer service, analytics, and more—which have been further expanded into new areas by high-profile acquisitions (e.g. Slack).
Takeaway: Expensive and hard to set up, Salesforce nevertheless has the most comprehensive CRM offering on the market today. Your CRM data sits at the heart of an ecosystem of related products, apps, and integrations that is truly enormous—and extremely powerful when implemented correctly.
Choosing between Hubspot and Salesforce
Hubspot and Salesforce have a great deal in common, as you might expect of two of the market leaders. In our experience, these five factors are the most important to consider when trying to choose between similar alternatives.
Key factors for evaluation
1. Ease of use
Ease of use and adoption are critical factors to consider. If a CRM is confusing or hard to get to grips with, people won’t use it.
Questions to ask:
- How difficult or easy is it to set up and implement the CRM?
- Do you need a dedicated manager to administer it?
- Can you trial the platform yourself and get to grips with it via self-serve onboarding?
- Will users need dedicated training to start using the tool effectively?
2. Product capabilities
The next thing to look at is the CRM’s feature set. What can it do? And what can’t it do?
Questions to ask:
- How comprehensive is the CRM in terms of its features?
- What integrations does it support?
- Are the integrations supported natively or via third-party API connectors?
- Are its functionalities out-of-the-box or customizable?
There are free CRM SaaS products, and there are very expensive ones. The one that is right for your business will depend on your team size, budget, and the revenue goals the CRM is aimed at helping you achieve.
Questions to ask:
- Does the CRM offer a free trial or freemium subscription model?
- Is the pricing affordable, flexible, and fair for your business use cases?
- Does it have flexible monthly billing options, or does it force you to sign an annual contract?
- Does the platform charge for collaboration?
- Does the platform offer different pricing for different types of users?
- Are there any hidden costs?
You shouldn’t be deciding on a CRM system simply based on what you need today. Your choice needs to take into account where your business will be in the future as well.
Questions to ask:
- How easy and affordable is it to add more users to the platform?
- Does it offer enterprise-level features?
- Is it a specialized CRM software or does it offer a wider range of capabilities?
5. Integrations and App Ecosystems
As an extension to scalability, while buying into a CRM, it’s important to understand the tech ecosystem supported by it. This is an area where Salesforce and Hubspot are both especially strong.
Questions to ask:
- How rich are its integration offerings?
- Does it offer one-way or two-way integration with the tools you want to connect to your CRM?
- Which of these are native integrations, and which of them need a connector (example: Zapier)?
Comparing Hubspot and Salesforce
The TL;DR Version
- Ease of use
Hubspot—Simple to use, as long as nothing goes wrong
Hubspot puts a lot of store in being easy to use. Co-founder and CTO Dharmesh Shah says it’s the #1 thing they are solving for.
HubSpot CRM is a great choice for small businesses because it's easy to use and doesn't require programming knowledge. It also has many features that help you manage your sales pipeline, including lead capture forms, email marketing integration, and contact management.
—Max Benz, Founder & CEO, BankingGeek
Across the board, Hubspot is simple to get started with—and the overlap between products helps flatten the learning curve as you use a wider range of them.
It certainly helps to have an in-house expert to make the most of the platform, but it’s largely possible to admin Hubspot without specialist help.
But does Hubspot go too far in assuming that everyone can use it without problems?
Free users have access only to self-serve support materials—of which there are, admittedly, a huge amount. Starter and Growth users can get chat or email help, but phone support is restricted to the top-tier customers.
Salesforce—Hard to set up, but a great experience if set up well
Time and again, customers mention the difficulty of configuring Salesforce to their needs. Hence the need for the existence of a class of certified, professional Salesforce consultants to do it for them!
I would classify it as mid to very difficult in terms of setup. This is because the Salesforce software is packed with an abundance of features, and configuring all of them can be time-consuming.
Zephyr Chan, Founder, Better Tools
Zephyr gets to the heart of the matter: Salesforce can be configured in so many different ways, to handle so many use cases, sales processes, data flows, etc. that an out-of-the-box deployment will only scratch the surface of its potential.
Attempting a complex Salesforce implementation without expert help is a recipe for disaster. It is just not simple and intuitive, and there is far too much scope for things to go wrong that you don’t notice until much later.
Having said that, a good implementation can yield a fantastic UX for end users that is more closely geared to their needs than other products can come close to. That’s why you’ll also see plenty of reviews that praise Salesforce’s ease of use.
Users have access to a truly enormous range of self-serve resources and email and chat support. But:
- Response times for troubleshooting are two working days.
- Phone support costs extra and is only available to the highest tier customers.
2. Product capabilities
Hubspot—Still a solid CRM, but not as distinctive as it once was
Hubspot Sales Hub’s CRM is simple to use and run, but it’s not a standout in the field in terms of functionality.
HubSpot had many great and unique features a few years ago, but nowadays, those same features have become a commodity. Competitors offer the same things for half the price.
—Kelly Chan, Marketing Manager, AccountantOnline.ie
Indeed, the product-led growth strategy of dropping in tools more at home in the other Hubs as a teaser makes it seem like Hubspot has a bit of an identity crisis. The CRM includes some features that are fairly unusual for the space:
- Taking payments through the platform
- Meeting booking
- In-app dialing
- Video messaging
All things you may well want, but from your CRM platform?
By positioning itself at the heart of your business’s operations, Hubspot maximizes the power of your data. Siloed data is a huge lost opportunity for most companies, and Hubspot helps to ensure that its value is leveraged wherever it’s needed.
Salesforce—The CRM that can do almost anything
Salesforce Sales Cloud is perhaps the most comprehensive CRM platform on the market today. It offers a huge amount of functionality, including:
- Configure, price, quote functionality
- Real-time sales insights and forecasting using AI
- Internal chat platform ‘Chatter’
- Toolkit for building no-code apps (Lightning App Builder)
- Multiple developer sandboxes
- Lead registration and sharing
But it’s in the customizability of dashboards, pipelines, data structure, reporting, automations, deal, task, and contact management, and the overall experience that Salesforce stands out.
All the features add up to a coherent, all-encompassing whole in a way that Hubspot struggles to. It is a state-of-the-art CRM.
But state-of-the-art is not for everyone.
The sheer extent of what Salesforce has to offer is one of the reasons why it’s so hard to implement. It’s telling, surely, that users often cite being able to remove features they don’t use as a positive!
For many businesses, Salesforce offers far more than they will ever need.
Hubspot—Excellent free tools, strong Starter package, reasonably priced
Hubspot has a genuinely outstanding free package, combining some of the best elements of the four Hubs:
- Basic CRM
- Chat integration
- Landing page design and build
- Customer support ticketing
- Website visitor insights saved directly to the CRM
- Customizable quoting
- Access to the Hubspot app marketplace
This is an extremely effective “gateway” into Hubspot’s services.
Does it make up for the lack of a free trial of the premium features? That depends. If you base your choice on first impressions and UX at the basic level, then it does. If you need to put a CRM through some more advanced tests, this kind of whistle-stop tour of Hubspot’s highlights won’t give you that in-depth evidence.
But unlike Salesforce, Hubspot gives you the flexibility to pay—and commit—monthly for a small premium (Starter: $50 for 2 users per month; Professional: $500 for 5 users per month).
2 users? 5 users? Yes—Hubspot has minimum user numbers (it’s 10 for Enterprises). That is a little bit annoying, as it raises the entry price for the smallest businesses that may nevertheless need advanced functionality unnecessarily.
The Starter tier includes some of Hubspot’s best and most distinctive features:
- In-app meeting scheduling
- Taking payments
- 500 minutes of call time per user
- A limited number of workflow automations
Combined with the free tools from the other Hubs, Starter Hubspot Sales Hub is a pretty tempting offer for businesses on a budget.
At the higher tiers, users get:
- Professional—More automations, with more complex workflows; automated LinkedIn messaging (which requires a Sales Navigator subscription to use…); lead scoring; advanced reporting; list deduplication
- Enterprise—Predictive lead scoring, conversational intelligence, quote-based workflows, and field-level permissions
Salesforce—Expensive, and loaded with hidden costs
As well as being difficult to use, Salesforce is expensive:
- There’s no free version and no option to pay monthly. After the 30 day free trial, you have to subscribe for a full year.
- The cheapest package (Essentials) only allows you to have a maximum of 10 users at $25 per user per month. If you need 11 users, you have to shift to Professional, at $75 per user per month. Put another way, going from 10 to 11 users increases the price from $250 per month to $825 per month.
- To get the most out of Salesforce, you will incur hidden costs. Many of the add-ons and apps are paid-for, and many are expensive. Here’s one picked at random, that costs $1770 per month.
- Getting Salesforce perfectly calibrated for your business’ needs is something that may well need the help of an expert consultant—thousands of whom are listed on the AppExchange. Salesforce consultants charge anywhere from $90 to $250 per hour. Designing and executive even a simple implementation can easily cost $2000 and most projects cost far more.
And of course, each Cloud is charged separately. If you want Salesforce to run your business, brace yourself for a large monthly bill.
The aspect that I like least about Salesforce is that its pricing is a bit higher. In addition to that, we also have to pay for any add-ons we add to the interface, without which we wouldn't be able to fully unlock the platform's potential.
Christiaan Huynen, Founder, DesignBro
Hubspot—Great for scale-ups GTM activities
Hubspot has been designed to run all of a business’ GTM activities, splitting its functionality between five Hubs:
- Sales Hub (the one we’re looking at here)
- Marketing Hub
- Customer Service Hub
- CMS Hub
- Operations Hub
The tools in each Hub have been selected intelligently, giving you just enough exposure to the others to tempt you to give them a try. Hubspot’s flexible, reasonable pricing makes expanding outwards from a single Hub to many an attractive prospect.
Is Hubspot a good CRM for enterprises?
The shift from Professional to Enterprise package doesn’t add a lot of CRM features. It just aims to accommodate much bigger companies’ needs:
- With hierarchical team management and bespoke permissions
- With playbooks and training materials
- With significantly higher usage quotas
Salesforce—The best option when you’ve already scaled-up
It seems fair to say that Salesforce is at its best when it’s servicing enterprise customers:
- The costs and learning curve are less problematic.
- Enterprises are better able to take advantage of the all-encompassing nature of Salesforce’s offering.
- Economies of scale mean that a bespoke implementation can be extremely cost-effective in very large organizations.
It’s less attractive if your business is not already at that stage, because of the price, complexity, annual contracts, and the wide range of features that smaller businesses are unlikely ever to use.
Salesforce highlights its $150 per user per month Enterprise package as its “most popular”. That—plus the existence of an even-more-expansive (and expensive) Unlimited tier above that—should give you an idea about their client base.
Like Hubspot, Salesforce has split its core offering down into four main Clouds (Sales, Service, Marketing, and Commerce). Each of these is a comprehensive solution in its own space, but there’s less of the overlap between them that will tempt Hubspot users to try extra services.
But Salesforce doesn’t just confine itself to GTM activities. It has a solution for almost anything a business could need within a single tech ecosystem. That’s a compelling offer for any business that wants state-of-the-art technology without having to develop or integrate it themselves.
Integrations and App Ecosystems
Hubspot—An extensive ecosystem, but a distant second place
Each Hubspot Hub has its own API, but there are over a thousand apps in the app marketplace—more than 350 of which are free.
So Hubspot lends itself to quick and easy integration with a massive range of other tools, often at low or zero cost.
With 34 different connector apps available, including Zapier, Blendr.io, Integrately, Tray.io, and many more, and a lively developer community it rarely takes long to figure out how to connect Hubspot to pretty much anything else.
Hubspot’s Operations Hub is dedicated to ensuring that data flows back and forth efficiently between platforms. That enables Hubspot to act as the nerve center of your business’ operations.
Salesforce—Far and away the biggest app ecosystem around
Up against any other CRM, Hubspot would have by some margin the most extensive and impressive app ecosystem.
But Salesforce’s is more than four times the size of Hubspot’s! The AppExchange contains more than 4,600 apps, implementations, and components—plus over 2,000 consultants’ listings.
A lot of the apps listed are effectively products in their own right, more than integrations. Accordingly, some of them come with a high price tag attached and a much higher percentage of them are paid for compared to Hubspot’s more modest selection.
Whether it’s cheaper to develop your own solutions using Salesforce’s REST API will depend on exactly what you need. But if you’re not a developer or don’t have the resources available, Salesforce’s Lightning App Builder is an incredible tool for no-code apps to fulfill bespoke roles.
If you’re prepared to put in the hours or spend the dollars, it’s hard to fault what Salesforce has to offer here.
As we saw at the beginning and in the TL;DR, G2 users rate Hubspot more highly than Salesforce (4.4 vs 4.2).
And that’s borne out on other review aggregators. Here’s what Capterra reviewers said about Hubspot and Salesforce, respectively:
Both platforms situate CRM within a wider ecosystem of software products, integrations, and apps that have the potential to run not just your entire sales operation, but also marketing, customer service, training, and more.
That makes both Hubspot and Salesforce very sticky: once you’ve adopted one Hub or Cloud, it gets more and more efficient and easy to start using another.
But which is best for your business? Here are our conclusions:
- If you’re scaling a business up and/or you want all of your GTM tools under one provider’s umbrella, Hubspot is a great CRM choice. It has powerful functionality, a broad ecosystem, and great complementary products. Most of all, the learning curve for getting started and making the most of even advanced features is not too steep—making it an accessible option for small and mid-sized firms as well. It’s not cheap, but the value for money is certainly there.
- Salesforce’s strengths position it as best suited to bigger companies, primarily enterprises. For them, the exceptional functionality the platform offers and the ability to tailor a comprehensive environment perfectly to a business’s specific needs will outweigh the downsides of cost and complexity. For other companies, that balance will fall on the other side—making Salesforce a poor choice.