Prior to starting Unlimited Tech Solutions, I was a Salesforce user for seven years and I spent over a million dollars on Salesforce and Salesforce development. I onboarded, trained, and supported over 120 salespeople inside a Salesforce platform.
I've also used HubSpot for just as long. Based on my user experience, I have found HubSpot to be far more valuable than Salesforce in many ways. Of course, both are powerful, popular programs and each has its acolytes. However, based on my experience, here's what’s wrong with Salesforce.
This is a true story.
A few years ago, I was in San Francisco with the Salesforce representative assigned to my account. We were on the ferry from Marin County and headed for the city. As I watched the city approach, I was complaining to the rep about how much it cost my company to use Salesforce. Particularly, how much we were spending on our partner agency to access basic functionality in Salesforce and he said this,
“Tom, this is how I like to think of Salesforce and what my job as a salesperson is. Think of it this way. Salesforce is like clay. I can sell you clay, I can sell you lots of clay, I can sell you a little bit of clay. But it's up to you as the sculptor to sculpt something beautiful from that clay. We make amazing, brilliant clay and you have an infinite ability to sculpt it into whatever your company needs.”
My response to him was, “But, I'm not a sculptor.”
And that’s the problem with Salesforce. That's what gives Salesforce distinct disadvantages over HubSpot. Salesforce, like clay, is endlessly customizable. And we’re not all sculptors.
Customizable: Good, Bad, and Ugly
At first glance, ‘customizable' sounds like a great feature. Of course, you want it “customizable so it fits your business…blah blah blah,” but if your software platform is too customizable, it can easily become a confusing, tangled mess of data. In Salesforce, I’ve seen people create custom fields for data points that already exist as a regular field. That may seem benign, but it creates duplication, and then users aren’t sure which of the two fields is the ‘right’ one. The repercussions of seemingly minor changes like this grow over time and quickly create chaos.
Custom fields are very easy to create, but if you don’t know how to map these custom fields, you won’t know how the new fields relate to all of the other data in the database. In a case like this, the system won’t work the way you want (or need) it to. Then when you run reports they’ll be inaccurate, but you won’t know if your data is bad, if your data is missing, or if you're simply using the software incorrectly.
For example, there can be fields entitled 'leads.' A lead is a person who can be converted into a 'contact,' but then it is also possible to have a field that's just called 'people.' And so, if you're looking for a particular individual, how do you know if they are classified as a lead, contact, or people?
Too often organizations make the mistake of giving admin access to many, many people in the company. So each person with admin access can (and does) begin creating fields for their individual reports. How are you supposed to run a report when half of your employees are admins and they’ve all created their own custom fields? It quickly becomes overwhelming to manage and navigate.
Total Cost of Ownership
There’s no doubt that Salesforce is a high-powered database system. But with so much variability, clients either can’t access the full functionality of it, or they can’t use it properly. That customizable piece drives up the total cost of owning Salesforce because one of two things are going to happen:
- You're either going to need to pay a partner agency full time
- You'll need to pay an agency to come in often to continually enhance and update basic functionality.
And that gets expensive.
Generally, Salesforce users are advised they should plan on spending about $3 in partner agency services for every $1 they spend on the Salesforce licensing fee. In my experience, it was closer to $6 to $1. I know clients who’ve come from Salesforce into HubSpot and confirm that $6 to $1 is more accurate and their integrations and customizations were significantly more expensive than they were originally quoted. So if you're spending $100,000 a year on Salesforce licensing, you should plan on spending at least $300,000 a year (in reality more like $600,000) with a partner agency to onboard, set up, and customize your software which can also include hiring a Salesforce administrator.
So if you're a massive company with revenue in the billions, Salesforce can be a great solution because it's infinitely customizable and you’ll have the funds to spend $6 to $1 on substantial partner agency support.
But if you're not a multi-billion revenue company, HubSpot is a far better option. It’s ready out-of-the-box with a total cost of ownership that averages $2 to $1 agency to license ratio.
Training and Support
So because Salesforce is so – let's say it together now – customizable, that limits Salesforce’s ability to offer training and support. How can they train you when they don’t know how your system is set up? How can they show you how to use a system you've designed in one singular, unique way? They can’t.
Salesforce does offer an online learning platform, Trailhead, which teaches its software. However, they can only show you how the software works, they can't show you how to use that software to improve your business. So if you’re not a software expert, it’s not going to take you very far. Support and training are just not part of their business model. They just make the clay, they don’t know what the sculptor built.
Salesforce has the same issue when it comes to maintenance – infinite build possibilities mean infinite maintenance. When I used Salesforce, I tried to maintain and sustain it by myself, while also traveling, training, and optimizing. I eventually got so frustrated that I had to hire an admin, so I had to spend about $75,000 per year on an additional specialist which wasn't something I’d planned.
HubSpot vs Salesforce
Contrast Salesforce to my UX with HubSpot and it’s been night and day. Eight years ago, I was finally fed up with Salesforce and I switched to HubSpot. Out of the box, the difference was clear and I’ve never looked back. HubSpot was good then, but it's even better now. Here’s why.
One Platform, no Sculptor Needed
Because HubSpot is built on one platform, it’s ready from day one and it's set up to optimize best practices for your business in sales, marketing, customer service, and operations. There are a number of customizations available, though not an infinite amount – these are deliberately and strategically placed choices that make sense for the user experience. You're able to configure the program to fit the needs of your business and your processes, and you'll be out of the gate significantly faster because you're not building it from scratch.
True Cost of Ownership
With HubSpot, I was told to expect a total cost of ownership that averaged a $2 to $1 agency to license ratio. That’s exactly what I’ve experienced and what my clients experience as well. So, no sticker shock. Your true cost of ownership is considerably less with HubSpot.
Training and Support, Massive Difference
HubSpot Academy is brilliant because it not only teaches the features of the program, it also teaches employees how to use each feature for best business practices. It’ll show you how inbound marketing works, how inbound sales works, how you create a custom report, and much more. If you've got hundreds of employees to train, a significant majority of that training can be assigned in HubSpot Academy.
HubSpot offers a robust partner network and goes to great lengths to make sure people are going to get the most out of the software. HubSpot has a vested interest in your success after you purchase it and they continue to work with you after the sale is made to ensure you are getting everything you need from their platform.
So if you’re a multi-billion dollar sculptor, who wants to be left alone with a pile of clay, Salesforce could be the right choice. For the rest of us, HubSpot wins.