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HubSpot vs. Salesforce from an Admin's Perspective

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I’m about to drop a bomb on you Salesforce and HubSpot diehards out there.

Once you know one CRM, it’s easy to manage another. 

Sometimes, the CRM you “love” isn’t the right system for the company where you’ll find your dream job. Do yourself a favor and never let technology get in the way of saying yes to a great opportunity.

You may think that my claim is preposterous. But every CRM is essentially a data warehouse with a user interface slapped on top. Some user interfaces are fancier than others, but when you get down to it, a CRM administrator’s job is to make that user interface appealing enough to get the right information into the system for the business to run smoothly.

I’ve been the primary (and sometimes only) CRM for Salesforce, HubSpot, Zoho CRM, and more obscure systems. While some have more drawbacks than others, they all have strong points. And once you’ve really learned the ins and outs of one CRM, you can manage the others.

Why Bother Learning More Than One CRM?

When you’re gainfully employed and trying to manage a never-ending to-do list, taking on yet another CRM is the last thing you’ll want to do in your spare time. BUT. If you have time between jobs, throwing energy into learning another CRM can be a great distraction. It can also give you the confidence to tell an interviewer that you’re not married to a single solution and can adapt to the business's needs.

I’ve heard plenty of job candidates say they only want to manage one system. Inwardly, I cringe. 

Which system people prefer matters less than the impression I get when they insist they’ll only work in one. Having preferences is human. Insisting on a particular system may not be the right thing for your next company and it can limit your career more than necessary. 

A flexible mindset, or openness to change and challenge, is something that I highly value in a RevOps candidate. Refusing to consider other systems can stunt your career. The last reason to walk away from a job offer should be the technology they use.

When I meet a RevOps professional who sees that our job is making data collection as easy as possible - because ultimately, our job is to collect and analyze data to make businesses run smoother - I know they get it. We’re in the business of process optimization, not trying to force people to use our favorite CRM.

I worked with CRMs before Salesforce was a thing, and those CRMs were very clunky to use. I can also see a future when Salesforce is replaced. I also don’t believe that HubSpot is the next Salesforce. I believe the next behemoth isn’t even on our radar yet.

Given that change is constant, keeping your options open is practical.

OK, but is there a “best” CRM?

A perfect CRM does not exist. If you're looking for a tool that salespeople will use without complaining, you'll never find it. You'll also be disappointed if you want a CRM that will give you any report your executive team can dream up.

However, some tools work better in certain situations.

Zoho CRM

Bootstrapped startups needing a free solution will find that Zoho CRM (or just about any other freemium option like Apex Creatives, Wrike, or will get the job done. Because these options are low-cost, you won't get all of the functionality you would get from market-leading platforms.

But these CRMs are certainly several steps up from trying to use Notion, Airtable, or Google Sheets to manage deals.

The CRM-lite collective will be more challenging to manage due to restrictive functionality, harder to get good reports out of, and lack of technology partner ecosystems that HubSpot and Salesforce have built over the years.

When businesses are frustrated with the limitations of their affordable CRM, it's time to think about migrating to a more robust solution. I've seen organizations spend a lot of time trying to make these solutions scale with them, and I firmly believe that it's a wasted effort. They don't have the infrastructure to keep up with future reporting needs.


HubSpot has been known as the small business alternative to Salesforce for quite some time, but more companies outside of that niche have been adopting HubSpot (sometimes out of spite and frustration).

HubSpot is a good tool. The automation is easy, tools like Zapier can fill in any gaps, and the basic functionality is there. Marketers understand the platform more than they will Marketo (but I feel the same way about marketing automation systems that I do CRMs - they all have benefits and drawbacks). The lack of the lead object or splitting people between contacts and leads is something I like – but not every company can make this data structure work for their organization.

I am also frustrated with how limited my control is as an administrator over what people can and can't see. Fortunately, this typically isn't an issue in transparent organizations that aren't in highly regulated industries. The inability to assign page layouts to specific profiles is more problematic.

Most organizations with straightforward workflows and processes will find HubSpot suitable. If you have super complex account hierarchies, the need to track channel sales and multiple partner accounts, or are in a highly regulated industry, Salesforce is the better option.

Reporting requirements shouldn't be your deciding factor. Campaign reporting is weird compared to Salesforce; you will find the formula fields infuriating; and the dashboard designer is clunky. The attribution reporting functionality is also more limited. However, many organizations are relying on data warehouses and BI layers to get more out of their CRM – and I don't see this trend going away with the tools on the market.


Salesforce is the most customizable CRM I've seen, and that's not always good. New administrators can easily configure their instance into oblivion and frustrate end users with validation rules, logic loops, and other fun missteps. 

An experienced administrator can tailor Salesforce to each type of end user and streamline their experience. They can also automate repetitive tasks, design processes for their teams, and accomplish a ton with a good developer. It's also got a fantastic partner ecosystem and can integrate with most tools B2B go-to-market teams use.

Some quirks are really annoying for organizations that do not have complex workflows. Separating people records into leads and contacts makes reporting marketing lead volume a nightmare, and it's easy to get buried in duplicate records from integration calls, creating new lead records instead of merging data onto existing records.

If you're in a complex organization, a more significant issue will be reporting limitations. With custom code and flows, you should be able to accomplish just about any customization, automation, or anything else your team can think up. Salesforce provides a strong foundation but limits the number of joins to save processing time, and trend reports are pretty much useless in my experience.

As I mentioned above, many organizations rely on data warehouses and BI layers to get more out of their CRM – and I don't see this trend going away with the tools on the market.

There isn't a winning CRM, and it's in an administrator's best interest to keep an open mind. There will always be things we don't like about each solution, but they all have their place in the market.

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