Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a critical component of any sales or marketing team’s lead generation, nurturing, and converting strategies. It automates tedious processes, like creating groups of leads to email, which removes some of the manual work from marketers. CRM software also allows teams to design their own workflows, customized for their team’s operations. It helps them to store and view information that would otherwise be scattered between programs and papers. A navigable CRM platform with plenty of features for any customer-facing teams should be a priority for all businesses.
Best CRM software solutions
Top CRM software comparison
|Google Workspace integration
|Call center software
* available through another solution from the provider
Pipedrive is a sales-focused CRM software solution that allows sales representatives and executives to clearly visualize the sales pipeline and easily move leads through each stage. Pipedrive offers a drag and drop function for moving leads through the pipeline, a simple method of quickly advancing lead status.
Image credit: Pipedrive
Pipedrive’s sales dashboards can be customized by resizing reports and using drag and drop to order them, an easy way to organize individual dashboards. Users can create reports based on the custom fields they’ve already set for their products or teams, as well as conversion reports based on lead source, time periods, or other categories. These reports can be presented to executive teams with easily digestible lead metrics. Another sales feature is goal-setting: users can set goals, based on either deals or activities, with assignees and intervals, to help track their individual sales tasks.
With Pipedrive’s sales forecasting, teams can project revenue based on the won date or potential close date of a deal. This allows businesses to continually update revenue predictions with every deal that is won or completed. They can also create custom fields to design their own determining factors for deal forecasting, so that predictions are specifically tailored to each business’s operations.
Pipedrive has call center software features, allowing agents and sales reps to make calls from within the CRM. Users can also route calls and view each contact’s conversation history. Pipedrive provides analysis of calls and agent performance by revealing call duration and giving managers access to real-time performance reports. Call center tools enable teams to track important lead information and improve sales agent performance, too.
Note that Pipedrive isn’t a marketing tool. It’s specifically for sales teams, particularly at smaller companies that don’t need the advanced features of larger solutions like Salesforce or even the many capabilities of Zoho, another small-business-appropriate CRM. Users found that Pipedrive lacked the automation and marketing features of other CRM solutions.
- Customizable sales dashboards
- Revenue goal-setting for sales teams
- Revenue forecasting
- Drag-and-drop sales pipeline
Insightly is a tool with four main products: CRM, marketing, service, and AppConnect, a tool for integrations and automation. Insightly’s CRM product allows sales teams to create rules for assigning and routing leads so that leads are sent to the correct representatives. Insightly notifies clients when their businesses’ emails are opened and monitors opens and clicks for more accurate email marketing tracking.
Insightly has limited project management features. Businesses are able to organize tasks within a project by pipeline (set of predetermined steps) or milestones (task dates are created during the project duration). Insightly shows an activity set for each stage of a project pipeline, including which tasks have been created for that stage. Basic project management tools help businesses plan and organize their customer relationship tasks directly within the CRM.
Image credit: Insightly
Insightly integrates with Gmail and other Google Workspace applications. The Insightly Sidebar Chrome browser extension allows users to access their Insightly account from within their Gmail account. They can send an email to a customer and save the email to Insightly in one step, and users can create a contact in Insightly from emails they receive. If your small business relies heavily on Gmail, consider Insightly.
Some Insightly customers said that it’s a little bit difficult to learn at first, but they eventually became comfortable with the interface. And although Insightly has a mobile application, some customers also said the app didn’t work well. Sales and marketing teams that frequently work on the go and rely heavily on mobile apps may want to consider other CRM solutions.
- Customizable rules for routing leads and assigning them to sales team members
- Limited project management features
- Google Workspace integration
- AppConnect for third-party integrations
Also read: Best Lead Management Software
Zoho is a CRM solution for businesses of all sizes. It offers a free plan with limited features, like call logs and advanced filters. Zoho also integrates with all other Zoho software, so enterprises can benefit from a wealth of tools. Many large organizations will find Zoho’s expansive feature set valuable, but the many features may be daunting for smaller businesses that need a basic CRM software solution.
With Zoho’s lead nurturing capabilities, users can design email workflows for different sets of leads and customize email templates. Using Zoho CRM and Zoho Campaigns, sales and email teams are able to sync contacts from email campaigns and CRM lead data, to make lead information easier to pull from emails and more accurate.
Image credit: Zoho
Zoho’s enterprise plan includes Zia, an AI-enabled virtual assistant. Zia can prepopulate email content and also serves as an internal chatbot for sales representatives that need to search for information about leads. Zia also predicts revenue from future deals depending on a lead’s position in the pipeline to help make revenue forecasts more accurate.
Zoho has an email parsing feature, which automatically pulls lead data from emails. Email teams have the ability to filter emails based on the lead’s position in the sales pipeline. In Zoho’s enterprise plan, Zia, the virtual assistant, also creates calendar events based on plans mentioned in emails. This automation reduces manual calendar entry and helps sales teams stick to scheduled meetings.
Many reviews from Zoho customers said that the company’s support is slow or ineffective. If you know your company is new to CRM or will need extensive technical support throughout implementation or use, carefully consider the speed and helpfulness of CRM providers’ customer service.
- Virtual assistant Zia, which performs multiple tasks in email and lead functions
- Integration with Zoho Campaigns for email marketing teams
- Wide variety of customer relationship and service features
- Client developer features so customers can tailor Zoho to their specific needs
Also read: Best Social Media CRM Software
HubSpot has five different modules, or hubs, that customer management teams can purchase: marketing, sales, service, operations, and content management system (CMS) software. HubSpot also offers a free plan that includes features like email templates and scheduling, contact deal and task management, and live chat.
Data on each lead is available in chronological order, from actions that have occurred across HubSpot’s hubs. By creating custom criteria based on lead behavior, users can have their leads automatically scored by qualification level, so that they know how to prioritize lead conversations. HubSpot users can also segment leads based on their behavior or characteristics and create contact lists, so that each segment can receive its own customized communication based on pipeline stage, interest level, or other features.
Image credit: HubSpot
HubSpot’s operations hub, designed for Ops teams, provides workflow extensions, which trigger actions in third-party applications like Slack and Zoom. These actions and notifications on heavily used tools improve visibility for tasks that need to be completed. Team access permissions allow operations admins to control what agents can do based on their business’s compliance needs or other restrictions.
The paid version of HubSpot is best for larger businesses that can take advantage of the customization options available to them. Paying for multiple hubs may also be too expensive for smaller companies. However, HubSpot’s free CRM is a good choice for startups and small businesses, and medium-sized companies may want to step into one or more of the hubs as they scale. If your business has a team of people experienced in setting up CRM programs, you might be ready to optimize HubSpot’s extensive features.
Another feature to consider is HubSpot’s entire CMS hub. If your business wants to connect its content management to the CRM rather than using WordPress or another site hosting provider, consider HubSpot. The CRM solution can track website visitors and allows businesses to see which web content types are most successful in driving leads.
- Marketing hub for ad tracking and social media management
- Sales hub that includes call center features like call tracking and conversation intelligence
- Operations hub that offers workflow extensions to third-party applications and team access controls
- Content management hub for hosted website content
- Free CRM plan with multiple features
Apptivo is a CRM provider for businesses that already heavily use Google Workspace, since it offers a Workspace integration. Under the CRM platform fall ten apps, not only for leads and customers but also for contracts, competitors, and territory management.
Businesses are able to create their own territories based on geographical areas in which their leads and customers live. The territory management app integrates with Apptivo’s teams app as well, so sales teams can be assigned to a particular territory.
Users are able to embed forms on their company site; when a potential customer inputs contact information, Apptivo automatically creates a new lead for sales teams to contact. Apptivo also has a detailed app customization feature; developers can create and remove fields, create custom views, and choose a Kanban layout. If your business is interested in a CRM that permits customizing applications, consider Apptivo.
Image credit: Apptivo
Apptivo sales tracking allows users to create multiple dashboards, with options for displaying pipeline by stage, loss or win analysis, and sales funnel. The sales planning app shows organizational sales quota and individual rep quota by month.
Notable Apptivo integrations include Slack, Google Workspace, and Office 365. Apptivo also has a mobile application, which offers tools like work orders and timesheets. The mobile application also offers a help desk app, which allows service teams to address problems on the go. All of these apps are available through Apptivo’s single mobile interface, a comprehensive solution for businesses that frequently use their CRM out of a traditional office.
- Wide variety of applications, including ten that belong to Apptivo’s CRM platform
- Mobile application
- Detailed application customization
- Google Workspace integration
Salesforce offers a wide variety of modules, known as Clouds, which customers can pick and choose to create their own solution. All of Salesforce’s Clouds together are known as Customer 360. Though the provider offers standard CRM modules like Sales, Marketing, and Analytics, it also extends its offerings to categories like sustainability and commerce.
Salesforce also serves fifteen different industries, including automotive, energy and utilities, and K-12 education. These solutions have features tailored to their industry—car dealerships can schedule test drives, and retail energy providers can view each customer’s power type and location. If your business wants a CRM designed specifically for your industry, Salesforce has one of the widest varieties of all customer management platforms.
Image credit: Salesforce
Salesforce’s Sales Cloud integrates with Slack, so users can have their CRM updates sent automatically to a channel. This increases enterprise visibility and increases the chance that sales and marketing team members will immediately see updates.
Sales representatives have on-demand training available to them, as well as a community called the Trailhead for questions about using the software. They’re also able to earn Salesforce CRM certifications and explore potential career paths. Salesforce administrators can also earn certifications to improve their skills, like the Advanced Administrator credential.
Salesforce is one of the most comprehensive CRM platforms—it includes more than just standard CRM features, too—but for many organizations, it’s an enormous cost and commitment. The complexity of the Salesforce platform requires significant time investment to learn and utilize well. Many companies have one or more Salesforce administrators to maximize the platform’s capabilities; enterprises that want to benefit as much as possible from Salesforce’s features should consider that they might need to hire additional personnel.
- Wide range of Clouds to choose between, depending on your business’s areas of focus
- Integration with Slack
- Industry-specific CRM software solutions
- Opportunities for users to develop their skills with the software, including the possibility of a career in Salesforce
What is CRM software?
CRM software provides a single platform for managing all business leads, storing contact data, and automating manual sales tasks. CRM tools can help companies organize their email efforts and marketing campaigns.
CRM software is useful for sales and marketing teams as they manage relationships with their clients and engage those clients with content. CRM software also benefits email teams—they’re able to create email campaigns and custom templates, and they can choose to automatically send an email to a certain group of leads based on their stage in the pipeline or intent.
CRM software also plays an important role in customer service: solutions that offer features like help requests and live chat. The more channels through which customers can submit service requests, the better. Customer service employees are able to view all customer interactions within the CRM, so they can better serve repeating customers and track ongoing issues.
Also read: What is Customer Relationship Management?
Features to look for in a CRM software solution
If your business is considering a CRM solution, look for the following features in software:
- Good reporting features. You’ll want plenty of options for charts and data presentation, based on how your company’s executives or sales and marketing teams want reports to be presented.
- Customizable workflows for automated actions. When sales and marketing teams can set a particular task to trigger an automatic response from the software, they save hours that would otherwise be dedicated to manual tasks. This also decreases the chance that a lead or task will slip through the cracks.
- Email and social media integrations. Connecting your email accounts streamlines communication with leads and team members; connecting all social media platforms allows you to reach customers anywhere they contact your business.
- Easy-to-understand contact management. Sales reps and anyone else using the CRM should have a relatively simple contact management system that makes it easy to view all previous interactions with leads.
- Ways to view the sales funnel. CRM solutions can track lead behavior and make conversion predictions so that teams can visualize the current status of their funnel.
Also read: Best Features of CRM Software
What are the advantages of CRM systems?
Benefits of CRM software include:
- A single repository for all lead data. Such a repository keeps that information from being scattered throughout emails, LinkedIn messages, and on-premises databases.
- A management hub for multiple communication channels. Leads speak with a business through emails, calls, and social media; full-featured CRM solutions store conversations data from all places.
- Automation for time-consuming tasks that might slip a representative’s mind. With alerts and built-in calendars that remind sales teams of meetings and tasks, CRM tools keep users updated automatically.
- Analytics that give sales teams predictions on lead behavior. Organized data provides a starting point for businesses to reach their leads more effectively.
Also read: Most Important Benefits of CRM Software
How much does CRM software cost?
It depends on the plan, but in general, businesses that want a simpler CRM solution will pay less and receive more basic features. Highly customizable, expansive CRM platforms are generally more expensive. Salesforce tends toward the highest pricing here. HubSpot also has multiple modules, and it’s also one of the most expensive solutions in this list.
Both Salesforce and HubSpot have a multitude of features; organizations can combine Clouds or Hubs and see the capabilities from each work together. If your business is prepared to pay for multiple modules, consider HubSpot or Salesforce, but keep in mind that you’ll likely also need experienced users to maximize the value of these solutions.
Apptivo also runs on the less expensive end; its enterprise pricing is available from the vendor, but the next plan, Ultimate, is $20/user/month. Apptivo users aren’t shorted on features, though; the smaller vendor may not be as extensive as Salesforce, but it has a mobile application with all Apptivo solutions in one tool, and the entire Apptivo Application Suite is available to users that need more than just a standard CRM.
Zoho CRM also has plenty of features, and the platform integrates with other Zoho tools if your business needs to expand solutions, too. If you want multiple features but want to pay less than Salesforce and HubSpot, consider Apptivo and Zoho.
Pricing for Pipedrive and Insightly are quite comparable, with the same Enterprise plan pricing at $99/user/month. Pipedrive in particular has very limited features, focusing on sales tools, so consider this if you have a smaller sales team.
Finding the best CRM software for your business
When searching for a CRM tool, consider the number of features that the solution offers, compared with the size of your company. Ensure that you know what features you’ll regularly use; if the provider offers many additional features that your business won’t need, consider a less expensive solution.
Another consideration for enterprises is the CRM’s third-party integrations and whether they’re consistent with the tools your business already uses. For example, if your business uses Slack and Google Workspace, choose a CRM that integrates with those, rather than just Microsoft Office 365.
Select a solution that has all the basic and necessary CRM features, especially if you know your company could be approaching a period of rapid growth. Although you may not need every Salesforce Cloud or Zoho tool available, you’ll want a CRM that handles custom workflows, contact routing, and social media integrations well, especially if your business does scale quickly after buying.