The Salesforce CRM offers an impressive selection of features, customization options and tailored workflows within a single ecosystem, making it our pick for the best CRM for growing businesses.
Businesses must successfully convert leads and manage and grow customer relationships to succeed. Salesforce CRM features myriad customization options to achieve these goals, empowering businesses of all sizes – and across various industries – to better understand and support prospects and customers. You can adapt nearly every aspect of the software’s interface and performance to help sales, marketing, customer service and technical support teams succeed. Salesforce CRM features thousands of fully integrated apps, plug-in scripts, and a superior API interface to help businesses create a flexible, customized solution. Once implemented, you’ll enjoy a beautifully designed product that’s speedy, powerful, and perfectly tailored to your company’s specific needs and processes.
9.5 / 10
Salesforce is arguably the best-known CRM provider on the market. It has an established community and a well-earned reputation for being a leader in the customer relationship management field. While it was created to meet the needs of enterprises and large businesses, Salesforce has expanded its scope and now actively targets businesses of all sizes.
Unlike more rigid competitors, Salesforce CRM provides countless personalization and customization options, giving businesses a high level of control over how the system looks and acts. We were particularly impressed by how Salesforce handles workflow automation and by its pioneering integration of AI in CRM customization.
Notably, Salesforce was one of the first CRM platforms to open itself up to third-party developers, giving it more apps and customization options than any other provider. If Salesforce doesn’t have a built-in function you need, there’s almost certainly an app to compensate. If not, a developer can create and deploy a specific solution.
Salesforce CRM’s initial setup requires time and IT skills. Its learning curve is far steeper than those of many other CRM providers we reviewed. However, you’ll enjoy flexible CRM software guaranteed to accommodate all custom processes and meet the changing needs of your business. For all these reasons and more, Salesforce is our top CRM choice for customization.
Salesforce CRM’s pipeline management feature gives an overview of your sales opportunities. Source: Salesforce
Despite its complexities, Salesforce is surprisingly easy to implement and use. Here are some notable ease-of-use factors we discovered.
Salesforce’s visual dashboards help your team pinpoint problems and work on solutions. Source: Salesforce
Salesforce’s upper-tier plans give business owners access to live support, coaching sessions and adoption guidance for an additional fee. This may be useful if you’re considering switching CRM systems to Salesforce.
We like that Salesforce’s business products seamlessly integrate. Businesses can grow with the Salesforce CRM and gradually adopt new features as needed. Additional Salesforce product categories include:
You can use Salesforce’s impressive range of third-party apps to run many aspects of your company, from marketing to fulfillment. HR, data analytics, workforce collaboration and finance apps plug directly into Salesforce CRM. You can even add ERP apps to Salesforce to build a system close in function to the ERP platform described in our review of Oracle NetSuite CRM.
We also like how Salesforce’s AppExchange breaks down apps by industry. There are 12 sector-specific areas on AppExchange, including communications, financial services, manufacturing and professional services.
Salesforce is a capable solution for companies that want to improve customer service performance. Read our review of Salesforce Service Cloud to discover how it helps supervisors and teams manage ongoing customer relationships.
We were impressed by Salesforce CRM’s vast customization capabilities – an area where it truly stands out among the competition. While many CRMs we reviewed offer options for customizing deal and contact fields, email templates, and dashboards, Salesforce lets you do much more.
Here are some of our favorite customization options:
Sales managers can customize their dashboards with specific objects. Source: Salesforce
We like that CRM users can build customizable systems and integrate their favorite business apps via the Salesforce AppExchange store. Other CRM software companies we reviewed have similar online stores for add-ons, but Salesforce’s is far more comprehensive, with thousands of available integrations.
The company makes it easy to search for add-ons based on the product name and view industry-specific product bundles. Because Salesforce is such a huge company, its industry-specific add-ons are expansive. There’s even a separate section for small business-specific add-ons, many of which are free.
On the AppExchange, you’ll find five different solution categories:
Salesforce is embracing the “low code” and “no code” trends with its Lightning App Builder and Salesforce Flow drag-and-drop tools. Read our HubSpot review to learn about another CRM with drag-and-drop functionality.
New apps are added to the AppExchange daily, further enhancing its appeal. Source: Salesforce
We were pleased to see Salesforce’s intuitive productivity-boosting tools, particularly its built-in project management features. (Freshworks has similar tools; read our Freshworks CRM review to learn more.) Once implemented, sales and marketing departments – as well as managers – will find it easy to manage and build workflows, assign and follow tasks, and check off permissions.
Salesforce’s visual dashboards allow sales reps to check KPIs and track their progress toward quotas, facilitating productivity and accountability. We like that you can add meetings straight from the calendar tab and see an instant overview of your schedule.
Additional add-on productivity tools are available through the AppExchange.
Salesforce’s artificial intelligence (AI) strides impressed us with capabilities beyond those of the competitors we reviewed. Salesforce was a CRM-AI pioneer, launching its high-profile AI tool, Einstein, in 2016. Today, the company has picked up the pace amid breakthroughs in the generative large language model AIs (like ChatGPT and Bard) that power tools like Einstein. Einstein is available on Salesforce’s upper-tier plans or as a paid add-on.
Einstein can do the following after gathering data from system use and user input:
Einstein, in its current form, is amazing, and we look forward to seeing its next iterations. We expect AI (and the solutions other CRM providers develop) to be integral to corporate life and CRM adoption in the coming years. We’re not awarding best use of AI in this round of CRM reviews; however, if we were, Salesforce would win.
Einstein can flag emails in which leads express critical concerns that could prevent a deal from moving forward, allowing a sales rep to prioritize those messages and act fast to grow and sustain customer relationships.
Salesforce’s Einstein tool can help with sentiment analysis so you understand how your brand is perceived. Source: Salesforce
Nearly every CRM vendor we reviewed has some form of an online community. However, Salesforce’s Trailblazer community is particularly impressive, replete with documentation invaluable for admins. You can find step-by-step guides on everything from creating custom CRM reports to turning on user notifications.
There’s also an extensive user-only forum for direct communication with other admins and CRM users and a comprehensive Trailhead learning platform with various product-related courses, upskilling opportunities and official certifications.
You can purchase Salesforce’s Sales Cloud CRM via one of four subscription tiers:
Unlike Salesforce competitors monday and HubSpot, there’s no free plan.
Only Essentials is available on a month-to-month basis; all other plans require an annual contract. Bear in mind that annual contracts often require you to pay for the whole year upfront, which may not be ideal for some businesses.
All costs below are applied when billed annually. All plans allow you to send 5,000 email marketing messages daily from the platform, which is much more generous than many other providers we reviewed.
Price: $25 per user per month; available for up to 10 users
Features: Account, contact, lead, task and opportunity management; lead auto-assignment; prevention of duplicates; automatic capture of a lead’s available web information; mass email; marketing campaigns; customizable reports and dashboards; email integration with Gmail and Outlook; and Salesforce mobile app
Price: $75 per user per month
Features: Everything in the Essentials plan, plus pipeline management, lead registration, rules-based lead scoring, collaborative forecasting, a forecasting mobile app, quote and order management, roles and permissions, and a developer sandbox
Price: $150 per user per month
Features: Everything in the Professional plan, plus workflow and approval automation, sales teams and territories, opportunity scoring, and advanced reporting
Price: $300 per user per month
Features: Everything in the Enterprise plan, plus a sales engagement hub, AI-powered sales insights with Einstein, sales cadences and 24/7 support
Salesforce is pricey compared to other CRM solutions we reviewed. It’s a massive product with many add-ons and customizations; the subscription costs listed here should be considered jumping-off points.
You can spend considerably more on Salesforce. For example, CPQ & Billing, which allows you to quickly configure, price and quote complex solutions, costs $75 per user per month. Other add-ons include Pardot, Quip, Einstein AI and Sales Dialer – all sold separately. There are additional costs if you opt for training or help with implementation.
Many other SaaS products offer free versions and low-cost, entry-level subscriptions that can be used indefinitely. While $25 per user per month isn’t exorbitant, it’s not a realistic long-term option for most small businesses because only 10 users are supported at that level. The next plan jumps to $75 per user per month – significantly more expensive than the competition.
We recommend taking advantage of Salesforce’s 14-day free trial to ensure this CRM is worth the investment.
Implementing CRM software always takes care and patience. But due to its breadth of customization options, Salesforce CRM’s implementation process can vary drastically, taking anywhere from a few days to several weeks. While that may seem alarming, users will quickly see that this CRM is worth the effort once it is set up.
Salesforce and third-party agencies can manage your initial implementation and launch for you. Still, this help comes at a cost, depending on your company size, number of employees, data volume and complexity, third-party integrations, and customization level.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to create a complex solution immediately. You can use the software out of the box and modify it as your business needs evolve. Thanks to the Salesforce CRM’s intuitive design and overall sophistication, the learning curve isn’t steep for non-admin users after implementation.
In addition to a vast library of training materials, Salesforce offers adoption guidance and coaching services for an extra cost. That may be worth it for business owners concerned about setting up the CRM and onboarding users.
Use the Data Import Wizard from the Setup menu to import up to 50,000 standard objects – like contact, lead and account information – from a CSV file.
While Salesforce is a market leader in CRM technology, integrations and capabilities, we found that it falls short in the customer service department. When we reached out for information about the company’s services, the response was delayed.
When we did communicate with customer support reps, they were very helpful and used real-life situations to explain the product’s features and answer questions about the program. They were very clear and offered several solutions to help further our understanding. However, compared to other providers we called, their answers could have been more detailed.
Unfortunately, Salesforce has a C-minus rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and isn’t an accredited BBB business. It earned 1 out of 5 stars and closed 55 complaints within the last three years. That’s disappointing and surprising for a company that’s so well regarded in the industry.
On the plus side, Salesforce provides an extensive selection of self-guided resources, access to the Trailblazer community and basic technical support. Additionally, its Unlimited package comes with 24/7 assistance.
For an additional fee of 30 percent of your total monthly service fees, users can access 24/7 phone support, expert coaching and a dedicated account manager.
Salesforce CRM is an excellent solution; however, we did identify some limitations:
When evaluating the best CRM software, we conducted extensive comparative research of dozens of software solutions in the category. Our product review process was designed to help you find the right CRM for your business. It included customer support team communication, trials to evaluate product functionality, and an evaluation of each provider’s tutorials, webinars and support materials. We also took pricing into consideration. When looking for the best CRM for customizability specifically, we examined customization options, available integrations, reporting and analytics, and sales automation.
Though the Salesforce system has an extensive collection of CRM features and add-ons, its intuitive design and standard CRM lingo make it easy to learn. The vendor also provides various training materials and courses on Trailhead, the company’s free online learning platform, to get you started.
Salesforce doesn’t have a free plan; its pricing starts at $25 per user per month. However, the company offers a 14-day free trial so you can assess whether it’s a good fit for your business.