Zoho vs Salesforce CRM – Comparison and Review


Review of Salesforce vs Zoho CRM

The goal of this article is to inform you of the differences between Salesforce and Zoho CRM – as well as detail for you the strengths and weaknesses of each system in a side by side comparison.

Zoho CRM is typically viewed as a starter CRM where as Salesforce is perceived as an enterprise solution. Both compete heavily for the SMB (Small and Medium Sized Business) marketplace.

The main rivals in this market are SugarCRM and Microsoft CRM – as well as a few smaller systems that are starting to compete for market share (Highrise, Capsule, etc…). SugarCRM, Microsoft CRM and Salesforce contain a full suite of CRM features, where as Zoho CRM, Highrise and Capsule are great entry level solutions but not typically recommended for 6+ users.  That said, let’s jump in and take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Salesforce and Zoho CRM.

Comparing Editions of Zoho and Salesforce

Zoho CRM has often been seen as an inexpensive On-Demand CRM. Zoho CRM is part of a broader portfolio of on-demand business applications – the Zoho Suite – which cover areas such as project management, document collaboration, invoicing and web conferencing.

Zoho provides a fairly complete CRM feature set, which is designed for companies with simple to intermediate requirements. Visually, Zoho looks a lot like an older version of Salesforce. Zoho is inexpensively priced and offers strong multilingual support. Zoho CRM was included in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Sales Force Automation in 2013 for the very first time.

Zoho Corporation is privately held and headquartered in California. Zoho claims over 50,000 companies and 5 million users of its various business applications.

With Salesforce, there is a Limit of 5 users for Group Edition. Secondly, Salesforce is often viewed as quite costly. The most popular edition, Salesforce Enterprise Edition is priced at $125 per user per month. The cheapest edition for getting in the door is the Professional Edition at $65 per user per month.

Salesforce provides numerous “feature gaps” as well as hidden costs. For example, customizable dashboards and quotes are only available in Professional Edition. Also, offline access is an extra cost for the Professional Edition and not available at all in the Group Edition. The Workflow module is only available in the Salesforce Enterprise Edition or Higher; and  Visual workflow is an extra cost in all editions. True complete mobile integration is priced at $50 per month per user within Professional and Enterprise Editions

The maximum number of App Exchange or custom addons is also very limited: A max of 1 for Group Edition; 5 add-ons for Professional Edition; and 10 add-ons for Enterprise Edition.

Another frequently sited knock on Salesforce is that is very hard get data back at the end of the contract – this means that the user is simploy proved multiple csv files, and limited support for common database tools. This makes it very difficult for the normal user to switch to another solution if unpleased with Salesforce.

The biggest limit is that deployment is only available within the Salesforce cloud.



Handling Document Attachments and Mail-Merge in both Salesforce and Zoho

Document attachments in Zoho can be uploaded from (a) the user’s desktop (PDF, Word, Excel or PPT), (b) from Google docs or from (c) Zoho docs.

Mail-merge can be performed with the Zoho Writer. This is only available in the paid versions of the product though. Mail-merge templates can be loaded from Word, Google docs or Zoho docs. New templates are created using Zoho writer. Mail-merges are initiated from the list view in contacts or accounts. It is noteworthy that merged document are not automatically added to records as attachments.

Salesforce.com does not make it easy to create a mail merge. Salesforce.com standard capabilities require the user to complete the following steps in order to create a mail merge: (1) create a CSV file, (2) export it from Salesforce.com, (3) carry out the merge in Word (no history generated inSalesforce.com), (4) and individually re-import merged documents back into Salesforce.com.

Extended mail merge capabilities are available in Salesforce, yet must be activated by Salesforce.com customer service. There are also a number of limitations.

The merged file is emailed to you as a single zipped file or added to your documents tab as a single file. Thus Salesforce.com records the merge as an activity in history, but the merged file is not attached to the record automatically.

Other limits: There is a limit of 1000 records at a time. And the template cannot be greater than 1MB. The number of records x template size cannot be greater than 50MB. And attachments sent out in mass email are sent as a link that expires after 30 day

Managing Sales Pipelines and Opportunities in Zoho vs Salesforce

In Zoho CRM, Opportunities are referred to as Potentials. These can be created individually or imported from an external source. Potentials provide a similar structure to accounts and contacts. They allow users to track basic opportunity information, including stage and probability. Zoho offers a customizable stage/probability mapping tool as well as the ability to track competitor information. Once these Potentials/Opportunities are created, attachments, products, quotes, contact roles, activities, emails, notes and campaigns can be added. Please note that contact roles are supported (for example the decision maker, influencer, etc…) and Zoho provides ‘Big deal alert’ capability.

Zoho provides basic capabilities to manage suppliers and generate purchase orders. Supplier information is captured in the same way as customers. And purchase orders are handled in the same way as invoices.

With Salesforce, the Quoting function is only available in the Enterprise Edition or above. The Product catalog is an extra cost option for the Professional Edition. And interestingly, Salesforce provides a single sales methodology out of the box. In this limited/restricted methodology, individual stages can be removed, but stage names or percentages cannot be changed or new stages added unless the company has purchased a sales methodology from Salesforce AppExchange.


Sending Mass Email with Salesforce and Zoho

In Zoho CRM, campaigns are limited to a maximum of 250 outbound emails per day. Campaigns are accessed through the Leads or Contacts area. Users can create templates, define target lists through Zoho views, and define an email schedule. Please note that email blasts are only available in paid versions of the product.

Salesforce users have several options for sending an email. First, the user can click on the normal Outlook Send button. This will not link the email to a Salesforce record. The email will be sent through Outlook, and moved to the Outlook Sent folder.

Secondly the user can click on the Send and Add button on the ribbon. This will send the email through Outlook and move a copy of the email into the Outlook Sent folder. The email will also be added to a matching Salesforce record, along with any attachments. The email will be tagged in Outlook with “Added to Salesforce”.

If the “Send and Add” button is clicked and a matching email address does not exist in a Salesforce record, the email will appear in the user’s Task list as an “Unresolved Email.”


Handling Cases and Knowledge Base within Zoho and Salesforce

Zoho CRM provides basic ticketing / case management capabilities. This includes configurable case assignment and escalation rules; these are only available in paid versions of the product.

Online case logging and update capabilities are available within Zoho CRM. Basic knowledge management capabilities also exist in the system. Knowledge Base articles – known as Solutions – can be captured and made searchable to other agents.

Please note that articles can have attachment; but articles cannot be linked to individual cases.

In Salesforce, if a user has been assigned an Outlook Configuration that has Create Case enabled, the user will see a Create Cases button on their Outlook Home ribbon. When the user wants to create a Case from an email, the user simply needs to highlight the email, click the Create Cases button and then select the appropriate Routing assignment for the Case. One or more Routings can be defined in Salesforce.

A new Case will be created in Salesforce. If the email address of the sender matches an existing Contact email address in Salesforce, the Case will be automatically linked both to the Contact record and to the Contact’s Account record.

How do Zoho and Salesforce manage Dashboards

In Zoho CRM, Dashboards are available out-of-the-box for the following modules: leads; accounts and contacts; opportunities; campaigns; cases and solutions; products and inventory. These Dashboards can be edited, but they unfortunately cannot be filtered.

Custom dashboards can be created in Zoho, but the maximum number of dashboards is limited by the edition. Components are based on lists or reports. Dashboards are also limited to a 2 column, fixed width format. It is noteworthy that if the list or report does not exist, the user must exit the dashboard editor, create list or report and then reopen the editor. The bar, pie, line, funnel and table chart types supported.”

With Salesforce, customizable dashboards are not available in Group or Contact Manager Editions. This forces businesses to upgrade to more costly editions.

The Dashboard layout in Salesforce is restricted to a 3 column format. There is a limit of 20 components per dashboard. Dashboard charts are based on reports; therefore if a chart does not exist, the user will have to design a new report first and then implement within the dashboard. The problem with this is that the underlying report can be filtered, yet the dashboard component cannot be filtered.

A huge problem is that Standard dashboards override security settings allowing users see information that may be restricted. Recently, Salesforce.com introduced ‘dynamic’ dashboards to address this issue, but this feature is not available in Professional, Group or Contact Manager Editions; and limited to 5 dashboards in Enterprise Edition and 10 in Unlimited Edition. Dynamic dashboard components must be refreshed manually.

Search Features of Zoho and Salesforce

The sidebar search allows users to search against all entities including custom entities, but does not include attachments. Zoho search is not a global search feature. Users can also use the advanced search feature – allowing users to search against a maximum of 6 specific fields in each entity. Six fields are defined by the administrator in settings and can be applied across all users.

The Salesforce search returns results for all fields – that’s 16k user requests to change.

Filtering is not easy either. Filters are simply free text – and they must be enabled by IT. They are also limited to accounts and contacts.

Please note that Salesforce searching provides no drop-downs (aka pick lists) for states or countries; thus users must enter States and Countries as free text – which typically provides poor search results.

Managing List Views within Salesforce and Zoho CRM

In Zoho CRM, lists are called Views. These are created using filters (this is very similar to Salesforce.com). These lists are limited to a single entity; thus users cannot create a list of all accounts in a city with an escalated case status. Moving/Advancing through a list records requires using the back and forward buttons. Uses can jump to records starting with a specific letter by using alphabetic navigation across the top of the screen.

List Views in Salesforce cannot cover more than one entity. You can only see the fields on a single entity. It is also valuable to note that duplicate alerts are not provided as a standard feature. And finally, users are not able to do much with their search results. They cannot really take action against search results – they can merely edit or delete. Not very helpful indeed.

Integration Options for Salesforce and Zoho

In Zoho CRM, Microsoft Outlook integration can be purchased at an extra cost. This integration is delivered through a plugin which synchronizes contacts, activities and tasks. Please note that Emails can be associated with Zoho records.

Zoho CRM also integrates with Microsoft Office, Google docs and Zoho docs for attachments and mail-merge.

Zoho CRM integration with Quickbooks is also provided as an extra cost service. This is limited to: (1) basic data import from Quickbooks (contacts, quotes, products, vendors, sales orders, and invoices), (2) bidirectional sync of contact and company fields, and (3) ability to map standard and custom fields between the two applications for sync.

Salesforce has the ability to link both outbound and inbound Outlook email to CRM records.

Salesforce has 2 buttons that can be added (based on defined, user options) to the Home ribbon in Outlook. From an Outlook email folder, such as the Inbox, a user can highlight one or more emails and then click on the Add Emails button. The email(s), along with any attachment(s), will be copied to the Salesforce record(s) that matches the sender’s email address.

Comparing Mobile and Offline Availability of Zoho and Salesforce

Zoho CRM has browser support for IE7 and Firefox 3.0 and above. Offline access is free in Enterprise and an extra cost option in the Free and Professional editions. The dedicated, persistent iPhone client was launched recently. Zoho provides Mobile browser support for iOS and Android devices. Zoho CRM functions on other mobile browsers, such as Opera, but is not supported.

Salesforce provides only limited capabilities on FOC ‘Lite’. The Salesforce.com version only syncs most recently accessed records. It provides no custom entities and no custom configurations.

The full version is very expensive – $50 per user per month. It is reliant on full client downloads on the mobile device.

Salesforce provides no dedicated iPad client…this is only available for Chatter. Android support limited to Froyo and Gingerbread versions. There is no Safari support for iOS devices.

For Salesforce, offline access is not available in Group and Contact Manager Editions. In fact, this feature is a hefty extra cost option within the Professional Edition. Moreover, the offline and online access screens use different user interfaces. That means that users need to understand and get good at multiple user experiences. It is noteworthy that Outlook integration is not available when using the offline client. It is also extremely valuable to understand that custom objects are not available in the Professional Edition of Salesforce ($65 per user per month) or below. The user experience is not automated either: Users are required to manually synchronize before going offline and sync can be very time consuming.

Customization and Security Options for Salesforce and Zoho

In Zoho CRM fields are added through a drag and drop configurator. These fields can be deleted or hidden. Tabs, including external websites, can also be added. Views and search layouts can also be configured. Profile-based security is only available in paid versions.

Salesforce only limited end user personalization – and this personalization applies only to the dashboards and home tabs. Administrator rights are required in order to make the vast majority of customization changes elsewhere in the application. Right-click functionality is not supported in Salesforce, and right-clicking on the screen will only present the browser menu. Field level security is only available in the Enterprise Edition of Salesforce and higher. Leads lose closed activity history when converted to opportunities/accounts. Although Social CRM is available, in reality, AppExchange add-ons are required for social media integration. With Salesforce, standard workflow is only available in the Enterprise Edition or higher. The Visual Workflow add-on is only available as an additional cost service – and can only be implemented within the Enterprise and Unlimited Editions. Workflow is only triggered by the user, not other workflow. Workflow routines cannot be linked together.

Addons and Plugins for Zoho and Salesforce

Zoho CRM offers a number of addons/plugins. The Plug-in for Microsoft Outlook is priced at $3 per user per month.

The Zoho CRM Plug-in for Microsoft Office is priced at $3 per user per month.

The Zoho CRM Mail Add-on is priced at $3 per user per month for the Paid versions and $5 per user per month for the free version.

A Data Export is available yet priced at $10 per request.

CTI is priced at $6 per user per month.

Zoho CRM QuickBooks integration is priced at $25 per Organization per Month.  Support Integration for Quickbooks is priced at $3 per user per month.

Projects Integration is free for all Editions

Mobile Edition is priced at $3 per user per month. “

In Salesforce, an administrator is the primary determinant of all users’ synchronization settings with Microsoft Outlook. One or more Outlook Configurations can be set up by a Salesforce administrator. Each configuration can be assigned an individual user or to a group of users (the latter is accomplished by assigning a Profile or Profiles to the configuration).

Within each Outlook Configuration, an administrator can specify, for each of the three objects (Contacts, Events and Tasks), the options that will be applied users who are assigned the configuration.

Gartner Magic Quadrant – Overview of Salesforce and Zoho CRM

Salesforce.com continues to lead the SFA market, as demonstrated by its business growth and innovation; however, it remains expensive. The main reasons customers choose salesforce.com is strong brand, innovation and proven track record. Salesforce.com has a strong ecosystem of ISVs; however, adding multiple solutions to fill salesforce.com’s functional “white space” can be expensive. Salesforce.com has customers in all regions of the world, but it needs to continue to
increase its geographic support outside its core strength in North America.

Zoho’s market focus is to be a low-cost provider for SFA. Zoho is attractive to SMBs, which tend to be more cost-conscious.

Gartner Magic Quadrant view of the Pros of Salesforce vs Zoho CRM

Zoho CRM offers a low-cost solution. Professional Edition is $12 per user per month, and Enterprise Edition is $25 per user per month.

There is a broad suite of business application functionality, but it will not have the depth required for large, complex installations.

This solution is attractive for SMBs looking for value.

Salesforce.com continues to push innovation by increasing the breadth and capabilities available for social media technology, Chatter and mobile offerings, such as the iPad.

Salesforce.com offers improved application agility, due to the ease of use of the Force.com platform, which is usable by technically sophisticated business analysts.

Salesforce.com offers integrated sales and customer service on the same platform.

The vendor offers a proven infrastructure and reliability.

Salesforce.com generally offers good usability.

Zoho vs Salesforce: Gartner Magic Quadrant perspective on Cons/Concerns

With no direct sales, Zoho relies on a pull model and advertising for customers to discover its products.

There is a lack of integrated ISV partners to fill functional white space.

Customers report that Zoho needs to spend more time on quality assurance before releasing new versions.”

The salesforce Unlimited Edition is expensive; evaluate the lower-end editions before committing to the Unlimited Edition.

Small businesses that find Salesforce.com’s price for the Enterprise Edition high will find sufficient lower-price alternatives in the market. Small businesses should also measure lower price alternatives against Salesforce.com’s Group Edition and Professional Edition.

Salesforce.com’s Social Enterprise License agreement represents an opportunity for customers who will experience large subscriber growth and leverage the entire salesforce.com suite; however, companies should be careful not to overbuy subscriptions and functionality they will not need.

Simple, real-time reports and dashboards for business users are easy to create, but more indepth analytics will require an AppExchange partner.

Salesforce.com relies heavily on AppExchange vendors to provide a complete solution (e.g., lead management, incentive compensation, sales configuration and pricing management); users need to do their own analyses of AppExchange providers, and should not assume that salesforce.com has vetted them.

The vendor provides a basic Master Services Agreement; however, it continues to lag in its ability to provide a strong SLA, including penalties with its customers.



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Mark Shaw

Director at Accent Gold Solutions
Author: Mark Shaw, Director of Accent Gold Solutions, is certified in a number of CRM systems - including SAP CRM, SugarCRM and ACT! Having studied Business at the University of Massachusetts, he went on to consult several large Energy Utilities in the US and Europe - including designing a Sales Database for the largest European provider of Natural Gas. Using his unique combination of sales and marketing experience, Mark has set up and led successful sales teams for several firms, including Xerox.
Read more about Mark on our About Us page. Google