The biggest news among the product announcements made by HubSpot at Inbound 2018 was the addition of an Enterprise level product for the HubSpot Sales tool. Over the last four years, HubSpot has been invested more time, energy, focus and money to make their sales product the equivalent (for both revenue and capability) of their core marketing product.
Sales technology is gaining more and more momentum, as growth-focused companies are investing in their capabilities to enhance sales performance, and to do for sales much of what marketing automation has done for lead generation and marketing efforts.
There is no question that sales needs a transformation when you consider the following:
HubSpot’s announcements about their sales products not only reiterates their continued commitment to addressing the sales side, it also is a clear indication that HubSpot is aiming to become indispensable for larger companies and larger sales teams.
While the product is only a couple of weeks old, I’ve had the opportunity to alpha and beta test many of the new features that have been announced. I’ve spent much of the last two weeks testing out the entire product suite.
My goal in this post is to share a candid, real-world assessment of the overall suite and each of the individual features & apps (I’ll be reviewing 37 features in the post), so that you can decide where and how Sales Enterprise may fit in your growth stack.
Today, HubSpot provides three “hubs” (marketing, sales and customer success) that can be used individually or in combination. Each of these hubs is built on and share HubSpot CRM.
In this review, I will be addressing the Sales Hub, which includes their CRM. It’s important to note that you do not need to use HubSpot’s CRM to be able to use and benefit from the Sales Hub. (I share more on this in a post I wrote last week about combining Salesforce and HubSpot CRM.)
Before we launch into my thoughts, a note on pricing: Sales Enterprise is designed to appeal to larger sales teams, carrying a price tag of $120/month/seat and requiring a minimum of 10 seats, so you’ll be looking at a minimum of $1,200/month. HubSpot does offer an immediate 25% discount to companies that use the complete growth stack (marketing, sales and service).
I realize this is going to be a long post, so I decided to put the conclusion towards the beginning of the post. To fully understand this conclusion, be sure to read the full review.
Below is my review of Sales Enterprise on nine criteria:
The Sales Enterprise suite is a compelling part of a growth-focused company’s core tech stack. It’s among the most comprehensive suites available, built seamlessly together. When you add the Marketing Hub, the power is exponentialized, and if you go all in with the Service Hub you’ll have a fully integrated system that will fit your needs for years and millions of revenue growth to come.
While the suite is compelling, it is not fully baked. The features are comprehensive, but many are still early versions that can be a bit unstable and wonky. You’ll have to accept that you’re going to be overpaying a bit for the functionality that exists, and that you’ll deal with some complaints from your salespeople that every feature doesn’t work as flawlessly as they would expect (and, as my tests demonstrated, Murphy’s Law definitely applies - the glitches will show themselves when sales urgency is at its highest).
The upside is that there’s no product on the market that gives you as much as Sale Enterprise does (certainly for the cost), and while the feature set isn’t where it needs to be today, you’ll have a core piece of technology that gets better and better every month.
From the first sales acceleration tool that HubSpot introduced (does anybody remember Signals?), ease has been the quintessential element of their products, and they don’t let us down here. The tools are easy and intuitive to use.
Make no mistake, to fully utilize the product you’ll need to invest the time in designing and setting up the system design, workflows, and processes (and this is by no means easy), but when it comes to executing Enterprise Sales is about as easy as it can get.
The core elements of Sales Enterprise are fast. There are occasional latency issues when utilizing the dialer. In addition, some of the workflows that to take advantage of the sales automation capabilities at times require more clicks than a sales rep would prefer. This, however, is true of the vast majority of tools that I’ve reviewed, and if you utilize someone who fully understands how to make HubSpot hum, you can mitigate many of these factors. For me, the only speed complaint I had is the result of being spoiled by areas of the marketing product that are much more mature.
One of my favorite aspects about working within the Marketing Hub is that HubSpot is an absolute joy to work within. This may not sound like an important component to determine what sales acceleration product you want to use, but when you spend 5 - 10 hours a day working within a tool you’d like the UI/UX to be as pleasurable as possible. (Just ask any writer who went from using a PC to a Mac if you want to truly understand the difference.)
Sales Enterprise is a joy to work with 70 percent of the time. I’m able to do about everything I need to from my email tool if I’m not in the CRM (in my case I use Gmail), and when I’m in the executing task queues and other aspects of the sales or sales management job, the tool is a pleasure.
There is an important exception here. HubSpot’s timeline (which is amazing and powerful and a core strength of the marketing product) dominates screen real estate - all. of. the. time. When executing more advanced aspects of the sales job, Sales Enterprise forces you to work through compressed space or to enter through their all properties sections. This creates unnecessary complexity and frustration.
This is still among the weaker areas of the tool. While HubSpot has made some meaningful improvements with items like the introduction of calculable fields, it’s still not enough for highly complex or advanced use cases.
You’re still highly limited in the level of control, rules and access you can provide as well as for things like territory management and lead assignment. I know there are improvements already in the works in this area, but currently, if you’re looking for the maximum level of customization and control, you’ll be better off combining Sales Enterprise with a stronger CRM like Salesforce (you can read more on that idea here).
Sales Enterprise provides significant improvements in the ability to automate important areas of the sales process. We’ve already done some pretty amazing things utilizing the alpha version of the product improvements to automate important aspects of the sales playbook. In some of our test cases, we’ve been able to increase sales productivity by 5 - 15 points.
The release of Sales Enterprise brought along a major improvement to HubSpot’s reporting capabilities, with cross object reporting. You can now run use data from multiple objects (Contacts, Companies, Deals, Activities, Tickets, and Products) to run dashboard reports.
The user experience when creating cross object reports is a bit bumpy and they haven’t achieved the intuitive ease they’ve achieved with other aspects of the HubSpot product portfolio.
Two important weaknesses still exist:
Taking full advantage of the reporting experience requires a significant level of expertise to understand the HubSpot tool. What’s more, if you’re only using the Sales Enterprise hub, due to the manner that HubSpot has segmented certain functionality amongst the different hubs, there will be reports you should be able to create but can’t. This is because you won’t have access to some of the backend functionality that would make designing the report possible.
HubSpot has dramatically improved their reporting capability and experience, but candidly, it still has a long way to go.
From the first time I used HubSpot’s CRM, I’ve been impressed with the experience using it when I’m performing direct sales functions. That experience has only improved. The only frustration that I have as a sales rep (and your reps likely will as well) is that I don’t have enough control or flexibility to see the data I want to see, at the time I want to see it. Greater control over my screen layout would greatly improve the sales rep experience.
That said, when HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan announced the first sales tool, he shared the goal was to create something that would be “Easy for the salesperson and easy for the buyer.” Sales Enterprise continues to deliver on that promise. In some tests we’ve run, we’ve been able to increase sales rep productivity by 5 - 15 points.
Sales Enterprise will more than meet the needs of the vast majority of sales managers and executives. Anyone using a CRM other than Salesforce will be able to recreate or enhance their abilities to gain insights and oversee the execution of an effective sales team.
Those managers and executives on Salesforce who are fully utilizing its reporting and rules functionality will find Sales Enterprise lacking in important areas, and would likely not be satisfied fully switching, but they may find impact utilizing Sales Enterprise as a sales acceleration/enablement tool for their reps.
A major part of the value proposition for HubSpot Sales Enterprise is the sheer breadth of tools & features you get on one, fully integrated platform. On HubSpot’s pricing page for the Sales Hub, they list 42 (someone must be a Douglas Adams fan) features as part of the Enterprise tier. Here is my review of virtually all of the features:
A compelling proposition for the CRM is the fact that it’s absolutely, totally, always free. This means that everyone in your company can have full access to your CRM at no cost. You only have to pay for the “power” users.
A nice little feature that was introduced a couple of years ago is Insights. There are two primary benefits from Insights:
The downside of Insights is that you can’t customize what Insights are provided and the accuracy/validity of some of the information auto-populated is not always reliable. Insights is an asset for items that aren’t crucial. If you need to be sure a field or datapoint is accurate, be sure to confirm the insights.
Sales Enterprise integrates seamlessly with our email platform. (For us that’s Gmail, and it also integrates with Outlook.) This function is an absolute pleasure. With one exception, it doesn’t matter whether I’m working from Gmail or from the CRM.
That exception is when I’m working in a focused effort, using what HubSpot calls Task Queues. For example, if I’m sending follow-up emails to a group of 25 leads that I’ve reached out to earlier, I can’t use such a queue from Gmail. I have to execute this from the CRM, where the email tool is not as robust as Gmail, or work from Gmail where I lose significant efficiencies. This is a small complaint, as no other tool that I’m aware of provides this functionality.
Make no mistake, my business (and those of my clients’) is absolutely dependent on email - we send A LOT of emails. Sales Pro saves us time and allows us to test, track, and optimize our emails easily.
I can be a night owl. Many years ago I learned that if I send emails when I’m working, sometimes clients would create an expectation that I would be available at such hours and/or employees would get frustrated because they’d think I expected them to be working.
Additionally there are times that I want to write my email while everything is fresh in my mind, or because I simply have the time to do it, but I don’t want to send the email at that time or to save the email to a draft, requiring that I remember to send it at the right time.
Email scheduling allows me to write the email when I want, and to have it sent when I want as well. There is one enhancement that would make this feature more effective. Currently, if you schedule an email, that email sends at the time that it’s scheduled unless you delete it. It would be nice if I could write a follow-up email that would only get sent if a previous email doesn’t get a response or if I don’t record a call being completed.
Sales Enterprise makes it easy to track the status of emails and to be notified when an email is opened or clicked on. This is helpful in multiple ways:
Managing sales opportunities with HubSpot sales is one of my favorite aspects of the entire product. I’m reminded of this every time I work with a client using another tool.
With HubSpot’s deals you can:
The key weakness in this area is the cross-object limitation that still exists within the HubSpot platform. You can’t generate tracking reports that use properties from other objects (like contacts, companies or activities). You also can easily work from a deal record as the information you have access to relating to the company and contacts associated with the deal is highly limited.
Documents enables reps to upload any type of document to share with someone. When the document is reviewed the rep is notified that the document is being viewed and also gets a breakdown of what parts of the document were viewed and how much time was spent on each page.
This is a nice feature, but it is very clunky and the reporting and analytics you get is still very light. What’s more, there is no password protection for the documents (so you’ll want to be careful what you share) and you have no option to prevent the recipient from downloading the document.
Back in the day when WordPerfect was the dominant word processor, I was introduced to the idea of “macros.” With macros, I could create shortcuts that would enable me to do this across the organization.
This can be a powerful tool for both saving a lot of time (and the frustration of trying to remember how you responded to or worded something previously) and enhancing and optimizing the communication for the entire organization. Snippets are available for taking notes with a CRM record, to use in emails, and even in chats.
The drawback here that once you get to have more than about 10 snippets, managing them becomes quite chaotic. There’s a very simple folder structure, but that’s about it. We use a separate, filtered spreadsheet to code each snippet to various use cases to make finding the right snippet easier. While this works, it would be far more effective if we could manage it from within the CRM.
As with Snippets, HubSpot enables you to create email templates that can be easily used within the CRM or from your email tool.
Sequences allows a rep (or anyone using the Sales tool) to set up a semi-automated sequence of emails and tasks that get sent or scheduled at a predetermined time. This is not a new feature, and from the time of its launch, it was one that I was not a fan of.
The drawback was that once a sequence was initiated you couldn’t adjust anything. If you learned something (like your target recipient was going to be on vacation during the time that two of your emails were scheduled to be delivered), your choice was only to either cancel the sequence or just let it roll.
This is no longer true. You can now adjust the schedule of a sequence as well as the content of the emails themselves after a sequence has been initiated. This makes Sequences a potentially very useful tool. The word “potentially” is not a statement about the quality of the app, but to the use of the strategy.
At the Enterprise tier, HubSpot Sales’ autodialer provides additional minutes of call time (which will certainly come in handy for your high volume SDRs) and with call transcription (see below).
If you’ve never used an auto-dialer before, you’ll love this one. It’s easy and intuitive to use, is fully integrated and when combined with Task Queues is a tremendous time-saver. Another nice feature of the dialer is that if you're recording calls it will automatically rewrite the rep to acknowledge when calling a two-party consent state.
For those currently using an auto dialer, you'll be able to quickly familiarize yourself with HubSpot's. Two downsides of the dialer are that you cannot download recordings and you cannot integrate it with coaching tools.
I’ve had the opportunity to use call transcription for a bit and can share that as auto-transcribing goes, HubSpot’s is definitely above average (though I should add that reading auto-transcriptions of sales calls can feel an awful lot like the modern-day version of Mad Libs). At this point, it only provides transcription, with no additional features like automated highlighting or coaching recommendations. The transcription is very helpful when discussing account-based sales strategy, and entering notes and information into the CRM.
I've been a big fan of HubSpot's scheduler since they released it a couple years ago. I find it to be among the easiest and most intuitive options on the market. An added bonus is that it is one of very few that allow you to automatically make the scheduling page one that is on your company's URL.
Hubspot's founding principle was that customers had fundamentally changed the way they think, consider, learn, shop and buy. Over the last several years, a challenge that HubSpot has been dealing with is that, while buyers have continued to change, the fundamental components of their software had not.
Conversations Inbox is a major step towards realigning with buyers. Conversations Inbox is a unified inbox that brings together email, chat, Slack and (soon) social channels, giving anyone using the Inbox and central place to manage all of their conversations.
The Inbox is a nice tool, but it’s a very early version so it’s not as dialed in as much of the other parts of the HubSpot platform. It can be a bit glitchy at times and is not open to much customization. If you’re not careful, you can quickly feel overwhelmed by everything happening.
A major weakness of Inbox is that it does not support SMS communications. Buyers of all ages, industries, and types are increasingly using text seamlessly in their communications and the fact that Sales Enterprise doesn’t support that will frustrate many reps.
As part of the Inbox, you can also create team inboxes, providing the same functionality as the individual unified inbox. This is a very strong feature for sales and service organizations that operate as teams.
In 2017 HubSpot bought Motion AI to provide greater strength to their chat tools. Hubspot has built a strong chat and bot tool right out of the gate (though, fairly, many will note that HubSpot has been late to the game with a conversational product).
While live chat and bots are available at all levels of the HubSpot product, Sales Enterprise allows you to build custom bots. As the nature of conversational marketing continues to mature and buyers expectations evolve, the ability to build custom bots is a very important one.
While there is certainly a lot of room for improvement, I would consider this product to be one of the top conversational products on the market. As HubSpot continues to enhance their legacy workflows architecture, it will only become more powerful.
The product is not quite tight enough to consider for companies that are already effectively using a different chat/conversational product effectively, but if you're not currently using chat effectively, you’ll get plenty of punch with this one.
With Enterprise, you’ll be able to control to whom conversations are routed, further reducing the friction that often slows down automated processes.
If you're selling to large companies or implementing an ABM approach, you'll appreciate Prospects. See in real time who is visiting your site even if they're still at the anonymous stage. The feature, like all other, uses the visitors IP address to identify them so the value of the information is limited to the accuracy of the IP address.
When HubSpot first released their Reports Add-On, I was among its biggest detractors. It was clunky, lacked any real functionality and it was expensive. To HubSpot’s credit, they acknowledged the deficiencies and steadily worked on improving it.
With the addition of cross-object reporting at the Enterprise level, Reports Dashboards is now delivering on the promise of a strong reporting and data visualization tool. Today, I can confidently say that if you’re serious about growth, Reports is a must-have.
That said, to maintain that endorsement, HubSpot must continue to improve the tool. At this point, I give it a C+. The process for creating reports is still clunky, and cross-object reporting limits you to only two objects. Developing more advanced reports requires significant knowledge of the overall HubSpot tool, as you’ll regularly need to generate new fields and new workflows to produce the insights you want.
The ability to create sub-teams has been added to the overall teams capability. With teams, you can control access and manage processes more efficiently and with more control.
With the improved Teams features are nice, they do not go far enough for complex sales or service organizations. HubSpot still needs to add read/write controls at the field/property level, as well as allowing multiple ownership for different records within each object. My contacts at HubSpot promise me that this is coming soon, but as of now, it hasn't been implemented.
The biggest improvement over the last year in the platform overall has been focused on automation or what HubSpot calls workflows. They’ve expanded the focus of what can be automated and the means you have for automating processes.
While Sales Enterprise does provide sales automation as a standalone (if you’re only using HubSpot Sales) to gain the full power of automation - sales or otherwise - you’re going to want to use the full platform.
HubSpot’s automation capability is as powerful as any sales organization with fewer than 75 reps will need, and it’s easier, faster and more flexible than any other automation product I’ve reviewed.
At Imagine, we’ve had significant success with HubSpot’s automation. We’ve been able to integrate and align sales and marketing efforts, while increasing the automation for the sales rep, freeing them from any number of administrative tasks that reduce sales time. In some of the experiments we’ve run over the last three months, we’ve been able to increase sales productivity by as much as 5 - 15 points.
Another improvement over the last year is the ability to require certain fields to be completed. This will meet the basic needs sales organizations have.
For it to become a meaningful feature, two improvements must be made:
Reps work extraordinarily hard to get themselves into a position to close business. Tremendous pressure is put on them - every. single. month. - to #HitTheNumber.
Then, when they’ve got a prospect ready to go, they’re often forced to “hurry up and wait” on the final pricing and proposals to be put together by people whose motivations don’t always align with the reps. This is among the most frustrating components of any reps day (week, month or quarter).
With Products, management can maintain the control they desire, while empowering and enabling the rep to have the autonomy and ability to respond to opportunities quickly.
I would like to see greater customization and the ability to create different parameters to support products or services that are a bit more variable. That said, Products is definitely a positive feature that will help reps save time, serve customers better, and generate fewer frustrations all around.
If you’re selling relatively simple products and/or don’t need to have formal agreements or contracts signed as part of your sales process Quotes and esignature will do the job for you. If you’re looking to replace Docusign, Adobe Sign, PandaDoc, etc., you’ll be disappointed.
We are using Quotes as a complement to our more formal contract management software. We’ll use the quotes tool for our simple projects, and as the equivalent to a “letter of intent” in more complex transactions where we have formal contracts that can take more time for approval. Quote also integrates with Stripe, so we’re using it to automate a portion of our revenue collection.
The feature is still too buggy to serve as your only means for managing agreements, but I’m certain they’ll get that cleaned up in the coming weeks.
With Quotes Management, you’ll be able to control pricing authority and who is needed to approve quotes based on different criteria.
Finding ways to get the right content, insight, and information to the right rep for the right situation at the right time has been a challenge that has faced sales organizations for decades. While, on the one hand, the growth of documented sales playbooks (designed to address this issue) is increasing at a fast rate, too often those playbooks (often put in notebooks or pdf files) sit untouched at the point of contact, making them far less effective than they could be.
HubSpot’s Playbooks promises to solve this problem. As they describe it: “Arm your sales team with competitive battlecards, call scripts, positioning guides, and more — all from right where they manage their deals.”
Playbooks is nice to have, but it’s a far cry from where it needs to be. You have very limited control over the layout of the play you inputting. (For example, it allows images, but if you’re trying to put a diagram in, the size of the image makes it worthless.) You’re allowed one column of text and can mix in some questions with quick responses and a place to put notes. Those quick responses and notes can then be saved to the contacts record.
There are three problems that make playbooks a de facto internal knowledge base, but not much more:
My contacts have told me that all of these improvements are planned.
Smart Send Times promises to tell you the best time to send an email to someone. As someone who has seen the power of optimizing email send times, I was very excited when their feature was announced a year ago.
Unfortunately, it was highly unreliable back then and it hasn’t gotten any better. While the email scheduling feature has gotten more stable, until HubSpot makes material changes in how send times are calculated, I would completely ignore this feature. Frankly, I’d prefer that HubSpot eliminate it until they have something that is at least functional.
Smart Notifications is supposed to proactively alert reps on what’s happening and where they should place their attention. Most users will not find much value in this feature, as the means for establishing prioritization is built into the system is quite arbitrary and cannot be customized.
A major announcement at this year’s Inbound was native integration with Vidyard’s video platform. This includes Vidyard’s sales product for salespeople, GoVideo. The ability to quickly make a personal video or access a library of previous videos that are embedded into a rep’s email is a great addition to the Sales Hub.
The database in the CRM becomes much more powerful with the ability to create fields that are formulas.
If you’re selling internationally, you’ll find tremendous value in this feature.
The biggest trend on the seller side over the last 20 years has been the move, for all sorts of businesses, to some form of recurring revenue. While it’s become a dominant service & pricing strategy, few CRMs have actually supported recurring revenue tracking, requiring users to go to specialized products for such tracking.
With Sales Enterprise, your sales (new business and account management) and service teams will be able to track everything that matters about recurring revenue. Additionally, you’ll gain the power of analytics and more seamless automation.
The promise of predictive lead scoring is a powerful one. The implementation, however, is weak. Of course, you shouldn't expect much from a feature like this that promises to work right out of the box with no training of the system.
Part of the problem is in the core objective of the PLS tool. It aims to predict the probability of someone buying within the next 90-days. While this has some relevancy in simpler sales, complex sales are far more, well, complicated.
I’ve asked many people to explain the PLS model and reviewed what HubSpot has shared with me (just about all of which is available in their knowledge base). A review of such material shines absolutely no light on the subject, and as the old saying goes, if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough. At that measure, no one that I’ve talked to at HubSpot understands their PLS feature.
I’ve tested PLS myself for the last three months and can clearly communicate that the percentage identified has no correlation whatsoever with the actual quality of the lead, or even the willingness to engage.
Until HubSpot either explains how PLS works and who it works for better (and more likely until they make meaningful improvements in the PLS feature itself), you’d be best to ignore this feature.
A couple weeks ago, I shared how integrating the strengths of Salesforce with the strengths of HubSpot Sales can be a powerful combination. (I’ll leave you to read that review if you’re curious.) The HubSpot-Salesforce Integration makes it possible.
To finish my features review, I’ll share my favorite part of the HubSpot Sales tool. While it’s not all the way there, it is fast becoming a full-fledged sales platform. More than 200 third-party applications (and growing) have already built out native integrations. With HubSpot’s continued investment in greater APIs (which are even stronger at the Enterprise level), HubSpot Sales can be integrated with other tools to become a full solution for your business. With the growing base of partners, you can also be confident that HubSpot Sales is a platform you won’t outgrow.