Salesforce CRM review 2022: Pros and cons

Salesforce boasts three CRM options in its extensive library of products. But will its features, flaws and finances suit your small business?

Our experts

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Salesforce is one of the most powerful CRM brands on the market, making it best equipped for small businesses with a large sales team and complex needs. However, this superb functionality comes with an expensive price tag of £20 per month, per user.

In our latest round of CRM testing, we gave the Salesforce platform 3.8 out of 5.

0 out of 0
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Salesforce Essential

Salesforce Professional

Salesforce Enterprise

Salesforce Unlimited

£20

£60

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£240

n/a

n/a

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The Startups team has spent the past five years using our expert insight to come up with an official ranking of the top small business CRM systems.

Our research told us that Salesforce is definitely not a universal CRM solution. Its customers are loyal but they also have very specific needs, generally prioritising customisation and big feature sets.

Depending on your unique business priorities, Salesforce could still be the right fit for your company. But given its high price point, and the many different CRM products on offer, you should be 100% certain before buying anything.

The below guide is the ultimate cheat sheet to learning everything there is to know about Salesforce, including its hidden fees and added perks. By the end, you’ll be able to make a confident decision about investing in the platform.

Or, you can cut right to the chase with our free online comparison tool. We’ve specially designed it to give bespoke quotes from the top CRM providers, so you can see how Salesforce stands up against rivals.

3.8 out of 5
  • Usability
    4
  • Customisation
    3.4
  • Functionality
    3.4
  • Pricing
    2.5
  • Help and Support
    1.5

What are the benefits of Salesforce for small businesses?

Salesforce dashboard

Salesforce dashboard

Salesforce Pros
  • 3 different CRM products to satisfy every business need
  • Fantastic reporting tools for monitoring sales performance
  • Unlimited contacts permitted across all paid-for plans
Salesforce Cons
  • Expensive compared to competitors – particularly Salesforce Pardot
  • No Salesforce customer support offered on cheaper plans
  • Poor for social media integrations

If you want a platform that can perform every CRM task under the sun, Salesforce is your dream partner – but it is also much more expensive than competitors.

Because of this, we think Salesforce is best for growing firms that already have a large number of clients, and want a software product that will optimise their existing sales process.

What does Salesforce do?

First started in 1999, Salesforce is one of the founding fathers of the CRM market. Not that it’s behind the curve, however.

In fact, Salesforce currently serves 150,000 customers and remains one of the fastest-growing brands on the market.

Salesforce rating breakdown: how did we evaluate Salesforce for small businesses?

The Startups team are specialists in the needs of small business owners. We know that a CRM system is a must-have for all of today’s businesses, no matter their size.

In our guide to the best CRM software for small businesses, Salesforce came a respectable eighth overall. We found it is a great option for functionality, and therefore well suited to large sales teams.

Here’s a brief overview of how else the platform performed in important areas (we’ll go into more detail later on).

Usability

We asked our testers to look at how well each platform carried out typical CRM-related tasks. Salesforce performed slightly above average in this area.

The Salesforce onboarding process can be time consuming. Our testers received a number of error messages when trying to access basic user settings.

However, once your account has been built, the system becomes much smoother to use with an intuitive, clean interface that is great for organising relevant data, such as contact information.

Case ticket

Salesforce case ticket

Price

Out of the 11 platforms we reviewed, Salesforce receives our second-lowest score for pricing. It will cost you a lot to get started, and its tiers are largely out of small business price ranges – the first one starts at £20 per month, per user.

Customisation

Customisation is important for small business sales teams. Unlike most mid-sized firms, you’ll likely have a unique sales process that your software needs to complement.

As we’ve mentioned, this is a high-scoring area for Salesforce. The platform received 6.5/10 for this category.

It might not be as powerful as rival software, like Freshsales. But you can still make use of custom forms, dashboards, and a sales pipeline with Salesforce.

Sales pipeline

Salesforce sales pipeline view

Help and support 

There’s not much to write home about here. Salesforce has an online knowledge base and community forum to utilise, but you’ll only be able to contact its support team via email.

Given its relatively steep learning curve, this could be an issue for new users.

Jonathan Kedebe, Course Administration Analyst at CoursesOnline, says the lack of help and support tools shouldn’t be an issue in the long term. 

“Since the platform is so big and varied, it’s easy to get a bit overwhelmed when you start using it. However, with some practice, Salesforce does get much easier to use.”

Functionality

This is Salesforce’s best area. The platform’s massive inventory boasts a wide range of data storage, reporting, and customisation tools.

As a result, we gave it full marks across the board for email, organisation, and contact management.

Salesforce customer card

Salesforce customer card

Kedebe says CoursesOnline currently has 10 Salesforce users.

“Primarily [Salesforce] helps us create reports and dashboards to track performance metrics. It also houses agreements that we have with clients [as well as] contact information for potential clients.

“Salesforce also stores information on our ever-growing course list. This comes in handy when we need to publish or remove a course.”

However, Salesforce’s weakness is its marketing and outreach. Compared to rivals like Freshsales and HubSpot, which achieved an average mark of 6.1, we awarded Salesforce just 0.5 out of 10.

Marketing and outreach are particularly important brand-building strategies for startups and firms in the early stages of growth. For such organisations, it might be worth investing in one of the below options instead of Salesforce:

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Best for:
Price per month (billed annually):

Salesforce CRM

Zoho CRM

HubSpot

Scaling businesses

Customisation

Marketing tools

Functionality

Help and Support

Usability

£20 per user

£12 per user

£38 (flat rate)

Free plan, or £12 per user

Salesforce pricing explained

According to SWZD’s 2021 report on IT trends, 57% of small businesses say they need to upgrade their current IT infrastructure. So why are they not doing it?

Well, like most management issues, this one largely comes down to budgeting. Price is one of the most important considerations for typically cash-strapped small business owners.

Because of the range of Salesforce CRM products available, the brand keeps its pricing consistent across each option (except for Salesforce Pardot).

Of the four tiers available for each product, the most affordable are Essentials, which costs £20 per month, per user, and Professional, which costs £60 per month, per user.

Clearly that’s a big jump between tiers, which isn’t scalable for most small businesses. Because of this, we gave Salesforce an overall score of just 5 out of 10 for value for money. That puts it a full five marks behind our first-place contender, HubSpot.

Generally speaking, Salesforce Essentials is the most suitable tier for SMEs (unless you’re specifically looking to spend more).

0 out of 0
Price per month (billed annually)
Price per month (billed monthly)
Users

Salesforce Essential

Salesforce Professional

Salesforce Enterprise

Salesforce Unlimited

£20

£60

£120

£240

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Up to 10

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

*Prices correct as of March 2022

Salesforce CRMs explained

One criticism we have of Salesforce is that its product list is a little confusing.

Depending on the business function you need to prioritise, Salesforce has lots of different options available. We’ve picked out what we think are the top four below:

  • Salesforce Essentials (confusingly, this is also the name of the lowest payment tier for each of the below products. Just note that they are different things!)
  • Salesforce Sales Cloud
  • Salesforce Pardot
  • Salesforce Service Cloud

Below we’ll go through the strengths and weaknesses of each plan, so you can work out which one is the right fit for you.

Salesforce Essentials

Salesforce Essentials
3.8
Best-suited to larger sales teams, Salesforce Essentials is a high-performing three-in-one CRM product - that comes at a high price.
  • Free trial? Yes
  • Hundreds of prebuilt charts and template options for a quick overview of your sales pipeline
  • Our highest-scoring CRM software for organisational tools and contact management
Summary Salesforce Essentials is like a box of neopolitan ice cream. It mixes three small versions of its main CRM products: Marketing, Sales, and Service into one tempting combo, offering SMEs an all-in-one customer management solution. Costing £20 per month, per user, it's not the most wallet-friendly option. But our expert researchers give it 3.8 out of 5 overall thanks to its impressive usability and long feature list.
Show moreless

Startups’ number one Salesforce recommendation for SMEs is also the cheapest option.

Salesforce Essentials is a condensed version of all three CRM specialties: Sales, Marketing, and Services. With it, you’ll be allowed an unlimited number of contacts but just 10 users.

This plan’s biggest strength is organisation. An endless number of reporting types are available, so you can track activity, deals, leads and revenue. This is useful not only for collating clients, but also for managing employees and identifying areas of improvement.

Easily the weakest link in this plan is marketing – a sore point for Salesforce in general. No social media integrations are available, so you’ll lose access to a big pool of new client opportunities.

But overall, we think this is a good all-in-one bundle for SMEs. It’s a solid system for companies with an existing client list, such as a PR agency, but definitely not for organic lead generation.

Salesforce Sales Cloud

4 out of 5
  • Sales
    3
  • Reports
    4
  • Organisation
    5

Sales CRM products tend to offer more features relating to team infrastructure and communication, helping coworkers to work together and onboard more efficiently.

Our research shows that where Sales Cloud most significantly improves on Salesforce Essentials is employee management. We gave it 10/10 for management tools, training, onboarding, security, and customer support.

Like Salesforce Essentials, where it falls down is in lead generation and outreach. There are only a few ways to communicate with leads, and you won’t be able to accept payment for any customers via the platform. However, you will be able to integrate with Facebook and LinkedIn, which is a big step up from Salesforce Essentials.

Overall, we think this is a good option for small businesses that have a designated sales department they need to manage.

Salesforce Pardot

3.3 out of 5
  • Marketing
    0.5
  • Email
    5
  • Contact management
    5

The first thing to get out of the way with Salesforce Pardot is that it is very expensive. You’ll pay £1,000 a month to use this plan – an instant no for most SMEs.

But for those that have the budget to spare, it’s an option worth considering. Pardot mostly earns its price tag with email marketing. Users can access attractive email templates, an editor, and automation tools (a great way to save time when you’re carrying out repetitive tasks like issuing marketing emails).

Still, this plan also performs poorly for social media tools, content marketing, paid marketing, and data analytics. We’d recommend a free marketing platform instead, like HubSpot.

Salesforce Service Cloud

3.8 out of 5
  • Security
    3.3
  • Customer service
    3.3
  • Integrations
    5

If you’re running a software or tech-based team, you probably have a lot of clients that need support. CRM services, or ‘help desks’ as they are also known, are customer support platforms focused on helping businesses manage customer service queries.

Generally, the Salesforce Service Cloud's feature list emphasises workflow management and issue tracking. Because of this, it is the only plan that we gave 9/10 for business processes. You’ll also get a custom automation builder and a custom dashboard, so you can personally design your own overview of your customer pipeline.

This toolset is a really handy resource that ensures top-quality customer service across every stage of your service lifecycle. Naturally, you’ll also get more case management and ticketing tools.

Customer feedback is where the Service Cloud falls down. There’s no option for sending out customer surveys, so you won’t be able to gather client feedback on your support services.

Is there a free plan?

Having worked with small businesses for over two decades, we know that freemium software versions can be a lifesaver when you’ve got a limited amount of capital to work with.

There is no free Salesforce plan, so it didn’t make our list of the top free CRM solutions for SMEs. That being said, there is a free 30-day trial of each plan for you to test out the platform before purchasing.

Salesforce complaints and customer reviews

We spoke to small business users, as well as looking at authoritative reviews from the most trusted software review sites, to see what existing customers think of the Salesforce platform.

Some were full of praise:

One TrustPilot user review, from a managing director in a security firm, recommends Salesforce for companies with a large sales team. “Salesforce makes it simple to keep up with the data and for our team to collaborate while working remotely.

“The reporting features also make it easy to track who is actually competing and hitting their weekly quotas.”

However, there were some negative Salesforce reviews, most of which focused on customer support:

One comment from review site G2 specifically calls out the support tools as the platform’s biggest negative, saying: “It was easier to find answers to our questions on other sites than in the Salesforce knowledge base.”

Salesforce final verdict

Our experts have carried out extensive research into the Salesforce platform over the past few months, analysing its every corner. We found it is the best option for established companies that already boast a long list of clients and deal with lots of data – like an accountancy firm, for example.

What Salesforce is good for, it does really well. Few other software options give you better database management tools – which is why we gave it top marks for organisation and contact storage.

That being said, smaller organisations will likely find the platform too cumbersome for basic CRM needs. It’s particularly poor for marketing and outreach – which are important strategies for small businesses looking to grow their brand.

If you decide that Salesforce isn't suitable for your firm – or maybe you just need a bit more information before you decide – don’t worry, we’re here to help.

We’ve designed a specialist Startups online comparison tool that will match you to the best CRM provider for your company, based on your specific needs. It takes just one minute to complete, and is entirely free of charge.

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Salesforce for small businesses: FAQs
  • What is so good about Salesforce?
    You’ll be hard-pressed to find a function that Salesforce can’t perform. It’s a really powerful software that is well placed to meet the demands of large sales teams.
  • What are the disadvantages of Salesforce?
    While there is plenty to sing about for Salesforce, it’s definitely not focused on small businesses – as its costly payment plans reflect.
  • Who is using Salesforce?
    Salesforce markets itself to established small businesses with a complex sales pipeline – for example, agencies with long client lists.

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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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