The 7 Best Salesforce Alternatives

Salesforce is a popular CRM – but plenty of better options for small businesses hide in its shadow. Here are the top Salesforce alternatives based on our expert research:

Our experts

We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. This article was authored by:

According to our extensive research, Salesforce is a good option for growing SMEs. But it’s also bested by plenty of other brands that are worth considering before you invest.

For over half a decade, we’ve been tracking the top brands on the market to compile a list of the best CRM software solutions for small businesses.

Our research found that the leading Salesforce alternatives in 2022 are:

  • Zoho CRM as the best Salesforce alternative overall
  • Freshsales Suite for scalability
  • Zoho Bigin for customisation
  • HubSpot Free for affordability
  • Pipedrive for ease of use
  • Less Annoying CRM for simplicity
  • Keap for help and support

SMEs can find Salesforce’s clunkier interface and lack of marketing tools cumbersome. It’s also a very expensive platform. There are plenty of providers that offer better deals and discounts, as our online quote-matching tool shows.

Buying any business software is an expensive investment – and you don’t want to discover you’ve wasted valuable time and money on the wrong technology.

Below, we’ll go through what we found to be the top Salesforce alternatives for small businesses. But first, here’s a quick overview:

0 out of 0
Price per month (billed annually):
Free trial?
Score out of 5:
Features:
Storage:

Salesforce CRM

Zoho CRM

Bigin

HubSpot

Less Annoying CRM

Keap

£20 per user

£12 per user

Free plan, or £12 per user

£5 per user

£38 (flat rate)

£11.20 per user

£60.15 (dependent on contacts)

Yes

3.8

4.6

4.5

4.3

4.2

3.9

3.7

3

  • Automatic data capture
  • Mobile access and administration
  • Salesforce Inbox
  • 10 user limit
  • 100,000 contact limit
  • 5 webforms allowed
  • Email integration (250 limit per day)
  • Unlimited contact each month
  • Multi-factor authentication
  • Autoresponses
  • 50,000 contact limit
  • Ecommerce integrations
  • Webforms
  • List segmentation
  • 2,000 emails per month
  • 5 active contact lists
  • Up to 3 dashboards permitted
  • Chatbots
  • Unlimited contacts permitted
  • Communication, ecommerce, and accounting integrations
  • Allows unlimited custom fields
  • 50,000 contact limit
  • Onboarding assistance for teams with 10+ users
  • Communication integrations
  • 25,000 contact limit
  • One user limit
  • 5 automated workflows

10GB per organisation

200MB per organisation

2GB per user

1GB per organisation

5 documents per user

N/A

10GB per user

Unlimited

Zoho CRM: best Salesforce alternative for small businesses

Zoho CRM screenshot

4.6 out of 5
  • Usability
    4.5
  • Customisation
    4
  • Functionality
    4.5
  • Pricing
    3
  • Help and Support
    3
  • We gave Zoho CRM 4 out of 5 for usability – impressive compared to Salesforce’s 1 out of 5
  • Zoho CRM leads Salesforce in every category we looked at: Usability, Customisation, Functionality, Pricing and Help and Support.

Perhaps the biggest turn-off for potential Salesforce customers is its expense. Luckily, switching to Zoho – one of our top-rated CRM software for small businesses – promises big savings.

Salesforce is billed annually, and users pay at least £20 per user, per month. Zoho CRM, on the other hand, costs £12 per user, per month.

We know from our customer research that Salesforce users also complain about the platform’s limited functionality.

Despite costing £8 less per user, Zoho has seven more features than Salesforce, including the ability to create a visual sales pipeline. Comparatively, Salesforce requires users to build this view using a dashboard workaround – something we highlighted as one of the platform's flaws in our full review of Salesforce.

This visual pipeline is a really important feature for helping SMEs to monitor and track customer relationships and oversee the transition from potential lead to paying client. It makes Zoho well suited to companies with a short purchase cycle, such as retailers.

Zoho CRM also scored 5 out of 5 in our research for contact management. According to a report by SuperOffice, this is the number one CRM feature, requested by 94% of users surveyed.

The one area in which Salesforce does better than Zoho is limitations. As Salesforce is designed for bigger teams, you’re permitted unlimited contacts and 10GB of storage, while Zoho allows 100,000 contacts and 200MB of storage.

Freshsales Suites: best Salesforce alternative for scalability

Freshsales dashboard

4.5 out of 5
  • Usability
    4.5
  • Customisation
    3
  • Functionality
    4
  • Pricing
    3.5
  • Help and Support
    3
  • Freshsales has 22 more features than Salesforce – and costs £6 less per user
  • Freshsales permits revenue forecasts, while Salesforce does not

Freshsales Suite is a product from CRM software company, Freshworks CRM. It combines both sales and marketing strategies and is billed as one easy-to-use platform for small businesses.

We think ambitious firms with established targets will favour Freshsales over Salesforce. It’s a full-featured software that can develop alongside your business, which means it’s a great investment in your long-term sales strategy.

Salesforce is not a very scalable small business CRM. Its tiers jump dramatically from £20 per user, per month, to £60 between just one plan – whereas Freshsales’ pricing is much more reasonably distributed.

Starting at £12 per user, per month is Freshsales Growth. That becomes £35 per user with Freshsales Pro, and £55 per user for Freshsales Enterprise.

Freshsales also has a strong list of organisational tools, including a calendar, reminders, and meeting scheduling tools. This makes it well suited to teams with lots of small deadlines, such as accountancy SMEs.

Unlike Salesforce, Freshsales is also one of the few CRM systems to offer a free tier. It lacks some crucial elements – including reporting tools – but is still a fantastic way to trial the platform before buying.

Zoho Bigin: best Salesforce alternative for customisation

Zoho Bigin dashboard

4.3 out of 5
  • Usability
    3.5
  • Customisation
    3.5
  • Functionality
    3
  • Pricing
    4.5
  • Help and Support
    1.5
  • Zoho Bigin costs an outstanding £5 per user, per month (Salesforce costs £20)
  • You can create one webform per month, while Salesforce permits none

Given Zoho Bigin is a platform that describes itself as ‘exclusively built for small businesses’, it came as no surprise to our expert research team that this software is a great option for SMEs.

Bigin’s simplistic ‘drag-and-drop’ interface makes it easily navigable and thus very friendly to new users.

The platform also has superb capability for data customisation. It enables you to present your contact information, sales figures, and budget in a wide variety of formats.

Another high point for the platform is that it does not restrict you from using custom contact fields – unlike Salesforce.

The presence of preset dashboards, which are populated with useful charts and metrics, is also useful with Bigin, as a time-efficient way to present your data.

Compared to Salesforce, we think Zoho Bigin is the better option for small businesses wanting to take a more personalised approach to sales – like creative teams and agencies, for example.

HubSpot Free: best Salesforce alternative for affordability

HubSpot contact list

4.2 out of 5
  • Usability
    4
  • Customisation
    1.5
  • Functionality
    3.5
  • Pricing
    5
  • Help and Support
    1
  • We gave HubSpot full marks for pricing, whereas Salesforce earned just 2.5 out of 5
  • HubSpot is better-equipped for marketing and outreach than Salesforce

As our comprehensive guide to HubSpot relates, the popular CRM system has built up a serious reputation as an innovative marketing solution that can help small businesses to manage and automate successful advertising campaigns.

As our more detailed comparison of HubSpot vs Salesforce also mentions, this makes it the antithesis of Salesforce, which has just one marketing element according to our testers (website visitor tracking).

Included in the long list of marketing capabilities that HubSpot has over Salesforce are:

  • Webforms
  • Chatbots
  • Email design editor
  • Social media integration
  • Quote builder

But none of these are even HubSpot’s biggest pull factor. All of the above will cost you £0 per user, per month – which means much bigger savings for HubSpot users over Salesforce.

Plus, because it’s targeted towards businesses in their early stages, HubSpot is also super easy to use. While Salesforce has some demo features, HubSpot is much better at onboarding with step-by-step guidance, a more integrated dashboard, and smarter navigational tools.

Pipedrive: best Salesforce alternative for usability

Pipedrive dashboard

3.9 out of 5
  • Usability
    4.5
  • Customisation
    3
  • Functionality
    3
  • Pricing
    2.5
  • Help and Support
    3
  • Pipedrive has much better help and support tools compared to Salesforce
  • We gave Pipedrive full marks for security, and Salesforce just 3 out of 5

While Salesforce markets itself as a CRM powerhouse that can drive huge growth across your business, Pipedrive is the user-friendly alternative that any sales team can quickly implement into its processes.

While Salesforce’s full-featured software can lead to a somewhat messy interface, Pipedrive has everything simply laid out, with intuitive buttons to ensure the user journey flows naturally.

And that’s not to say it scrimps on features. When you click on a user's profile in Pipedrive, you’re given a view of their contact information, their employer, and any deals related to them.

Pipedrive costs £14.90 per user, per month. In one year, a business with five users will pay a total of £625, billed annually. The same company using Salesforce would pay almost double (£1,200 per year).

So where does it go wrong? Well, Salesforce has around 2,500 integrations, whereas Pipedrive has just over 300.

Still, we think Pipedrive is the better option for small business users that don’t have a hierarchical or department-based structure and need software that every member of their team can master quickly and easily.

Less Annoying CRM: best Salesforce alternative for simplicity

Less Annoying CRM dashboard

3.7 out of 5
  • Usability
    4.5
  • Customisation
    1.5
  • Functionality
    1.5
  • Pricing
    3.5
  • Help and Support
    2.5
  • Salesforce has 13 CRM pricing tiers available, while Less Annoying CRM has just one
  • We gave Salesforce and Less Annoying CRM the same score for sales features

One of the most common issues that Salesforce customers report when using the platform is its confusing structure.

There are four Salesforce CRM products in total, each of which boasts four pricing tiers. You don’t need to be a maths whizz to know that creates a confusing number of options for small business owners.

Less Annoying CRM’s unique selling point is that it has just one payment tier. For a budget-friendly £11 per user, per month, you’ll get everything the platform offers.

Naturally, this means it’s not the most scalable platform. But then, due to its added expense, neither is Salesforce.

Plus, our experts awarded both CRM systems the same score for sales features. With Less Annoying CRM, you’ll still be able to customise your contact list, design a visual sales pipeline, and integrate with a number of third-party apps including Outlook.

Less Annoying CRM also has no feature limitations. Salesforce, in comparison, has quite a few – there are no custom fields, for example.

We recommend Less Annoying CRM for small business leaders without an accounting team, who want a simplified subscription that makes renewing contracts easier.

Keap: best Salesforce alternative for help and support

Keap setup

3 out of 5
  • Usability
    2.5
  • Customisation
    1
  • Functionality
    3
  • Pricing
    1
  • Help and Support
    5
  • You can use webforms at any level with Keap, unlike with Salesforce
  • Keap is very expensive, but you do get the first three months for free

Help and support tools can be life-saving for small businesses that don’t have the time or the knowledge to get systems up and running quickly.

Like Salesforce, Keap is a cloud-based software. However, you can still contact its customer team 24/7 over the phone, via live chat, and online – while Salesforce relegates its users to just email support.

Keap also offers onboarding assistance, and is really taking no prisoners when it comes to help and support. We gave it 4.5 out of 5 for this category. No other brand came close to this score in our research. In fact, Salesforce scored an abysmal 1.5 out of 5. 

It should be noted that this expertise comes at a price. Keap costs a staggering £60 per month at a minimum, and you’re only permitted one account manager.

We think this platform is best suited to small business owners who are inexperienced with tech, and want a CRM software that comes pre-established. For example, firms that are usually based offline.

Best cheap Salesforce alternative

Budget is one of the most important considerations for small business users. According to CBInsight, 38% of failed startups cite not having enough cash as the main reason for their collapse.

As we’ve mentioned, all of Salesforce’s payment tiers sit relatively high on the CRM cost spectrum. For users that want to keep a tight control of their budget, Zoho Bigin is the best provider.

Despite scoring similarly for functionality (there was a difference of just 0.2 between the scores), Bigin costs £15 less than Salesforce per user, per month. That’s a price that’s not going to break the bank anytime soon.

0 out of 0
Price per month (billed annually):
Free trial?
Score out of 5:
Features:
Storage:

Salesforce CRM

Bigin

£20 per user

£5 per user

3.8

4.3

  • Automatic data capture
  • Mobile access and administration
  • Salesforce Inbox
  • 10 user limit
  • 50,000 contact limit
  • Ecommerce integrations
  • Webforms
  • List segmentation

10GB per organisation

1GB per organisation

Best free Salesforce alternative

Of course, you might not want to spend any money at all on a CRM system. Or maybe you’re just getting started and you want to test out a freemium platform before purchasing.

In that case, HubSpot Free is the solution for you.

It’s beginner-friendly, easy to set up, and really impressed our testers for marketing tools. This is an important priority for most small businesses – certainly for startups – and is also an area where Salesforce is noticeably lacking.

Unsurprisingly, HubSpot is our number one CRM platform for pricing, thanks to its full-featured free platform that hosts an unlimited number of users – a rarity in the CRM market.

0 out of 0
Price per month (billed annually):
Free trial?
Score out of 5:
Features:
Storage:

Salesforce CRM

HubSpot

£20 per user

£38 (flat rate)

3.8

4.2

  • Automatic data capture
  • Mobile access and administration
  • Salesforce Inbox
  • 10 user limit
  • 2,000 emails per month
  • 5 active contact lists
  • Up to 3 dashboards permitted
  • Chatbots

10GB per organisation

5 documents per user

Next steps

We think that Zoho CRM is the best alternative Salesforce software for small businesses.

Many Salesforce small business users complain about the system being too complicated and expensive. After weeks of intensive investigation, our team scored Zoho CRM 4.5 out of 5 for usability, demonstrating that it doesn’t scrimp on ease of use.

Its visual sales pipeline is also intuitive to use and smartly designed, making it simple for users to manage customers. We think it’s the perfect choice for SMEs that need to support lots of short-term clients without breaking their wallets.

We’d also recommend Zoho Bigin, the baby brother of Zoho CRM, to creative companies that want a CRM they can personalise. Similarly, Freshsales is a good option for accounting SMEs, thanks to premier organisation tools.

For a full breakdown of the top CRM providers on the market, you can use our online comparison tool. We’ve designed it to bring your business the quotes that match your specific requirements.

Salesforce Alternative FAQs
  • Why do companies use Salesforce?
    Salesforce is a good CRM option for large or growing companies. It focuses on enabling large sales volumes and organisation – which aren’t big concerns for most small businesses.
  • Is there a free version of Salesforce?
    There is no free Salesforce plan, only a free 14-day trial. We recommend HubSpot if you want a high-performing freemium CRM.
  • What is Salesforce's biggest competitor?
    Zoho CRM is similar to Salesforce in terms of industry recognition, but scores much better for functionality, usability, and customisation. monday.com also outranks Salesforce as our highest-scoring CRM platform for small business users.
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Helena Young
Helena Young Senior Writer

Helena "Len" Young is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has also previously written for a popular fintech startup.

Included in her topics of interest and expertise are tax legislation, the levelling up agenda, and organisational software including CRM and project management systems. As well as this, she is a big fan of the films of Peter Jackson.

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