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Without customers, your business wouldn’t exist.
It’s critical to understand how your customers behave and what they want from you. Doing so makes their experience better.
And helps you generate more money.
The best customer relationship management (CRM) software helps streamline, simplify, and improve your business processes to create better experiences for the one thing your business revolves around — your customers.
With countless CRM software options to choose from, it’s easy to feel paralyzed.
To help sort things out, I reviewed the top CRM software available and put together a list criteria to help you make an informed final decision.
With so many options and types to choose from, finding the best CRM software for your business can feel like looking for a four-leaf clover.
Start with this. All of these products have been built to respond to problems that businesses face every day.
Yes, there are a lot of parts to CRM software, but each has a purpose.
You know the problems you face. And by reaching out to your customer service agents, sales reps, IT team, and anyone who will be using the CRM software, you can get a rich picture of their daily challenges.
There is CRM software that will help everyone at your organization make the most out of every customer relationship.
Finding it is a matter of understanding where your company is, and where it wants to go.
The size of your business plays a role in which CRM software is best for you. If you have separate departments for marketing, sales, IT, and customer service, you need more advanced functions than a business with five employees.
Furthermore, you need to consider who’s going to manage the software. Choosing and paying for software isn’t the same as using it to its full potential.
You have to set it up and take advantage of its features for the investment to be worth it.
For small teams, it may be a collaborative effort of everyone pitching in. However, large teams may have dedicated employees to set everything up and maintain the software moving forward.
The size of your business also plays a role in how much the software is going to cost. The more user seats you need, the more expensive the software.
What’s not working? What could be working better?
Consider what systems you want to streamline and improve. It may help to think about current inefficiencies and how a CRM can help.
Typically, CRM software helps with sales, marketing, IT, and customer service. Which of those do you want to improve, and do you have the capacity to set everything up and maintain it?
There are specific CRM solutions for particular industries.
These tend to be more expensive, but if they are the right fit for your situation, it’s worth it. Teams will have to spend less time configuring such purpose-built CRM software, which is an ongoing savings.
Basic CRM Features
Most CRMs include a basic set of standard features. The CRM you choose should include them as well.
While the specifics of each feature vary from software to software, there should be a system in place to help you handle things like:
Contact and lead management
Document sharing and storage
Look for these core CRM features before making any final decisions. It’s probably also a good idea to watch some videos of how these users manage these features.
Something like contact management is handled differently in each platform. Which one fits best with the way your teams work?
Advanced CRM Features
It’s also important to consider advanced CRM features that can have a big impact on your business.
The ability to automate routine workflows, process payments, and send invoices can save countless hours from every employee’s day.
Really rich automation capabilities are only available with high-tier plans. There’s definitely an added cost, but what about the benefit?
In the end, having advanced features for marketing automation and lead scoring can really drive revenue. Is the juice worth the squeeze?
Also, note that these advanced features are not distributed the same way by vendors. One may offer the high-end tools you need as part of a mid-level plan.
To really streamline and automate your business processes, your CRM tool needs to play well with the tools you’re already using to run your business.
Make a list of the tools you use and double-check to make sure your CRM integrates with them. I’m talking about:
Social media tools
Internal communication software
Customer service tools
Calling/video chat software
Shopping cart (for ecommerce)
Connectors (i.e., Zapier)
Once you have your list, you can use it to narrow down your choices to the right CRM software. You can also use it when speaking with a sales team to make sure they offer everything you need.
The Different Types of CRM Software
There are three different types of CRM software. The most common type is operational. And thankfully, companies are integrating more features from the other types of software into operational CRM systems.
Doing so helps minimize the need for businesses to have three separate pieces of software.
Before diving into my top recommendations, let’s talk about these different types and what they mean.
Operational CRMs help businesses of all sizes handle business processes and enhance the lead generation systems they have in place. The idea is that streamlining your operational processes helps your business provide better customer experiences.
There are four types of operational CRMs, including:
These are traditionally what people think of when they hear CRM. So, all of the recommendations on this list fall under this category.
Analytical CRMs help businesses gather, analyze, and leverage data collected from their customers. Essentially, this type of CRM software helps turn large data sets into valuable information you can use to improve the customer experience.
The recommendations on this list include a few basic analytical features.
But there are certainly more robust CRM tools out there for collecting and analyzing customer data, especially for enterprise businesses with a lot of customer information.
Collaborative CRMs make it easy for businesses to share everything they learn about their customers using operational and analytical CRM software.
Essentially, this type of software lets team members quickly pass along lead, contact, and customer information from one department to another.
Doing so helps track interactions between customers and your business as well as identify your customers’ preferred communication channels.
Both of those things combined help improve customer experiences.
Most of the recommendations on this list offer multiple operational CRM solutions that seamlessly integrate, making this type of collaboration easy.
However, there are better systems out there if you’re looking for something more powerful.
If you’re in the sales or marketing industry, you’ve probably read Hubspot’s blog or taken one of their free certification courses. However, they also offer a robust and free CRM software to streamline your customer relationship management process.
With Hubspot, you can gain unprecedented insight into how your audience behaves.
Need to monitor when contacts open your emails so you can optimize your open rates? No problem. Maybe you want to see how a contact behaves on your website. With Hubspot, it’s easy.
Furthermore, they offer a wide variety of solutions, depending on your role within your company.
These position-specific solutions include sales, marketing, customer service, operations, and owners.
The free CRM plan includes a robust set of features, including:
1-1 live chat
Contact website activity
Store, track, and manage tasks
These features are hard to beat on any other free plans on this list. However, Hubspot’s paid plans are well worth their price as well.
The Starter Plan starts at $40 per month, paid annually. However, if you want to bundle all of Hubspot’s CRM software, you can get starter access to all four for $50 per month if you commit to a 12-month contract.
So, for $10 extra dollars a month, you also get software specialized for marketing, sales, and customer service.
However, keep in mind these prices are based on 1,000 contacts. The price increases for every additional 1,000 contacts you have.
#2 – Salesforce Review — The Best CRM Software for Versatility
Whether you’re a small business owner or a sales, marketing, IT, or customer support team, Salesforce has the perfect CRM solution. Known for its versatility, they offer specialized software that adapts to meet your needs.
More than 150,000 businesses, including T Mobile, Adidas, and Yeti, rely on Salesforce to help them build strong relationships with their customers.
They also offer specialized solutions for 14 different industries, including:
The system is so versatile because you can pick and choose which apps you need to build a complete CRM solution customized to match your business.
From marketing automation and ecommerce sales to call-center software and self-service portals, Salesforce is dedicated to providing everything you need for unprecedented customer relationships.
Their business plans include:
Essentials — $25/user per month (basic sales and support)
Sales Professional — $75/user per month (complete sales solution)
Support Professional — $75/user per month (complete service solution)
Pardot Growth — $1,250 per month for up to 10,000 contacts (marketing automation)
However, you can add additional features and applications depending on what you need. They also offer other plans for sales, customer service, commerce, and marketing CRM packages with varying features.
#3 – Zoho CRM Review — The Best for Small to Midsize Businesses
Unlike the other options on this list, Zoho CRM is an all-in-one solution. There aren’t additional modules to look through for different departments or anything like that. This makes it an excellent option for small to midsize businesses.
They also have an extensive network of 40 other business tools. So, if you’re using Zoho software already, integration with Zoho CRM is seamless.
Plus, they have a worldwide network of over 150,000+ customers (including Netflix and Bose) in 180 countries, so you know you’re in good hands.
Furthermore, Zoho offers a free forever plan with up to three users. It includes essential features like lead management, document sharing, task management, workflow rules, and a mobile application.
However, their paid plans are affordable as well, and they include advanced CRM features like:
Real-time sales signals and customer notifications
Blueprint business management for both on and offline processes
Prospect scoring capabilities
Unique sales pipelines
An AI assistant
The cheapest paid plan starts at $12 per user per month, making it extremely affordable for small businesses.
Note: Zoho also recently launched a sales-centric CRM specifically for small businesses. It’s called Bigin, and it includes a robust free plan if you’d like to try it out. Bigin’s paid plans are $7 per user per month.
#4 – Freshsales Review — The Best CRM for Sales Teams
Unlike the other options on this list, Freshsales is specifically built for sales teams and lead management. From cold leads to customers, Freshsales helps you make better relationships while saving time with automation.
Furthermore, this CRM helps you find the best leads, get in touch with them via their preferred method, and close the sale.
And Freshworks includes a built-in email and phone system to help simplify the process.
They have a customer base of over 40,000 businesses, including some big names like Dyson and Best Western. So, despite being newer to the industry, they’re not inexperienced by any means.
With Freshworks, you get powerful sales-based features, including:
Lead, contact, account, and deal management
Tasks and appointment management
Merge or clone records
Advanced conversation views
Team inboxes and email forwarding
Email scheduling, templates, and alerts
Website visitor tracking
iOS and Android mobile apps
Aside from an impressive set of features, they also offer industry-specific solutions for 15 different industries, including retail, ecommerce, manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, and more.
Their free forever plan includes access for an unlimited number of users with limited features. However, it’s a great way to try it out before investing.
Freshsales’ paid plans are more robust, yet still affordable for businesses of all sizes. Their premium plans include:
#5 – Creatio Review — The Best Enterprise-grade CRM Software
While some of the other CRM software on this list includes an enterprise plan, you may find them limiting if you’re managing a large operation. However, Creatio is an enterprise-grade CRM software built with businesses like yours in mind.
They offer specific CRM solutions for sales, marketing, and customer service teams.
Marketing Creatio gives enterprise businesses everything they need to streamline their multichannel marketing campaigns and manage incoming leads. It includes features like:
Visual campaign designer
Website behavior tracking and segmentation
Advanced trigger campaigns
Personalized email marketing
Event tracking and response management
Pricing depends on the number of contacts and the number of emails per contact.
Sales Creatio is perfect for large sales teams taking over after marketing hands them over. It’s an end-to-end sales management platform built to simplify the process and save you time.
It includes a wide range of features, including:
Customer profiles and buying behavior insight
Field sales management
Performance and operations
Pricing starts at $30 per user per month.
Lastly, Service Creatio is for customer service teams interested in streamlining their processes and creating excellent customer experiences from start to finish. It includes features, like:
Account and contact management
Case and knowledge management
Pricing starts at $45 per user per month.
You can bundle all three CRM solutions if you need to. And you can use their online pricing calculator to estimate the total cost.
Hubspot, Salesforce, and Freshsales are my top recommendations for most businesses. Each one offers a wide range of features suitable for teams from all departments, including sales, marketing, and customer service.
Furthermore, they’re all affordable, easy to set up, and easy to use.
However, the best CRM software for you depends on your business’s size and the features you need. So, use the criteria we talked about above as you go through the process of making your final decision.