Large organizations have relied on CRM (customer relationship management) software for years. This type of software simplifies the process of tracking communications with customers, giving your customer-facing employees and sales force the kind of information they need to do their jobs as successfully as possible.
CRM is a communication management solution that helps you manage current clients, as well as helping you create and develop relationships with new clients. Some of the features you may find in CRM software include:
- Generating new sales leads
- Managing sales leads
- Logging communications with existing clients
- Tracking responsiveness of clients
- Creating and managing marketing campaigns
- Managing social media contacts
Several years ago, CRM software was so expensive and complex that only the largest organizations could put it to use. With the advent of cloud based software subscriptions, though, CRM software is now far more accessible to organizations and businesses of all sizes. If you’re ready to start using CRM, we have put together a list of the six best CRM software packages.
When it Makes Sense to Invest Into CRM Software
Despite some of the changes in CRM software over the past few years that have made it more accessible to smaller organizations, it still potentially is a significant expense for a small organization. Here are some ideas for helping you determine whether you are ready to begin using CRM software.
- Business plan: Do you feel like your business is meandering? Maybe you have some goals for growth, but you’re not sure how to reach them. CRM software can help you with these problems.
- Customer service: If you feel like you are struggling with your customer service, it may be because you’re not able to track your interactions with existing and prospective clients properly. CRM software has quite a few tools for tracking your client contacts, ensuring you’re giving them the proper level of attention.
- Employee willingness: To make the most of your CRM software, your employees have to be willing to spend time learning how to use it and willing to enter data. If employees are struggling to track customer engagements with your current system, and it’s costing them success and commission, they will be more open to trying a CRM package.
- Managing growth: If you find your organization growing haphazardly, introducing CRM software can help you manage the growth in a healthier manner. Growth is beneficial, but if you don’t manage it properly, you could do more harm to the organization in the long run by alienating clients.
- Mobile requirements: As members of your organization look to make use of mobile devices during out-of-the-office sales calls, CRM software that runs from the cloud can be a valuable tool. Sales people can access the data they need from anywhere on any device with a cloud based CRM tool, rather than trying to rely on handwritten notes that are back at the office.
#1 – Salesforce Review — The Best CRM That Will Grow With You
The Salesforce brand name is a powerful one in the world of CRM software, and it actually lives up to its billing. This software works for almost any size of business, offering plenty of versatility in how you choose to use it.
Additionally, as the organization grows, it can scale how it uses Salesforce, adding features as required. The lowest priced options will work nicely for small organizations, and the software lets you add more features in higher priced tiers as you need them.
In its higher priced tiers, Salesforce has more features than the majority of CRMs, which makes it a good choice for larger organizations. However, all of these features may overwhelm some smaller enterprises, especially those without a person dedicated to tech support, so they may want to stick to lower priced tiers.
- Versatile software for multiple sizes of organizations
- Delivers detailed project management features
- Many third-party apps work directly with Salesforce
- Multiple customization options
- Pricing tiers are higher than some other CRMs
- May require a dedicated on-site tech support person
- Lightning Essentials, $25 (per user per month)
- Lightning Professional, $75
- Lightning Enterprise, $150
- Lightning Unlimited, $300
#2 – Zoho CRM Review — The Best CRM For SMBs
Small and medium businesses are some of the biggest beneficiaries of cloud based CRMs. Zoho CRM has focused on the SMB area of the market since its introduction, which gives it a bit of an advantage over other CRMs.
Zoho is extremely easy to use, which is perfect for an SMB that may not be able to have a person dedicated to running the CRM software. Its interface places all of the most important features on the main screen, allowing users to jump right in and find the data they need.
Pricing points are reasonable with Zoho, although the free and most basic versions are extremely limited. And should you need to contact customer service, you may have some problems, as the results are not consistent from call to call.
- Takes very little time to start using it
- Extremely flexible to meet needs of multiple businesses
- Useful mobile app interface
- Originally designed with small businesses in mind
- Free and low priced versions are extremely limited
- Customer service performance could be better
- Free version
- Standard, $12 to $18 (per user per month)
- Professional, $20 to $30
- Enterprise, $35 to $45
- Ultimate, $100
#3 – Insightly Review — The Best CRM For Managing Projects
If your organization struggles with keeping sales projects on task, Insightly has some impressive tools to help in this area. If you don’t have a specific person who handles projects like this, Insightly’s features will give your SMB a huge boost in productivity.
Considering the reasonable price points, the customization features are impressive. The administrator can set up multiple levels of permissions, ensuring that employees only can see and edit the fields they actually need to do their jobs.
Insightly has numerous automated tools, such as for new lead generation. However, some of those automated tools are shallow, meaning they don’t go into enough depth to help an organization that has advanced needs in that particular area.
- Excellent project management features
- Multiple automated tools for simplicity
- Keeps leads and clients completely separate
- Reporting features are easy to use and understand
- Lots of features, but some don’t go into enough depth
- Interface takes some work to use efficiently
- Free version
- Plus, $29 (per user per month)
- Professional, $49
- Enterprise, $99
#4 – Hubspot Review — The Best Free CRM Software Version
With most CRM software packages — actually, with most things in life — free versions sound great, but they don’t generally get the job done. Hubspot’s CRM is the exception to the rule.
A multitude of small organizations, independent contractors, and SMBs can use the Hubspot CRM free version and receive a far better level of success than expected.
Both the free and paid versions of the software are extremely easy to use, which is ideal for a small group that probably doesn’t have a dedicated person for tech support.
Hubspot’s primary focus area involves tracking sales and marketing projects and leads, and its free version hits the basics in these areas. If your organization becomes large enough, you can migrate to more powerful paid versions, but these tiers are oddly configured in Hubspot, creating some confusion among customers.
- Surprisingly useful free version
- Easy to be up and running quickly
- No limit on users with several versions
- Works nicely for both SMBs and self-employed independent contractors
- Pay versions have oddly complex pricing tiers and usage limits
- Customer service and tech support have hit and miss success
- Free version
- Marketing, Service, and Sales versions with varying user limits and pricing tiers of $50 to $3,200 per month
#5 – Freshsales Review — The Best CRM For Ease of Use
Freshsales delivers a CRM interface that’s made for small organizations that don’t want hassles around setup or a sharp learning curve. You’ll be up and running on this CRM in no time, especially with the free or lower priced versions.
Freshsales excels in helping you communicate more effectively with the others on your team when creating sales projects. This is a strong CRM for those organizations with inexperienced sales people, as it allows administrators to track email messages to make sure sales people are following the proper steps. You even can have all sales calls recorded.
The weakest areas of Freshsales involve tracking down new sales leads and in developing and managing marketing projects.
- Very strong mobile app
- Includes advanced phone call management features
- Extremely easy to use, even for beginners
- Allows administrator to place users in teams for easier in-house collaboration and communication
- Lags others in terms of project management
- Could use better features for tracking down new leads
- Free version
- Blossom, $12 to $19 (per month per user)
- Garden, $25 to $35
- Estate, $49 to $65
- Forest, $79
#6 – Nimble Review — The Best CRM For Social Media Management
For those SMBs who need to up their social media presence, especially in communicating with clients, Nimble is one of the strongest CRMs focusing on social media channels. Through these social media hits, you’ll be able to generate extra sales leads as well.
With Nimble, the interface is extremely easy to use, allowing your organization to be up and running quickly. As you might expect with a CRM that has its strength in social media, Nimble’s mobile platform is easy to use, giving you powerful tools on multiple types of devices.
Nimble’s biggest weakness exists in its project management features. For example, it’s a little more difficult to collaborate in-house between sales members with Nimble than some others. But its low price per user is pretty impressive for those SMBs that don’t need to focus on project management.
- Helps you manage your social media presence
- Strong mobile app
- Delivers good lead management features
- Interface is easy to use and understand
- Some problems with customer service
- Struggles in helping you with project management
- $19 to $25 (per month per user with individual pay upgrades available)
Methodology For Choosing The Best CRM Software
Although the majority of CRM software packages provide similar types of services and benefits, you will find significant differences when you drill down a little bit.
The best advice for finding a type of CRM software to meet the needs of your organization is to focus on how you will be using the software. A feature that is extremely vital to your competitor may not be applicable to your business. With that in mind, here are some of the features we have emphasized in our selections of the best CRM software.
For the majority of CRM software packages, you’ll end up paying a set fee per user per month. Because of this, you will want to think carefully about which members of your organization need access to the software. It’s a significant waste of money if you are purchasing CRM software subscriptions for all of the people in your organization, when actually only half of them actually need to use it.
Here are some common price points per user per month you can expect with CRM software:
Less than $25
These inexpensive packages are made for small organizations. You probably won’t need a dedicated tech person to install and manage the software in this price range, which is handy.
However, these CRMs have a limited number of records they can store and other limitations. Customizing the software is a bit of a pain in this price point too.
Mid-range ($25 to $75)
Small and medium businesses often will make use of CRM software in this price range. The vast majority of cloud-based CRM software packages have multiple versions with mid-range pricing, so if your planned budget fits in this range, you will have quite a few choices.
Customization is a key component for software in this price range, as SMBs often need to make some tweaks to fit specific use cases.
The biggest drawback in this price range is limitations in the number of records you can store and in finding across-the-board in-depth features.
More than $75
Some CRM software may cost as much as a few hundred dollars per month per user. This type of software often requires significant customization before installation to match the needs of huge organizations.
CRM software in this price range may even have an ecommerce component to it. So SMBs that need to be able to sell products online may need to jump to a CRM in this price range.
Many times, the CRMs in lower pricing tiers only have a cloud storage option. If you need to store your records at your location for security purposes, rather than in the cloud, a high priced CRM software package may be your only option.
Most CRM software packages, especially those for SMBs, will have a free trial period, usually between 14 and 30 days. This is a helpful way to test the software’s interface, although it can be difficult to gain a true feel for how the software will work on a day to day basis with a free trial period.
Quite a few CRMs also have a completely free version that you can use for an indefinite period of time. But these versions will have significant limitations.
Some CRM software packages will offer an easy-to-use interface, which is helpful when employees may be leery of using the software. If entering data and obtaining results is too complex, employees are not as likely to use the CRM.
Always check the interface in every device through which you’ll be accessing the CRM, whether that’s a web browser, smartphone, tablet, or other device. Some CRMs may have a beautifully simple interface in a web browser, but the mobile version is a mess.
If your organization struggles with marketing to both new and existing clients, look for the best CRM software package in terms of marketing ideas and management. These tools can include email marketing, social media messaging, and creation of marketing campaigns.
Seeing the progress of your sales campaigns becomes easier when you’re using CRM software, as it often includes customizable reports consisting of simple text, graphics, charts, or data in spreadsheets.
For any business, generating sales leads — and making the most of those leads — is extremely important. CRMs help you manage your sales leads, using automated points of contact, such as follow-up emails, or through giving you the means of making direct contact with leads.
ERP Vs. CRM
Understand that some ERP (enterprise resource planning) software packages will contain all of the features found in CRMs. Other ERPs may only overlap with CRMs with one or two features. You can think of ERP as focusing on the in-house management of operations, including accounting and human resources for the organization, while the CRMs focus on customer and client management.
So some organizations will need both an ERP and CRM, while others may be able to survive with only an ERP.
Putting a Great CRM Software Package to Work
Ultimately, managing the relationships you have with clients and customers is the lifeblood of your organization. You can have the greatest services to offer to customers, but if you cannot make a connection with them, you will not be successful.
Yes, there is an expense associated with having CRM software tools. But anything that simplifies your ability to manage relationships with customers and track progress you’re making will free up your resources to find new customers and grow the organization.
With so many more options available in the CRM space these days because of the cloud, now is a perfect time to explore your options for implementing CRM in your organization.