Salesforce is probably the best-known CRM platform worldwide. But is it also the best?

In this blog, we’ll pit the dominant market player against an up-and-coming challenger with a different offering—Freshsales. 

So, let’s dive right into Freshsales vs. Salesforce…  

In 2022, G2 rated Salesforce as the world’s #1 CRM system. As the grid below shows, it’s certainly top of the class for market presence. But a few contenders outclass it on the Satisfaction axis.

Freshsales isn’t one of them. It sits a little way behind on each measure, at #8 in the rankings. That’s still a very respectable place to be, and as we’ll see, there are many reasons why Freshsales might be the right CRM for your business.

That said, no CRM is 100% perfect—sans any faults.

Our research approach to arriving at an objective comparison

Before getting stuck in, here are a few notes on how we’ve tried to compare Freshsales vs. Salesforce. 

At Avoma, we 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 the learnings and observations from our evaluation journey and bring in the points of view of other evaluators and customers—past and present—of these two CRM platforms. 

Here’s the 7-step process on how we arrive at our comparative information in an unbiased way:

  1. Schedule a demo with both the CRMs (we had seriously evaluated between them to arrive at the CRM we use internally—and fun fact, Avoma integrates with Salesforce CRM).
  2. Trial the free version of the software to get a feel of the platform.
  3. Refer to the notes on why we decided to go through or not-go-through with the platform.  
  4. Reach out to at least 15 existing and past users of both platforms to understand their first-hand experience.
  5. 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. 
  6. Aggregate a minimum of 100 reviews across G2, GetApp, TrustRadius, FinancesOnline, and all relevant SaaS review sites to understand the customer sentiment at scale. 
  7. Run polls on social media.

The key difference between Freshsales and Salesforce

Salesforce dismisses most SaaS CRM providers as offering ‘point solutions,’ meaning:
A solution that focuses on one specific business area without regard for how the rest of the business operates.
Salesforce’s ambitions extend way beyond running your CRM. It wants to be the operating system your entire business runs on across marketing, customer support, analytics, training, integration, etc.
While it’s true that a “point solution” CRM is of little use when it’s not plugged into the rest of your software tools, there is still a lot of room for disagreement in the standalone versus all-in-one software debate.

Freshsales—A comprehensive, lightweight option

Freshsales isn’t a point solution. It’s designed for all of your business’ activities. 

However, its solutions are far lighter, simpler, easier to implement, more flexible, and more affordable than Salesforce.

For smaller, less complex businesses, Freshsales offers enough functionalities while being simple to use and customize. Plus, it packs many extra AI functionality punch to turbocharge sales.

Takeaway: Freshsales covers all the basics to a reasonable level of depth and then tops things off with some powerful AI. Great functionality for a very reasonable price. 👌

Salesforce—Breadth and depth in equal measure

Salesforce Sales Cloud is just one part of Salesforce’s core offering of four Clouds (much like Hubspot’s Hubs). The others are:

  • Marketing Cloud
  • Service Cloud
  • Commerce Cloud

Alongside those Clouds, Salesforce has a multitude of other overlapping products (Quip, Tableau CRM, Pardot, etc.).

Where Freshsales is lightweight, covering a lot of ground in relatively little depth, Salesforce goes wide and deep. As we’ll see, it offers everything you’re likely to need—and probably more. 

But that comes with a price tag and learning curve to match. 

Takeaway: Salesforce Sales Cloud could be the most powerful, most customizable CRM available today. But for many businesses, it’s overkill—and over-priced. 👌

Choosing between Freshsales and Salesforce

When you’re evaluating market leaders like Freshsales and Salesforce that have different strengths and weaknesses, we prefer to start with a set of questions to ask during the evaluation. 

Key factors for evaluation

1. Ease of use

If a CRM is hard to use or unintuitive, people won’t use it. So ease of use and adoption are critical factors to consider.

Questions to ask:
  • How hard or easy is it to set up and implement Freshsales and Salesforce?
  • Do you need a dedicated manager to administer the platform?
  • 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 front in our Freshsales vs Salesforce showdown 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 Freshsales support? And Salesforce?
  • Do they support integrations natively or via third-party API connectors?
  • Are its functionalities out-of-the-box or customizable?

3. Pricing

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?

4. Scalability

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. 

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 Freshsales and Salesforce

The TL;DR Version

1. Ease of use

Freshsales—Highly rated for ease of use and customer support

Freshsales users rate it very highly for ease of use: 

One thing I like the most about Freshsales is that it is very easy to use. Even users with no or very little knowledge of CRM tools can use Freshsales to handle multiple tasks effectively. 

- Sara, USTitleLoans.

The UI is attractive and relatively uncluttered. Functionality is easy to locate and intuitive to grasp. 

It's straightforward and has an extensive knowledge base, full of documents, videos, and other resources that will help you get started. 

Even free users have access to Freshsales 24/5 phone, email, and chat customer support—which is highly unusual in the free CRM space. 

I decided to use Freshsales because of its usability. I don't need to invest a ton of energy preparing people on the most proficient method to utilize Freshsales, unlike other CRM frameworks set up, which have convoluted work processes. 

- Steve Anderson, CEO, Junk-Yard-Near-Me.

Salesforce—Hard to implement and use, with slow support

Salesforce’s exceptional functionality becomes a liability when it comes to ease of use. It’s not easy to use at all. 

Out-of-the-box deployment options are very limited, and new customers will soon find themselves running up against complex workflows, crowded screens they have to scroll up and down, changes that don’t save automatically, etc. when they start trying to customize things on their own. 

Digital strategist Aaron Brooks hits the nail on the head when he says: “The learning curve never seems to end.”

Salesforce requires a team of professionals to handle everything. It may require intensive training sessions for employees who haven’t used it before. 

  • Erin Neuman, Be Aligned Web Design.

And that’s just using the CRM as a “point solution”. 

When you start integrating Salesforce into a wider ecosystem of products, the complexity multiplies. 

The fact that there is an entire sub-industry of expert Salesforce consultants making a good living out of implementing the platform for other businesses is a testament to what it can do and how difficult it is to make it do so. 

Day-to-day users have access to a truly enormous range of self-serve resources and email and chat support. However:

  • Turnaround time for troubleshooting is two working days.
  • Even for Professional and Enterprise customers, phone support incurs an extra charge.

2. Product capabilities

Freshsales—Good CRM, helpful complements, plus AI

While it's not quite a 'point solution' in Salesforce's sense, Freshsales is a more narrowly-focused CRM than Salesforce. 

While it is highly customizable in terms of data structure, reporting, pipeline structure, etc., it does not rival Salesforce in this area. Customization is always 'on rails,' and capabilities are restricted to higher product tiers (e.g., free users can't add their custom fields; only Pro users and above can add formula fields).

Alongside this core CRM functionality, Freshsales provides a suite of complementary tools that a sales team will need:

  • Email and workflow automation
  • In-app dialing, call queuing, voicemail drop, call recording, etc.
  • Tools and workflows for creating chatbots that can triage and answer basic questions

Where Freshsales stands out is with its “Freddy” AI, which provides:

  • Automatic profile enrichment from publicly available data
  • Predictive lead scoring
  • Out-of-office detection and automatic rescheduling of contacts
  • Smart Matches automated deduplication

Is AI the future of CRM? Freshsales seems to be betting that it is. 

Salesforce—Everything a CRM needs and more

Where to start?

Salesforce Sales Cloud perhaps deserves the title of “the ultimate CRM” because of the sheer extent of what it can do. 

Some of its main features are:

  • 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)
  • Developer sandbox
  • Lead registration and sharing

But the most valuable thing Salesforce provides is customizability. It’s possible (not easy, but possible) to tailor a CRM solution that is perfect for pretty much any type of business with any requirements.

What I like most about Salesforce is that it is extremely customizable. This is one factor that is essential for a CRM, and Salesforce is the best for it.

Sonia Navarro, Founder, Navarro Paving.

At the end of the day, Salesforce aims to provide a total “operating system” for business, with:

  • Powerful automation
  • Highly customizable reporting and dashboards
  • Extensive team management capabilities
  • Pipeline and forecast functionality

It’s more than many businesses will need, and that can be overwhelming, but the customization doesn’t have to mean complication. You can use those capabilities to hide and remove unneeded features.

3. Pricing

Freshsales—Affordable and flexibly-priced

Unlike Salesforce, Freshsales offers a free-forever version of its CRM. So, there’s no competition between the two if you are looking for a CRM with zero cost. It’s basic—with contact, deal, task management, in-app calling, live chat, a mobile app, and little else—but it costs nothing. 

And Freshsales is less expensive than Salesforce at every other touchpoint.

The Growth package starts at $15 per user per month, and it adds:

  • Workflow and email automation
  • File storage
  • Call management tools
  • Improved reporting
  • Enhanced chat functionality
  • AI-powered predictive lead scoring

And as you move to the Pro level, the AI enhancements get more exciting: out-of-office detection, bot question answering, deal insights, smart chat assignment, and automatic deduplication. That’s a lot of AI for $39 per month per user, and it’s one of Freshsales’ most distinctive differentiating features.

The main difference at the Enterprise level is including an account manager plus a few other features. 

With a 21-day free trial of advanced features, Freshsales gives prospective users plenty of time to see what suits them. And with no minimum user numbers for each tier, entry prices are consistently low—with even Freshsales’ top package within budget for many small businesses.

Salesforce—Expensive, with more hidden costs behind the headlines

The biggest shortcomings for Salesforce lie in pricing and the overall cost.

It’s expensive:

  • All packages, even the $25 per month Essentials package, have to be bought as a year’s subscription—there’s no pay-monthly option).
  • You can only have a maximum of 10 users on Essentials. If you need more than that, you have to switch all those users up to the $75 per month 'Professional’ tier.
  • Salesforce's complexity means that most serious users will incur extra costs beyond the headline rates. Many businesses will pay a consultant to implement their ideal Salesforce deployment, train their admins, or map a migration. Ranger Louis of CRM Engineers says that even small firms can find themselves looking at an expense between $2,000 and $20,000 to implement Salesforce.
  • Complementary functionality from Salesforce's other products is just as expensive. Adding effective marketing automation to Salesforce's weak capabilities, for example, will require you to add Pardot to your subscription—with a minimum entry price of $1,250 per month.

The sheer complexity of Salesforce devalues the 30-day free trial they offer: without expert help, you're unlikely to be able to configure it to do much more than many free CRMs can accomplish in that time.

One thing I don't like about Salesforce is the additional cost you have to pay with any extra users or customization. Due to this, this CRM is a tad bit more expensive than others, and you'll have to think twice before opting for it if it's not in your budget.

  • Rodney Warner, CEO, Connective Web Design.

Salesforce’s complex pricing reminds us of HubSpot’s annoying pricing plans. While it’s hard to tell who has a more complicated pricing page, one thing is clear—difficult pricing is hard to scale. We will tell you why it’s so in the next section.

4. Scalability

Freshsales—Ideal for scale-ups 

Freshsales is excellent for scaling companies: 

  • Per-user prices are competitive and increase linearly. 
  • The increase in price between each package is relatively affordable.
  • Being part of a wider range of similarly-affordable products, Freshsales can expand to cover more of your business as you grow.

It’s perhaps the weakest in its Enterprise offering. Apart from higher usage limits and an account manager, customers don’t get much more for an extra $30 per user per month than Pro users. But even so, $69 per user per month for an enterprise-level offering—even an imperfect one – is considerably cheaper than most alternatives.

Salesforce—Great if you’re already an enterprise

Salesforce may not be suitable for companies that are scaling up:

  • There’s a huge price jump when you exceed ten users.
  • It requires an annual commitment.
  • The price increases between packages are high.

Salesforce is at its best when it’s delivering highly-complex, highly-bespoke CRM solutions for enterprises. There is practically nothing it’s unable to do in the CRM space.

Combined with Salesforce’s complementary products, the different Clouds, and the contents of the AppExchange, it can enable an enterprise to streamline its tech stack considerably and bring almost everything under one roof. That can reduce IT admin requirements and make for easier adoption, which is simplified by the massive amount of resources available through Trailhead. 

It’s perhaps significant to note that Salesforce Enterprise is cited as their most popular package, and it’s not Salesforce’s highest tier. For almost every other CRM, “Enterprise” is the top. 

Salesforce Unlimited pulls out all the stops: on top of enterprise functionality, it adds unlimited online training, 24/7 support, and more than a hundred admin services that can customize any object to a practically limitless degree. 

That’s all great if you’re already an enterprise-scale business. 

If you’re not, though, Salesforce is almost certainly going to be overkill—on price, on complexity, and functionality.

5. Integrations and App Ecosystems

Freshsales—Complementary products and a nascent app market

Freshworks' first product was the customer service tool Freshdesk. Today, it sits alongside Freshsales at the heart of a family of more or less related software products. 

It makes for easy interoperability between different parts of your stack if you choose multiple Freshworks tools to build an all-in-one system. But would you? There’s not enough obvious crossover between many products to make that a compelling argument, like it is with Hubspot, for example. 

Like most CRM platforms, Freshsales has an app marketplace where users can pick up ready-made integrations and tools.

It’s easy to use and well-laid-out but had fewer than a hundred apps when we reviewed it. Not a deal-breaker when there is an app for the Zapier connector, allowing you to plug pretty much anything into your Freshsales system. 

Still, developers are rarely comfortable using third-party connectors. It’s inefficient, time-consuming, and adds more scope for things to go wrong. 

So, to embed Freshsales in your stack fully, you’re probably looking towards Freshsales’ API and SDK, complete with code libraries. Unfortunately, free users don’t have access to the API at all.

Salesforce—The biggest and best ecosystem in the CRM space

Salesforce offers more than 4,600 pre-built apps and components on its AppExchange. 

It also has listings for more than 2,000 certified Salesforce consultants who can help you implement your ideal solution. 

Even when you consider that many of these apps are shortcuts to customizing your Salesforce implementation, AppExchange is far bigger than any comparable app marketplace. Hubspot can only summon up a thousand integrations, and it’s way ahead of most of the competition.  

And if you come across a product that the AppExchange doesn’t have an app for, Salesforce’s Lightning App Builder makes it straightforward to build your no-code tool to get the job done.

I love Salesforce’s app-building capabilities. Its built-in technology allows you to create your own apps to solve problems unique to your company. 

  • Werner Jorgensen, Sales and Marketing Manager, Heatxperts.

Salesforce offers multiple APIs using different protocols for developers, including REST, SOAP, and even Bayeux for streaming. Thankfully, a huge amount of documentation is available to help your team get started. 

So let’s call this one: Salesforce crushes everything before it on this evaluation point!

Final verdict

Here’s how G2 users have rated Freshsales and Salesforce:

Freshsales beats Salesforce in every category, albeit with a much lower number of reviews. Some of those gaps are pretty wide, though:

  • Ease of Use: Freshsales 9.1 vs. Salesforce 7.8
  • Ease of Setup: Freshsales 8.9 vs. Salesforce 7.2
  • Ease of Admin: Freshsales 9 vs. Salesforce 7.7

Those scores bear out our investigation’s findings. Salesforce’s undoubted power comes at the cost of a complicated, non-intuitive user interface, combined with the need for expensive, expert help in making the most of the system. 

Freshsales isn’t a point solution, but it looks like one compared to Salesforce. Many businesses that are daunted by Salesforce’s complexity and pricing will welcome a platform like Freshsales that doesn’t try to do everything and is all the better. 

So, here are our final thoughts:

  • If you run a small business that wants powerful CRM functionality with marketing and sales automation features; that needs one-on-one customer support; or is keen to explore the possibilities of AI, choose Freshsales.
  • Salesforce is best suited to enterprises and larger businesses for whom the last word in functionality and customizability are worth the high price and steep learning curve.

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