Salesforce: The good, the bad, the inevitable

If you’re in the market for a customer relationship management solution, you’re certainly no stranger to market leader Salesforce. Often described as “best in class” and the tool that most salespeople are familiar with, over 30% of our network uses Salesforce. It’s no wonder Salesforce has such a following—it’s one of the most powerful systems on the market, extremely customizable and able to integrate with many of the tools you’re already using, from email service providers to business analytics tools and more.

Criticisms of Salesforce
But despite its ubiquity among startups, Salesforce has some flaws, and its users aren’t afraid to point them out. First among those criticisms is the tool’s complexity. “Salesforce is not intuitive, requires a really motivated team to dump the information into it and get the best use out of it,” says Dan Putt, founder of Reboot. “We're busy and haven't had time to dig into it. I know it can do so much for us, and we're moving toward making it the central dashboard of the business, but it really requires someone manning it full time.” Which brings us to a second major criticism, shared by many, which is that “Salesforce is a good tool, but extremely expensive for startups,” notes Betty Heiman of Transparent Healthcare. Probably the most common criticism of Salesforce (by its own users) has to do with the platform’s user experience: Says Nishant Mittal, co-founder of Monaeo, “The interface and usability are horrible, but experienced sales guys are used to it,” which makes it the de facto choice of many startups who may have chosen otherwise but for Salesforce’s popularity in the sales ranks.

Salesforce remains the #1 CRM platform
Despite these criticisms, Salesforce’s following continues to grow. While many founders in our network say they started out (and were very happy!) with cheaper and lighter-weight tools like RelateIQ, Pipedrive and Highrise, they admit that Salesforce is all but necessary as you move beyond Series A and have hopes of growing a big business. Victor Wong, co-founder of PaperG explains, “Highrise was great for seed stage, but Salesforce became necessary at Series A, as we had multiple teams needing to access records for different reasons. It has much more detailed information keeping, and way better graphing/visualization of data.” Daniel Chait of Greenhouse agrees: “When we started, we used Pipedrive, but as soon as you have any realistic-sized sales team, you have to move. Salesforce was the inevitable choice.” Our network statistics reflect this shift: Just 8% of Salesforce users are seed-stage, while the rest are Series A and beyond. It’s that sentiment of inevitability that reverberates throughout the feedback on Salesforce. “It's impossible to use, but everyone uses it. So, oh well,” sighs Shane Snow, co-founder of Contently. “Salesforce is not great, but it's the one that all salespeople know how to use and it's reliable,” echoes Justin Borgman, CEO and co-founder of Hadapt. Ultimately, in the face of its detractors, Salesforce’s strengths win out. For startups (who can afford it) looking for serious growth and focusing their energies on building their sales pipeline, Salesforce is the clear winner. As WeWork co-founder Jesse Middleton states, “Cost savings versus efficiency of processes is an important topic that indeed evolves greatly over time as a company’s money and resources grow, and as its procedures grow in complexity. In the case of Salesforce, it’s certainly not the cheapest tool around, but any other tool would mean a great deal of messing around and scrambling, with the data that is the lifeblood of the organization. In my opinion, although people like to hate Salesforce, without it we would have been in many hard-to-solve data integrity and sales process problems.”