HubSpot vs Salesforce – The Ultimate CRM Showdown

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When it comes to investing in a new CRM, buyers have a research puzzle on their hands. There are plenty of options out there to consider, but it makes sense to begin with the big names that have an established user base worldwide.

Many organisations are faced with the ‘HubSpot vs Salesforce’ dilemma. It may feel like the crown is Salesforce’s to lose, but which platform is best for your business? By focusing on the important criteria, from cost to customisation, this guide will explore both CRMs side by side.

The CRM Buyer’s Battle

If you’ve ever been involved in buying an enterprise software solution, you’ll know that it can be a fight. Even after a ‘basic needs’ analysis, the selection process is complicated and time consuming.

Which CRM should win your investment?

The Champ - SalesforceThe Challenger - HubSpot
Most trusted CRMUp-and-coming challenger
Powerful applications Historically low-cost
Enterprise-readyQuick to value
Flexible and customisableLightweight and simple
Worth the investment? Will it deliver?

As a starting point, you may ask which option delivers features at the lowest cost. To understand the total cost of ownership, most buyers also look at implementation and lead time. Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning – there are many more questions to ask. For example, how many different user types do you support? And will one solution be more customisable than another?

It’s helpful to stop and think about what each platform can actually do for your business. Ultimately, you’re asking: “How can I get the best value for my specific needs?”

So, HubSpot vs Salesforce… Let’s match them up, round-by-round!

Round 1 – Cost per User

Understanding CRM licence costs is typically the simplest comparison in the decision-making process, but even this comparison can be tricky. It often comes down to the number of users required, as well as the specific needs of each user.

Both Salesforce and HubSpot offer tiers of service – plans range from ‘Basic’ or ‘Starter’ to ‘Enterprise’ or ‘Unlimited’. HubSpot also offers a free version, but this has very limited inclusions.

Like-for-like, some paid solutions will cost less with Salesforce, and some will cost less with HubSpot. Overall, most online research concludes that HubSpot is cheaper – especially for very small businesses.

Without knowing the hidden costs or the inclusions you may need over time, there are plenty of traps to bear in mind. It’s a points decision, but HubSpot is generally cheaper, which may be the best fit for your business depending on its size and specific needs.

That’s one round to HubSpot.

Round 2 – Implementation 

The internet will tell you that HubSpot offers lean and easy implementation. For some small businesses, we agree. However, in reality, “one size fits all” generally means that “one size fits none”.

A bigger, more powerful solution will require some initial investment compared with a lightweight alternative. However, if you’re buying for a growing business, there will be other considerations – you’ll want to ask the following questions:

  • What legacy applications will your CRM need to support?
  • What add-ons will you need later and how should this impact your thought process today?
  • How easily can your CRM scale with your business?

In most cases, Salesforce will be easier to integrate with legacy solutions, which means less time and cost in development. Salesforce was built to enable thousands of custom add-ons, which lowers development costs over time, helping even more as you grow. The Salesforce AppExchange features thousands of custom solutions – enabling you to buy pre-built solutions in one click – for much less than it would cost to build them yourself.

HubSpot’s lightweight interface, on the other hand, is known for being intuitive and clean – allowing new users to on-board with less training.

But since Salesforce introduced its Lightning interface in 2016, this gap has narrowed significantly. From an implementation point of view, it’s not the simple decision it once was.

The result of this round: it’s a tie!

Round 3 – Customisation

Let’s look at things from a customisation perspective. Ask yourself:

  • How many user personas does your CRM need to support?
  • What do each of those groups require?
  • What about your clients – what outputs and integrations will they expect?

Salesforce has always excelled at meeting complex business needs. That’s not to say HubSpot hasn’t gradually improved its own range of customisations. But we don’t believe the gap will ever close, because it runs deep in the DNA of both companies – Salesforce was born with unlimited customisation in mind and has only compounded its advantage over time.

Without Salesforce’s massive library of powerful integrations, your business could quickly outgrow HubSpot – locking you in endless patching-cycles. One of the great strengths of Salesforce is its scalability, and this is due in part to its potential for integration with thousands of other systems and platforms.

The Salesforce customisation interface is also more user-friendly than HubSpot’s. Unlike HubSpot, Salesforce can be customised extensively without code, using a simple drag-and-drop interface. This empowers your team to design its own solutions. In fact, a user with no coding experience can often design their own business app in just a few hours. This is the “clicks-not-code” advantage.

Salesforce wins this round by knockout!

Round 4 – Analytics and Reporting

The next question to ask: How valuable are insights to your business?

In the battle of HubSpot vs Salesforce, both platforms offer advanced reporting and analytics. After all, HubSpot was created to disrupt conventional marketing analytics. Either platform can display the basics, such as sales on Day 30 of last month vs Day 30 of this month, or the current conversion rate of your leads.

But what if your CRM could accurately forecast sales for next month? And what if you could precisely pinpoint any weaknesses? Surely you would also like to diagnose what causes those weaknesses, as well as the specific improvements you could make?

Again, there are multiple BI tools that can answer these questions, and both CRM platforms will support them… eventually.

But we see it time and time again – the higher you climb that analytical tree, the further HubSpot lags behind. It simply lacks the connectivity and customisation that Salesforce offers.

Remember, you’re not just choosing a CRM – you’re choosing quality business decisions. Salesforce gives you industry-leading analytics with Tableau, augmented by the intelligence of Einstein AI. For Salesforce users, predictive analytics has arrived. 

Salesforce pulls out too many special combos for HubSpot – it’s another knockout! 

Final Round – Automation and AI

For most people, AI remains a distant horizon – even though we use it every day. But what does it look like in practice?

In Salesforce, it’s largely invisible. As your team works, Einstein machine learning quietly gathers data in the background, feeding it into predictive models. This delivers intelligent insights, smart predictions, and guided actions – all delivered to a clean, intuitive interface, embedded in the CRM workflow.

Automation is also made easy – once again, using a drag-and-drop interface. As with its customisation tools, Salesforce allows your team to automate and transform workflows independently (free of DevOps bottle-necks). This enables the whole organisation to work smarter, with benefits compounding over time.

HubSpot is working hard to catch up to Salesforce in the AI space, and has some good features around process and workflow automation. However, the options are limited and functionality is not as mature, flexible, or complete as Salesforce. Watch this space! 

Again, you’re not just choosing a CRM, you’re choosing an innovation culture. As of now, Salesforce enables this with a much more robust and intelligent offering.

It’s the perfect round, and Salesforce wins again!

The Verdict – HubSpot vs Salesforce?

Here you can see the main categories in our HubSpot vs Salesforce showdown side by side. Whereas HubSpot leads in cost and ease of implementation, Salesforce wins overall due to its powerful customisation, analytics, and AI.

The list below provides a far more granular comparison.

As you can see, Salesforce scores consistently highly across the board, especially in its collaborative community and wealth of learning materials.

Now that you’ve weighed up the costs and benefits, and you know how much your investment will shape your business for years to come, the choice is clear – even if it takes a little longer and costs a bit more.

From a future-proofing point of view, Salesforce is worth the investment and will scale with your business.

Summary

This guide has investigated two heavyweight CRMs side by side. The ‘challenger’ puts up a good fight, but there is a clear champion in terms of scale and investment. Nevertheless, it’s important to research each option to decide which platform works best for your specific organisation.

If you require further guidance, I’m here to help. You can reach me, ‘The CRM Sensei’, via LinkedIn or email: [email protected] / [email protected]. In addition, the downloadable PDF eBook version of this round-by-round comparison can be found here.

What are your experiences in the battle of HubSpot vs Salesforce? Share your comments below.

For further comparisons with HubSpot, you may also wish to check out this HubSpot vs Pardot guide.

8 thoughts on “HubSpot vs Salesforce – The Ultimate CRM Showdown

  1. Great overview and comparison, Mark! “Salesforce vs HubSpot” is definitely a topic I see often in various SaaS and B2B Marketing/Sales communities. And it always surprises me how many people still don’t understand the full value of Salesforce for their businesses.

  2. Here’s the problem with this review; I used Salesforce and HubSpot 5 years each. You can build Salesforce to be more robust, but you REALLY have to build it. HubSpot is significantly more user friendly and turnkey. Like seriously, significantly. And they’ve completely caught up in the scalability aspect. When you talk to users, HubSpot users will tell you they love the platform. You have never, and will never, hear someone say they love Salesforce. Especially if they’ve seen literally any other CRM.

    1. Hi Jack.
      Thanks for the feedback.
      I have met people who love Salesforce and hate HubSpot, so that’s quite anecdotal. To your point, though, HubSpot is continually improving, as is Salesforce, so it will be interesting to compare them again next year. Also, for very simple use cases that do not require significant extensive customisation, integration, or reporting, HubSpot can be quick and easy to set up.
      Cheers.

  3. Mark,

    Great synopsis on two worthy competitors. The question is what are side-by-side comparisons – standard SFDC & Hubspot objects minus 3rd party apps? One of key challenges in your synopsis is that how a firm takes the raw-clay and chooses to mold (customize) the platform. There’s the cost of subscriptions and then the cot of expert implementation consultants which, can vary widely. Therein lies a key cost factor. One does not just license SFDC for instance, a client will need the assistance and guidance of one or more technical and application resources to complete a given implementation.

    As you point out in your article there are constituent user groups who have different levels of needs/requirements and these groups (sales, marketing, support, admin), are always competing for resources in the best of times. So, what CRM gets selected and who gets knocked out is anything but a clear case these day. Suffice to say SFDC has the broadest and deepest array of functionality and 3rd party apps compared to just about any other platform if that’s the criteria for selection SFDC will prevail.

    If however, a firm needs to go from Zero-to-Sixty in the quickest time possible, the pros and cons are far less clear. SFDC has become a behemoth, and that itself is problematic if the client is a small business compared to a global multi-national for example. In my years as a SFDC Consultant my motto is “start simple – build smart” in this regard, both platforms can make a strong case for either platform.

    As always, the devil is in the details.

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