Salesforce is the world’s top CRM software provider, and with good reason. But is it the right option to take your business to new heights?
✔ Starts at £20 per user, per month for ‘Salesforce Essentials’
✔ Caps at £240 per user, per month for ‘Lightning Enterprise’
✔ ‘Einstein Analytics’ is available from £60 per user, per month
✔ Key products are Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Service Cloud
- Boasts the most comprehensive analytical CRM capabilities in the known world
- Integrates with over 3,000 third-party software applications
- Strong case and issue management capabilities across all plans
- No contact storage limits
- Fully cloud-based, with a versatile mobile app
- Positive customer reviews online
- Highly affordable basic plan...
- … though its upper pricing tiers will have small businesses balking
- 24/7 support is restricted to the highest-paying customers
- Can be tough to get to grips with, and to make the most out of its plethora of features
- The user experience could be more intuitive
- Some core functions (such as payment management and quote generation) cost extra
Whether you’ve been researching customer relationship management (CRM) software for a while now, or first heard of it five minutes ago, chances are you’ll have already come across Salesforce.
As the world’s #1 CRM, Salesforce tends to hog more than its fair share of the limelight – not to mention the already overcrowded CRM market. But what makes it right for your business? With so many CRM options to choose from in 2021, Salesforce represents the most popular choice – but is it the smartest one for you?
Let’s find out.
What are Salesforce’s features and benefits?
Like most CRM suppliers, Salesforce splits its software into three separate products, each targeted at a particular team or function – sales, marketing, and customer service.
The specific features you’ll score will depend on the product and pricing plan you select. However, all businesses will benefit from Salesforce’s core features.
Here are some of the software’s biggest drawcards.
✔ It’s more than a CRM… it’s a complete business ecosystem
As well as specific CRM modules tailored to sales, marketing, and customer service teams, Salesforce also offers a range of add-on services to improve your business’ engagement, analytics, communication, and internal systems.
And it’s not just this range of different products – all modular and highly customisable, of course – that sets Salesforce apart from its myriad competitors. Rather, it’s the extent to which each of Salesforce’s cloud offerings all talk to each other – the way in which, together, they form a complete business ecosystem that scales with your operations.
✔ Thousands of app integrations to expand the scope of your CRM
Emails, calendars, accounting software… the roll call of programs your business uses every day is endless. That’s why it’s crucial that your CRM system works with them – not against them. Here’s where integration comes in.
Luckily, integration is something Salesforce does very, very well. The CRM offers integrations with all the apps you need to run your business. Think G Suite, Slack, Quickbooks, MailChimp, Dropbox… the list goes on.
Also, the Salesforce AppExchange – which contains more than 3,000 third-party applications to extend the functionality of the CRM’s core offering – provides an online hub where anyone can create, publish, and install their own extensions to Salesforce. It’s a huge unique selling point that really sets Salesforce apart.
✔ Powerful analytics driven by artificial intelligence
Actually, scratch that. When we’re talking about Salesforce’s intelligent analytics add-on (dubbed ‘Einstein Analytics’), we should rephrase it to the most powerful analytics. And it’s a piece of kit the man himself would have been proud of.
Einstein (the software, not the great thinker) puts millions of data combinations at your disposal to offer predictive and prescriptive insights, and help shape your future business decisions. With the inspired add-on, you’ll also be able to build custom, AI-driven apps – either from scratch, or with a set of pre-built templates.
Einstein Analytics also provides a platform which centralises your data management tools – enabling you to prepare, sync, and connect your CRM to data from anywhere. Wunderbar!
✔ Everything, automated
Whether it’s setting up workflows to speed up and streamline laborious internal processes, or increasing staff accountability by automatically assigning tasks, Salesforce helps do the legwork for you.
For marketing teams, that includes the segmenting and targeting of your audience, as well as the sending of the emails themselves. And, as far as the creation of those emails goes, you’ll have a range of preset – yet easily editable – templates to choose from. Deliver the ‘wow’ factor to your mailing lists, and maximise your chance of opens, reads, clicks, and conversions.
Salesforce’s savvy automation tools also simplify the synergy between sales and marketing. Embed web-to-lead capture forms into your website – or into your marketing emails – and have fresh leads land straight in the laps of your sales teams, accessible from directly within the CRM. Automation awesomeness.
✔ Cloud-based convenience
Salesforce is a completely cloud-based CRM system. That means all your business’ client, deal, lead, and product info is stored ‘in the cloud’. No more spreadsheets, downloads, or tatty, overstuffed folders – just log in from your smartphone, tablet, computer, or watch, and start working.
And, thanks to a brilliant mobile app (pictured), Salesforce users can log in from wherever they are in the world, and instantly see team progress and activity. It won’t make time zones any easier to navigate, but it will make it easier to close deals!
How much does Salesforce cost?
Salesforce’s pricing plans for sales and service teams break down as follows:
|Lightning Professional||Lightning Enterprise|
|Sales Cloud||£20 per user, per month||£60 per user, per month||£120 per user, per month||£240 per user, |
|Service Cloud||£20 per user, per month||£60 per user, per month||£120 per user, per month||£240 per user, per month|
|Sales and Service Cloud||Not available||£80 per user, per month||£140 per user, per month||£260 per user, per month|
Jump to: Salesforce Marketing Cloud pricing
Sales/Service Cloud pricing
As the table demonstrates, both Sales Cloud and Service Cloud are available in four pricing tiers. Each one brings more advanced features to the table, but budgets be warned – the costs do add up, and fast. So what do you get for your money?
Salesforce Essentials – £20 per user, per month
Salesforce Essentials gives you just what its name suggests – the essentials. And, though it’s low-cost, it’s far from feature-free. This pricing plan promises:
- Account, contact, and opportunity management
- Lead assignment and routing
- Email templates
- Campaign management
- Web-to-lead capture
Salesforce’s most basic plan also comes with full offline mobile functionality, access to the AppExchange, configurable reports and dashboards, and the real kicker – unlimited online training!
Lightning Professional – £60 per user, per month
Lightning Professional does everything Salesforce Essentials does. However, for an extra £40 per month, it adds billing and some sales forecasting features into the bargain. It also introduces a rules-based lead scoring feature, which lets your sales teams know how engaged a prospect is with your brand.
For customer service teams, upgrading to Lightning Professional provides a couple of new features. You can track orders from a central location, as well as manage warranties, subscriptions, and maintenance agreements with ease. This tier brings in:
- Collaborative forecasting
- Rules-based lead scoring
- Lead registration
- Products and price books
- Contracts, orders, and quotes
- Service contracts and entitlements
- Case milestone tracker
- Order management
- Asset management and product tracking
For all teams, Lightning Professional adds user-based roles and permissions, integration with unlimited custom applications, and a developer sandbox.
Lightning Enterprise – £120 per user, per month
Lightning Enterprise is a big step up in price. But don’t let that shock you – ambitious businesses will no doubt find that it’s a step in the right direction. This plan adds:
- Territory management
- ‘Lightning Platform’ for building, extending, and managing third-party apps
- Enterprise territory management
- Advanced sales insights and reporting features
- Improved calendar functionality
- Advanced case management and reporting features – including history tracking, cross filters, and ‘bucketing’
- ‘Salesforce Identity’, which enables single sign-on for all your enterprise apps
- Facebook Messenger integration (for an additional £60 per user, per month)
Lightning Professional also adds workflows – which enable the automation of basic internal processes – as well as offline access, ideal for coordinating agents in the field.
Lightning Unlimited – £240 per user, per month
Salesforce’s Lightning Unlimited plan is the whole shebang… or at least, you’d think so. But how much more does your extra £120 per month get you?
This plan adds 24/7 support and configuration services (which you’ll definitely require to get your head around some of its features!), as well as Salesforce’s other premier success resources. You’ll also get developer support, along with access to ‘accelerators’ – quick, personalised work sessions to help solve any technical issues you’ve encountered.
Other than that, your money doesn't get you much else.
Salesforce Marketing Cloud pricing
Salesforce’s CRM for marketing teams is priced a little differently – on a per organisation, per month basis, rather than a per user, per month one.
Marketing Cloud is made up of two distinct variants – one for business-to-business marketing, and the other for campaigns conducted via email, mobile, or the web.
Pardot B2B marketing automation
|£1,000 per month||£2,000 per month||£3,200 per month|
Email, mobile, and web marketing
|£320 per month||£1,000 per month||£3,000 per month|
Salesforce also offers an Enterprise pricing plan for this marketing module, though you’ll have to request a bespoke quote for it.
Einstein Analytics’ most basic plan, ‘Predictions’, offers just that – predictive insights you can leverage from within the CRM’s interface. You’ll get the heavy-hitting insights of data combination analysis to play with, too.
Einstein Analytics Growth
Upgrading to the ‘Growth’ plan nets you analytics add-ons tailored to sales and service teams, plus the ability to create apps and sync data from third-party sources.
Einstein Analytics Plus
The third, final, and most expensive tier, ‘Plus’, scores you superlative report, trend, and metric analysis, allowing you to compare data and summarise key takeaways with ease.
For a full deconstruction of how much CRM systems at large really cost, head to our guide to CRM software costs in 2021. Alternatively, you can skip that bit and get straight to the part where you compare actual, tailored quotes for your business, specifically. Not someone else’s – yours.
Simply provide us with a few details about the kind of CRM solution you’re looking to implement. Broadly, that includes features, number of users, and what (if any) kind of contact or customer engagement software you’re currently using. Once you’re done, you’ll be matched with the CRM suppliers that meet your needs, who’ll be in touch with quotes tailored to your business.
Is Salesforce right for my business?
Let’s answer some common questions from our audience of business owners to find out.
“I’m completely new to CRM software. Is Salesforce the best choice for me?”
In this case, it’s not. Salesforce comes with a steep learning curve for even the most talented and tech-savvy of teams. It’s not a beginner-friendly CRM.
We’d recommend opting for a provider such as Zoho, or Freshworks CRM. Aside from offering free (albeit restrictive) versions, both are extremely easy to use. Once you’ve learnt the ropes on a free trial or plan, you can then upgrade – and, when you’re comfortable with using CRM software to manipulate data on a day-to-day basis, you can start thinking about a switch to Salesforce.
“Do I need to sign a long contract to get the best deal?”
Nobody likes signing their life away with a long contract, so don’t worry – with Salesforce, you won’t have to. The majority of Salesforce’s products offer annual contracts, although its cheapest plan, Salesforce Essentials, offers monthly terms, too.
“I want the best customer support available, but the ‘Lightning Unlimited’ plan is beyond my budget. Help?”
Somewhat frustratingly, 24/7 customer support only comes with Salesforce’s most expensive plan (£240 per user, per month). However, there is a workaround – though you’ll still be required to fork out extra.
Salesforce’s ‘Success Cloud’ is a set of additional customer support resources available as add-ons to any and all of Salesforce’s licences. These include one-on-one coaching, advisory services, and success plans, plus a range of webinars – some of which come free. Most will cost you, but this additional fee won’t be anything compared to the outlay for Salesforce’s top pricing plan!
“Is there a way to share knowledge and connect with other Salesforce users?”
Yes, there is, and it’s called the Trailblazer Community. There, you can ask and respond to questions from fellow business owners, explore Salesforce-related events, browse known bugs and issues, and seek documentation, videos, and walkthroughs to help you become a Salesforce expert.
What do Salesforce’s customer reviews say?
There’s no doubt about it – Salesforce’s CRM is feature-rich, and packs a powerful punch. But does that translate into positive feedback from its customers? We took to the (somewhat savage) world of the digital review space to find out.
Some customers, such as Alejandra, recommend the synergy and ease of use Salesforce brings to their business:
“We like the way Salesforce allows us to manage our staff, in addition to the history of expenditures and income for them. It is easy to export databases in different formats, and synchronise sales funnels in the cloud. We like that the premium version does not limit the amount of emails that can be used. The Essentials plan has excellent support, in addition to being quite automated.”
Meanwhile, others (such as Ethan) find Salesforce’s high levels of customisation a bit baffling:
“Whilst you can change so much, doing so is a difficult task, and you need to know the Salesforce terminology to be able to do so. Also – though you can change a lot – mostly these are “tweaks”, and you’re left feeling like you can't really get into the backend to change things in a more logical way.”
Salesforce’s almost unanimously-agreed upon trickiness to get the hang of is reflected in other aspects of the user experience, as Stefano points out:
“[Salesforce] lacks an intuitive interface. It needs to be easier to use and operate. Whilst in the field with poor internet connection, it's really hard to do things on the app. An offline operation, which syncs with online data when a connection is available, would fix most of the problems I have during daily usage.”
Yet amidst the lack of usability, one constant, inescapable fact about Salesforce continues to shine through. When it comes to analytics, reporting, and data-crunching, the world’s #1 CRM is still the very best.
“Salesforce offers excellent analytics and reporting functions. It is a great tool to expand our overall productivity. We love using this software for tracking data, and I like that it provides accurate reports so we can make better decisions based on the reports we get. It is used across most of our organisations.”
– Anonymous Salesforce customer
Salesforce reviews: the verdict
Ultimately, many comments from Salesforce’s customers echo our initial hypothesis – that it offers the world for businesses needing a more customisable, comprehensive solution. Take Jeff’s comments, for instance.
“I'd be likely to recommend Salesforce to anyone who has time or resources to develop the system to meet their needs – or to hire that out to another firm. Salesforce is a HUGE tool that comes as a blank slate. It’s not appropriate for any firm that cannot have a near full-time support person or developer.”
Smaller businesses, then – or at least those with less demanding requirements – may be better served elsewhere.
What other CRM software providers could I consider?
Not quite sold on Salesforce? We get it. Aside from the basic ‘Essentials’ plan, it is expensive, and many small businesses choose to put it on their wish list, as opposed to investing immediately.
Plus, there are many other CRM software suppliers you can pick that are simple to set up and use, and won’t break the bank – some even offer versions that are completely free!
Here are our best Salesforce alternatives:
- Maximizer: not the easiest CRM to use, but it certainly rivals Salesforce with its stylish web form builder and canny case management features. Importantly (and unlike Salesforce), Maximizer is also available as an on-premise solution. Get acquainted with our Maximizer review to learn more.
- HubSpot: our top pick for marketing teams, HubSpot is no one-trick pony – it’s refreshingly easy to get to grips with, and has a generous free version, too.
- Zoho: brings to the table a couple of things Salesforce doesn’t do so well – namely, user-friendliness and affordability. That said, ambitious businesses in particular will find it a more limiting, simplistic CRM, offering little in the way of scalability.
- Freshworks CRM: an absolute dream to use, and with some excellent AI-powered add-on features (our favourite is ‘Freddy’, for customer service teams). Versatile and inexpensive.
- Zendesk: no marketing functions, although it rivals Salesforce with efficient lead scoring and accurate forecasting abilities for sales teams.
- monday.com: as a tool for managing projects and people, it’s one of the best. Powered by a vibrant, drag-and-drop interface and an ingeniously simple colour-coded display, its visuals put Salesforce’s to shame.
One of the most refreshing aspects of our best Salesforce alternatives here is that, in many cases, you can try before you buy. monday.com offers a free 14-day trial, as does HubSpot (along with a top-notch plan that’s free, forever).
Freshworks CRM Sales Cloud (Freshworks CRM's offering for sales teams) and Zoho also provide free versions, rather than just trials. However, it’s likely you’ll find these too simplistic – they’re designed for the smallest businesses, with the most basic of needs. Essentially, they’re the opposite of Salesforce!
Read more: Freshworks CRM vs Salesforce
What does it all amount to, then? Well – to put it simply – Salesforce is the best CRM software in the world. Its range of app integrations, analytics, and forecasting features go the extra mile – making it an unparalleled tool for creating, refining, and executing a world-beating CRM strategy.
The caveat? Smaller enterprises may struggle with the higher asking prices of Salesforce’s top tier plans. That said, even the most cash-strapped of businesses should find that Salesforce’s cheapest plan (Salesforce Essentials) ticks all the boxes – for sales and service teams, at least.
And, with a free, 30-day, no-obligation trial, why not give it a go?
If you’re still undecided on that front, though, don’t fret – we have you covered. Simply provide us with a few details about your exact CRM requirements (such as your team size, the features you’ll require, and what productivity software you’re currently using), and we’ll do the rest.
We’ll match you with suppliers that fit your requirements, who’ll be in touch over the phone with tailored, personalised quotes for you. It’s free for UK-based businesses, and only takes a moment. Good luck!