Why Consider Another CRM When Salesforce Seems to Be the De Facto?

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If you’re researching customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions, chances are that you keep hearing same name time and again. You know the one… Salesforce. Even if you aren’t actively researching CRM programs and you’re just considering another cloud application for your business, more often than not, it’ll integrate with Salesforce. Or if you’ve worked in B2B sales or customer service before, you’ve probably been asked if you have any Salesforce.com experience.why consider another crm

So, now that it’s time to decide what CRM your business should use, you can’t help but wonder: Should I consider anything else if Salesforce is clearly the industry leader?

The answer is, yes you should. And we’ve come up with these seven reasons you (and any business) should at least consider alternative CRM solutions before going with the de facto choice:

1. Your business type and size may not be the best fit for Salesforce.

  • Is your company B2B or B2C? Salesforce tends to be more B2B oriented, though thousands of B2C companies use the solution, as well.
  • Are you in a particular industry with a specialized customer service model? There are several niche CRMs available for retailers, restaurants, call centers, and more.
  • How many employees do you have? Small business customers may not need the robust capabilities Salesforce.com offers. They may also get a higher level of service, better channel options, and more control if they go with a CRM vendor that caters specifically to small businesses (since Salesforce has to answer to its enterprise-level client needs, as well.)

2. You might not be able to afford Salesforce.

  • How many sales people/customer service reps/users will you have? It may be more cost effective to go with a CRM with a flat pricing model than a price per user fee (on Salesforce or any CRM with this pricing model) if you have just a few sales people or if you don’t know how quickly your sales team will grow. Even if you have a large sales team and do want to go with the per-user pricing, you may still find a better deal by going with a Salesforce-alternative.
  • What is your company’s annual revenue? Salesforce is one of the more costly CRMs on the market, and if you are a very small business or a startup, it may not be a sound investment. You may want to consider an open source solution or a contact management system with a month-to-month plan to start out.

3. You might find Salesforce difficult to use.

  • Do you prefer a certain look and feel to your CRM software? Maybe you prefer something with a more graphical interface because your employees are very visual, or you want to be able to only display certain fields on a prospect profile. Do a few demos to compare interfaces of various CRMs… you may find that you or your end users prefer something other than Salesforce.
  • How tech-savvy are your users? Salesforce is very popular, but it comes with a lot of bells and whistles that you may find clutter the user experience. Or, on the flip side, you may find that you need those bells & whistles.

4. You might need features that Salesforce doesn’t offer—or you might need something that offers less.

  • Do you need your CRM to drive and execute marketing initiatives? Salesforce is a true CRM, not a marketing automation solution. If you have more of a need for mass email capabilities, nurturing and lead generation activities, Salesforce (and most traditional “CRMs”) may not fit the bill. While Salesforce did recently acquire Radian6, a social media monitoring software, the company still has a way to go before being considered a marketing tool.
  • Do you just need a simple way to manage contacts? If you’re only trying to store names, email addresses and phone numbers for your prospects (and not in an Excel spreadsheet or address book), Salesforce may be too robust.
  • Do your required features come out of the box or are they upgrades? Make sure you know what you’re getting, whether with Salesforce or any other CRM, and what you have to pay for in addition to the primary license fee. Salesforce is notorious for tacking on additional features for a cost.

5. You could find it takes too long to implement Salesforce and train your team.

  • How long do you anticipate user adoption will take for your new CRM? Is anybody already familiar with Salesforce? If so (and it’s very possible since SF is already so popular), then that may speed things up. If not, it could be difficult for them to learn a new system like Salesforce, since it can be more challenging than other CRMs.
  • What is your desired implementation timeframe? If you need to be up and running quickly, a more complex system like Salesforce might take too long to implement.
  • How important is it to train your whole team? How many people will need training? Are you willing to pay for training fees for everyone? Salesforce offers personalized training for certain package levels, but it comes at an additional cost (calculated on a per-user basis). Other CRMs may not charge the same (or any) training fees.

6. You could prefer a different customer support model than Salesforce’s.

  • Which channels of support do you need/expect from your CRM Provider?
  • Do you want a dedicated account rep? That might cost you more if you go with Salesforce. Do you need 24/7 support? Salesforce offers it, but certain others don’t.. What about email, phone, and/or social media? While all of these are available service channels with Salesforce, you may find another provider that only offers email support (for free), and that’s all you really need.
  • Is it worth it to you to pay a premium for Salesforce’s top-of-the-line support?

7. You may find Salesforce doesn’t give you enough control or access to your customer data.

  • Do you need to have the ability to export/own all of your customer data? Depending on your license & model of Salesforce, this might not be possible. Furthermore, certain reports in Salesforce are restricted and you may not be able to download that information.
  • Would you prefer installed software that lives on your servers? That way, you can decide when and how the system will update, and you have more control over your customer data. If so, Salesforce does not offer this as an option, since they solely provide cloud CRM applications. However, if you don’t want the added hassle of having to update installed software, a cloud solution like Salesforce could be just what you need.

After going through this list of considerations, you may find that Salesforce is at the top of your list. And that’s great! Salesforce is a wonderful CRM solution that has helped hundreds of thousands of businesses grow their sales and customer base. But even if that’s the case, hopefully you will still check out a few alternatives just to compare what’s out there. At the very least, you may receive a competing quote that you can use to negotiate the cost of Salesforce!

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Katie Hollar

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Katie is the Director of Marketing at Capterra - a free resource that helps businesses find the right software. Her work has been published in VentureBeat, MarketingProfs, CustomerThink, and the Demand Gen Report, and she has been featured in CIO, AdAge, and Website Magazine. Katie has a love of all things marketing, but she is particularly fond of social media and marketing automation. She is a UVA grad (Wahoowa!) and in her free time enjoys reading, running, and cooking. Follow her on Twitter @khollar.

Comments

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We are seriously considering salesforce but after reading this I am wondering if another CRM would fit us better. We publish a magazine and have two sales reps. We have a ton of clients and a ton of prospects to keep track of. But I feel a bit worried that it looks so complex and time consuming to learn. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Thanks Tom and Matt!

Matt, I think the key for lesser-known CRM companies is to establish a niche of the market that needs specific functionality catered to their industry. And even if the functionality isn’t all that different, at least market the system to a particular crowd and highlight why it’s a more nimble solution and/or a better fit for their particular needs. And not to be completely self-promotional, but being listed on comparison sites like Capterra (or even bidding on targeted keywords in Google) can help the smaller options stand out from the crowd- and they’ll reach buyers who are actively comparing options and not just going with the first CRM they find.

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Well done Katie!
The big guys aren’t always the best option.
A lot of better fitting options usually get passed over because they lack name power. What are some tips you might have to increase a less known company’s visibility?

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Well written Katie – I am the sales manager at Commence Corporation and yes every opportunity my firm gets engaged in has already looked at SF.com and often points to several of your items above as reasons they are seeking an alternative. SF.com is a good company with a good product, but its not for everyone. There are some very good quality products that are easier to use and more affordable.

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