Is Salesforce Worth the Price Premium?

At a glance:

  • Salesforce CRM is a market leading solution. But acquiring the market leader comes with a price premium.
  • Whether that price premium pays dividends or just results in higher total cost of ownership (TCO) depends on how you use it, or more specifically, if you use the advanced capabilities that separate Salesforce from its competitors.
  • Here we share those Salesforce advanced capabilities that can accelerate company objectives and increase CRM ROI.

From my three decades of helping clients design and implement many different CRM applications I've learned there is no one-size-fits-all CRM software solution. Salesforce is a CRM platform that I have a lot of experience with. I find it's a strong solution for many companies, but not for every company. It comes with a price premium that should be considered in the context of measurable value and ROI.

For example, from my experience of having implemented both Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics sales software I find that for most companies, implementing the Salesforce Enterprise edition is essentially equivalent to the Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement Enterprise edition, at least in terms of features and capabilities. Yet at $150 per user per month compared $95 per user per month, Salesforce comes with a 63 percent higher fee. That adds up when you consider this is a monthly recurring investment. The price difference becomes ever greater for companies that choose the Salesforce Unlimited edition. The price differences are similar when compared to SAP CRM or Oracle CX.

So, is the Salesforce price premium worth the investment? Here's how to tell.

Transformation Enablement

Salesforce is an innovator and industry disruptor. Its CRM software includes some advanced capabilities to help its clients innovate and disrupt their markets.

Those capabilities include things like:

  • Digital transformation, which is really a business transformation strategy that figures out how to use digital technologies or channels to lower operational costs, better engage customers and create new value
  • Data transformation, to convert data from a raw material into a finished good, such as customer insights
  • Customer experience management, to deliver relevant, personalized, contextual and predictive customer experiences that satisfy customers and build loyalty
  • Omnichannel communication to engage prospects and customers in their preferred digital channels, while maintaining conversation fidelity when those discussions cross channels
  • Einstein AI (artificial intelligence) to shift CRM software from a customer data depository to a predictor of customer behaviors, creator of customer insights and facilitator of customer and company objectives
  • Extensibility tools such as its Lightning platform (, Apex, other Platform as a Service (PaaS) tools and AppExchange ecosystem

Can other CRM applications do these things? Some can, but in these areas, Salesforce leads the pack.

Companies with clear eyed plans for company or product innovation, or digital or business transformation, or some type of hypergrowth can benefit from the market leadership of Salesforce CRM.

Companies who are pioneers and trailblazers and fully leverage the Salesforce advanced capabilities will likely earn increased ROI, making the price premium a good investment.

Transformation Illusion

Salesforce has evolved its application features and functions over more than two decades. So has Microsoft Dynamics 365, Oracle CX, SAP CRM and many other competitors. Our research, experience and Salesforce evaluation show that when it comes to CRM fundamentals, about 80 percent of features and functions are highly commoditized and delivered by pretty much every vendor. They all do lead management, account management, opportunity management, forecasting and all the basics quite well.

CRM Software Functionality

Research also shows that most companies use less than one third of their CRM applications capabilities. For these companies, the CRM implementation is more of an event than a journey.

What separates the CRM vendors are the advanced capabilities such as industry specific features, AI, machine learning (ML), digital commerce, advanced technologies such as blockchain or Internet of Things (IoT) or tools that enable low code/no-code customization or application extensibility. If these advanced technologies accelerate your business growth plan or transformation, Salesforce should be a top consideration. Otherwise, alternatives should be considered.

Consider Salesforce CRM when:

  • Your company is a trailblazer and will fully leverage advanced technologies to accelerate your growth and transformation
  • You have a solid plan, budget, resources and know-how to innovate or disrupt your company or market and require technology to assist
  • You are all in on a new customer strategy, such as Customer Experience Management (CXM), and need technology to support omnichannel engagement, deliver customer insights at key moments of truth and apply data to deliver differentiated customer experiences
  • Your company is in one of Salesforce's industry editions, such as Financial Services, Consumer Goods, Retail or Manufacturing

Consider other CRM software solutions when:

  • You seek basic CRM, that is account, contact, activity and opportunity management. You simply want to organize customer data, perform simple tasks such as quotes or sales order processing and get reporting (i.e., pipeline and forecast reports)
  • Your company growth goals are less ambitious, or your growth path is more incremental
  • You don't yet have a solid transformation plan so you would be putting technology ahead of strategy (never a good idea)
  • You don't yet have a CRM strategy, which would result in an aimless technology deployment and journey
  • You don't have the IT resources, budget or know-how to deploy AI, ML, or advanced technologies
  • You want an enterprise-wide, fully integrated business software suite, that is CRM with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Human Capital Management (HCM) or manufacturing software delivered from a single vendor with vendor-managed integration
  • You want an on-premise or hybrid cloud deployment

Salesforce is the market leader for a reason. It does some important things uniquely well. But unless you use Salesforce's advanced capabilities, you will increase your recurring subscription investment and total cost of ownership without increasing your payback.