Sometimes, choosing software is like making fashion decisions. Sure, you could go with the hottest brand on the planet, but maybe you have your own style or live in a small town where the culture, and therefore the fashion, is a little bit different.
Perhaps it’s just too big and unwieldy for your particular sales process, and you need a simple, straightforward option. Maybe you just don’t like the feel of the dashboard, or you just want to know what else is out there.
Some top competitors to using Salesforce as your CRM:
What to look for in a great Salesforce competitor
Salesforce and its many editions do a lot of things very well; you’d expect that from arguably the most popular CRM software solution on the market.
Salesforce software offers a great tool that can be adapted to fit just about any size and type of business, and their solution has a wealth of features that are so robust they have a “Salesforce University” you can attend to get the most out of their powerful software.
But if you’re looking for a competitor to Salesforce products, you’re probably trying to find software that does certain things better, or at least differently, than Salesforce does.
That could mean a simpler, out-of-the-box solution that you can pick up easily on day one, as Salesforce has a bit of a learning curve. Similarly, you might opt for a solution with fewer features, particularly if you’re a small business that doesn’t need all of the Salesforce tools. You might choose based on price if Salesforce is just too expensive.
Or you might go with an option that offers outstanding customer support, as Salesforce requires you to pay for support for standard questions, and there’s an automated system to deal with.
When making a determination, there are three big characteristics that should drive your thinking, whether you’re in B2B or direct-to-consumer sales.
1. Ease of use
Even the most powerful software is useless if a company can’t figure out how to use it. When selecting software, you want something that’s going to make your business more efficient, and that’s not going to happen if you choose software that is too advanced for your team’s abilities.
If you do choose software like that, you need to be prepared to set aside the money and time to train your team how to use it.
2. Customer support
It’s easy to underestimate the value of customer support, but if a software option has ever given you headaches, you know how valuable it can be.
Salesforce offers a lot of support both online and over the phone, but you’re dealing with a big company, and you may want more access to their software developer’s team.
We’re not just talking about the sheer amount of features, we’re talking about the right features. If your business really needs a feature that can take data and generate actionable reports, then as long as a software option has that, it’s something you should consider.
You don’t necessarily need something with a thousand different tools that you’ll never need, you just need the right tools.
Our top 9 picks for Salesforce CRM competitors
So what solutions are the best alternatives to Salesforce CRM? We’ve selected nine great CRM options that are excellent in various categories that you can compare and contrast to Salesforce.
1. Vtiger Sales CRM
Salesforce for small business is not bad, but Vtiger is a great option for small operations who are trying to streamline their communications and get more organized when it comes to sales and marketing efforts.
It offers some handy automation features to help increase efficiency and free up time for other activities. It's very affordable compared to other CRM options, and you get a lot of features for the price.
The highest-rated CRM software option in our directory, Insightly is another cloud-based tool ideal for mid-sized businesses that offers a range of marketing tools, including advanced marketing automation that can take your business to the next level.
This software option will help your team effectively manage leads, projects, and sales, and offer the analytics you need to identify ways to improve the way you do things.
SugarCRM is a robust, open-source platform best suited for large enterprises with their own development teams. They can take this powerful engine and adapt it into something specifically suited for their business.
It has a fairly steep learning curve and a huge list of features, which is why it's not really meant for small operations. If you really want to increase the efficiency of your large sales operation, this is a great choice.
4. Zoho CRM
If you just want a simple, turn-key solution, you can't do much better than Zoho CRM.
Although you’ll have a lot of customization and initial setup, this is a good option for tech novices. This web-based system integrates well with Google and offers an intuitive design and a decent number of features. When comparing Zoho to Salesforce, the former is also less expensive and offers a free option.
If you've got the tech know-how, Close is a great option with sales automation tools that can really boost your B2B lead generation and sales process. The software has an intuitive dashboard and automatic calling and logging to help you track your sales process.
There's also a built-in email marketing function that can be automated to send a follow-up email and save a huge amount of time.
6. Agile CRM
Agile CRM is a great small business option that is based in the cloud and focuses on integrating your sales efforts with marketing, social media, and other parts of your outreach to customers.
Small businesses have a tight budget to deal with, so the fact that Agile CRM offers a totally free option for up to 10 users is a big plus. If you want all the bells and whistles, including email and phone support and more than 50 plugins and integrations, you'll have to spring for the enterprise version.
If you want a software option that fits your business like a glove, you want something that's customizable, and there's no better way to do that than with an open-source platform like Bitrix24.
It's got a pretty steep learning curve, and you'll pay a lot for the premium packages, but the vast majority of its features are free, with a lot of powerful tools to choose from. Bitrix24 also stands out because it is a CRM software option that works as a social networking tool, and it's a great choice for small- and medium-sized businesses.
The onboarding process for new software is intimidating, so if you're worried about that, Pipedrive may be best for you. And especially when comparing Pipedrive to Salesforce, the former is one of the most affordable CRM options, and it’s very easy to use with a lot of customer support, even 24/7 coverage.
Pipedrive offers features for email marketing, activities and goals management, and lead generation. It can also break down data into actionable reports.
9. HubSpot CRM
Last but not least, HubSpot is a fierce competitor to Salesforce. If your business is a one-person show, then HubSpot CRM might be the ideal alternative. It's easy to use, onboarding is straightforward, and it offers a feature-packed free version.
It also has powerful reporting tools, so you can crunch the data and figure out if you're spending your time as efficiently as you can. The HubSpot dashboard showcases stats in real time so you know where you stand with leads, and the dashboard can be sorted any way that you prefer.
Choosing software comes down to your company’s strategy
In the end, the software you choose says a lot about your company’s long-term strategy. That’s why it’s important to choose carefully, because changing horses midstream will cause problems down the road for your business, and disrupt your sales team in a way that can impact revenues.
It’s best to involve your whole team for a major decision like this, and consider if the software option you settle on will still fit your business two or three years down the road. If you can answer affirmatively and confidently, you can rest assured that you’ve made the right choice.
The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends HubSpot and Salesforce.com. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.