Salesforce Editor’s Score: 9.5/10
Customization, add-ons and integrations
Ease of use
Why We Chose Salesforce as the Best CRM for Customization
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
Salesforce may not be the best choice for businesses with less complex operational needs. If your SMB’s CRM needs are straightforward, check out our review of monday.com CRM to learn about a well-executed system designed for SMBs.
What We Like About Salesforce CRM
- The Salesforce CRM is highly customizable; with time, you can modify almost every element to fit your specific business needs.
- The lowest-priced plan includes advanced features such as mass emails, marketing campaign management, a drag-and-drop app builder, and lead auto-assignment.
- Salesforce has an immense selection of support materials, videos and tutorials, as well as a helpful online community.
What We Don’t Like About Salesforce CRM
- Due to the sheer volume of customization and automation options, setting up the Salesforce CRM to match your business’s specific processes and needs can be time-consuming. It may require training for your in-house marketing team and administrators.
- You must know CSS, HTML and other coding languages to customize specific elements within Salesforce.
- Salesforce’s pricing model can be confusing; there’s a lack of clarity around add-ons, which can drive up costs.
Ease of Use
Despite its complexities, Salesforce is surprisingly easy to implement and use. Here are some notable ease-of-use factors we discovered.
- Salesforce’s navigation process is straightforward. We like that Salesforce keeps the navigation process simple. The upper tab-style layout is typical across business and personal software, making it easy to grasp; categories like “Home,” “Contacts,” “Accounts,” “Leads,” “Tasks,” “Reports” and “Opportunities” need no explanation. You can get instant help from the question mark icon in one of the corners of the screen – a handy feature we’ve seen on many other CRM packages.
- You can use Salesforce at a limited level out of the box. Because of its numerous features and customizations, setting up the Salesforce CRM takes more time and expertise than other solutions we reviewed. However, we appreciate that Salesforce’s smart default setup options help businesses use the CRM out of the box. You can gradually modify contact, opportunity, account, task and workflow elements as you explore the software’s full scope over time.
- Salesforce doesn’t provide practice data. Note that you’ll need data to practice on during onboarding; Salesforce doesn’t supply this. To get practice data, you can duplicate and isolate existing data or use a service like Mockaroo to create dummy data.
- Salesforce’s onboarding and support resources are robust. We were pleased to see that Salesforce offers a wealth of support materials, webinars and guides to facilitate the CRM implementation process and resolve usability issues. Its global Trailblazer community is also an excellent resource. Additionally, the vendor promises a two-day query response time.
- Onboarding users and updating permissions is straightforward. While in-house administrators may need specific training, we appreciate that Salesforce provides excellent admin controls. Setting up various permissions based on groups or individual users is simple. This is notable because some CRMs allow only admin settings by group. Creating different displays and workflows for various departments and employees is also straightforward. If you have even moderate technical expertise and admin experience, you should have no trouble onboarding users, updating permissions or managing this CRM daily.
Salesforce’s visual dashboards help your team pinpoint problems and work on solutions. Source: Salesforce
Salesforce’s upper-tier plans deliver 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.
The Salesforce product boasts an impressive array of CRM features that make it one of the best on the market. Here are some of the most notable features that provide excellent CRM software benefits.
Comprehensive Business Ecosystem
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:
- Sales Cloud
- Service Cloud
- Marketing Cloud
- Commerce Cloud
- Safety Cloud
- Heroku (Heroku is an app development platform; read our Heroku review to learn more.)
- Quip (a collaboration tool)
- Salesforce Platform (with high-level development, customization, analytics and built-in AI)
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 Strengthen 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:
- Change how pages look and function. You can change how pages look and function to suit your specific needs. Use the CSS settings to adjust the spacing between page elements, colors and fonts. You can modify customer records to show just the lists, sections and fields you want particular co-workers to see, improving employee collaboration.
- Use object control to customize the system. The Salesforce CRM’s object control is superior to that of other CRMs we tested. Objects are “fields” within databases (like name, address, email, etc.). Salesforce makes it easy to add objects so you can record exactly the information you want on accounts, contacts and leads. You can set permissions on records and fields to determine who else can view and edit fields. You can even make objects actionable by adding buttons, actions, triggers and links to create processes for adding a new customer, provider or co-worker to the database.
- Use the developer console to create custom apps. We really liked Salesforce’s developer console. Many businesses, particularly SMBs, won’t have in-house programmers but may use freelance developers to develop specific functions within Salesforce. Salesforce gives these developers a dev console where they can write, test and debug code for your custom applications. We found the inclusion of Apex triggers within the dev environment particularly helpful because it will shorten the development cycle in most instances. A developer sandbox and an app builder are included with every plan.
Sales managers can customize their dashboards with specific objects. Source: Salesforce
Integrations and Add-ons
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:
- Apps: Similar to mobile apps on Apple’s App Store or Google Play, AppExchange apps are direct, preprogrammed plug-ins that interact with Salesforce. You can customize most apps via their settings. Apps add new functions or Strengthen and augment existing functions on your platform.
- Lightning Bolts: Lightning Bolts are prebuilt templates providing extra features to employees, partners, suppliers and anyone accessing your Salesforce CRM. Hundreds of Lightning Bolts have various use cases. For example, there are supply chain management bolts for suppliers, project management tools for employees and tools to access client account information.
- Flow solutions: Salesforce incorporates Flow Builder, a tool that simplifies workflow automation via a simple drag-and-drop approach. Flow solutions are prebuilt workflows or processes you can import directly into the Salesforce Flow development tool.
- Lightning data: These are customer tracking tools that can enrich customer and prospect data and keep them updated regularly. We saw four such tools during our review process.
- Components: Components are reusable features you can deploy to build your own apps within Salesforce. There are nearly 300 free components and around 30 paid ones.
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
Intuitive Productivity Tools
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:
- Help salespeople with call prompts
- Handle web chats via the Service Bot chatbot
- Recommend products to clients to facilitate upselling and cross-selling
- Create excellent product presentations
- Generate workflows to make companies more efficient
- Predict with a high degree of accuracy which deals will close
- Deep dive into social media and present you with sentiment analysis about your brand
- Help CEO decision-making with decision support systems that deliver advice based on live analytics
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.
Onboarding and Implementation
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:
- Customizations can be complex. Salesforce’s biggest strength – its customization capabilities – is also a potential downside. Setting up a fully customized CRM tailored to your business’s specific sales funnel, structure and workflows requires time and, ideally, a dedicated IT team. Entrepreneurs and smaller companies might be better off with an easy-to-use yet still customizable solution like Zoho. (Learn more in our detailed Zoho CRM review.)
- Salesforce requires technical knowledge. Most of the Salesforce CRM’s customizable elements require some basic technical knowledge of CSS and HTML. This is slowly improving since the introduction of the Lightning App Builder and Salesforce Flow tools. For example, the Lightning Email Templates use a more interactive drag-and-drop functionality, similar to some rival CRMs we reviewed. Salesforce is getting simpler and more intuitive over time. However, it’s not there yet.
- Pricing can be challenging to understand. Due to the number of available add-ons and platforms, it can be difficult to estimate the final price of your desired CRM solution. However, Salesforce’s sales and support teams are happy to provide a unique quote for your business.
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.
Is Salesforce easy to learn?
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.
Can I use Salesforce for free?
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.
We recommend Salesforce CRM for …
- Businesses that need a flexible and highly customizable CRM solution.
- Companies that want access to a large collection of integrations and add-ons to suit their processes and industries.
- Businesses looking for a CRM that can expand with their evolving needs.
We don’t recommend Salesforce CRM for …
- Businesses that want a free CRM solution or advanced CRM functionality at an affordable price.
- Entrepreneurs and small businesses with limited IT resources.
- Companies that need a straightforward CRM system that works right out of the box and is easy to customize with no technical skills required.
Nadia Reckmann contributed to this article.